It’s very useful to be able to walk silently. You don’t have to be a professional ninja in order to want to learn this skill. Previously in my blog post Stealth Walking 101 we covered the basics of stealth walking. There is a lot to unpack in that blog post, so I do recommend checking it out. Following that post was a quick aside on a secret technique for decreasing your sound on creaky floorboards. This secret technique comes with a video link as well.
Today we’re going to discuss some of the ‘next steps’ in taking your stealth walking further. Each section details a different consideration you should work into your stealth walking techniques.
Lock your Gaze
When walking in darkness it is critical that you maintain proper balance. It can be harder to walk with smooth and clean balance when you do not have clear sight of what is around you. Especially if you’ve just moved from a lit area into a dark area, but even if you’re in an area where you can somewhat see, you should lock your gaze forward at all times that one foot is off the ground.
Having your gaze steady and focused on a point on the wall in front of you still enables you to see around. At least, you’ll be able to see as well as you can in the dark at all. You’ll find yourself more aware of the sounds around you as well. Having that steady gaze will help you keep your body planted firmly on the ground. This will keep you from swaying even a bit and reduce the possibility of you planting your feet improperly. Landing your feet on the ground improperly can make a lot of noise. Especially if you end up having to shift your entire body or step again immediately to avoid losing your balance any further.
It’s okay to look around of course. But you should only move your gaze in dark places when both your feet are on the ground.
Use your Hands
Walking quietly is not about walking purely on your feet. Especially if you are already crouched, do not be afraid to use your hands to help support you. You can take steps using your hands that are quieter than those you might take using your feet. You can use your hands to shift your body side to side by placing all your weight on both of your hands on the floor, then moving your feet to the side and then shifting your weight back onto your feet in a new location.
Alternatively you can choose to walk on all fours on the floor, though do be warned that the awkwardness of this often leads to it creating more noise than you might expect. If you do want to walk quietly this way, attempt to remember the subtle and soft movements of a cat. You can apply the same types of techniques you might with your feet, to your hands. For example you can reach your hand out and then slowly place it on the ground one finger at a time. Then when ready shift your weight onto that hand.
Another benefit that using your hands can provide is reduced weight per area. This means that on surfaces that make sound you essentially apply less weight per step, likely resulting in less noise overall. For example on gravel you might find that using your hands is a necessary method for avoiding making excessive noise.
Walk Fast and Light
With all the discussion of how to properly place your feet on the ground and how to shift your weight about it can be easy to assume walking quickly can never be stealthy. If you’re walking quickly, how will you possibly take all the necessary steps to complete a step with the proper foot roll, the proper body position, etc.
Sometimes, if you can ‘walk light’ you’ll find that you actually make less noise than if you walk methodically and slowly. For an example of this, find a creaky floorboard. Even with all the proper techniques applied you’re bound to make sound when you step on it. But what if you lightly and quickly step over it? When done correctly, it’s likely you’ll only make a soft tap on the floorboard vs the long and slow creaking associated with the methodical and slow walk.
Another use for fast walking might be when there is cover noise that can keep you from being heard. Perhaps there is a car about to drive by, and you need to dash past a doorway. Or maybe there is a radio playing and you’re more concerned about being seen than heard.
There really are times where a fast and light walk can be worth more. Of course, if you’re looking to avoid being seen, often a fast walk is better. But in the dark, where sound becomes increasingly important, it is valid that most techniques call for being slower. Especially if total silence is required, slower will win in most cases. But again, walking light and quick has its place.
You won’t be able to walk quietly if you don’t practice. Stealth walking is a learned skill and even after years of practice I will happily admit I still make sound. It’s honestly very hard, especially if your environment is not set up to support it. But you can’t rely on a perfectly supportive environment with minimal obstacles and lots of cover noise in practical situations, so why train in them either?
You want to practice, at least every once in a while. I know it can be embarrassing to be seen trying to sneak around. But if this is something you care about learning you’ll have no trouble admitting that you’re not perfect at it. I’ve found that sometimes folks can get kind of competitive about hearing you since naturally if you’re walking quietly you are attempting to avoid their detection. If done in a healthy spirit of competition this can improve your practice.