Health Risks
shoveling the sidewalk

Keeping Safe on Slick Sidewalks

shoveling the sidewalk
Rex Trulove's image for:
"Keeping Safe on Slick Sidewalks"
Caption: shoveling the sidewalk
Image by: Andrea Booher

Few people look forward to slipping and falling when sidewalks are icy. Falling can result in injuries or even worse. Yet, at times there is no way to avoid walking on icy sidewalks. Thankfully, there are ways to increase safety when this happens.


One of the most important ways to stay safe on ice is to wear the proper shoes. These should have 'no-slip' tread. Also, rubber soles aren't a good idea. The reason is that rubber tends to harden when it gets cold, increasing the likelihood of slipping. Having shoes or boots that reach above the ankle is also a good idea. This helps brace the ankles so a slip that does occur doesn't necessarily mean it will result in a twisted, sprained ankle or broken bone. 

Walking technique

It is common for people to walk so their feet pass close together. This serves well on dry surfaces, however it doesn't work very well on ice. This is because for a moment in every stride, the feet are virtually side by side. At that moment, the balance of a person isn't stable. If the planted foot, the one on the ground, starts to slide, the chance are good that the person will end up falling to the ground. 

To counter this, walk with the feet parted. This sort of walking can be thought of as a duck waddle. It can take some time to get used to doing this, and it isn't very dignified, but it is far better than falling. This way of walking makes a person more stable as they move and makes it possible to counter a slip with the placement of the other foot. It is no accident that sailors have used this method for staying upright on pitching and slippery decks for a long time.

In addition to broadening the stance, a person should take smaller steps. This is something that is usually much easier to master than the duck waddle is.


As strange as it may sound, there is a right way and a wrong way to fall. The wrong way is unfortunately the one that most people do without thinking about it. When they find themselves falling, they will often attempt to prevent hitting the ground by putting out a hand or shifting way too much weight on a leg, causing the joints to absorb an enormous jolt. Wrists, ankles, knees, hips, and backs are often impacted and this can result in breaks, strains and sprains.

The correct way is to roll with the fall. It sounds simple, and it is, however it is hard to learn for many people. It is important enough that this is a common lesson taught to snow skiers. Falling properly can mean the difference between getting bruises and having broken bones, ripped ligaments and damaged joints.

It is possible to stay safer when walking on icy sidewalks. However, it is better still if the sidewalks are sanded in some way, by the person responsible for keeping it clear. If this isn't done, the chances of falling are great. Even then, with some insight, knowledge and a bit of luck, the worst damage will only be done to the pride.

More about this author: Rex Trulove

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