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Walk Like a Penguin

By Heather Klinefelter, Outreach Specialist


Snow is on the way!  Do you know how to walk safely during snowy and icy conditions?  Any fall can be dangerous but falls on snow and ice are doubly so.  PennDOT says:

Each day, pedestrians must worry whether drivers are paying attention to the road and those around them. Winter brings additional challenges for pedestrians, including cold weather, icy sidewalks, snowstorms and fewer hours of daylight.

When you walk in fair weather, you can stride along like nobody’s business.  When it’s snowy or icy, there are added hazards to walking.  If you take the proper precautions, you can be safe and arrive at your destination in one piece.

First and foremost, wear the proper footwear.  Avoid heels and sneakers.  Pick a shoe that is sturdy with tread to grip the snowy sidewalk.  Stay on the sidewalk and walkways as much as possible.  According to Iowa State University, take extra caution on steps and entrances:

Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles, climbing or descending stairs, entering or leaving buildings. 

  • Move slowly.
  • Remove snow/water from shoes when entering buildings.
  • Use handrails for support.
  • Try to keep your center of gravity over your support leg.
  • Use car for support.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.

But what does it mean to “Walk Like a Penguin”?  To avoid fall injuries, it’s time for you to waddle instead of stride.

Business Insider advises, “When we walk, we keep our center of gravity between our legs, so each leg supports half our weight. Because the leg is at an angle, we’re more vulnerable to losing our balance.

But penguins don’t walk this way. Their legs are too short, so they must waddle, keeping all their weight on one leg at a time. When on the ice, do as the penguins do.

Maintain your center of gravity over one leg at a time and take tiny steps, even if it looks funny. Keep your hands out of your pockets and if you do fall, try landing on your thigh, hip or shoulder. Falling onto your hands could injure your wrists.”  Better a bruised behind than a broken wrist.


Another option is to get some snow cleats if you regularly walk during inclement weather.  These generally slip on over the soles of your shoes and give you that extra grip on icy sidewalks.  Don’t forget to leave plenty of extra time to get to your destination in the snow and ice.  Take your time and be safe.  If you can telecommute, do that!


Stay warm this winter and don’t forget to record your green commutes in Commute PA for your chance to earn rewards and prizes.  For more resources on walking, check out our Walk Resource page for tips.