Whether you’re trying to go out while your parents are still awake or stroll through a forest without disturbing the wildlife, knowing how to walk silently is a valuable skill. If you need any more incentives to pick it up, just think of the jump scares you’d be able to spring on your friends and family! I know I can’t be the only one who thought of that particular perk.
If you try out the techniques I’ll share below, you’ll likely be able to pussyfoot over creaky floorboards or creep through jungles soundlessly. Essentially, the tips I’ve found should work both indoors and outdoors with slight adjustments — but more on that later.
For now, let’s talk about the first crucial step you must take to level up your spy skills.
1. Wear the Right Outfit
Before attempting any kind of covert operation, you need to dress for success. In this case, that means wearing an outfit that won’t give away your location.
Clothes That Won’t Make Noise
When you’re trying to be stealthy, the worst thing you can do is wear a loud outfit. Obviously, you’ll need to stick to a subtle palette — but I’m not just talking about avoiding flashy colors.
You should also wear fabrics that won’t rustle, swish, or squeak as you move. Instead of leather, nylon, or polyester, throw on cotton, linen, or, better yet, silk or satin garments. Ultimately, you’ll need to wear fabrics that don’t cause any kind of friction noise. We can’t have you trying to sneak past your parents in corduroy pants and a rubber windbreaker!
On top of that, you should try to wear clothes that are form-fitting without being uncomfortable. Loose garments may give you a wider range of motion, but the excess material is bound to make some noise. Additionally, it may get caught on nearby objects, knocking them over as you pass them. To prevent that, you should tuck your shirt into your pants, your pants into socks, and so forth.
While you’re at it, you should also get rid of any accessories that might produce noise down the line. If you can’t leave them behind, at least try to make sure they don’t jingle as you move. For example, if you have too many keys on your keychain, secure them all with a hair tie. If your zipper tabs tend to clink, tape them down and do the same to distracting shoelaces.
And speaking of shoelaces, we need to talk about footwear. Like your clothes, your shoes will need to fit snugly around your feet. Needless to say, wearing slippers, flip-flops, or mules is out of the question. If you’re trying to sneak up on a roommate, you’re better off going barefoot than trying to do it in slippers.
You should also steer clear of shoes with hard soles. Wooden clogs, Doc Martens, and dress shoes with leather or rubber soles are all options you should avoid. Even though there are ways to muffle the clicking sounds these kinds of shoes produce, you probably won’t have time to implement them. In any case, if you want to set yourself up for success, go for light, flat, and flexible shoes like moccasins or soft sneakers.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the shoes you wear don’t produce any noise by checking them for squeaks. I’ve already explained how to fix squeaking sounds, so you could follow that guide if you have the time. If not, just choose another pair of shoes that fit the criteria I’ve described.
Now that we’re all geared up, let’s talk about techniques you’ll use to make your movements as quiet as possible.
2. Control Your Breathing
Right off the bat, we have to talk about why your breathing technique is the most crucial part of any covert mission. Most people are tempted to stop breathing altogether when they’re trying to move around quietly, but that’s the last thing you should be doing.
After all, you don’t want to give away your location when your body finally gets the better of you and forces you to take a huge gasping breath or take a hard step.
Even if you try taking shallow breaths, your chances of discovery may still be pretty high. At best, you’ll make yourself feel lightheaded and impair your ability to make decisions on the fly. At worst, you may faint or lose consciousness, which would most certainly result in some noise.
Instead of breathing shallowly or not at all, you’ll have to figure out a way to take in as much oxygen as you need. I recommend inhaling as you lift your foot and exhaling as you put it down. That rhythm should help you relax and stay centered, which is also why most martial arts experts recommend it.
Just make sure your nose is completely clear before you start creeping around. You’ll have a hard time muffling surprise sneezes while trying to be sneaky.
3. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
When you’re trying to keep quiet, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on your own movements. But you can’t let that instinct prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. Unlike your breathing, your surroundings aren’t something you can control. So you’ll have to learn to adapt to new circumstances by keeping all of your senses engaged.
No matter where you find yourself, you can’t go on autopilot. Even if you’re using these tips to get your late-night snack, you never know what lurks in the dark. You could step on a toy, hit the edge of a coffee table, or trip over the curled edge of a carpet. Howling in pain is a surefire way to draw unwanted attention to your plans.
