How do I walk more quietly?
August 23, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

My neighbors complained to me (in a polite, reasonable way) about me walking too loudly. How can I fix it?

I moved into the second floor of a building, right above a family. I've been living there around three months, and my neighbor just told me about this recently. The place has pretty bad sound isolation, which is definitely part of the problem.

My neighbor was pretty polite and nice about it. He said that I'm generally not otherwise noisy, but that I'm the loudest walker who's lived in the apartment in all the time he's been there. I'm not inclined to believe that he's making it up or being overly sensitive.

I'd really like to not be a Horrible Neighbor, but I'm really not aware that I walk particularly loudly! I don't wear shoes inside or stomp a lot, and am not particularly heavy. I have hardwood floors, which are kind of creaky when I walk, and no carpets. I'm not really willing to get carpets. Are there magic tricks to this?
posted by oranger to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I generally tiptoe walk indoors without shoes; just land with the ball of your foot rather than the heel. It's not at all awkward or inconvenient once you're used to this.

(You can also do this for running, makes my knees happier in general, though there is a period for your calf muscles to adjust.)
posted by trevyn at 1:24 PM on August 23, 2011

In some NYC apartments, tenants are required to get area rugs on a certain percentage of the floor because of noise issues. So, carpets might not be an option, but a rug can really bring a room together.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2011 [15 favorites]

Also: rubber flip-flops.
posted by griphus at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2011

Area rugs are really the only thing that's going to help this.
posted by Specklet at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you a heel-planter? If you tend to plant your heel really firmly first when walking, it will sound like you are pounding even when you really, really aren't.

Also, you say no carpets... does that include rugs? They will help.
posted by utsutsu at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) strategically placed rugs in high-traffic (or creaky) areas of the floor. They will help a lot, though they can be an investment depending on how much floor you need to cover.
posted by Joey Bagels at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2011

area rugs, cushy socks/house shoes, and mindfulness. pay special attention when over sleeping areas/within sleeping hours.
posted by batmonkey at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing area rugs. If cost is a factor, you can go to a carpet store and buy remnants on the cheap.
posted by phunniemee at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2011

I still think he probably says this to every person who moves into your place. Put it this way, his noting that you are the "loudest walker" means he's been noticing this with every upstairs neighbor enough to rank you (aside from the possibility that "loudest" simply means "existing").

Perhaps suggest that you both approach the landlord, but it's not really your problem and they can always move. I'm guessing that maybe there is rent-control involved since the family has not elected to move into yours or any other upstairs unit that would fit their needs. Then again, maybe one doesn't exist, but this problem is entirely the landlord's responsibility and expense, and there are well-known solutions for this problem.
posted by rhizome at 1:33 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

...this problem is entirely the landlord's responsibility and expense...

You might want to check your lease before operating under this assumption. Sometimes it is the landlord who is responsible. Sometimes, as I noted above, it is the tenant, especially in older buildings that don't have the infrastructure to handle this on the building's side. Sometimes it is not indicated and the landlord will throw up their hands and say "ain't my problem" and you're back to square one.
posted by griphus at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2011

2nding utsutsu. You are probably a heel planter. My mother and I are; my sisters, father and husband are not. My family was CONSTANTLY commenting about how my mother and I sound like a herd of buffalo. We do, it is true.

Socks help? They're kind of slippy and I walk more gingerly without really thinking about it. Flip flops also good.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2011

N-thing cutting down on the heel walking if that's a problem (my wife does this--but we live in a one-story, so no worries).

But get some rugs or whatever, since changing your manner of locomotion is bound to be difficult!
posted by resurrexit at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2011

Yeah, definitely area rugs, and don't wear shoes inside if you want to minimize noise (despite what I said in the shoes on / shoes off mega askme thread a while back).

I wake up early (as early as 4:30 or 5 on a weekday), and I live in an older building. I think it's nice to try to be as quiet as possible--sort of the basic nicety when living with people below you.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Socks, flip-flops, multiple layers of carpet. Yoga mats.

Interlocking foam floor mats (the kind they put in garages and kids playrooms)
posted by blue_beetle at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2011

Fox Walking describes a method of walking where you strike with the front of the foot first. It should be much quieter.
posted by jefftang at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2011

Area rugs. One in your living room, bedroom, dining room and a runner in the longest hallway. If you want some nice vintage persian rugs, we've bought a few on ebay and they've been awesome. Great colors, nice wear, large sizes, for a fraction of the retail price. Granted, there is no certificate of authenticity when you're buying rugs for <5>
Socks with the little grippy patterns on the bottom are great too.
posted by barnone at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2011

@rhizome: I'm going to disagree with you on that one. I'm onto my third set of upstairs neighbours; the first two sets walked quietly, and so does one of the current couple, but the other one stomps like a herd of brontosauri. My windows rattle when he walks. My *non-opening* windows. It's incredible.

