Tips to avoid slipping and falling in winter conditions

Slips and falls on ice and snow in Alberta result in almost 13,000 emergency department visits and nearly 1,400 hospital admissions every year, according to the Injury Prevention Centre (IPC).

Don Voaklander, professor and IPC director, says these types of mishaps are mostly avoidable. “By making just a few changes to the way we move and walk in winter conditions, we can save ourselves a lot of trips to the emergency room, and suffering.”

Voaklander shared some tips to stay on your feet on icy, snow covered sidewalks to make walking a healthy, enjoyable experience year round.
 

  1. Wear boots with soft, flexible soles
    “The treads on your boots should have the same qualities you find in your winter tires,” Voaklander said. “Look for soles that stay flexible in the cold to grip icy, uneven surfaces.”

    Voaklander recommends checking out Rate My Treads before shopping for footwear. The website offers performance ratings for a wide variety of boots that are tested for slip resistance in different winter conditions.

  1. Check your form when walking
    Voaklander points to a video that explains how to mimic a penguin’s walk to avoid slipping and falling. “The trick is to keep your centre of mass right over your feet and to take short, shuffling steps,” he said.

    Keep your arms at your sides and your hands free (not in your pockets) for gripping handrails or supports. Concentrate on keeping your balance and take your time.

    Voaklander learned a lesson about rushing the hard way when hurrying to the LRT one winter morning. “I slipped and fell, later waking up on the sidewalk,” he recalled. “I was away from normal activities for a week recovering from a concussion as a result of the fall.”
     
  1. Consider ice cleats and grips
    Voaklander says ice cleats can be especially helpful for winter hikers and outdoor runners, but added a caution for people who are thinking about relying on them for daily use.

    “My advice is to first make sure your boots are good quality. Ice cleats should be treated as an extra precaution.”

    If you use a cane to aid in walking, Voaklander suggests putting a retractable ice pick on the end for extra grip.

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