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Tips to Preventing Falls in Winter Weather

Walking in snowy conditions

With all the slippery, icy sidewalks and people rushing around in cold weather to get indoors, winter accidents due to falling are common and can be quite serious. However, there are some precautions you can take to avoid getting hurt. The following simple tips can help keep you on your feet:

Choose the right footwear: Wear warm boots or shoes with low heels and rubber soles, which provide better traction than soles made of leather or plastic. Avoid soles that are smooth in snow and ice as this will increase your chances of slipping. For additional safety, snow grips for soles can also be used.

Dress warmly: Warm and comfortable clothing helps prevent your muscles from becoming tense. Tensed up muscles can negatively affect your balance, causing you to stumble or slip. Use a shoulder bag or purse so your hands can be free to steady yourself if needed.

Keep on the lookout for dangerous situations: Be careful getting out of your car, climbing subway stairs or bus steps, and walking after dark. Be vigilant for black ice, a thin coating of ice that can form over surfaces and is very difficult to see.

Don’t sprint: Don’t rush! Accidents are more likely to happen when you are in a hurry. Take short steps while you walk, creating a wide, stable base of support as you move. Keep your head up and look in front of you instead of putting your head down and looking at the ground. This will help maintain steady balance.

Say NO to shortcuts: Don’t take shortcuts. Establish your routes and plan ahead of time to avoid unexpected obstacles and unfamiliar terrain.

Outfit your assistive device for cold weather: If you use an assistive device, fit it with a wide, non-slip tip. In addition, an ice pick with cleats can be used to prevent a cane from slipping on icy surfaces.

Rupali Soeters is a physical therapist at the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.