@oranger: What everyone else has said. Try not to put your heel down first when you walk, and make sure you don't wear shoes indoors. Deep-pile rugs might help, or anything with decent cushioning, but thin rag rugs likely won't.

If you try walking across the room heel-first and then ball-of-the-foot-first, and if that's what your downstairs neighbour is reacting to, you'll probably be able to notice a difference in the resonance of your footsteps.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:49 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I never wear heels/hard-soled shoes in the apartment. I tend to put them on when I leave. And if I'm not wearing squishy slippers, I totally fox-walk. I don't even think about it after living in apartments my adult life! I have never ever had a complaint about being too loud.
posted by Windigo at 1:49 PM on August 23, 2011

... sorry, just reread the question and you already don't wear shoes indoors. Should not post after wine.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:51 PM on August 23, 2011

It's a rug thing. You need to get rugs, seriously. We have this problem right now (and it doesn't just affect footfalls, I can hear these new neighbors talk and even pee!) after four years of near-silence from upstairs. Turns out these very nice new folks don't have any rugs at all, and neither do they have curtains or any soft furniture - their place is like an echo chamber, and it all comes down here.

Rhizome is being seriously uncharitable. We have never had an issue with any other neighbors and always remarked on how quiet things were, but now we can hear every noise. It really is different and disturbing.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:53 PM on August 23, 2011

In my own house, I can feel my husband walking around upstairs when he's barefoot, but can barely hear him if he has his cushiony slippers on.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Whoa, thanks for all the advice!

I'm not sure about this rug thing -- I have the space divided so that there aren't really any large patches of floor space, so I'd have to get a bunch of small rugs for it to make any sense. Seems like it would be a pain to manage.

Some experimentation reveals that I am in fact a heel planter, so I'll definitely work on changing my walking style indoors. I'll look into socks with grippy things or slippers also.
posted by oranger at 2:05 PM on August 23, 2011

Why don't you check back with them once you've tried slippers and other things. Maybe all you'll need is a rug for say the bedroom?

You might also ask if it's all the time or for specific examples. I only say this because our old building manager who lived below us used to complain that she could hear mr. oneear walking around which was totally plausible. Then she started complaining about crashing noises from the bedroom so I asked him to be especially quiet and made sure the cats weren't running around. Then I got notes about noises happening at times of night when everyone was asleep and in bed. I think sometimes people hear noises if they are expecting them.
posted by oneear at 2:18 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding griphus - you might check to see if your lease requires anything WRT area rugs. I have definitely had leases that did so in the past.
posted by misterbrandt at 2:24 PM on August 23, 2011

I'm not sure about this rug thing -- I have the space divided so that there aren't really any large patches of floor space, so I'd have to get a bunch of small rugs for it to make any sense.

Neutral rugs also work, and have the ability to unify portions of spaces that are otherwise divided up. It sounds like they might actually help. Rugs don't have to float in tiny spaces surrounded by furniture - they can go under the legs of couches, end tables, dining room tables, etc.

Maybe look into Flor?
posted by barnone at 2:26 PM on August 23, 2011

i just posted a similar question - except i'm the one in the lower apartment. i have never had a neighbor who walked so loudly. i talked to the landlord and he talked to the guy and it's gotten better. it's still pretty loud, but it doesn't cut through me as much - so i don't end up with a headache every night. so take the neighbor at his word and assume you're walking loudly too. (some askme answerers have a tendency to project stuff into questions that simply isn't there.)

here's the rub - i've been on your side of that conversation too. i'm tiny and walk really really loudly (i didn't know this previously, but once i started paying attention it was pretty clear). now i just make an effort to walk softer. i'm sure i heal plant too - but once i make the first stomp, i try to correct after. now it's second nature.

so it's possible to correct and not really that much of a hassle. i hear my neighbor do the same thing i do - sometimes the first couple steps are stompie, but then it mellows out. he's still loud, for sure, but it doesn't rattle the place.
posted by sockpuppet plots an escape at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tango is a beautiful way to practice walking gracefully. You can practice on your hardwood floor between classes.

Also, furniture placement will affect which boards are creaky - downstairs has probably noticed a change of furniture as much as a change in tenant.
posted by cogat at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2011

I have lived in nothing but wood floored apartments most of my adult life. I honed the ball of foot walking thing early on. Mostly because I'm heavier than the average 5'5" woman. Over the years I've had a number of very small girlfriends. Almost without fail they are "heavy walkers" due to their heel planting.

