Snowfall in Boulder this year is nearly double normal, and that means you’ll be navigating treacherous terrain just getting around. It feels like the right time to share an article we wrote in 2015 about staying upright while walking on ice. Keep calm and waddle on…

Walking on icy streets and sidewalks during the winter is treacherous. Wrist fractures, hip fractures, and strains and sprains are more common than ever during the winter. If you want some good strategies for preventing falls on the ice, walk like a penguin.

Keep your arms apart, your feet spread slightly, and take short, even shuffling steps. Place your foot flat, rather than hitting with the heel. Keep your center of gravity directly over your feet. You may look like a penguin, but how many penguins fall on the ice?

You are more likely to fall while getting in or out of your car, or coming inside and stepping on tile with wet shoes. Any outdoor slopes, however slight, increase fall risks.

Once you’ve got the penguin shuffle down, here are some important facts about when falls occur and how to prevent them.

  • Hold onto the car with two- or three-point contact until both feet are securely planted. Leave hand-carry items in the car until you are ready to shut the door. Avoid using your elbow to shut the door because it might be enough to throw you off balance. Set hand-carry items down first, get steady and then shut the door gently.
  • Avoid carrying heavy items over ice and snow. Take time to get a cart.
  • Carry purses and briefcases low and by your side. Keep your hands out of your pockets for better balance; it also provides a chance to either recover from a slip or brace for the impact.
  • Do not use a cell phone while walking on icy surfaces. Doing so raises and shifts the center of gravity and reduces focus. Stop in a safe location first before making a call.
  • Wear shoes with good traction, or better yet, don Microspikes or some other traction device. Footwear should fit properly, (not loose) and have low heels.

  • If you use a cane, consider getting a spike for the tip of your cane, so the cane does not slip, causing you to lose your footing. Be sure to wipe shoes thoroughly when entering buildings with tile floors. Simply walking over carpet won’t dry shoes off immediately, especially near entrances where the carpet is wet or damp from outdoor traffic.

Pay attention, take your time and use traction enhancing devices to stay safe this winter. Avoiding falls is as much about strength as is it about balance. We can help with both balance and strength deficitsCall today!

And remember, in icy conditions, penguins rule!

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