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Sneakers of Sneaking

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Need to creep around, especially at night, without attracting attention? You won't find a sneak thief wearing big stomping boots, tap shoes, sneakers that light up, or high heels: any self-respecting individual who needs to creep with stealth would wear soft-soled shoes or slippers, might even be barefoot, and would not spoil their all-black outfit with white running shoes, especially ones with a reflective tag.

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Related to Noiseless Walker: this trope is when a character chooses their footwear carefully to reduce the chance of detection, rather than the way they walk.

This can be inverted when a character announces their arrival with noisy footwear such as heavy boots, high heels, flip flops, or happens to be wearing these at a time they need to creep silently.


Examples

Comic Books
  • Batman: In the post-Final Crisis Batman and Robin series, the Dick Grayson Batman incorporated "soundless silicon soles" into his boots. Alfred was unaware of his approach, even though Dick wasn't even trying to sneak up on him.

Films Live-Action

  • Black Panther (2018): Shuri invents vibranium-enhanced collapsible shoes that produce no noise whatsoever.
    Shuri: Guess what I call them? Sneakers! Because you... never mind.
  • Carry On Screaming!: Inverted when the butler is heard approaching the front door with loud footsteps; when he opens the door, he is wearing slippers, making his introduction even more creepy (no pun intended).
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  • Gosford Park: The murderer is seen putting on slippers before sneaking up on his victim.

Literature

  • The Borrowers: Pod tells Arrietty to wear light shoes when borrowing, presumably to avoid detection by humans.
  • In the gamebook Caverns of the Snow Witch, if you're lucky enough (you need to roll a 5 and 6, twice in a row) you can obtain a pair of magical Elven boots that effectively silences your steps. These can come in handy when you're trying to sneak past a sleeping barbarian later.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: Danny's father tells him to take off his white sneakers and wear his black shoes instead for poaching in the woods, presumably because white shoes would be more noticeable in the twilight.
  • The Famous Five: Dick wears rubber-soled shoes which make no noise when stalking an enemy. Jo is also noted for stealth by being barefoot.
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  • The Railway Children: The station master wears an old pair of sand shoes which he had worn at the seaside, to lie in wait for Peter stealing coal.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The duffers comment that the magician walks barefoot and is difficult to detect, especially as he is also invisible.

Tabletop Game

Video Game

  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Boots of Muffling are a relatively common magical item that come with an enchantment that silences the noise your armor makes when moving, as opposed to the Sneak perk which halves the noise made. This makes it ideal in stealth situations (especially against the blind, underground-dwelling Falmer, who rely entirely on hearing to locate you). The Dark Brotherhood includes Muffle-enhanced footwear as part of their traditional attire, as do the Nightingales, the inner circle of the Thieves' Guild. Lastly, you can enchant your own Muffled boots. Nothing is stopping you from adding it to Heavy Armor.
  • Invoked by the Team Fortress 2 item the Sneaky Spats of Sneaking, only equippable by (who else) the Spy.
  • Inverted in the Thief series. If the sound Garrett's boots make on stone, metal, and tile are anything to go by, the cobbler's art in this series' world has stalled out at tin-plated soles! (All the better challenge for the player, though.)

Western Animation

  • The Aristocats both inverts this and plays this straight with Edgar, who while retrieving the things he'd lost walks around in audibly squeaky oxford shoes (waking the guard dogs Napoleon and Lafayette up in the process), only to take them off and walk around on tiptoe.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer The Vigilante," Grampa Simpson deduces that an acquaintance named Molloy is the cat burglar plaguing Springfield because "I noticed he was wearing sneakers... For sneaking!" (Seeing Molloy scale a building with a grapple gun while dressed in black didn't tip him off as much).

Real Life

  • In World War II, the Imperial Japanese army issued special shoes to stealth units. They consisted of a sandal with a flexible bottom pre folding in the middle of the heel and along the individual toes.
  • The variety of shoes commonly known in America as "sneakers" (known as "trainers" in the UK) gained their name due to their relative quietness compared to leather-soled dress shoes.
  • In recent decades, hunting outfitters have offered "sneaker boots" that are claimed to be quieter than traditional hunting boots, making it easier to get close to game animals without alerting them.
  • Fred Rogers began his television career as a backstage worker and got in the habit of changing from his business shoes into sneakers so as to move behind the scenery without making noise. This eventually became part of his Iconic Outfit on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, as he changed into sneakers at the start of every show.
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