Run 50% Faster With Catapult Exoskeleton Running Shoe Device

David Braun and his team and conceptually solved how to finally enable a high technology version of spring enhanced running where we could go 70% faster than Usain Bolt. They will have a prototype version in one year which with material limitations could finally enable faster running than our best sprinters.

The prototypes should appear next year.  Hopefully, they can help a state sprinter beat top Usain Bolt class sprinter. AA State male sprinters have a 11.3 second qualifying time. This is up to 20% slower than a top Olympic sprinter.

Reasonable near term systems could see speed skating speeds. Currently, the top running speed is 12.3 meters per second or 27 miles per hour. Speed skating gets to 15 meters per second or 33 miles per hour.

The technology and materials will need constant refinement. The progress could be like the improvement in cycling technology and materials or the technology in formula one racing cars.

They will need to increase energy storage by over six times beyond carbon fiber springs to reach the best system. Getting two to three times better and reducing weight could get us to 15-18 meters per second or 33-40 miles per hour.

Technological innovations may enable next-generation running shoes to provide unprecedented mobility. Researchers found that the top speed of running may be increased more than 50% using a catapult-like exoskeleton device, which does not provide external energy. They have uncovered the hidden potential of human performance augmentation via unpowered robotic exoskeletons. This will lead to a new-generation of augmentation devices developed for sports, rescue operations, and law enforcement, where humans could benefit from increased speed of motion.

The top speed of human running, 12.3 m/s, is near half the top speed of cycling, 21.4 m/s, despite both motions being human-powered. The lower speed of running suggests that humans have untapped energy-supplying capability, which can be used in cycling but cannot be used for faster running.

Cycling is faster than running partly because
(i) the rolling motion of the wheels prevents collisional energy losses from stepping but also because
(ii) wheels can support the weight of the body in place of the legs while
(iii) pedals enable the human to supply energy continuously in the air instead of intermittently when the leg is on the ground.

These three features enable the bicycle to double the top speed of running, despite supplying no external energy and adding weight to the human. The same features may lead to novel augmentation devices that could increase the running speed using untapped human power, without wheels or external energy.

Augmented running could theoretically enable the human to provide energy 96% of the total step time (black triangles), similar to what is analytically predicted by the spring-mass model (blue line). If that was possible, the time to supply energy in augmented running could be more than the 20% in natural running and 50% in ice-skating and would be close to the continuous limit of 100% in cycling.

The top speed would be about 20.9 meters per second or about 46 miles per hour. Getting halfway from top human running to top cycling would 38 miles per hour.

The catapult action needs an energy-storing element, for example, tendon in animals or spring in robots. It is first preloaded in the air by an actuator, muscle, or motor, and then used to push against the ground faster than the actuator could alone do. While a typical catapult that uses a fixed stiffness spring may amplify both the power and the force of a limb, it could not change its stiffness as required to redirect vertical motion and accelerate horizontal motion of the human at different speeds. Augmented running requires the use of a variable stiffness catapult.

The best spring system would need to transfer all the energy supplied by the legs in the air to accelerate the forward motion of the body on the ground. If energy is supplied only 60% of the total step time, the reduced top speed of augmented running, 18 m/s.

The theoretical top speed of 20.9 m/s would need springs to store 930 J energy and weigh no more than 1.5 kg and the stiffness of the spring should reach one order of magnitude beyond the maximum stiffness of the leg in natural running.

Variable stiffness springs may be designed with a wide stiffness range and carbon fiber–reinforced polymers or air-springs have high energy capacity while being lightweight.

However, state-of-the-art fixed stiffness running springs made from carbon fiber offer only about 150 J/kg which is an order of magnitude less than what is required to reach the predicted top speed of augmented running.

Nextbigfurure Email Interview With David Braun

Q Is there any commercial or military interest?
A We expect both. (This is the first time the work is released.)

Q Will the system be deployed for testing?
AThe prototype is underway. Testing will start within a year.

