The year’s winter weather in the valley has brought on some beautiful scenery, but also something we don’t often have to think about: walking on ice and not falling. As you would guess, walking on ice is a bit different than your wet or dry ground. It’s important you know how to safely walk on ice so you, or those around you, don’t succumb to injury from a fall. And don’t worry, if you do fall, we even have a safe way you can do that.

So whether you stay here on the valley and see some ice, or you travel up to the mountains to play, here are some winter weather walking safety tips to keep in mind.

How To Walk (and Fall) on Ice

While there are many different approaches and even specific shoes you can buy, nothing is more important than understanding the basics and just being careful. Here are your 6 walking on ice tips.

1. Give Yourself More Time

The old mantra of giving yourself more time rings true for driving in winter weather, and it’s true for walking in winter weather. Allowing yourself ample time (no matter how long or short your walking commute might be) will ensure you don’t have to rush, which is how many falls happen. So slow it down and get to wherever you are walking safely and standing.

2. Waddle Like a Penguin

We might as well take a hint from one of the cutest creatures on the planet: penguins. They walk an awful lot, and if you notice, they don’t make wide strides or rush. They waddle. The following tips will help you do just that.

3. Keep Your Knees Loose

Keeping your knees loose will help you maintain most of your weight forward. When you lock your knees, a lot of the weight ends up on your heel (which is a great way to slip).

4. Keep Your Hands Out of Your Pockets

Keeping your hands out of your pockets (don’t forget your gloves and mittens) helps you maintain stability while you walk.

5. Slightly Spread Your Feet Out

Notice we said “slightly.” It’s essential your feet do not go out farther than your shoulders (so don’t spread them out like you’re going to do the splits). This helps your weight stay evenly distributed and increases stability.

6. Keep Your Center of Gravity on the Front Leg

Our legs ability to support our weight splits mid-stride. That’s why when you’re walking on ice, it’s important to keep all your weight on your front foot. This, again, increases stability and decreases your chances of falling. Shuffle or take short steps for stability.

In a nutshell, you want to extend your arms to the side, bend your knees, and do the penguin shuffle. However, no matter how hard we try to walk safely, sometimes we might fall. There’s good news though – there are ways to fall, so you avoid serious injury. Let’s go over that next.

How To Fall On Ice

1. Chin Down

If you start to feel like you’re slipping and a fall is in your future, make sure you tuck your chin down to avoid hitting the back of your head on the ground.

2. No Hands

Contrary to what your instinct might be, you do want to avoid using your hands to break the fall. Using your hands to break the fall can actually cause you to sprain or break your wrists or even your arms. So fight that urge to land on the palm of your hand and follow the next step best you can.

3. Tuck Into a Ball

Just like we want you to tuck your chin to avoid a head injury, we want you to follow the idea of “tucking”, and tuck yourself into a ball. When you do this, try to keep all your muscles relaxed and then land in the squishiest part of your body. Do not fall on elbows, hands, hips, or your head.

4. Never Grab The Person Next To You

What’s worse than injuring yourself from a fall? Bringing those around you down with you. Your instinct is going to be to grab the closest thing (or person) to you. However, if you’re falling and you think about grabbing that friend right by you, resist the urge. Because they too might not be as steady as normal, a tug or push could cause them injury.

When To See a Doctor

No matter how safely you walk on ice or how “perfectly” you fall, sometimes injury happens. So how do you know if what you’re feeling is just “normal” strain or perhaps something worse?

1. Broken Bones

If you suspect you might have broken a bone, make an appointment with your doctor (if it’s not serious) or go to the ER. The sooner you can be treated, the better your healing will be. If you have a cast, once that’s off, it will be time to have some physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.

2. Minor Head Injury

It’s very common to have a minor head injury after a fall, even if you didn’t directly hit your head. The symptoms of a minor head injury are:

  • A mild headache
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Mild dizziness
  • Some blurred vision

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to go into your doctor and get checked out.

3. Serious Head Injury

Serious head injuries are not something to take lightly. If you or someone you know experiences a fall and has the following symptoms, call 911 or bring them into the hospital immediately.

  • Unconsciousness
  • Drowsiness hours after head injury
  • Clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
  • Bruising behind the ears
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Balance problems
  • Neck and back pain

It’s very common to experience some neck and back pain after a fall. However, you don’t have to suffer! There are many things we can do to help alleviate that pain and help you heal. Some of the things we can do are:

  • Teach you stretches and exercises to strengthen the neck and back muscles
  • Soft tissue mobilization
  • Joint mobilization
  • And much more.

No matter what, be safe out there and if you do experience any pain from a fall, give us a call. We’re happy to help you get back to enjoying the outdoors as soon as possible.