Gehen means "to go," rennen means "to run." But what is laufen all about? Laufen can mean all of the above! It means "to walk", "to run," or simply "to go." Note that its noun form, das Laufen, is neuter (in fact, all noun forms of verb infinitives are neuter), and means "a race" or "racing."
In Jan Wittmer: Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko), we have an example where laufen has the meaning of "to run":
Und ich laufe
And I run
Ich laufe davon
I run from it
Und ich laufe
And I run
So schnell und so weit ich kann
As fast and as far as I can
Captions 6-9, Jan Wittmer - Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko)Play Caption
In this video, Jan Wittmer sings over and over again the line Ich laufe davon. He is running away. He is not just walking, he is running as schnell (fast) and as weit (far) as he can.
You would say Ich laufe jeden Tag ins Büro (I walk to the office every day) if you wanted to use laufen in the sense of walking. Surely you do not run to the office every day in your suit and high heels, with your laptop tucked under your arm, unless you overslept or your profession happens to involve Marathon laufen!
On the other hand, let's say you're in a singles bar looking for the perfect partner, like Tanya and Sandra in RheinMain Szene - Singles der Woche. You might be tempted to say something along the lines of:
Also, mit ein Meter sechsundsiebzig ist es nicht so einfach. Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.
Well, being one meter seventy-six is not so easy. Here there are a lot of short men walking around.
Caption 34, rheinmain Szene - Singles der WochePlay Caption
So if you want to start using laufen in conversation, just pay attention to the pace you want to emphasize.
Wir drücken dir die Daumen, dass alles gut läuft beim Lernen mit Yabla!
We're crossing our fingers that everything goes well with Yabla learning!
After you’ve established a firm grip on a useful German verb, take the next step. For instance, you’re stuck in traffic. Put the time to good use by composing a simple sentence using the verb in the present tense. (One immediately comes to mind: Ich laufe davon.) Now alter the same sentence, changing its verb tense only, and see how many sentences you can come up with. It’s an ambitious goal, but getting comfortable with all 12 German tenses won’t happen overnight. So let’s get crackin’! No, seriously, think about it: when speaking your own language, notice how often and effortlessly you shift from one tense to another within a single conversation. When you get back home, check your results in Baron’s 501 German Verbs, a must-have for any aspiring German speaker, or click here for a useful website about verbs.