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Enjoying a winter wonderland: 5 outdoor winter walking safety tips

November 02, 2015,
smiling older woman in winter hat and jacket standing in snow

Every year, as snow begins to blanket cities nationwide, it's natural for some families to head outdoors and enjoy a walk through their own winter wonderland. Yet, it's not all happy family memories and scenic views of snow-capped mountaintops. According to Live Science, a fall-related injury happens every 13 seconds in the U.S., and though there are no official stats, that rate likely increases during wintertime, especially with icy walking paths. Fortunately, you don't have to spend your winter holed up in some emergency room or in bed nursing an injury. With the proper safety techniques, you can enjoy refreshing walks all winter long.

"A fall-related injury happens every 13 seconds in the U.S."

1. Wear the right shoes: When heading outdoors in the winter, the right shoes are your first line of defense against a nasty spill. You always want to wear shoes with heavy treading, and preferably some kind of boot made of either neoprene composite or rubber. The more of the shoe that actually hits the ground, the less likely you are to slip. Whenever available, be sure to use any nearby handrails or other guides for support.

2. Plan your route ahead: Whether you're going through the woods or just over to grandma's house, it's important to plan out your winter route before taking one step outside the door. If it's a family walk, be sure everyone knows where to go, and to use landmarks to help guide everyone to the final destination. Never use shortcuts, as these routes are dangerous due to general unpredictability. If you'll be walking at night at some point, always bring a flashlight or wear reflective clothing.

3. Pay close attention: It goes without saying that it's a good idea to pay attention to the path in front of you, and that's especially true in the dead of winter. Whenever you're out walking, avoid the use of distracting smartphones or other electronic devices. Instead, focus your attention on watching and listening to your immediate vicinity. Whenever possible, avoid carrying heavy loads, like bags or boxes, as these can contribute to falling.

4. Walk slowly: One of the reasons so many people slip during the wintertime is because they're in such a rush. When dealing with ice or snow, you want to take slow, deliberate steps and try and move at a reduced pace. By doing so, you'll be giving yourself more time to prepare in case you do actually lose traction or make a costly misstep. As an extension of this, it's important to plan for extra time in your journey.

Winter is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Winter is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors. 

5. Check the ice: There are a few ways to check if the path you're on is safe or not. To check for slickness, just tap the sidewalk in front of you; if your toe slides, then it's not safe to walk. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, you should avoid walking on icy lakes that are less than two inches thick. Nearby bait shops can also provide information about local ice thickness.

No matter how safe you might think you are, it's impossible to ever entirely avoid accidental falls and slips. That's why you should always rely on CareWell Urgent care. With locations all over the East Coast, CareWell's team of highly knowledgeable professionals can treat almost any winter-related injury, from scraps and bruises to twisted ankles.

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