How to walk on ice without slipping

Two people walk along an icy path in winter wearing sturdy walking shoes.

Many of us have memories of slipping and sliding on ice in winters gone by, but while the snow can be fun and enjoyable, it can also carry the risk of accident and injury. It can be tempting to stay indoors as much as possible to stay safe and warm, but this can lead to isolation and mean you miss out on fresh air and the beautiful scenery in your area.

However, there are tricks and techniques you can use to make getting out and about on foot in the winter easier and safer for all involved. Keep reading to learn more.

How to not slip on ice

Of course, the only way to fully guarantee you won’t slip on ice or snow is to never set foot on the stuff, but that’s easier said than done in the wintertime. The following recommendations will help to make slips and falls less likely to occur, as well as giving you more protection and assistance if you do accidentally slip.

Spread salt or grit on your paths

Many of us are familiar with the sight of gritters on the roads at this time of year, a practice which helps to avoid traffic accidents caused by ice and snow. The rock salt that makes up grit changes the freezing point of water so that it won’t turn to ice until it is much colder. This helps to prevent ice from forming as well as melting existing ice and snow.

By getting hold of some grit yourself and spreading it on your pathways, you’ll discourage ice and snow from forming there, making a safer path for you and your loved ones to walk on. It is the responsibility of your local council to grit pavements as these are considered part of the highway, but you might also be supplied with a grit bin in your neighbourhood to use if extra grit is needed.

Use a walking stick or cane to provide stability

Regardless of whether you usually use a cane or walking stick in your everyday life, using one in winter can help to maintain your stability and mobility in icy conditions. The theory behind this is that as you only move one leg or the cane at once, you’ll still have two stable, stationary points of contact with the ground to keep you steady.

Ideally, this will keep you from falling at all, but it’s also worth noting that a walking stick can be handy to help you get back on your feet if you do happen to slip and can help to support you if you’re hurt or shaken afterwards.

When browsing for a suitable walking stick for this purpose, try to find one that has a wide, non-slip foot. Styles that have multiple feet are even better, as this reduces the likelihood of slips further.

Choose sensible footwear

Choosing sensible footwear is just as important as making sure the foot of your walking stick is appropriate for the conditions. Shoes that have smooth, non-ridged soles have limited traction, and in snowy or icy weather, that can be the difference between staying upright and falling over. Where possible, opt for shoes or boots specifically designed for winter weather. Failing that, choose a pair that is waterproof, insulating and has a deep tread to help increase your stability.

Wrap up warm

You might think that the clothes on your body have little impact on whether you fall in winter, but the effects can be surprising. When you’re cold, you may feel weak and shaky, or even start to lose sensation in your hands and toes. This can make it harder to hold onto handrails and similar supports, plus you might find it harder to place your feet accurately on the ground if your toes are numb. Additionally, cold feet might not feel small bumps and ridges on the ground, making it more likely that you’ll trip over minor obstacles.

The best way to avoid this is to wrap up warm with plenty of layers and knitwear. If you’re going to be outside for a significant amount of time, you might find it useful to bring extra gloves, layers and hats with you to put on in case you cool off more while you’re outside.

Another excellent choice for winter walks is a thick padded coat – the longer the better. This will keep you warm while you’re out and about, and it can also offer a limited amount of protection if you fall. The padding can help to protect you from broken bones and bruising, and the waterproof layer will help to keep the cold and wet at bay while you get back on your feet.

Adjust your walking technique

Finally, it’s important to think about how you’re walking in icy and snowy conditions. It’s advised that you should try to walk like a penguin – after all, they’re the experts in this kind of weather! To increase your stability, point your toes outwards slightly and take small, slow steps. Try not to lean forwards if you can, as this can affect your centre of gravity and increase the likelihood of falls.

Keeping your hands free – except for a walking stick if you’re using one – is also vital. That means no hands in your pockets, no texting while walking and no carrying your shopping in handheld bags. If you need to carry things with you, try to stick to backpacks to keep your hands free. Satchels can be useful too, so long as the bag won’t bang against your legs and interfere with your stability.

Wherever possible, try to avoid snowy or icy routes, and opt for paths that offer handholds such as railings where you can. Having something to grab onto if you feel yourself starting to lose traction can help to keep you on your feet. It’s also a good idea to keep your head up and be looking ahead as much as you can to spot hazards before they become a problem.

Lastly, always carry a charged mobile phone with you while you’re out and about in the snow. Don’t assume you’ll be able to get up by yourself, and don’t be afraid or ashamed of calling for assistance to get you back on your feet. The most important thing is to keep you healthy, safe and warm.

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