I'm in the middle of sketching out a new story, settled on a post-apocalyptic version of our present. The main feature of this environment would be blind, mindless, aggressive and contagious versions of humankind. A variation over the zombie genre, if you want; they're not zombies, but they may as well be for the sake of this discussion.

My "zombies" are mostly blind, but are keen to react to sounds - at least sounds that seem out-of-place in the natural environment in which they live (because I can't have a zombie horde going mad near a river, for obvious reasons). When no "target" is detected, the zombies just stay on their feet, doing absolutely nothing.

Knowing this, the human survivors may have developed ways to attract as little attention as possible. My main colony would be settled in a place zombie-free, but it may be needed to send scouting party out of the safe zone to salvage scraps. In this setting, the scouting party may need passing through an heavily zombie-populated area - or, in general, make as little noise as possible when traversing an unknown environment.

So, my question is: how do you move silently? I'm considering a variety of factors, from using finger-spell or others non-verbal signs of communication to the actual movement itself.

I figured out that the scouting parties would need to walk with the minimum amount of noise possible. I'm considering making them go out bare-footed or just with socks, or other kind of soft footwear, because it should make less noise than the standard boot, but I'd like some reality checks on this. It seems from a shallow google search that even soft tennis shoes may serve well - without having the risk of harming one's foot while walking or running.

Other measures would require tight clothes over flappy ones, avoiding metal objects that can clank together, and so on.

What do you think? I'm mainly concerned about footwear at the moment, but other ideas are welcomed.

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that they are blind means that camouflage is not an issue, and there is no need to hide behind cover either. Sticking to woodlands where there is cover is not necessary, removing the risk of crunching on leaves and sticks. $\endgroup$ – Aric Aug 16 '17 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ Pave roads to wherever you need to go! Those construction-site 1xm² steel plates would do just fine, or whatever else you can come up with to make paths that can be kept clean enough to basically walk in socks on. $\endgroup$ – KlaymenDK Aug 16 '17 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Tangential: Do your non-zombies need to eat? If so, how do these mindless, blind, apathic-if-not-disturbed humans manage to survive? Would they not die off a couple months after the apocalypse. $\endgroup$ – Emilio M Bumachar Aug 16 '17 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ They don't. My non-zombies are humans corrupted by extraplanar entities and draw energy from those entities. I'll make no attempt to explain this in a pseudo-scientific way, because it is clearly impossible. I call them zombie by mere convenience. By the way, personally I think that most media (with a few notable exceptions) who talk about zombie apocalypse kinda fail at explaining dead bodies walking. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Aug 16 '17 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ I personally would prefer removing the threat entirely from places i want to visit often. It seems that a mad-max-style heavy truck should attract enough of them to be handled by the truck itself. That is assuming that being crushed by 40 tons of hard equipment with sharp edges does the same to them as it does to most other living things. $\endgroup$ – Burki Aug 17 '17 at 8:30

10 Answers 10



The fist step is make sure you have the right equipment. Your soft-sole theory is a good one, as Native American Hunters wore soft-sole moccasins so that they could move quietly while hunting. Then, as you say, tight clothes that don't rustle (much) when moving are a must. Any smooth, soft cloth will work well for this.

When it comes to gear, everything necessary for travel must be secured and within easy reach. The less movement someone has to make, the better. This means equipping only essentials for the task at hand. Packs will be great for things that just need to be carried from place to place, but smaller is better: less opportunity to snag on things. The same rules for quiet materials apply here.

Weapons should be the quiet type. Most people think of melee weapons as being inherently quiet, but this is not always the case. A long, metal blade sliding from a sheath can be quite loud in some cases. To this end, axes and similar style weapons that can be hung from a loop may serve better, and also be multi-purpose.


Once you are properly outfitted, it is time to be properly trained. Silent movement is a practice in tactics - that is, knowing how, where, and when to move.

First you must listen to the place you're in. If it's completely still and silent, so must you be. Learning to take advantage of every other noise that is normal is a must. Wind and water is your best friend, as these noises disguise the odd sound of movement through an area.

Where to move is dictated by objects on the ground and types of ground. Bare dirt and wet grass are good at muffling footfalls. Dry grass, sticks, dry leaves, etc. are like land mines for quiet moving, and should be avoided.

