There’s been a lot of research on running cadence (step rate) in the last 10 years. Most of what has been established is that a slight increase in running cadence (+5-10% of preferred) can reduce impact force per stride at several joints without a significant reduction in running economy. A faster cadence essentially pulls the foot back and reduces “over-striding.” What has also been established is that working on a faster cadence WHILE someone is working through a running-related injury can help improve symptoms during running. It’s currently debatable whether one should work on increasing their cadence if they are not injured.
A new study investigated runners’ preferred cadence and followed them for 9 months to see if a slower cadence had an impact on injury development. This type of prospective design is best at answering “cause and effect” questions, compared to some observational or retrospective studies where we really can’t draw those conclusions. This type of study on running cadence and injury has only been done once before, and it was on high school runners (not generalizable to the average recreational runner). Important to note here, the runners in the current study were either in military service or family members, and all were training ~9-10 miles per week.
So… they actually found that preferred running cadence didn’t correlate to future injury. Certainly there are limitations to the study, but it definitely puts one more on the board for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. Running injuries are multi-factorial, and it seems like running cadence in isolation isn’t enough of a factor to be that influential in this population.