For my entire life – literally – since I can remember, I’ve heard countless people say that when evading a threat you should run in angles and random patterns.

I just assumed this was a natural defense to make it harder for an assailant to catch you. Like a leftover evolutionary instincts to help us escape the jaws of sabre tooth tigers.

And there is plenty of evidence in nature to support this theory. If you watch a rabbit run away from you or try to evade a predator they don’t run in a straight line. They zig-zag back and forth to throw off and wear out their chaser. This behavior can be observed among many different species of animal on probably every continent.

So it seems plausible that this is an effective way to evade capture or danger right?
Well I recently came across some interesting information from the President of Active Response Training, Greg Ellifritz.

Greg is a full-time firearms and defense training office for an Ohio police department as well and probably knows a thing or two about evading an assailant.

Recently he performed an experiment to see if fleeing in a zig zag pattern could help you escape being hit by an assailant with a gun and the results were surprising.

For the test he used experienced shooters and had people run away from them in a straight line, in the crouch position and in a zig-zag pattern.

The test used simunitions which are a type of paintball fired from a live round in real Glock 17 pistol. The shooter started with their back turned and the person escaping had to make a 30 yard distance and get behind cover without getting hit.

Here are the results.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.48.21 AM

So what can we conclude from these results?

I think that we can conclude that running in a zig-zag pattern isn’t as effective as we thought. It may help slightly but with the advent of modern weapons it leaves our evolutionary instincts for survival ineffective.

Here are the main points that Ellifritz – the experimenter – concluded from his study.

  • Speed is key. The faster you can get out of range or behind cover the safer you’ll be. Running in a zig-zag pattern can take longer to get away.
  • Zig-zagging should not be the default plan for everyone.
  • Running in a zig-zag pattern tends to make hits less serious.
  • Zig-zag running may not be recommended for people with weak knees or ankles or people carrying a lot of extra weight – either from extreme obesity or heavy packs and armor.
  • Don’t run in a crouched position either straight or in a zig-zag pattern while in the open. Only crouch when you are staying low behind cover.
  • For those that can’t run fast the zig-zag is likely the best option.

Based on the information from his study I believe that a zig-zag pattern could be slightly more effective than running in a straight line.

However if you’re a great sprinter then running in a straight line could benefit you more. Unluckily an ankle accident a few years back killed any aspirations I’d have at being a good sprinter.

So what about you, will you run away in a straight line or a zig-zag pattern? Let me know why you choose your preferred method of flight from danger!

Want to read more about surviving with your physical ability? Check out this article on staying in shape the easy way : Physical Condition Can Determine Survivability