QWhat is the price of the system? (Know you don’t have this right now – feel free to skip or theorize on potential pricing)

AThe price depends on the benefit the system provides, similar to bicycles (racing bikes cost significantly more than leisure bikes). Catapult shoes will cost more than a bicycle as they require a high-tech component, a programmable spring, instead of the gear transmission.

QWhat are the most promising niches for exoskeleton? (In your opinion!) Bicycles, dirt bikes and electric bikes, folding bikes can provide 50-100mph speed with the ability to take cargo. Plus there are cars etc… Powered bikes can reach those top speeds.

APeople are obsessed with new performance augmentation devices.
Catapult shoes that enable fast legged locomotion may be advantageous to wheeled systems in the urban environment.

Catapult shoes may initiate a new sport (at the Olympics) similar to ice-skates and bicycles.

Catapult shoes are not alternatives to cars that use motors to move fast without providing a benefit to the body.

Catapult shoes promote healthy lifestyle and may benefit society at large.

SOURCES- Vanderbilt University, Science Advances, Wikipedia, Email Interview David Braun
Written By Brian Wang,

25 thoughts on “Run 50% Faster With Catapult Exoskeleton Running Shoe Device”

  1. I think bicycles are faster than running because momentum is preserved from one “step” to the next. One can only sprint so long. On a bicycle, a considerable amount of momentum can be preserved between sprint and momentum gains from downhill cost zero effort, while downhill running is less efficient and harder to control and preserve on the move to level or uphill grades.

    That is not the case when running. When I run and my legs quit moving I’m either standing still or flat on my face.

    I think this will result in a lot of broken bones from loss of balance or footing at high speeds.

  2. Check Amazon for “jumping stilts” – which I saw in the wild around 2009. There are youtube videos of people somersaulting over cars ! Is this new thing really better ?

  3. But how do you get anything remotely like 10 times the distance, or 5 times, or even 2 with “shoes”?

  4. Usain Bolt’s upper torso looks to be quite fit.

    For a laugh google Britney Spears. Wednesday, the pop star posted on her Instagram account that she ran a blazing 5.97 in the 100-meter dash.

  5. I seem to remember the arms and upper body being useful for bike ‘sprinting’. Seemed to be more effective than the upward pedal. Maybe the same holds true for sprinting, or top speed, some use of the upper arms/torso would need to be incorporated. Of course leg muscles are stronger, but arms have a fairly large fraction of that. Thinking of how Mike Tyson used his whole body from toes up through the torso through fists for his knockout power. For a theoretical top sprint speed it might be crucial.

  6. To jump higher means applying more force to the ground, which is already at the limits of human foot and leg structure…

    …except that a trampoline makes it trivial for anyone to jump higher than an olympic high jump record.

    How? By adding an elastic system for absorbing the force and returning it. And this return happens over half a metre of elastic deflection instead of 5 cm of normal ankle movement.

    With the same force applied over 10 times the distance we get 10 times the energy.

    You don’t need 10 times the force.

  7. It wasn’t really the cheap steel, it was cheap, mass produced, accurately formed, interchangeable steel parts.

    That’s what you need for a chain drive and the sort of cogs and gears driven by said drive that you need to transfer power from a set of pedals to any useful application.

    (There are, these days, systems using toothed belts. But a toothed belt is more technically difficult to make than a chain drive, and still needs the precision toothed wheels for the belt to run on.)

    A time traveller to the ancient world could make up a wooden or bamboo bicycle frame. They already had lightweight chariot wheels. And you could probably get away with greased bearings instead of roller bearings at the cost of more friction. But making up the chain drive would be the job of a precision craftsman making each link by hand, and then having to hand finish every link and every matching tooth in the drive system to keep them all meshed as it spun at high speed. You’d probably need to be a king to afford a bike and keep it maintained.

  8. I dont’ think so.

    Yes it’s true that bike riding features the pedals clipping to the shoes to allow the rider to pull up during the up stroke, but this is really a small fraction of the total power output.

