Running Zigzag: Is It Actually Effective In Threat Evasion?

Running zigzag in self-defense may have been effective in some cases of threat evasion, but is it generally effective? Read on to know more!

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In this article:

  1. Running Zigzag Tested for Effectiveness in Threat Evasion
  2. Zigzag Run Test Results
  3. Conclusion

Running Zigzag: A Self-Defense and Survival Technique?

Running Zigzag Tested for Effectiveness in Threat Evasion

For my entire life – literally – since I can remember, I’ve heard countless people say 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 instinct to help us escape the jaws of saber 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 running serpentine could help you escape being hit by an assailant with a gun or active shooters and the results were surprising.

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Zigzag Run Test Results

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 zigzag pattern.

The test used simunitions, fired from a live round in real Glock 17 pistol.

What Are Simunitions? These are training ammunition used by military forces and law enforcement agencies. They are usually made of wax and it allows trainees to use the weapon they are actually carrying to do their job.

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.

So what can we conclude from these results?

I think that we can conclude that running in a zigzag 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 key takeaway points that Ellifritz concluded from his study.

  1. Speed is key. The faster you can get out of range or behind cover the safer you’ll be. Running in a zigzag pattern can take longer to get away.
  2. Running in zigzag should not be the default plan for everyone.
  3. Zigzag 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.
  4. Running in a zigzag pattern tends to make hits less serious.
  5. Don’t run in a crouched position either straight or in a zigzag pattern while in the open. Only crouch when you are staying low behind cover.
  6. For those that can’t run fast, the zigzag is likely the best option.


Based on the information from his study I believe that a zigzag pattern could be more effective than running in a straight line, but only slightly.

However, if you’re a great sprinter, then running in a straight line could benefit you more.

Unfortunately for me, an ankle accident a few years back killed any aspirations I might have had at being a good sprinter.

This video from Jim Wagner will show you how running zigzag away from an active shooter could be an effective self-defense technique:

While generally ineffective as a self-defense strategy, you can still consider running zigzag as a way to escape a threat. One slightly effective self-defense plan or strategy is better than nothing at all.

So what about you, will you run away in a straight line or a zigzag pattern? Let me know why you choose your preferred method of flight from danger in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 27, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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