I'm willing to bet it will make a big difference to the folks downstairs if you can make an adjustment to the way you walk indoors.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2011

It's definitely the heel planting. I lived in an apartment for ten years where I developed the habit of never putting my heels down to avoid the floor-shuddering heel strike. Then I moved to a single family home and all of a sudden I was heel planting so hard I could hear myself plodding. We have moved back to an apartment and I have resumed my previous walking style so as not to horrify the downstairs neighbors. Also pay attention to how you get into bed and onto the couch, do you drop yourself into the furniture? If you do, stop that too.
posted by crankylex at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2011

Do you know much about their routines and the layout of their apartment? You could try focusing being quiet when they are sleeping.
posted by radioamy at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2011

My brother had the same heel planting problem and got some complaints from neighbors. He started wearing slippers indoors and that solved the problem without having to change the way he walks.
posted by snufkin5 at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2011

Some experimentation reveals that I am in fact a heel planter

That's the answer, then. I live in a new building with all kinds of above-code noise reduction going on. No units share internal walls. The ceiling/floor interface is like the floor, a layer of sound dampening something or other, some cork or something, another sound thing, and then the ceiling of the floor below. And so on.

The tenant above me still sounds like a freakin' rhinocerous stamping across the plains of Africa. It's ridiculous how loud the stampy stampy heels are! I mean I barely heard the burglar alarm from another nearby unit when they accidently set their own alarm off. The heel stomping is an order of magnitude louder.

So, yeah, if you are a heel stomper you should make an effort to mitigate the noise.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd really like to not be a Horrible Neighbor, but I'm really not aware that I walk particularly loudly!

I'm a super fussy noise person and live in a remote treehouse-type place as a result. When I did live near or around other people, there were basically two aspects to the noise issues I'd be dealing with.

1. the noise, whether it was keeping me up or waking me up or just interfering with my quiet and/or my work
2. the person making the noise, whether they'd be reasonable to deal with or some sort of "fuck you I'll do what I want" problem

For some people noise issues are also sort of anxiety issues in that they're concerned that the noise will turn into an unyielding thing that will keep them from being able to enjoy their space which could cascade into may other problems. So, while you're looking into walking differently you may also want to talk to your neighbor and tell them that this is somethig you're working on and see if there are particular times when this is more of a problem [i.e. if they have kids who go to bed at a certain hour when quiet is more important, or if they work nights and sleep in in the mornings while you are getting up and going to work] or parts of the house where it's more of a problem [i.e. right above their bed]. It might be that you can make small corrections that will solve the problem While I don't suggest giving the appearance of bending over backwards for this person, it's often useful to be not just working on it but talking to them about working on it. If you feel that you have, for example, toned down the heel stamping considerably, it might be worth checking in with them to see if it's improving things for them.

As a few people have said above, you have one data point here and so very little idea if this neighbor is particularly fussy [in which case they may need to learn to manage this] or if you and/or the situation you're in is just very noisy. Over time you can calibrate this sense by seeing what, if anything, makes a difference. You may also want to talk to your landlord at some point if your neighbor seems particularly fussy about this to ensure that this isn't going to be something that comes back to bite you on the ass whether you're in the wrong/right here or not. Best of luck working it out.
posted by jessamyn at 4:38 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm seriously overweight, but I've been fox-walking for thirty years and I often find myself accidentally disconcerting people by having apparently just appeared next to them without warning. Little ms. flabdablet (six) is a sixth of my weight but she's a heel walker and on our wooden floors she does indeed drum like a buffalo herd.

Retrain your gait.
posted by flabdablet at 5:08 PM on August 23, 2011

The fact that you care at all makes you an awesome person.

I've found that three things, in order of least inconvenience to most is walk barefoot, put down rugs and don't land on the heel of your foot when you take each step. Which is pretty much what everyone else said. But you're awesome for caring!
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:16 PM on August 23, 2011

I have hardwood floors, which are kind of creaky when I walk, and no carpets. I'm not really willing to get carpets.

Either learn to walk like Kwai-Chang Caine, or get a carpet.
posted by zippy at 5:18 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't have to get rugs if you get the kind of loose slippers that require you to shuffle in order to keep them from flying off your feet.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:23 PM on August 23, 2011

Regarding the the fact that you don't think you're a loud walker, certain noises are WAY louder in the room below, I assume because the floor acts like some sort of drum skin. In my experience this includes: heavy gait, rolling a computer chair across hardwood, moving furniture, and dribbling a basketball. Also heavy bass. So yay your neighbor for not assuming you were clog dancing, and yay you for reacting reasonably, even if you hadn't noticed a problem.

As a random bonus thought, is there any chance that the space between your floor and their ceiling is hollow and could be filled with insulation or something to dampen the sound?
posted by sarahkeebs at 6:57 PM on August 23, 2011

« Older Looking for childfree love in all the child loving...   |   Post-interview thank you, but no thank you, thank... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.