Today is the official beginning of winter, and although we have not had much snow in West Michigan, undoubtedly plenty is on the way. With snow and ice comes slips and falls. It is important to take precautions to ensure your safety. Following are several tips to help prevent falling while walking on the ice.

  • Select proper footwear. No single shoe sole material is perfect under all conditions, however, footwear with rubber or neoprene composite soles provides better traction on ice and snow than leather or plastic.
  • Walk consciously. Be alert to the possibility that you could quickly slip on an unseen patch of ice. Avoid the temptation to run to catch a bus or beat traffic when crossing a street. You can test your travel path by sliding your shoe or boot on it to see if it is slick.
  • Walk cautiously. Your arms help keep you balanced, so keep hands out of pockets and avoid carrying heavy loads that may cause you to become off balance.
  • Walk “small.” Avoid an erect, marching posture. Look to see ahead of where you step. When you step on icy areas, take short, shuffling steps, curl your toes under and walk as flatfooted as possible. Spread your feet our slightly like a penguin. Walking like a penguin on ice increases your center of gravity.
  • Many injuries occur when entering or exiting a vehicle. Be particularly careful and hold onto you vehicle to help support yourself.
  • Be sure you remove snow immediately, before it becomes packed down and turns to ice. Pay special attention to your porch stoops, steps, sidewalk and driveway by applying ice melt. This is the best way to prevent the formation of ice patches.

The most common injuries we see at OAM due to winter slips and falls are neck and back strain and broken wrist, elbow or hand. While falling, it is instinctive to try and catch yourself, which is why so many patients we see have landed on their hand incorrectly, causing the wrist, hand or elbow to break. If you experience an injury while falling, or develop pain that persists after falling, it is important to see a doctor to determine the type of injury and its severity. If you feel yourself starting to fall, try to avoid landing on your knees, wrists or back. Try to fall on a fleshy part of your body, such as your side. If you are able to relax your muscles when you fall, you may injure yourself less. Senior citizens are particularly susceptible to slipping and falling. If you have an elderly relative or neighbor, be sure to check on them often, see if you can help keep their walkway and driveway clean and safe. Consider helping your elderly neighbors or family members by running errands for them so they do not have to go outside during icy conditions. If you have fallen and are experiencing pain or have an injury, the doctors at Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan can help. Please contact OAM at 616-459-7101 for an appointment.

Sources:, WebMD,