Snow and ice reduce underfoot traction, which makes it difficult for all pedestrians—particularly seniors—to make effective recoveries and prevent injury if they do slip. If you’re using a walking cane, getting around in the winter requires a little bit of extra precaution.
For greater stability change your walking style
Use a slower and wider gait to better protect against falls. Learn how to walk like a penguin — walk slowly, take small steps, and point your toes out slightly to be more stable on icy paths.
Concentrate on keeping your balance
Watch where you are stepping and go slowly. Keep your head up and don’t lean forward.
Wear appropriate winter footwear
A simple safety measure to help avoid falling is to wear footwear with traction, even if you’re walking a short distance. Adding anti-slip shoe traction apparatus or ice cleats to your boots can further help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
Beware of ice
No matter how well the snow is removed from parking lots or sidewalks, there will still be slippery places. It’s important to remember that melting snow can freeze overnight, forming a thin layer of ice that is hard to see. The ground can then become very slippery in the morning when the ice starts to melt.
Ice and snow also can cause walking aids to slide forward farther and faster than they should, so extra precaution is needed.
Add ice grips to cane tips
Cane users should add an ice-grip tip with prongs to grip the ground and provide extra stability on slippery surfaces. However, you will still need to use extreme caution if walking on ice.
Remember to flip the ice pick down if it’s icy out and flip the ice pick up when you’re indoors.
Wash the cane’s rubber tips as soon as possible after coming indoors – the winter salt can cause the rubber to deteriorate faster. Regularly inspect the rubber tip at the bottom of your cane. This rubber tread is designed to provide traction in slippery conditions but wears out over time.
Use a safety mobility light
It gets dark earlier in winter, so you need to make sure you can see and be seen. Buy clip-on flashlights to affix to a walker or rollator to help you see more clearly.
Bring a cellphone
If you should fall, you will be glad you brought your phone along to call a neighbor, loved one, or emergency medical help.
How to safely walk across ice
Slow down and carefully plan your next step
Lower your centre of gravity by staying loose and bending your knees
Take small steps and be sure to place your entire foot down at the same time (as opposed to putting your heel first)
Keep your legs comfortably spread apart. The wider, the better.
Some people prefer to shuffle their feet as they cross a patch of ice, if you wish to do this you may do so.