Both the Arp2/3 complex and cofilin are believed to be important for the generation of protrusive force at the leading edge; however, their relative contributions have not been explored in vivo. Our results with living cells show that cofilin enters the leading edge immediately before the start of lamellipod extension, slightly earlier than Arp2/3, which begins to be recruited slightly later as the lamellipod is extended. Blocking either the Arp2/3 complex or cofilin function in cells results in failure to extend broad lamellipods and inhibits free barbed ends, suggesting that neither factor on its own can support actin polymerization-mediated protrusion in response to growth factor stimulation. High-resolution analysis of the actin network at the leading edge supports the idea that both the severing activity of cofilin and the specific branching activity of the Arp2/3 complex are essential for lamellipod protrusion. These results are the first to document the relative contributions of cofilin and Arp2/3 complex in vivo and indicate that cofilin begins to initiate the generation of free barbed ends that act in synergy with the Arp2/3 complex to create a large burst in nucleation activity.