As for how to move, the Fox walk is method that both early and modern trackers use to great effectiveness. The basic premise is to move the legs slowly while walking. The first contact with the ground should be with the ball of the foot, followed by he heel, and then the body weight. The real trick lies in not placing the weight of the body down until the footing and silence are guaranteed.

Everything must be done slowly and deliberately. The traveler's kit must be painstakingly assembled with this in mind. Once these truths are internalized and preparation is made, it is very possible for people to move silently in almost any environment.

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    $\begingroup$ "A long, metal blade sliding from a sheath can be quite loud in some cases." What evidence do you have for this? My experience is more along these lines. $\endgroup$ – azurefrog Aug 16 '17 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ LuLaRoe for the apocalypse :) $\endgroup$ – MissMonicaE Aug 16 '17 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ Just throwing this out there; for a metal sheath and metal blade, the sliding sound can be a little loud in traditional blades. What i've found in most of my own sword sheaths, there's a thick wax coating on the inside to pad the blade from dulling (which also removes most sound). However the hilt will still click a little when moving or when its taken out/put into the sheath. $\endgroup$ – Matt Brennan Aug 17 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @azurefrog, that video basically confirms it can be quite loud, if you make the mistake of using a metal scabbard or one with metal throat. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 17 '17 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Choosing this as the answer, it seems to me more general purpose and targeted to the question, among the other good answers. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Aug 18 '17 at 7:07

Any of the following applies:

  • It's easier to remain undetected if detectors are not there: plant noisemaking devices a few hundred meters away from where you need to go. These can be (e.g.) noisily flapping kites held not far from ground, but outside "zombie" reach". These things, to be effective, should be used as "distraction" only when needed, otherwise "zombies" would adapt to them and they would lose their "luring" effectiveness.
  • Cover any noise you may make with louder noise (e.g.: follow a noise creek, travel together a buffalo herd, etc). If nothing suitable is available a strip of the above "noisemaking devices" can be planted artificially and slowly made as loud as required to cover as soon as "zombies" adapt to them.
  • Be really silent: use a hot-air balloon. If the travel is highly repetitive it's possible to setup a "sky cableway" using a few balloons and a long line (it should bust be strong enough to pull balloons, not to hold them).
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    $\begingroup$ Hot-air balloons are NOT silent, at least not when making the air in them hot. $\endgroup$ – KlaymenDK Aug 16 '17 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @KlaymenDK: Gas burners are noisy. Try using alcohol, instead. $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Aug 16 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ "noisily flapping kites" this made me think of just setting up a bunch of Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen to distract the zombies.. $\endgroup$ – DasBeasto Aug 16 '17 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ Or wind-chimes along the most traversed ways (and travel on windy days). Or those baby toys which are hanged above baby beds. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Aug 17 '17 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DragandDrop I sugested windchimes as a measure to drone out footsteps. But when zombies get used to them, you could indeed try carrying some with you (in area where Zs are used to them) to make them think of you as background noise. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Aug 17 '17 at 14:38

Thick socks over your boots like every boy's own adventure story.

Terrain is important here, but the biggest thing is going to be keeping your regular paths clear. The classic giveaway is stepping on a stick, make sure there aren't any sticks, glass bottles to kick etc on routes you have to use regularly.

Silent clothes are next, no zippers, metal buckles etc. Nothing that's going to jingle as you move. No exposed metal that might just happen to tap against another piece of exposed metal. Nothing baggy or loose that's going to flap in a wind. The same is true of all equipment.

Hand signals work both in noisy environments and places where you need to keep silent so there are standard ones you can learn.

Use natural background noise to cover your movements. You specifically mention a river, but a noisy river is going to be your best friend for moving around near these zombies.

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    $\begingroup$ Serving soldiers learn things like this. Not in a "sneak up and stab in the back" way but more of a "go from A to B undetected", similar to described in the question. Snipers spend longer lengths of time behind enemy lines, and have extensive training on moving undetected. $\endgroup$ – Aric Aug 16 '17 at 13:28

Human used to walk barefoot for thousand's years so there would not be too important problem with this once the foot is used to walk without protection. You just have to avoid sharp object like glass debris or open cans, both for injuries and sound.

Next, since bringing food and supply is necessary and using hard container can be mandatory, you have to wrap everything with cloth and even bring spare one for scavenging.

At last, it's best to prefer noisy environment like next to a river, or when it's raining. Artificial environment, with solid and flat floor, are more favourable for stealth than natural environment where grass and leave make sound when touched and can conceal sound hazards like twigs.