Depending on the conditions, you’ll have to shift your attention between different senses. If you decide to go on a quiet midnight stroll through the neighborhood, you probably won’t have much light to go on. Since your vision will be weaker than it is during the day, you’ll have to compensate for it by moving slowly and focusing on the surrounding sounds.
What’s more, trying to pass through a forest quietly is completely different than crossing a street or a hallway. Each of these circumstances would require a different walking style, for one. It’ll be up to you to choose the one that’s the most appropriate for the setting you’re in, based on the information I’m about to provide.
4. Watch Your Step
Dragging your feet is just about the worst thing you can do when you’re trying to be stealthy. Even if you think you’re paying attention to your surroundings, you might end up kicking a pebble and announcing your presence.
To avoid that, you simply have to lift your feet high enough to pass over all obstacles without touching them. This tip will help you work your way around scattered toys and curled carpets as well as rocks and shrubbery. Even if you don’t stick to any of the walking techniques I’m about to describe, you should still follow this rule.
Now, I’d also like to point out that you should pick your path wisely. If you’re indoors, don’t step on hard surfaces if you can help it — stick to carpeted areas instead. Alternatively, if you can’t avoid wood floors, cross them in socks. You’ll have to be extra careful not to step on anything, though.
Conversely, if you’re outside, you should keep to the solid ground if possible. Avoid any twigs and dry foliage, and try to find rocks or tree roots that can hold your weight. But again, we’ll talk about that later.
5. Use a Silent Walking Technique
Now, let’s see the techniques you might use if you need to walk silently.
In the course of a normal day, most people step heel first, then roll to the front of the foot. However, if your goal is to be as quiet as possible, that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. Instead, you’ll want to lead with your toes.
Tip-toeing is most people’s go-to technique when they need to move silently. Many martial arts emphasize this style of walking, as demonstrated in this video.
The key to this style is in making small, intentional movements while keeping a low center of gravity. That just means that you’ll have to bend your knees ever so slightly. Keep most of your weight on one leg while feeling around for a sturdy spot to place your toes. Doing that should make it easier to detect and avoid any squeaky floorboards or other potential sources of noise.
Since most of your weight will be on your back leg, you’ll be able to withdraw your toes quickly if you hear a sound. Then, once you’ve found your footing, allow your heel to connect with the floor, transferring most of your weight to that foot.
Now, I wouldn’t say that this style of walking would suit any occasion. While it might be good to use in an indoor setting, there are better ways to silently walk outside.
Fox walking is another style of movement that has similarities with certain martial arts techniques. Some sources even claim that humans used to move like this before the advent of footwear. As you’ll see, this kind of movement would have been not only quiet during a hunt but also all-around safer. Namely, it would have given our ancestors all the time they needed to avoid stepping on sharp rocks.
To do it properly, you’ll need to keep your feet relatively close to one another, following the same imaginary line. Once again, you’ll have to lean into your hips, bending your knees to keep your center of gravity low.
When you are stable, you’ll again start by transferring all of your weight onto one leg. Then, start moving the other leg:
- Touch the ground in front of you with the outer edge of your foot, taking care not to lean in immediately.
- If you don’t hear any noise, roll your foot inward until the ball of your foot is fully horizontal as well.
- Set down the heel and release the tension in your toes, letting them connect with the ground.
- Slowly transfer your weight to the foot you just set down.
Obviously, this style of walking will require you to feel the ground under your feet and adjust the amount of pressure you’re exerting. Needless to say, you won’t be able to wear shoes with hard soles. Either stick to flexible, light footwear or don’t wear any.
If you still don’t understand exactly how fox walking works, watch a few tutorials like this one and give it a shot. You’ll see that it’s not as difficult as it appears. Eventually, you’ll be able to use this method to run almost noiselessly!
Running or Jumping Silently
Lastly, I wanted to mention some methods you could use when speed is just as important as silence. Most of the tips I’ve shared would apply even when you need to break into a run. Instead of landing on your soles, stay on the balls of your feet or transition into a fox run.
Running on the balls of your feet is actually easier said than done. It would definitely take a great toll on your feet, ankles, and joints. So you should expect to be sore the day after, especially if you keep sprinting for a long time.
