TikTok walking group inspires friendships, exercise and connections around the city

By Kristen Gesicki, Staff Reporter

What started as a small group of women walking in the city has blown up on social media, leading to large gatherings of walkers, taking over the city one step at a time.

Micaila Marcinko, a resident of the Logan Square and Irving Park area, said she saw people in different cities on TikTok create walking groups, and that inspired Marcinko to start her own group in Chicago.

“I was interested in possibly starting [a walking club] for Chicago, and no one had done it yet,” Marcinko said. “So I thought, jump the guard and do it myself originally, and then it grew really fast.”

Marcinko, with the help of Stephanie Swiatkiewicz and Hannah Mehta, created Chicago Girls Who Walk.

Although the three women didn’t know each other beforehand, the trio now work together to plan the weekly walks, advertise on social media and host the events.

Olivia Vaccher, a senior film and television major at DePaul University, found the group while scrolling on TikTok.

“It just showed up on my ‘For You’ page, and I was like, ‘Oh, this looks interesting,'” Vaccher said. “This actually seems like something I could do.”

Vaccher, who usually goes on walks with her dad, said she joined the group to make friends and even attended by herself for the first time on April 23, which felt like a big move for her to make alone.

Chicago Girls Who Walk had their first walk on March 26, with each outing gaining more attention on social media and attracting more attendees. Their latest walk on May 1 had more than 230 people walking along the Chicago Riverwalk.

“We switch up the location every week. … So we get around to the different areas [of Chicago] so that they’re able to join us,” Marcinko said. “Same with the days, too; we’ll usually try to alternate between Saturdays and Sundays so that everyone has a chance to go.”

Locations, meet-up destinations and times are posted on the group’s Instagram page at the beginning of the week. No sign up is required.

Emily Platt, a Chicago resident, joined the group for the first time on May 1.

Platt said she plans on coming back each week to make new friends and get more active while seeing different parts of the city.

“Just getting out and doing something very active, like you’re literally walking forward together, but you’re meeting new people every week that you haven’t met before,” Platt said. “I think it can be really inspiring and a way for women to build a network of other women.”

Chicago Girls Who Walk’s goal is to create events where people can stay active, meet others and connect with people for personal or professional friendships.

“It’s just a fun thing to do,” Vaccher said. “Especially for someone that just likes to go on walks in general, but might not feel safe going on your own … you don’t have to worry about feeling alone or anything. Everyone’s out here to make friends.”

Marcinko and her team, while hopeful for the warm weather in the summer, is taking the group — and the walks — week by week.

“Everyone’s interested in going, especially through the summer,” Marcinko said. “Obviously with the Chicago winters, we might have to find some other stuff to do. I don’t know if I want to be walking out in that weather. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” 

Although “Girls” is in the name, Marcinko and her team said anyone — even pets — can join in on the fun.

“Everyone should try it, you know, give it a shot,” said Thando Mashiane, an Edgewater resident who attended for her first time at the May 1 walk. “It can be a little bit intimidating, especially if you’re coming alone. But as long as you just come with a good positive attitude, you’re gonna get a lot out of it.”

For more information on Chicago Girls Who Walk’s weekly walks, check out the group’s TikTok, Instagram and Discord.