How to walk on ice
With more freezing rain in the forecast, I thought it prudent to post some information on how to walk on the ice. At our physiotherapy clinics in Ajax, and Brooklin, we’ve seen a lot of slip and falls this year resulting in various injuries: arm, shoulder and wrist fractures, knee sprains, meniscal injuries, and aggravation of some pre-existing conditions such as arthritis.
The best way to approach walking on ice is to take short steps, land on a flat foot rather than your heel, and keep your centre of gravity forward over your front foot, just like penguins.
Here are 10 tips:
- Make sure boots are not old and not cheap. Poor quality or hardened rubber will not grip the ice as well as a softer rubber. The rubber on winter boots can harden over time, making them more slippery when wet. Keeping a set of ice cleats handy is even better.
- Take your time. Plan your route ahead of time to avoid known icy patches.
- Take short steps. Longer steps means that there is a larger portion of your gait cycle when you are standing on only one leg. Longer steps also means that your centre of gravity will be behind the weight bearing foot at heel strike, so if the weight bearing foot slips, the centre of mass (ie your butt) will fall behind the weight bearing foot.
- Don’t land sharply on your heel. If you can land more on your midfoot, you will have more surface of your boot to grip the ice.
- Bend forward slightly as you walk to ensure your centre of mass is over your leading foot before lifting the foot behind you.
- Of course, don’t walk with your hands in your pockets. If you do fall, you can absorb some of that impact by slapping the ground with your hands.
- If you are prepared to fall, you can absorb some of the impact with several limbs rather than taking the entire impact through one wrist or your lower back.
- Use handrails if available when walking on stairs or ramps
- Maintain concentration on what you are doing (keeping upright) rather than dividing your attention with your phone.
- If you walk with a cane, buy and ice pick for the end of it.
Here is a great diagram that illustrates this from the DGOU (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Orthopadie und Unfallchirurgie, 2017).