What is the most energy efficient method of traveling on foot

My understanding is that running uses more calories per mile traveled than walking since running involves jumping while walking is a form of organized falling.

Is walking the most energy efficient method of traveling by foot? What about skipping, is that between running and walking? Any other methods, what about traveling on all fours?

Skipping is more jumping than running. In running, there should be very little vertical component to the stride. Any energy expended going upwards is just wasted.
Video of world class runners.
Running uses more energy (and muscles) as there is a considerable force exerted in driving the body forward.

Most people who walk don’t do it in the most energy efficient manner. And when we wear shoes, we don’t select them solely for their energy-efficient action- if we did, we’d all be wearing spring blades or roller blades.

They probably do it in the most efficient way for them though. Their walking may be inefficient, but it is more efficient than their running, or skipping etc.

Just for fun, sometime when you’re young and immortal, try skipping down a steep city street carrying a slide projector in each hand [good handles, about 10 pounds? each]… You can get REALLY high off the ground and make great strides. Stopping is problematic.

There are all sorts of complications from physiology, of course, but in general, moving fast will use more energy per distance than moving slowly. So on that basis, I’d expect that not only would walking be more efficient than running, but walking slowly would be more efficient than walking quickly.

One possible complication here would be if we count basal metabolism in our energy budget: Even a human standing still is still consuming energy, and so the less time you take on a trip, the less of that basal energy you’re using. Then again, if you get to your destination quicker than the slow-walker, and wait there for him to catch up, you’re still using that energy while you’re waiting, so maybe that shouldn’t count?

To a degree, but like with cars and MPG, too slow is wasteful as well. You’re expending a certain amount of energy moving your legs forward, you probably want to get the maximum benefit from that basic movement.

I had to look up some of the details to refresh my memory, but back in 1983 a 61 year old farmer named Cliff Young entered an ultramarathon (544 miles) in Australia. On the farm, he had often ran for days at a time to round up sheep. Most ultramarathon runners would run for 18 hours and sleep for 6. Cliff ran for 5 days straight and came in 10 hours ahead of the 2nd place runner, and beat the previous record from Sydney to Melbourne by more than 2 days.

Cliff’s gait was a funny shuffle that was a different style than anything else that the regular ultramarathon athletes had been using. Many ultramarathoners have since switched to the “Cliff Young shuffle” since it is more energy efficient than other running styles.

When you watch the video you can see why. He wastes no energy lifting his feet more than the minimum and by the same token, he doesn’t jar his knees or other joints.

Basically, he keeps falling forward and moving his feet to catch himself.

Are we talking just physiology or are we taking other things into account? Air resistance will be a little higher when running. OTOH if moving with a wind behind your back then running will take more advantage of it.

Not really. There’s not a lot of aerodynamic drag at typical running speeds. The proof of this is going for a jog at 6 MPH, and pedaling a bicycle at 6 MPH; the latter will have you feeling much less winded. For extra proof, note that you can run yourself breathless on a treadmill while experiencing zero wind speed.

The energy expenditure of walking/running primarily has to do with using muscles to move your arms legs. Every time you swing your rear foot forward, you impart kinetic energy to your entire leg to make that happen, and you don’t get that energy back after you plant that foot. Swinging your rear leg forward at a walking pace (~3 MPH) takes a certain amount of energy; swinging your rear leg forward at a jogging pace (~6 MPH) uses four times as much energy.

Some of the energy expenditure of running has to do with catching air on each step, but I suspect it’s not much. A runner could confirm this by hopping in place from one foot to the other with a frequency and hang time that matches a particular running pace. Hopping in place eliminates the fore-and-aft motion of the legs described in the previous paragraph, and I suspect this will result in much less aerobic intensity than running.

I assume that, like my test of coaster brake efficiency on bikes - conducted by hanging car tires on the handlebars and riding down a mountain, this “experiment” was not conducted intentionally?

Oh, it started off intentionally, but with only the mildest of intentions…not a lot of long-range thinking nor any kind of end-game plan. I’m still around 40 years later AND the slide projectors still worked afterwards. [Any landing you walk away from is successful?] I went on to ‘master’ skipping BACKWARDS, from which stopping to do difficult also is.

Sounds like a better experiment than the version my uncle did, which replaced the car tires with five siblings.