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Preventing Icy Slips and Falls Outdoors

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Preventing Icy Slips and Falls Outdoors


Slips and falls are a major concern during the winter months. Icy outdoor surfaces can pose serious hazards, leading to painful injuries and even disability or death in severe cases. As an individual spending time outdoors in wintry conditions, it’s crucial that I understand the risks and take proactive steps to prevent accidents. In this article, I’ll provide a comprehensive guide to avoiding icy slips and falls when venturing outside in cold weather.

Understanding the Risks

To prevent icy slips and falls, it’s important to first understand why winter conditions increase the risk:

  • Ice accumulation – Walkways, roads, and other outdoor surfaces can become extremely slippery when covered in ice. Black ice is particularly hazardous since it may not be visible.

  • Snow buildup – uncleared snow can obscure hazards like ice patches and uneven pavement. Melting and refreezing snow also contributes to icy conditions.

  • Temperature fluctuations – Warmer days melting snow followed by overnight freezing leads to slick ice formation. Early mornings before ice has a chance to melt are particularly risky times.

  • Limited traction – Shoes with smooth soles easily lose traction on ice. Even boots with some tread may slide.

  • Difficulty balancing – Icy surfaces make it harder to maintain stability and balance properly when walking.

By being aware of these factors, I can start taking the right precautions.

Preparing Appropriate Footwear

Choosing footwear with good traction is my first line of defense against slipping:

  • Winter boots – Boots that are waterproof with heavy tread soles provide the most stability. Look for deep lugs and a sole with some flexibility.

  • Ice cleats – Temporary slip-on cleats or crampons can be worn over regular boots when traction is needed. These grip into the ice.

  • Yaktrax – These coil traction devices easily stretch over shoe soles. The coils flex to grab into ice while also being comfortable for everyday wear.

  • Bring extra shoes – Keep a spare pair of shoes with good tread at the office or in the car to change into when needed.

Proper winter footwear gives me much better odds of staying upright. I should check soles periodically for signs of wear and replace them once tread starts smoothing out.

Taking Slow, Careful Steps

My walking posture, gait, and pace also play key roles in preventing falls:

  • Posture – Standing and walking tall with my weight centered over each step improves balance. Hunching puts me off balance.

  • Smaller steps – Taking shorter, more shuffle-like steps widens my base of support for better stability.

  • Flat footsteps – Landing gently and evenly on the full sole distributes force, rather than harshly on the heels.

  • Slower pace – Moving at a careful, unhurried pace gives me more reaction time and minimizes slips. I should avoid rushing.

  • Test surfaces – Before stepping onto any surface, I should first check for slickness by gently sliding my shoe over it.

With conscious attention to my walking habits, I can traverse icy areas much more securely. Rushing predisposes me to accidents, so I need to build in extra time when conditions are hazardous.

Using Aids for Balance and Stability

I can further improve my wintertime stability by strategically using aids:

  • Walking sticks – Trekking poles improve balance by widening my base of support with 4 points of contact. They also provide push power when needed.

  • Handrails – Grabbing onto railings when using stairs or ramps boosts stability and gives me something to catch myself with.

  • Walls & fences – Brushing a hand against walls, fences, car hoods, etc. while walking serves a similar purpose.

  • Stretching aids – Carrying items like books or grocery bags in front of my body helps to counterbalance me.

These simple aids make a big difference. I should use whatever’s available nearby to assist my balance when out on slick surfaces.

Being Cautious of Danger Zones

Certain areas deserve extra caution and awareness when ice could be present:

  • Steps & curbs – All stairs and any level changes in elevation are high-risk. I need to be extremely careful at these transition points. Using handrails is a must.

  • Ramps & slopes – Inclines and declines put me in a vulnerable position. I keep my center of gravity low when navigating these.

  • Bridges – Elevated walking surfaces let cold air circulate underneath, causing ice to readily form. I treat these stretches as though they’re iced until verifying surface conditions.

  • Tree shade – Sections of walkways under tree canopies stay icy longer due to less sun exposure. I’m vigilant in checking for lingering slickness.

I should assume these types of areas are hazardous in winter and only proceed once I’ve confirmed good footing. Planning alternate routes can help avoid some trouble spots.

Considering Traction Aids

For frequently icy areas, using traction aids directly on my shoes provides added security:

  • Slip-on ice cleats – These temporarily attach over shoe soles using elastic bands or integrated pull tabs, improving grip on demand.

  • Kahtoola MICROspikes – The low-profile elastic chains on these provide noticeable traction boost without impeding natural walking motion.

  • Yaktrax Walk – With coil design that flexes on contact, these deliver steady enhancements to shoe traction.

  • STABILicers Maxx – These heavy-duty ice cleats have thick metal studs along the sole for maximal grip on thick ice.

Traction aids like these are ideal when I regularly face icy conditions getting to work, running errands, etc. I just slip them on and take them off as needed when transitioning between safe and slick walking surfaces.

Maintaining Awareness of Surroundings

Vigilantly monitoring my surroundings is key to preventing mishaps:

  • Scan ahead – I frequently look at least 20-30 feet in front of me to spot potential hazards early.

  • Note illumination – Areas in shadows or with poor lighting often obscure lingering ice and pose hidden dangers.

  • Avoid distractions – I keep my eyes up instead of looking down at phone when traversing questionable areas.

  • Feel for changes – I can sometimes sense transitions in footing surfaces under my shoes even before seeing them.

Staying alert gives me critical extra time to react. I resist listening to music or anything else distracting when navigating outdoor areas with ice concerns.

Getting Up Properly After Falling

If I do fall on the ice, getting up again safely is crucial:

  • Roll over – I avoid trying to stand up from the fallen position. Instead I gently roll onto hands and knees first.

  • Look around – Before any movement, I survey the area to select a stable support object to grab.

  • Push up – With my knees under my hips, I can raise my torso by pushing my hands against my thighs for leverage.

  • Turn & rise – Once up on my knees, I slowly turn my body to face the support I’ve identified and use it to pull myself up.

  • Balance – Standing, I wait to feel steady before taking any steps. I may need to widen my stance and bend my knees while gaining reorientation.

Attempting to get up too quickly risks additional falls and injury. I use this methodical process to return upright safely.


Preventing icy winter slips and falls requires being prepared with proper footwear, focusing attentively on my walking habits, utilizing available stability aids, and proceeding cautiously in hazardous areas. Remaining aware of my surroundings is also key, along with knowing how to safely get up following an accidental slip. Using these comprehensive precautions and maintaining vigilance, I can help ensure I stay upright and avoid painful, debilitating icy falls when enjoying the outdoors in winter.

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