‘Walk like a penguin’ and other tips on how to stay safe when walking on ice

‘Walk like a penguin’ and other tips on how to stay safe when walking on ice
World-Herald News Service

The forecast calls for a mix of rain, freezing rain and snow over the coming days, meaning sidewalks and driveways likely will be slick.

About 80 percent of all slips and falls due to snow and ice happen on sidewalks and in parking lots. More than half of those occur between 6 a.m. and noon, before ice that has frozen overnight melts in the (relative) heat of the day.

Now might be a good time for a refresher on how to stay safe on the ice.

We consulted the world’s foremost experts on winter — Canada — and added tips from universities in Nebraska and Iowa. In general, they advise people to treat walking like driving and “walk defensively.” Put even more simply, they say you should “walk like a penguin.”

Here are some tips on how to do just that:


  • Choose nonslick footwear with good traction or attach crampons to the bottoms of your shoes.
  • Consider using a cane, walking sticks or ski poles for balance.
  • Carry only what you need or use a backpack for larger or heavier items.


  • Use a wide stance to provide a base of support.
  • Walk flat-footed and take short steps with your whole foot making contact at once.
  • Shuffle your feet slowly to avoid slipping.
  • Bend your knees slightly to lower your center of gravity over your feet.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets for balance.
  • Step down off curbs first before stepping out into the street.
  • If you fall, try to avoid falling with outstretched arms. Instead, fall at the thigh, hip and shoulder and bend your back and head away from the fall to avoid a head injury.


  • Focus on the task at hand — don’t read or text while walking.
  • Plan a safe route and stick to paved and shoveled surfaces.
  • Be patient and plan to leave early.
  • Use your eyes to watch for slick spots.
  • Look overhead for falling debris.
  • Avoid north entrances to buildings if possible, because they see less sunlight and often are icier.
  • Remember that even indoors, melted snow or ice from boots can be slick.

Sources: Canada Safety Council, the Snow and Ice Management AssociationUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln Environmental Health and SafetyIowa Department of Public Health and Iowa State University.