Newswise – Horses have a variety of gaits, including walking, trotting, cantering and galloping, so why do human beings only walk or run? We have the bones and muscles to perform a variety of gaits. We could even develop a brand new way of moving. Scientists got curious about this and used a computer to prove that when you have two legs, walking and running are the most energy efficient ways to move. But they do suggest we develop an alternative: an intermediate walk-run gait.

Engineers Andy Ruina and Manoj Srinivasan compared the mechanics of walking and running with “many other strange and unpracticed gaits.” They used a set of computer models that simulated physical measurements such as leg length, force, body velocity and trajectory, forward speed and work.

They say, “We wish to find how a person can get from one place to another with the least muscle work. Why do people not walk or even run with a smooth level gait, like a waiter holding two cups brim-full of boiling coffee?”

The engineers’ computer simulations showed them that walking is simply the most energy efficient for travel at low speeds, and running is best at higher speeds. A third walk-run gait would be best for intermediate speeds, but so far, humans haven’t taken advantage of it.

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