Navigating Ice and Snow on Prosthetic Legs

Walking Ice Snow

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Winter is tough, especially in New England. From November through early spring, we are faced with icy roads and walkways, piles of snow and slush, high winds, and ice-melting sand and salt; and we often find ourselves climbing over massive icy snowbanks to even reach the sidewalk. For amputees, these conditions can be far more than an inconvenience, they can be downright dangerous to navigate and damaging to expensive prosthetic equipment.

To avoid causing damage to equipment or risking a serious injury, there are several considerations that amputees should make when faced with less than desirable winter conditions. Just think, once you have a great feel for walking on ice and snow with your prosthesis, you’ll be one step closer to skiing, skating, or snowboarding on it!

1. Get a Grip

When the forecast calls for ice, snow, sleet, rain, or the melting of ice and snow, it is always advisable to wear boots, solid shoes or sneakers with excellent grip. Rubber soles are ideal, as are flats (sorry, this is one of those times when high heels are a very bad idea), and you want to be sure that your shoes are in excellent condition.

Ice cleats can be purchased at an outdoor gear store and can be strapped on to your shoes for improved resistance to sliding.

During the winter, we’d recommend keeping an extra pair of adequate footwear in your car or office for those times when Mother Nature decides to dump a foot of snow unexpectedly in the middle of the day.

2. Use Support

If you must go out and If you are a double amputee or above-knee (AK) amputee, and especially if you are new to walking on a prosthesis, it is recommended to use a cane, crutches, or a walker for extra support in bad weather. That little bit of extra stability can go a long way when trying to navigate icy sidewalks and snowbanks. Ice tips for canes and crutches are available at most pharmacies.

3. Beware ‘Safe’ Surfaces

While most people are very cautious on ice and snow, they often don’t pay as much attention to areas that appear safe, such as those that have been treated with ice-melt or sand. This is another area where amputees should step carefully: walking on top of the sand or rock-salt can create a barrier between your prosthesis and the ground that you may not notice until your foot loses traction. Walking slowly through treated areas, and with the support of a cane or railing, can help avoid this.

Winter is tough, but with a well-fitting prosthesis and these considerations in mind, you should be able to get out every day and enjoy what the cold-weather months have to offer.

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