A change in cadence during walking or running might be indicated for a variety of reasons, among which mobility improvement and injury prevention. In a within-subject study design, we examined whether walking or running cadences are modulated best by means of step-based or stride-based auditory pacing. Sixteen experienced runners walked and ran on a treadmill while synchronizing with step-based and stride-based pacing at slow, preferred and fast pacing frequencies in synchronization-perturbation and synchronization-continuation conditions. We quantified the variability of the relative phase between pacing cues and footfalls and the responses to perturbations in the pacing signal as measures of coordinative stability; the more stable the auditory-motor coordination, the stronger the modulating effect of pacing. Furthermore, we quantified the deviation from the prescribed cadence after removal of the pacing signal as a measure of internalization of this cadence. Synchronization was achieved less often in running, especially at slow pacing frequencies. If synchronization was achieved, coordinative stability was similar, and the paced cadence was well internalized for preferred and fast pacing frequencies. Step-based pacing led to more stable auditory-motor coordination than stride-based pacing in both walking and running. We therefore concluded that step-based auditory pacing deserves preference as a means to modulate cadence in walking and running.
Keywords: acoustic pacing; cadence; coordinative stability; perturbations; relative phase; sensorimotor synchronization.