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Winter walking tips to keep you injury free and active

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As snow and ice start to become part of everyday life again here in Ontario, over 60 people a day will visit an emergency department for injuries caused by a fall involving ice and snow. Yes, you did read that right, 60 people a day, with the highest rates amongst older adults, and almost equal numbers of men and women. Injuries to the knee and lower leg are the most common, closely followed by injuries to the ankle and foot, then the hip and thigh.

At Hunt Footcare, we are happy to help with the treatment of sprains, strains, ligament damage and similar issues from a fall, but we'd much rather help prevent the fall in the first place! So, our team of experts in podiatry and chiropody have prepared a few tips to keep you injury free this winter.

1. Slow down!

Just as you slow down your driving speeds in snow and ice, decrease your pace when walking on snow and ice too. Allow a little more time for everything you do outside, so you are not rushing and risking injury by concentrating on the time, not what's underfoot.

2. Always wear winter footwear outside

If you're walking on compacted snow or ice, it's vital that your footwear provides you with a good grip. Most winter boots and shoes provide good depth of tread and a non-slip sole, but not so office shoes or party heels. If you are popping out of the house, the office or even walking from the car to the front door, change your shoes to outside winter footwear first. Otherwise that one-minute walk to the mailbox or the waste bins might turn into a 2 hour wait at the emergency room…

3. Get a grip

Winter footwear should provide sufficient grip, but remember that deep treads designed for snow won't necessarily help you keep vertical on sheet ice. Invest in two pairs of extra grip products that fit over any shoes or boots, made by companies such as YakTrax, and keep one in the car and one by the front door, so they are handy when you most need them most. If you are unsteady, a spiked walking pole or ski pole (or two) can help you maintain your balance and test surfaces for depth of snow or ice if required, or ask one of the team at Hunt Footcare for their suggestions.  

4. Best foot forward

Even the best off the shelf winter footwear is designed to fit the average foot, and to work best with a normal walking gait or position. So, if you have a slightly different walking gait, foot shape, or a foot condition such as flat feet, your foot might not have the optimum shape to make full contact with the sole of your footwear.

At Hunt Footcare, we are experts in corrective orthotics, creating custom-made devices that slip into your shoes to correct your foot position. Not only is this more comfortable, it's also safer, as it increases your natural weight distribution and grip when you walk. Your orthotics are unique to your feet, and you can use them in any type of normal footwear as required. Ask us for more details.

5. What lies underneath

Snow can cover a multitude of tripping hazards, so never assume that the pure untouched stretch of snow between you and your car is a shortcut worth taking!

6. Keep snow outside

Before entering buildings, brush off as much snow as possible from your boots and take care once inside too - a hallway wet with melted snow could be just as slippery as the ice outside…

7. Be a good neighbour

Older people and those with mobility problems find snow and ice both daunting and challenging. If you can spare five minutes to help clear their pathway, or ask if they need any supplies if you're out shopping when bad weather is forecast, it will help them stay safe and warm inside, and give you a warm glow inside too. Remember, this also applies to elderly relatives and parents!

8. Warm feet are healthy feet

Always make sure your feet are kept warm and dry in winter footwear. Ensure your boots have sufficient thermal insulation, and always wear socks that wick moisture away from your skin. (Either one pair of thick wool socks or two layers of thinner man-made socks are recommended.) If you have circulation problems or suffer from diabetes, it's very important to keep feet warm and cosy to prevent damage to the soft tissue. So, if your feet do get cold, get inside as quickly as possible, take off wet footwear and wet socks and warm your feet up gently with gentle rubbing or by immersing in warm (but never hot) water. It's always worth carrying a spare pair of dry socks just in case.

9. Had a fall? We can help!

At Hunt Footcare, we can diagnose all types of sprains, strains, feet, knee, muscle and ligament injuries, and devise a comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation plan to get you back on your feet faster. Our foot specialists can also treat a whole range of feet conditions, from chillblains to shin splints, as well as winter sports-related soft tissue and muscle injuries. In fact, you're welcome to make an appointment and discuss any aspect of winter footcare and injury recovery with our experts.

Hunt Footcare - we're here to help you walk safely this winter.
* Figures from Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre study, January 2009.

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