On the other hand, fox running would also take some serious practice, as you can imagine. You’d have to get used to the feeling of hitting the ground with the side of your foot without spraining your ankle.
Of course, if you ever need to jump silently, you should opt to land on the balls of your feet rather than the sides. Additionally, you might want to take your shoes off, but only if you’re not worried about landing on anything sharp. Alternatively, you could drop an item of clothing on your projected drop zone to soften your landing even if you’re wearing shoes.
6. Move Your Body Mindfully
Ultimately, if there’s one lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that you need to move your body mindfully. That’s why the techniques I’ve described place emphasis on deliberate and slow actions.
Because you’ll need to move so slowly, you’ll have to find a way to keep your balance even when you’re standing on one leg. Most people achieve that by bending their knees, but if you find another method that works for you, go for it! The point is to give yourself plenty of time to find the right spot to set your other foot down.
Now, as much as I made a point of explaining your leg placement throughout this guide, I’ve yet to mention what you should do with the rest of your body. So let’s fix that.
When it comes to your upper body, you should keep it pretty restrained. Most of the movement you feel up there will be in your chest. Your torso should be turned toward your target, and your back should be stiff and upright.
In general, you should be comfortable, but not too relaxed. If you usually sway your hips or swing your arms as you walk, you’ll have to control those movements. You might knock something over if you don’t keep your arms close to your torso.
How to Keep Quiet When Walking in Nature
Hopefully, the tips I’ve shared so far will be useful no matter how you decide to use them. Dressing appropriately, staying calm, and walking slowly are some of the things you can do whether you’re sneaking around your house, an urban neighborhood, or in more remote areas.
Still, there are some additional factors you might want to consider or even take advantage of the next time you want to take a quiet stroll outside.
Blend in With the Surrounding Noise
If you’ve ever tried to make a quiet trip to the kitchen for your midnight snack, you’ve probably cursed the lack of noise in your home. After all, when you have some kind of background noise, like the neighbor’s TV or consistent traffic in the street, it’s easier to hide the inevitable missteps.
Well, noise is something you can pretty much always count on when you’re outside. In most cases, you should be able to conceal your movements by waiting for the right time to make them. That could be the moment you hear a noisy AC unit turn on or when someone opens an iron gate in the distance. You just have to be ready to seize the moment when it comes.
Of course, those sounds are hardly reliable or consistent. However, even when they aren’t there, you’ll have the wind and crickets to cover your tracks.
Match the Footsteps of Other People or Animals
If you’re following a person and you want to keep your footsteps beyond their detection, you could try to match their tempo of walking. Of course, if you decide to do that, you wouldn’t have to use any of the techniques I’ve described. You’d just need to mimic their style of walking — so when they step with their right foot, you’ll do so too.
However, you should keep one thing in mind — the speed of sound. If you really analyze the way your target is moving, you may notice a discrepancy. The sound of their footsteps may reach you just a moment after you see their foot hit the ground. So if you end up using this method, you should step a fraction of a second before your target.
More than anything else, you should be able to stop moving at a moment’s notice. If you realize that the person or animal you’ve been tailing has spotted you, stop moving. Focus on your breathing until it’s safe to start walking or get ready to hit the ground running.
Check in With Your Body
I’ve already mentioned several things you can do to cover your tracks while walking in nature. But there’s more to it than avoiding twigs and crunchy leaves.
First and foremost, you’ll need to check in with your body. Breathing correctly is certainly one part of this, but you’ll also have to perform a few other basic checks.
For one, you should satisfy any pressing needs before heading out. Trust me — you don’t want your stomach to growl right when you’re nearing your target.
Furthermore, you’ll want to pop your joints before they betray you. You don’t want them to crack when you’re a step away from an animal. If your janky knee gives you away, none of the techniques I’ve mentioned will be able to help you.
Ultimately, there are plenty of occasions that might require you to make a silent getaway. But I have to admit — I’ll mostly be using this information to spook some people. If you want to join me, you can use your newfound ninja skills to play some pranks on your friends and family.
Alternatively, you could make your coworkers think you’re Batman or go on a pleasant wildlife-watching stroll through the woods. Now that you have these skills, you get to decide how you want to use them!
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