A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Winter walking safety: Walk like a penguin

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Nov. 13, 2014. It has been updated to include video.

Despite the fact that the snow arrived earlier than usual, we can’t get around the snow and cold in Wisconsin. And while most of us can find plenty of reasons to love this Wisconsin weather (cross-country skiing, anyone?), it also puts us at an increased risk for slips, trips and falls.

The death rate in Wisconsin due to unintentional falls is twice the national average, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

This rate especially is concerning for older adults, but falls also were the No. 1 cause of injury sending people to the emergency room amongst almost all age groups, according to a 2011 state report. So, it’s important for all of us to know the facts about fall prevention.

In an effort to keep us all injury-free this winter, consider these walking safety tips:

  • Wear appropriate footwear like winter boots with a thick, nonslip tread and a low, wide heel when walking outside, even if it’s just to and from your car. High heels, tennis shoes, etc. are not considered winter weather appropriate.
  • Adjust your pace so it’s suitable for the walking surface. Don’t rush!
  • Be aware of your surroundings and path. Watch for ice patches and be careful of paths that may be snow-covered.
  • Always follow a clear path if possible.
  • Use cleared sidewalks if available. Do not take shortcuts not intended for pedestrian use.
  • Minimize the amount of items you’re carrying. Large items may make it hard to see or cause you to become unbalanced while walking on slippery surfaces.
  • Wipe your feet clean on floor mats upon entering buildings and change footwear as necessary.
  • Clean up any wet areas to prevent anyone coming in after you from slipping.
  • Plan ahead and leave early when traveling to avoid the need to rush.

And if you remember nothing else, try to remember to walk like a penguin.

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