Preventing Slips & Falls On Winter & Spring Walks

Icicles on a step

Walking is one of the most accessible and easiest ways to stay active for a lot of people. We already know that walking is good for our health, but daily walks have become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic since many of our normal exercise activities are unavailable. We can still enjoy great walks in winter, but unfortunately we see many injuries from slips and falls on ice and mud. These falls can lead to simple joint sprains or more severe fractures of the wrists, shoulders, or hips; but there’s steps we can take to prevent them. 

Tips To Prevent Falls In Winter & Spring

This year in particular, we’re happy to see that people are spending more time outside to visit with loved ones and enjoy our beautiful winter weather. Although many places have enjoyed wonderful mild weather, the melting and freezing cycles that warmer temperatures bring can lead to more potential hazards that we need to be aware of.

Below are some important precautions we can take from a professional physiotherapist to avoid injury this winter. 

#1: Gear Up

Make sure you have a supportive pair of shoes or boots that fit you properly and have good grips on the sole. Footwear with low, wide heels are best. You could also consider a removable rubber grip or spike to put on your outdoor shoes or boots. 

Don’t forget that walking poles are great for increasing your stability on ice, slippery snow, and mud patches.

#2: Watch Your Step!

This may seem obvious, but always look ahead to see where icy or wet patches are so you can avoid them or prepare yourself. In spring you’ll often find muddy spots in the middle of your path; take your time and find another way around them.

When on ice, take small, slow steps and try to keep maximum foot surface area on the ground to create a larger base of support. Shuffling may be best if it’s really slippery. 

Hold onto railings when going up or down stairs, and use hand grips when getting in and out of your car. Test the ground beneath you before jumping out of your vehicle. 

Finally, wipe off your wet shoes when you go back indoors as wet rubber can be very slippery on certain flooring. 

#3: Prepare Surfaces When You Can

Make sure to spread ice melt or salt on your driveway and pathways leading to your house. 

It’s also wise to shovel your walk as soon as you can after a snowfall so it doesn’t melt where it is, leaving a layer of ice beneath the snow. 

What To Do If You Fall On Ice

If you do end up slipping and falling, you want to avoid hitting your head, so turn to your side and tuck your chin in if you can. You also want to bend your knees and elbows to avoid a fracture at these common sites. 

Aim to land on fleshier parts of your body— your thigh, buttocks or shoulder. Falling on an outstretched hand is a common reason for fracture of the wrist or elbow so although the instinct is to reach out you want to try to avoid this when possible. 

After falling, get up slowly and check for injuries before standing up. Call for help if necessary, and if you suspect a fracture go to the emergency room. Even without a fracture you may likely experience bruising, sprains, or strains, so you may want to follow up with your family doctor or physiotherapist. 

A physiotherapist can help manage your pain and get you back to your regular activities, as well as work on strengthening and balance to help prevent future falls or injuries. 

Stay safe out there, everyone. Enjoy the weather, wherever you are!

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