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The Science Behind Walking On Winter Ice Without Slipping, Falling

December 28, 2017

Sometimes you just have to know when to walk like a penguin, as unsightly as it may seem. It could save a lot of pain and misery.

With sub-freezing temperatures, black-ice parking lots and slick sidewalks, it’s time. Yes, the best way to avoid a fall — and possible injury — is to walk like a penguin. Think about it. Spreading your feet outward increases your center of gravity. Extending your arms slightly increases your center of balance. Then take short, flat-footed steps. (Bending slightly also helps.)

Does it work? When was the last to you saw a penguin slip and fall?

More safety tips for navigating ice and snow on foot this winter:

  • Use footwear with good treaded traction and insulation, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • Traction cleats, like Yaktrax, that slip over your shoes or boots provide excellent grip on ice.
  • Leave shoes and boots with smooth soles or heels at home.
  • Wear gloves: They not only keep your hands warm, but also add some protection if you fall.
  • Assume all wet or dark areas on pavement are icy and a potential fall hazard.
  • Avoid carrying a heavy load. It can disrupt your balance.
  • Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets. You’ll need both hands to break a possible fall.
  • Walk in designated, cleared pathways. Don’t take shortcuts through snow or over frozen surfaces.

If you fall:

  • If you have time to react, try not to fall on vulnerable areas like the wrists, knees, or spine. The side, with more flesh, will provide a better cushion and less possible harm.
  • Lean forward as you go down.
  • Need more cushion? Wear a bulky coat and layers.
  • Relaxing your muscles as you fall can help minimize the injury.
  • If you think you’re going to fall, get closer to the ground by bending your knees.

If you need immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1, visit your local emergency department, or reach out to your local Hartford HealthCare/GoHealth Urgent Care Center. For more information, please visit HartfordHealthCare.org.