Elephants can move both forwards and backward, but can not trot, jump, or gallop. They use only two gaits when moving on land: the walk and a faster gait similar to running. In walking, the legs act as pendulums, with the hips and shoulders rising and falling while the foot is planted on the ground. The careful walk on soft cushioned feet is calculated to let the hind feet step into the place tested by the front feet. With no "aerial phase", the fast gait does not meet all the criteria of running, although the elephant uses its legs much like other running animals, with the hips and shoulders falling and then rising while the feet are on the ground.
Fast-moving elephants appear to run with their front legs, but walk with their hind legs and can reach a top speed of 25 km/h (16 mph). At this speed, most other quadrupeds are well into a gallop, even accounting for leg length. Spring-like kinetics could explain the difference between the motion of elephants and other animals. During locomotion, the cushion pads expand and contract, and reduce both the pain and noise that would come from a very heavy animal moving. Elephants are capable swimmers. They have been recorded swimming for up to six hours without touching the bottom, and have traveled as far as 48 km (30 mi) at a stretch and speeds of up to 2.1 km/h (1 mph).