    You can ride a bike with flat pedals and still get nearly as fast. I personally find that the biggest point about clipping your feet in is that it keeps my feet on the pedals even when pedalling at very high speeds (by my standards), so I don’t have to spend any effort keeping my feet aligned and can just concentrate on going fast.

    I’d say that more important contributors to the speed of bicycles are:
    — As stated in the OP, the cyclist can push down and back on the pedals for a much larger % of the time than when running.
    — A wheel on a smooth surface supports the rider and retains the motion very efficiently, so most of the power is dedicated to acceleration and overcoming air resistance.
    — A cyclist in sprint position is significantly more aerodynamic than a runner. At these speeds aero is 90% of the issue.

  9. I’m skeptical.

    A bicycle’s primary advantage is from, as they sort of mentioned, wheels and applying power via a circular crank, which also makes available the advantage of gearing. I don’t see how spring loaded shoes can compete with that.

    But then, I’m not clear if they are talking about just shoes or an exoskeleton.

    Another thing, previous research has shown that there is a direct correlation between a runner’s speed and the force with which the feet hit the ground. Stride rate is already maxed out. At competitive levels all sprinters have the same stride rate. To go faster means longer strides, more time in the air during each stride which means hitting the ground harder with each foot strike. If increasing speed entails an increase in the amount of force of each foot strike, how will a human body withstand a 50% increase in speed?

    They must mean an exoskeleton rather than just shoes.

  10. No, when Jennifer says “evolved” she means that the “technique” evolved. Cultural evolution.
    Not that the humans doing this have evolved genetically.

  11. There are competitions and records for humans running on all 4. The technique and performance doing that has evolved quickly. Quite entertaining to look at the video clips from the fastest quadruped humans.
    Our bodies are currently not optimized for that but with artificial augmentation, it could be possible.
    There is a reason we don’t run as fast on two legs as four legged creatures.

  12. How would we evolve new muscles through horseback-riding? Consider the timescale that evolution operates on, and consider all the other facts that influence it.

  13. I’m not sure this is true. I haven’t cycled much as an adult, but I spent a large portion of my childhood on a bike. That bike did not have pedals that could be pulled. All power was supplied by pushing. I could bike far faster than I could run.

  14. “Changing the gait to quadrupedal may be the easiest way to involve more muscles and get better aerodynamics. This is actually already a sport. I think the current sprint record is about double that of Bolt.”

    What are you talking about??

  15. Is this supposed to be powered by human muscles only?

    If so, the only way will be to extract power from muscles not normally used when running. This is the case with bicycling where energy is added by pulling up the pedals as well as pushing down on them. That and aerodynamics. Bicycles where the driver is in a horizontal position is even more efficient.

    The biggest untapped muscle group is probably the back muscles (erector spinae). Fast quadrupeds like the Gepard use the back muscles efficiently to add energy to the motion.

    Changing the gait to quadrupedal may be the easiest way to involve more muscles and get better aerodynamics. This is actually already a sport. I think the current sprint record is about double that of Bolt.

    Injuries will likely be a side effect to such experiments. Both from high speed accidents as well as increased wear on the body from unnatural use. Bikes are not so bad.

  16. I can see this working for combined travel modes. Where you (for example) travel by foot to a train station, travel by train, then travel by foot to your final destination.

    This is sometimes difficult to combine with say a bike, but this approach looks like you could just wear them when walking normally onto a train, and then into a shop or office at your destination.

    I bet airline security will still be an issue though.

    There are a couple of issues though:
    — The running is half the speed of a bike is true, but running probably uses 4 or 5 times the energy per km. For more than a short sprint a bike will let you transport yourself at least 5, maybe 10 times the distance because it needs much less energy per km when you are just cruising and the non-impact nature means you can cycle for hours without getting sore without being a trained athlete.
    — At least part of the advantage of cycling is that your body is, at least on a modern road bike design, in a much more aerodynamic position than a runner. And “modern” here dates back to at least the 1895 Wright Flyer. Yes, those well known aerodynamic expert bicycle makers.

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