Many of the more than 3,500 cockroach species in the world can fly. The flying capabilities of cockroaches vary according to the particular species, and sometimes sexual category, to which they belong. In Canada, the German cockroach is the most important and prevalent cockroach species in the country. Depending on the region, other significant pest species present are the American, brown-banded, oriental, smoky-brown, and wood varieties of cockroach. Though both males and females of the German cockroach have wings, they do not fly except for short downward gliding. Meanwhile, both sexes of the smoky-brown species of cockroach are strong fliers. Amongst the brown-banded and wood cockroaches, only the males enjoy flying capabilities. Though not regarded as true flyers, both male and female American cockroaches maintain the ability to glide through the air. Both genders of the oriental cockroach lack the capacity to fly. The Canadian cockroach species capable of flying are generally only able to remain in the air for short amounts of time.

Despite possessing four wings, each flying cockroach uses just a single pair for air travel. Thick and protective, the front pair of wings displays the same coloration as the body of the cockroach and rests against the back of the insect when not in use. The back pair of wings remains hidden and protected beneath the front pair until the cockroach takes flight. When preparing to fly, cockroaches lift the front wings to expose the back wings. The insects keep the front wings lifted while flying and move through the air by using the back pair. In contrast to the front pair, the back wings of cockroaches that fly are membranous, thin and clear.

Even though many cockroaches can fly, the insects boast highly effective legs and prove more adept at running than flying. The body of a cockroach features three legs extending from each side of the thorax. Covered with setae and pointy spines, each leg varies in length and fulfills different yet interrelated functions that enable the physical act of running. With a total of six legs working together to propel the insects forward, cockroaches can cover a distance equal to roughly 50 body lengths in a single second. For a human to run the same distance as 50 of his or her own body lengths in one second, he or she would have to reach a speed of about 200 miles per hour.