Walking in our winter wonderland


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/12/2020 (913 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Often we don’t pay enough attention to icy conditions underfoot until our feet go out from under us as we slip and fall on the sidewalk. Fluctuating temperatures can cause city sidewalks to become treacherous as many have found out to their detriment.

Falling on ice is a common winter mishap that leads to visits to emergency rooms, surgeries and even hospitalizations more often than you would think.

This is the winter to go for lots of long walks as COVID-19 is less transmissible outdoors. And in the midst of all the fear and uncertainty, who hasn’t been snacking more?

Although Canada is renowned for its long winters, many of our winter boots don’t grip well on ice. The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network (TRI-UHN) treats umpteen patients every year who have fallen on ice. Hoping to find some solutions, TRI started testing the performance of winter boots in its purpose-built WinterLab in 2015. Harsh winter conditions are recreated in the high-tech lab, with volunteers wearing harnesses while walking on an ice-covered, tilting floor. Few boots rated one snowflake in the first year but boot technology is improving and some have recently earned two or three snowflakes on the TRU-UHN scale. Go to ratemytreads.com to view the latest results and see if your boots have been tested.

Some people have adopted the advice of Alberta Health Services and others to waddle like a penguin when conditions are icy. This means slowing down and taking short, flat-footed shuffling steps. The slower pace as you carefully keep your centre of gravity over your feet takes some of the fun out of walking, but it is safer.

Others are fans of the stretchy ice cleats that you pull over the soles of your boots before setting out. Newer models aren’t as cumbersome as the ones your granddad used to wear. Those with shorter spikes or coils work best when continually stepping between pavement and ice in the city.

They should be replaced every season to ensure they grip well on ice. You will have to decide if they work for you but never use them on hard, smooth surfaces like tiles or polished concrete as they will be dangerously slippery.

Another option is to carry a little container of sand and spread it on icy stretches of poorly cleared sidewalks as you approach them.

Even well-cleared sidewalks can be icy. Over one weekend in March 2017, about 200 people were seen in emergency departments across Winnipeg after freezing rain turned sidewalks into skating rinks, causing an unprecedented number of falls. Nobody wants a repeat scenario this winter so be careful out there!

Anne Hawe is a community correspondent for the West End. She can be reached at annie_hawe@hotmail.com

Anne Hawe

Anne Hawe
West End community correspondent

Anne Hawe is a community correspondent for the West End. She can be reached at annie_hawe@hotmail.com

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