How to Avoid Falls on the Ice
Anyone who’s spent time in a cold climate knows the feeling of their feet slipping out from under them. Gravity is especially painful this time of year. Falls happen but you usually avoid them with the right precautions.
Traffic slows down to a crawl. Public transit is delayed. Between the snow, cold, and ice, winter slows everything down. We’re used to thinking of only traffic when we think of wintertime slowdowns, but it also applies to pedestrians. Sidewalks become treacherous in the winter, more-so than the roads because it’s up to the property owners to remove the snow. That doesn’t always happen, and there’s little to be done about melt runoff.
The best way to prevent falls is to slow down and concentrate on your footing. If you have a place to be at a certain time, plan ahead and leave early enough to accommodate your place. When you don’t feel rushed, you can pay better attention to where you’re stepping and how you’re walking.
Another vital part of avoiding falls is to wear the proper footwear. This means winter or work boots instead of those cute fashion boots in stores or sneakers. Boots need to have the following qualities to function well in the winter weather.
Elements of Winter Boots
Provides extra traction
Prevents numbness and frostbite
Less likely to limp due to foot-pain
Offers weak ankles or arches support to avoid rolling them
If you’re a runner like I am, either invest in shoes made for winter running, hit the treadmill, or wear good socks with a product like YakTrax on your shoes.
How you walk is just as important as what you wear. If you must walk on ice, go slow, keep your feet under your hips as much as possible, and take small steps, shuffling if you need to. Keeping control of your center of gravity is vital to avoiding falls and that means paying attention to how you’re walking.
Walk Like a Penguin - Tuxedo Optional
Watch Where You’re Going
It’s tempting to get lost in the beauty of freshly fallen snow or the distraction of our phones. If you need to get somewhere on foot, though, winter is not a good time to enjoy the scenery or return texts while walking. Watch the ground in your path as you go. Icey patches can come up unexpectedly, so the more you can avoid them, the better.
If You Fall
If you do find yourself falling, there’s probably not a whole lot you can do to prevent it. As soon as you feel yourself going, bend your knees. This will give you a little more control of the motion and reduce how far you’ll fall. That will give you the chance to distribute the force more easily.
Don’t try to catch yourself with your arms, either. It’s instinct to do so, but usually all you’ll do is injure your arms and wrists.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid hitting your head on the ground. Tuck your chin to your chest to avoid snapping your head back when you land. Also try shifting your weight to fall on your side instead of your back. However, if you do fall backwards, there are also a few things you can do to minimize injury.
Round your back and rock back. Rocking back instead of falling flat will distribute the force of the fall over a greater area of your body and minimize your risk of injury. This is a variation of a martial arts fall, which is designed to help students fall without hurting themselves.
I've successfully avoided hurting myself on the ice with this technique many times in years past.
Basic Back Fall
Winter can be a beautiful time of year, but it can also be dangerous. You could avoid injury and enjoy the season without pain with the right precautions.
YakTrax for Runners
These are what I use for winter running. They work wonderfully, even when a bit crooked. I suggest using your bare hands to put these on instead of wearing gloves. It's easier to manipulate the strap when you can actually feel it.
They also come in Small, Medium, Large, and X-large.