Tips for Safe Winter Walking

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Tips for Safe Winter Walking

Winter weather is officially here, and with that comes cold temperatures and slick conditions. Check out the tips below to stay safe this winter season.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and try not to be in a rush. Avoid inclines and stairs if possible. Keep an eye out for changing ground surfaces (ex: curbs, grass, concrete). Once you get inside of your indoor destination, the ground may still be very slippery from melted snow/ice, so be sure to dry your shoes on entry rugs and be aware of any wetness on your path.
  • Change your walking style by slowing down and taking shorter steps (or shuffle). Wear shoes/boots with good traction. This creates friction to avoid slipping. Keep your hands free and out of your pockets, in case you need your upper extremities to reach for nearby stable surfaces.
  • Bend your knees to lower your center of gravity. Think of “walking like a penguin” with flat feet. In other words, try to align the forces of your body weight vertically through the ground to avoid forward or backward movement through your foot that could cause you to slip.
  • Utilize railings, a car door, and/or assistive devices for stability if available. You may also attach an “ice tip” on a cane to help grip the ground. When getting out of the car, square yourself up to avoid twisting/pivoting when standing up. Also remember to push vertically down, instead of “pushing out” to reduce your risk of slipping.
  • If you do fall, do not catch yourself with an extended arm. Try to soften your landing by bending your knees and elbows. Protect your head and if you have had total joint replacements, try your best to not fall directly on those hard/bony body parts (ex: knee). Try to land on soft tissue areas, such as butt or thighs. Buffer the impact by rolling so you can distribute the force throughout a bigger surface area.
  • Winter can discourage people from going outside and being active. Be sure to take care of yourself year round. Staying active will help keep up your strength and mobility. Try performing balance exercises in the safety of your home (ex: narrow stance, tandem stance, single leg stance) to promote neuromuscular control of your feet/ankles and hips. To progress, try adding in head turns or balance with your eyes closed to challenge proprioceptive awareness.

  • Final recommendation is to be smart and evaluate the risk/reward. Sometimes it just makes more sense to stay inside and be safe. If you are a habitual outdoor walker/runner, consider the perspective of missing one day versus potentially missing multiple days/weeks of activity due to an injury. It’s not worth it.

Take your time and stay safe out there!