Stealth Walking 101

I may follow this post up with some videos to help compliment the instruction here. Today in this post I would like to discuss the specifics of stealth walking, and cover a few techniques for remaining unseen, and unheard.

Introduction

We’ve likely all walked on our tip-toes at some point in our lives. This is the stereotypical stealth walk. It’s simple, and it can provide some help in walking lightly. However, there is a lot more to stealth walking than just ‘tip-toeing’ around.

In this article, we will cover a few of the most useful stealth walking techniques, as well as dive into some specifics on what separates a stealth walk, from a normal walk.

Goals of Stealth Walking

The idea is to not be detected. You wish to move through an area, without people, animals, and automated systems detecting you. This isn’t as straight forward as it sounds however. To avoid detection you need to think about a few things, primarily:

  • The sound you make
  • The visible movement you generate
  • Your silhouette

You’ll notice that of the three items listed here, only one of them relates to sound. It’s interesting that so much attention is paid as to how to walk ‘quietly’. The reality is that you are far more likely to need to avoid detection primarily from visual sources rather than auditory.

Light v. Sound

If you’re seen, you’re almost certainly caught. Visual detection will quickly allow an adversary to lock their attention onto your exact location, to identify that you are human (presumably) and to start moving to respond. Depending on the circumstance, their response could be to shout at you, to move away, or to engage in hostile action (such as drawing a weapon).

With sound, you have a bit more leeway. Certainly you do not wish to be heard if possible. But if you are, you’ll find that the reaction is generally quite different. For being heard, you’ll often have a more muted reaction from the observer. They may, move towards the general location of the sound, turn to face the sound and start searching for what caused it, or adjust posture/observation schedule (start watching more closely).

There’s a big difference between “turning to look in your general direction” and “drawing a gun to shoot at you.” One is the general response to sound, the other a response to visual detection. When you must, prioritize remaining unseen, to remaining silent.

A Caveat: Range

One caveat with regard to the differences between visual and auditory detection. Though the visual detection mechanism is generally much more accurate and sharp, sound may carry itself around corners, over obstacles, through walls, and sometimes far greater distances (especially in close quarters at night).

So you should note that when visual detection is not possible (for example there is something physically between you and the observer) you should then consider silence to be a more important goal.

Techniques

There are a few well known techniques that you can use for stealth walking.

The Foot Strike

Generally when you are stealth walking, you need to strike the ground very carefully with your foot. Specifically, you want to strike the ground with the outside edge of your toes (pinkie toe first) then roll your foot down to the ground carefully. If you feel anything underneath your foot that might crunch or snap, you should pick it back up gently.

Weight Distribution

To maximize how stealthy your walk is, you need to do one simple thing. Keep all your weight on your back leg while gently placing your leading foot down on the ground. Then, when your foot is fully grounded, move your body forward to distribute your weight over your front foot. Finally, pick up your back leg and move it out in front… repeat.

If you do this correctly, there should be next to no sound at all when you move. Often the only sound my walking will make is the gentle rustling of whatever clothing I may be wearing. If you manage your center of gravity you can be completely silent.

An important trick here is as follows. Don’t just keep your weight over your back foot, but rather, keep it over the heel of your back foot. This will ensure the most stable base possible. If done correctly you will find that you do not wobble at all as you search for where to place your front foot on the ground.

The Crouch

You may wish to crouch down to aid in keeping yourself harder to see. There are a few ways to handle crouching.

Yoko Aruki

One special walking technique straight from the past is the “Yoko Aruki.” A technique for walking with your body slightly sideways, it makes it far easier to crouch lower to the ground. This is hard to explain without visual references. But in short, crouch low to the ground, then (if moving left) move your right foot in front of your left foot (crossing your right foot over to your left side). Follow up by moving your left foot from your right side, back out far to your left, then repeat. Reverse the order if moving to the right.

Head on Crouching

You may need to walk in a more compact stance. The Yoko Aruki is great for moving quickly while keeping a low profile. But it requires you to spread your body out a bit more to the side. If you need to keep a low profile, or squeeze between things, you will want to walk straight ahead. Crouching while walking straight ahead can be quite difficult. It is especially hard to crouch very low to the ground this way. One trick is to let your feet push far behind you as you move. This means however that you will have to keep your weight over your front foot, as such this technique is fast, and small, but loud.

The Slight Crouch

This is the technique you’ll most commonly see used. I recommend against it in all but one situation. The slight crouch, is when you basically remain fully standing with only a slight crouch in your posture. This technique does nothing but make you look even more suspicious, and does little to shield you from observers. However, it can be really strong for walking as quietly as possible, this is because your legs will not be as tired, and are freed up to walk with greater control.

Hand Assisted Crouch

The hand assisted crouch is one step short of crawling. With this technique you move your body into a crouch or low squat over the ground. Then, it becomes more difficult to move your legs from under you, you may lean onto your hands and use them to start or finish a crouch.

A common use of the hands in this position is to shift the body around a 1 meter area without having your legs under you. This is done by putting all your weight on your hands, and repositioning your legs under you.

Next Steps (get it?)

We’ve covered some basics here. Armed with this knowledge and a bit of practice you should be able to hide your sound and visual profile as you walk. However, keep in mind that this training doesn’t cover anything regarding how to walk, where to walk, and when to walk. That comes next…

About the author

I do a lot of stuff. I'm a decent hacker. I jump out of airplanes a lot. Done some firefighting and stuff. Philosophy all the time, make music, acting in awesome indie films. Just, a lot of stuff.

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