Speed ​​records have a strange, original fascination.

If an angry elephant is chasing you, would you be fast enough to get away from it?

What about a bear or a black mamba?

In either of these cases, your chances aren't too good if you're not a trained runner.

Unless you had springs on your legs.

What sounds like an idea from an animated series might actually work.

This is the result of a new study by Vanderbilt University.

Source: Getty Images / fStop / Benne Ochs


The engineers Amanda Sutrisno and David J. Braun developed the concept for a device that should enable people to run up to 50 percent faster.

With the help of programmable springs.

The idea behind it: When Usain Bolt set his fabulous record over 100 meters in 2009, he reached a top speed of 44.72 km / h.

During the run, each of his feet was on the ground only 20 percent of the time.

While the feet are in the air, they do not generate any energy for movement.

So if it were possible to generate energy during this time ...

Source: Amanda Sutrisno and David J. Braun / Vanderbilt University

The researchers tested various devices that could make this possible in a computer simulation.

Taking into account factors such as air resistance and the power limit of the human leg, one variant turned out to be a favorite.


The device makes use of the movement of the rear leg.

If we take a step with our left leg while running, we kick it backwards after contact with the ground.

We bend the leg.

This movement compresses a spring in the device attached to the leg and holds it in place until the left foot hits the ground again.

Through the contact, the spring pops open, the stored energy is released and moves the runner forward.

According to the engineers' calculations, Usain Bolt would be able to reach a speed of 75.24 km / h.

Source: Getty Images AsiaPac / Lintao Zhang

The coil springs would have to be configured in such a way that they become stiffer with the increasing speed of the runner.

And not to be neglected: walking with such a device has to be learned like riding a bike.


The two researchers were originally inspired by this type of locomotion.

On the bike, the energy that our legs produce is continuously converted into movement because the tires are always in contact with the ground.

So far there is no prototype.

One of the researchers told the Guardian that the implementation of a prototype is planned within a year.

It will look like an exoskeleton in the beginning, but we hope it will look like a shoe later.

David J. Braun, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Source: Getty Images / Tetra images RF / Chris Sattlberger

If you are in the predicament of having to run away from a wild animal, you will have to rely on your training for the time being.

An elephant can go around 25 km / h, a grizzly 50 to 60 km / h and a black mamba up to 20 km / h.

This article was first published in March 2020.