7 Strategies for Walking Safely on Snow and Ice In Seattle

Photo by Immortal shots - See latest from PexelsAs Seattleites we're experts when it comes to getting around in the rain, but once the rain turns to snow we tend to throw our hands up in the air and just shake our heads. Many of us stay home because we dread slipping and falling.

As your podiatrist I can't blame you. The last thing I want is for my patients to twist or break an ankle or sustain any other bodily harm. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics your fear of falling is well founded. In 2014, ice, snow, and sleet caused more than 42,000 injuries and illnesses.

But what if you have to leave your home to go to work, do some shopping, take your kid to the doctor, or any number of errands that won't wait until the snowy, icy weather passes.

Here are 7 strategies to help you get around more safely should you need to head out of your cozy abode.

Choose Your Shoes Wisely
Your shoes can greatly affect your stability, so it's important to select the right pair.

  • Wear shoes that cover as much ground as possible (avoid heels or choose a chunky, wider heel).
  • Choose footwear made of non-slip rubber or neoprene composite with grooved soles.
  • Avoid leather soles
  • Purchase boots that can pass a slip resistance test. The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has tested hundreds of boots in their WinterLab and now the results can be found on the website Rate My Treads.
  • Use treads or cleats such as Yaktrax to improve your grip.

Adjust Your Stride

  • Go slow and easy
  • Take shorter steps or shuffle
  • Bend slightly forward with your center of gravity directly over your feet and walk flat footed.
  • Extend your arms out to your sides for better balance

Plan Out Your Route

As much as possible plan out where you're going to walk. Although it may not be as easy to walk in fresh snow it can be safer than snow that's been around for awhile since it probably won't be as slippery.

  • Assume all wet, dark areas are icy - some ice is obvious, while other ice can be just underneath packed down snow. Black ice can be the most treacherous since it can be very tough to see.
  • Use handrails when walking down steps since they are often icy.
  • Avoid slopes and hills when you can.
  • Avoid walking in the street. If you can't avoid it, walk facing traffic and stay as far from cars as possible. Don't assume they can stop.
  • Look ahead when you walk. If you see the sidewalk is covered in ice, see if the grass next to it is a better bet.
  • Give yourself extra time; that way you won't be in a hurry and take unnecessary risks.

Keep Yourself Visible

Too many of us wear black coats in the winter. It's nearly impossible for cars to see a person in the dark who's wearing black. If you do a lot of walking the following items can help you stay visible.

  • Wear a coat that is bright and neon colored.
  • A reflective vest, belt, lights or snap bands will make you highly visible to drivers; these items can be purchased at REI.

What To Do If You Slip
Sometimes slipping is inevitable. Here's what to do according to Julia Henderson-Kalb, M.S., OTR/L:

  • Keep your hands out of your pockets so you can break your fall with your hands.
  • If you start to fall backwards tuck your head forward with chin to chest. Extend your arms away from your body and hit the ground with your palms and forearms to prevent your head, wrists, and elbows from hitting the ground.
  • If you fall to the side, try to allow your forearm to make contact with the ground first, not your hand. Lift your head to the opposite shoulder and continue to roll
  • If you fall forward, try to roll to one side and follow the last instructions.

Keep Your Driveway and Sidewalks Clear

Help yourself and your neighbors prevent slips and falls by clearing your driveway and sidewalks as soon as the snow hits. Once snow warms up, melts, and then turns to ice you'll need salt or gravel to melt it and make it more walkable.

What To Do If You Sprain Your Ankle

If you slip and fall and injury your ankle deploy the RICE protocol.

  • Rest- keep weight off of the ankle until your physician or surgeon tells you otherwise.
  • Ice & Compression - as soon as you are able, an ice pack should be applied to the area (with a layer of cloth between your skin and the ice) and held in place with an ace wrap or elastic bandage to provide compression.
  • Elevation- Elevate your feet higher than your heart to promote drainage from the swollen area.

Be sure to make an appointment with our office so we can ensure your ankle isn't broken or there isn't extensive soft tissue damage.

Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment. Often same day for emergencies and less than 2 weeks for chronic foot pain. You can also request an appointment online.

For more information about foot and ankle problems, download our eBook, "No More Foot Pain".

In addition, our newsletter "Foot Sense" comes out monthly.  You can also check out our past issues. Every issue contains a mouth-watering recipe and can be printed out for easier reading!

Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.

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