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The Science Behind Walking On Winter Ice Without Slipping, Falling

February 02, 2020

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 a winter inevitability, 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 911, visit your local emergency department or contact your local Hartford HealthCare/GoHealth Urgent Care Center