The sound of footsteps might appear in your writing, and you might want some exciting ways to describe them. That’s where onomatopoeia comes in. This article will explore the best sounds of footsteps that you might be able to use to take your writing to the next level.
Which Words Can Describe The Sound Of Footsteps?
There are a few good options we can use to describe the sound of footsteps. In this article, we’ll explore the following:
The preferred version is “clomp” because it refers to the most substantial footstep noise. We use it to refer to heavy footsteps, and it’s an easily recognizable sound that many people use to describe a footstep. “Click” is also a good choice is the footsteps are much lighter.
Let’s start with the preferred option to see what we can get out of it. “Clomp” is a great choice when you’re talking about very obvious, loud noises coming from footsteps.
You can use “clomp” when someone is making very obvious, heavy footsteps. The sound is usually able to echo across multiple places, and many people will know when somebody with a clomping footstep is coming.
The definition of “clomp,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to walk with heavy, loud steps.”
“Clomp” only ever refers to heavier footsteps. If you want to refer to more quiet options, you might be better off with a word further down this list.
You might see a clomp work in the following ways:
- Clomp! Clomp! I could hear him coming towards me, but I could not see him.
- Clomp! The sound of his footsteps was fast approaching. Clomp!
- Clomp! Clomp! All of our footsteps were being echoed throughout the building as we marched.
- Clomp! Clomp! I didn’t mean to step so loudly, but I couldn’t help it.
The “click” footstep is opposite to the “clomp” footsteps. They’re much quieter, which is why we think “clomp” and “click” are almost equal in effectiveness.
You can use “click” when you want to show that someone is making light, sharp sounds as they walk. It works best when that person is wearing light shoes (like high-heels) that will click when they meet the ground beneath them.
The definition of “click,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to make a short, sharp sound, or to make something do this.”
Of course, the material of the ground is very dependent on the “click” we might hear. Typically, stone and interior floors will cause “clicks,” while outside fields and muddy areas wouldn’t. It’s very dependent on the context whether a “click” or a “clomp” is correct.
You might see a lighter “click” as follows:
- Click! Clack! That was the sound of her footsteps as she walked across the halls.
- The click from my shoes was so light I barely heard it.
- Click! Click! I couldn’t keep up with the pace of those steps.
- Click! Clack! He couldn’t slow down now, but he didn’t dare make a louder noise.
“Tread” works to both describe the sound of a footstep and describe the action of taking a footstep. However, this article will look at it as a sound above all else.
A “tread” is a noise we make when we move our feet. It can refer to both loud and quiet footsteps, and it’s more general than the ones we have seen above. However, “tread” isn’t directly onomatopoeic because the sound of a footstep doesn’t sound like “tread.”
The definition of “tread,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “the sound that your feet make on the ground as you walk.”
“Tread” covers multiple types of sounds. We can refer to loud, clomping, or quiet, clicking noises as “treads.” However, it’s not the best option because it doesn’t directly refer to the sound that footsteps make.
You might be able to use “tread” like so:
- The tread from my shoes was deafening, but I don’t understand why!
- You shouldn’t be so obvious with your tread because it makes you easier to track.
- Stop making those unbearable treading noises!
- I can’t hear her tread anymore, so she must have gone into hiding.
Back to the onomatopoeic choices, we have a “tap.” A “tap” is another form of a light footstep that we may be able to use.
If you “tap,” it means you are hitting the floor softly and quickly with your feet or shoes. “Taps” are most common indoors, where it’s easy to hear a low echo of the tapping sound that might be coming from somebody’s feet.
The definition of “tap,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to hit something gently, and often repeatedly, especially making short, sharp noises.”
A “tap” is also a great word to use to refer to quick footsteps. This might be appropriate if we’re trying to recreate the noise of someone running away from something.
A tap could occur in the following ways:
- Tap! Tap! He was turning the corner, and I was losing track of his footsteps.
- Tap! Tap! Please slow down! I need to talk to you.
- Tip! Tap! I could hardly hear them anymore, but I knew I must be getting closer.
- Tap! Tap! The sound from their shoes was almost too much to handle!
A “pat” is almost entirely synonymous with “tap.” We can use either to refer to short, sharp sounds that come out of a footstep. However, a “pat” also has one key difference to note.
A “pat” is a quick noise that a foot would make. However, the onomatopoeic word “pat” works best when talking about an open palm or open sole, meaning that most bare feet will use the word “pat” to describe the sound they make.
The definition of “pat,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to touch someone or something gently and usually repeatedly with the hand flat.”
Not many people would make a “patting” noise while wearing shoes. It’s much more common for the skin of the bare feet to “pat” against the ground while they’re moving.
A pat is similar to a tap, and it might work as follows:
- Pat! Pat! He was running barefoot across the stone floor, and it gave him away.
- Pat! Pat! I can still hear you!
- Pat! Pat! Her shoes were making it much more obvious where she was trying to get to.
- Pat! I think he’s going that way. Pat! Pat!
It’s worth mentioning that “footstep” itself is a great way to describe its own sound. It wouldn’t be fair to make a list without including it.
A footstep refers to any sound that a person makes while walking or running. It can be both clomping or clicking depending on the urgency or heaviness of their footsteps.
The definition of “footstep,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “the sound made by a person walking as their foot touches the ground, or a step.”
Typically, we don’t use footsteps to refer to somebody running away. It doesn’t come with the same level of fear or urgency that other types of sounds on this list might have provided for us.
It’s more typically for footsteps to be lighter than most noises that our feet might make. We often use it to describe the sound of them moving away from us too, which shows that they’re not the loudest of noises.
While not strictly onomatopoeic, you might hear a footstep as follows:
- His footsteps were echoing through the valley.
- We must be getting closer because I can hear the rushing footsteps in the distance.
- The footsteps of all the soldiers were echoing all over the fields.
- Those footsteps are menacing, but I don’t know where they’re coming from.
Finally, let’s go over “footfall.” It works in a very similar way to “footstep,” but a “footfall” is almost always a much louder and much more uproarious noise.
A footfall is often attributed to a crowd of people walking or marching. We use “footfall” to denote the action of someone’s “foot” “falling” to the ground and creating a loud noise as they move.
The definition of “footfall,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “the sound of a person’s foot hitting the ground as they walk.”
A “footfall” doesn’t strictly have to refer to loud, uproarious footsteps. It also doesn’t have to refer to a crowd moving. However, it works best when you really want to emphasize how powerful someone’s footsteps might be.
You could also use “footfall” to refer to a single person, as long as their footsteps are imposing enough. Generally, a “footfall” is more like a “clomp” than it is a “click,” so we tend to lean more toward heavy footsteps.
Just like “footstep,” we might use “footfall” in a similar fashion:
- The chorus of footfall was too intimidating, and I didn’t know how to respond to it.
- The footfall from the crowd was something else entirely!
- His footfall was quickening, but I didn’t know where I could go to hide.
- I like to listen to my footfall while I’m trying to get through the city.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.