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Measure Your Stride With Just 10 Steps

Othello Playground
Seattle City Walk @254.8 miles
Othello Playground

Your pedometer likely comes with an instruction manual which includes directions on how to measure your stride. Most pedometers suggest that you take 10 steps, measure the distance from start to finish, and divide by 10. The result is your stride length. Very fast. Very simple. And... kind of accurate... but I’ll talk about that a bit later.

But first, let’s just try it. I’ve found that sidewalks are the easiest surface to use for this type of measurement. They’re flat, level and each of those lines running across the width of the sidewalk can be your starting point. Stand with both feet just behind a line, then take 10 normal-sized steps. Place a coin, rock or other marker at the tip of your 10th step, then use a tape measure to measure from your starting line to your finish point.

Just 10 Simple Steps

When I did this, I measured out 257 inches. Divide by 10 and you wind up with 25.7 inches. Pedometers usually require you to enter a full inch, so round that off to 26 inches. This isn’t a precise science—a half inch one way or another isn’t a big deal. Better to be approximately correct than precisely wrong!

Even better, do this several times and average the results. I did this several times and got the following measurements: 257, 264, 278, 285, 297 and 299 inches. My last test I didn’t include because I walked right off the end of the my 25-foot tape measure!

There’s a big difference between 257 inches and 300+ inches. Every time, I could have sworn I was taking the same sized steps, but clearly, that didn’t happen. Each trial showed that my stride was longer than the previous trial. What happened?

Before the first trial, I was sitting in a desk working. My legs were stiff and slow. With each trial, my body had warmed up a bit and my stride increased. There can be a large discrepancy in your measurements when you measure a mere 10 steps. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s a limitation that you should keep in mind. You could decide to take the average of several trials. Or keep doing trials until your measurements plateau into something more stable. Use the value that you think is most likely a real reflection of your walking habits.

Pros: Quick and easy to measure. Requires nothing more fancy than a tape measure to calculate.

Cons: Most of your walking is not likely to be done in 10-step increments, and your stride might not be the same when you take 10 steps as when you walk around a block or further.

Suggested Use: If you’re using your pedometer for short bursts of walking—perhaps in an office setting where you usually sit but sometimes get up to head to a conference room or to talk to a co-worker down the hall, this style of measurement might be the most accurate. For longer distances, though, you’d probably be better off using another measuring option.