More of a lateral answer and highly dependent on the ressources available:

In all places where noise cannot be prevented (at a looting place, at your car park, ...) use noise-generating devices. Ideally they should produce noise equivalent to the one at the location.
You mentioned your "zombies" won't be attracted to natural sound sources. If it's normal to hear a gate rustling open and cars driving around or gunshots being wildly fired around 24/7 in a location, no zombie will care if there is actually a door opening or a gun shooting. If the noise is loud enough it can cover other, more usual sounds like a silent talk.

Keep in mind that you need a little bit of infrastructure. The easiest and most general solution is probably a loudspeaker coupled with long-living batteries or a small powersource (generator or solar). They should be installed in an inaccessible location (mounted on a high wall, a tower or on a bridge where you pull up the entrances). It will probably take a few days or weeks for the zombies to adjust, so it is no solution for a quick raid.

I suppose you also can't use it inside or near human settlements. The constant noise would probably drive the inhabitants crazy due to sleep deprivation. Also, I guess that the noise of a human settlement is to diverse to be accurately represented by a recording.


My "zombies" are mostly blind, but are keen to react to sounds - at least sounds that seem out-of-place in the natural enviroment in which they live (because I can't have a zombie horde going mad near a river, for obvious reasons)

If zombies are attracted to strange or out-of-place noises, you might be able to train the zombies to ignore the sounds of people moving past by making them a normal part of the environment. Place solar or battery-powered speakers in places (paths, roads, shelters) ahead of time that mimic the sounds of people walking, talking, snoring, sleeping, stepping on sticks, etc.

The zombies might go nuts over them at first, but they won't get far with eating a speaker. Eventually they'll just ignore the sounds, because you can't have a zombie horde going mad near a river.

This happens in real life with scarecrows. You need to move the scarecrow rather frequently, or else the birds will notice that it's not a real person and just ignore it.


There's no real need to move stealthily, you've identified a huge weakness in the zombies: When there's no stimuli around they stand still.

What you need to do is build a bunch of noise makers that attract the zombies to a particular area. Depending on your level of technology available, you can have them be full on drones controlled remotely or through AI, or something simpler like a spring driven cart. Heck, you could even make loud broadcast towers that drive zombies to a particular area, leaving roads clear for people. It also helps round them up for destruction, if you perfect an area weapon that can be used against them.



I'd go for times when there is naturally a lot of noise. I personally like to be in the woods at night. And when it is raining I cannot hear any animals moving about around me. When it is not raining and there is little wind, it is possible to hear lots of little noises from some distance.

So, in your scenario, I would try to move during the day (blind scavengers), use sneakers or move barefoot, and do so when it rains.


This is something that bothers me about the whole "mindless hordes" problem:
The survivors seem equally mindless.
Okay, 90% of the population is a mindless disease bearing monster.
Gather food, head north (Canada perhaps.)
Water (and blood) of the now unprotected mindless hoards freezes solid. (Assuming that you have enough food to survive [80% death rate pretty much ensures that there will be enough to go around])
[Oh and as a side bonus, when they thaw back out, they are mostly reeking ooze. This is why we cannot get cryogenics to work.]
This gives the survivors a good 6 to 8 months to clear the immediate (and now frozen) problem and put together a collection and disposal program. Re-tool some industrial and agricultural machinery for shredding and disposal and begin rebuilding.

If technology has REALLY fallen back to "horse and buggy":
Cobble together some hand-cranked air-raid sirens, Get a group of riders together (Think along the lines of "Pony Express" (If you are feeling nostalgic; you wouldn't need to change their original ads very much.) Draw them off. Post some guards for stragglers. Loot happily.

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    $\begingroup$ This could only work in specific enviroments. When 80% of the population is an enemy, "heading north" - actually heading anywhere - is a serious struggle. Moreover, you still have to eat while waiting for the winter. The other strategy is kinda viable, but it puts an huge risk on the riders. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Aug 16 '17 at 21:06

Scouts walk slowly, deliberately, picking their foot placement carefully, avoiding any noise making substances. We are talking about a step a minute.

All gear has to be secured so there is no clicking, tapping, or such.

Shoes must have soft soles.

Here is your problem. How are you going to exfiltrate the scraps without making any noise? I would consider employing an active noise cancellation device on your cart.


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