Walking in the winter: Tips to prevent falls on snow and ice

by Kate Evans

Winter can be a tricky time for falls on snow and ice. Slips can cause serious injuries like sprains, broken bones or concussions or worse. Many safety precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of slipping, tripping and falling for people of all ages.

Health officials urge that everyone watch for slippery and icy sidewalks, walkways, driveways, roadways and parking lots and to plan ahead to allow extra time to get to their destination during the winter.

Pick the right footwear

Wear sturdy, flat-heeled boots or shoes that have rubber or composite grip soles to give you traction on snow and ice. A void wearing shoes with slick leather or plastic soles or shoes with heels because they could cause you to slip.

Carry your dress shoes to work instead of wearing them. Put ice cleats on your boots or shoes for extra traction but be sure to take them off before entering buildings as they can make you slip on indoor floors.


Don’t jump from vehicles and equipment onto the surface – step slowly and carefully from them onto the pavement.

If the surface looks icy when you’re ready to get out of your vehicle, try parking in another spot instead.

Use the vehicle for support when exiting it. Hold onto the door and the seat back to stabilize yourself. Wait until you’re safely standing to retrieve objects from your vehicle.

When walking

Walk slowly. Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets. You’ll need your arms to maintain your balance if you start to slip. Walk

with your center of gravity over your feet as much as possible.

Take short steps and shuffle in icy areas. Don’t carry heavy loads that may make you lose your balance when you’re walking on snow or ice.

Give walking your full attention and look ahead for hazards. Don’t text or talk on your cell phone or be digging items out of your purse, backpack or pockets while you’re walking in slippery conditions.

Keep walkways clear of ice, snow, water and debris. Spread sand or grit on your steps and walkways.

Buildings, parking lots

Take extra caution when you’re entering or exiting buildings. Use handrails for support as you’re going up or down steps or ramps.

A void north-facing entrances and exits if possible. Walkways to these entrances can remain icy and slippery if they aren’t well-cleared. Remove snow and water from your shoes or boots when entering buildings.

Walk on designated walkways as much as you can. You’ll probably need to walk along the grassy edge of a sidewalk that’s totally covered with ice. Stay away from curbs with ice on them.

Around a third of slip and fall injuries on ice happen in parking lots, according to Iowa State University and WLNS-Lansing, Michigan information.

If you start to fall

You can minimize your injuries in a fall if you roll with the fall, trying to twist and roll backwards and not fall forward. Try to relax as much as you can when you start falling. Protect yourself

first if you fall and drop whatever you’re carrying.

If you’re falling, try to avoid using outstretched arms to brace yourself. Bend your back and head forward so you don’t hit your head on the ground as you fall.

Even if cleared

Melting snow can develop a thin layer of ice overnight which can make the ground slick in the morning. Even if sidewalks and parking lots have been cleared, there will be slippery patches of ice.

If the sidewalks and walkways aren’t cleared and you have to walk in the street, walk against traffic and as close to the curb as you can. Wear bright colors or reflective clothing so you can be seen by oncoming vehicles.

All wet, dark patches on the pavement may be icy or slippery. Avoid walking there if possible. Find a path around snow and ice if you can.

If you’re walking for exercise, take a rain-check on days when it’s icy out and do indoor workouts instead. In better weather, you could try a set of trekking poles that can help maintain your balance. Nordic walking poles can increase your caloric burn and upper body workout. You can also use a walking stick for stability.