Winter walking

Safety tips for maintaining a winter walking routine

Maintaining a walking routine when icy sidewalks, biting winds, sub-zero temperatures and snow create safety hazards can be challenging, but not impossible. By remembering the following, you can keep your winter walking routine safe and enjoyable:

Pay attention to the base layer

We have all heard that wearing layers when we head outdoors for winter activity is a good idea. But on the coldest days, the layer closest to your skin, the “base layer”, is very important.

  • Your base layer should be snugly fitted to your skin, not a loose-fitting garment, as the base layer serves to extend your body temperature.
  • Air pockets that get between your base layer and your skin can invite cold air to reach your skin. 
  • You don’t have to invest in any expensive clothing to have an effective base layer.
  • A long-sleeve t-shirt, regular leggings or long-underwear, or even long-sleeve/snug-fitting pajamas under your clothes can serve as a base layer.

Pay attention to the sun

…and bright cloudy winter skies. Even though you may only have a little bit of exposed skin when you’re on your winter walks, it’s important to remember that UV rays can burn skin in winter too.

  • Using a facial moisturizer with sunscreen can keep your cheeks, forehead and chin safe and moisturized while walking in the sun. 
  • Sunglasses are important for winter days as well. The sun can create a painful glare off the snow, and our eyes can use the break from our white surroundings even when the sky is cloudy.

Pay attention to your feet

Often when we walk in the winter we must swap out our comfortable walking shoes with winter boots, which may not be as foot-friendly for walking.

  • If possible, tying boot laces tightly for a snug fit will improve safety when walking on uneven surfaces, and will help prevent blisters from forming.
  • Additionally, just like for the rest of your body, wearing two pairs of socks, with a thin, snug base-layer sock under a thicker one, will keep your feet well insulated from the cold.
  • The extra layer of socks can also help with stabilizing the boot and preventing blisters.

Balance and traction

Outdoor walking surfaces can be uneven, slippery and unpredictable in the winter.  While you can spend a lot of money on expensive gear to help you keep your balance, you can also use some of these tips to help you out: 

  • Walk slower. Because you are forced to balance yourself, walking on slippery and uneven surfaces can give you a good workout even if you are moving more slowly.
  • Traction cleats (“crampons”) can be a big help with ice surfaces. If you can’t find affordable traction cleats at your local thrift store, wrap several layers of inexpensive string or twine around your boots to help with traction on icy walkways.
  • Unscrew a broom handle to use as a walking stick when you walk, or buy some used ski poles at a thrift store to have a pair of walking sticks.