Fife was covered in snow and ice in the third week of my walking challenge.

Walking in winter conditions can either be great fun or incredibly miserable.

On snow and ice your walking pace will naturally decrease in length and your speed can slow down by almost half. This is normal and it can be quite frustrating when you need to be somewhere but to counter this you can adopt a style of walking that will help you be a more efficient and safe winter walker.

Safety is the most important aspect to making winter walking enjoyable and in this post I am going to share four tips I have learned over my years of walking through the Scottish hills in freezing conditions.

Feet first…

Firstly you need to choose the correct footwear. Having footwear suited to the conditions will make walking easier and also help prevent injury. Look for stiff flat-soled shoes or boots that offer plenty of ankle support. The sole needs to have a well defined grip pattern and preferably should be made of soft rubber or a neoprene-like substance to help give you some traction in snow and on ice.

Shifting your centre…

The second thing you need to do is to adjust your stance and gait. When walking on ice people tend to over compensate when they feel that they have lost traction and feel that they are beginning to slip. People tend to quickly shift their body weight and wave their arms in a bid to regain balance and this is wrong. Instead of standing up straight, bend forward slightly this will shift your centre of gravity and position it directly over your feet.

This change in stance will help improve your stability when walking flat-footed especially on ice. Use short steps to further improve your stability and when you feel that you have lost traction shuffle your feet slowly along to help regain your balance and get moving off the ice.

Safe walking…

The third thing to consider is your personal safety. Make sure you keep your hands out of your pockets. Keeping you hands free can help you prevent losing balance and, if you do fall, you can control it to minimise your impact with the ground although avoid bracing yourself with outstretched arms as this can lead to severe injury.

If you do find yourself falling, bend inwards and tuck your head into your chest and try to roll into the fall and if possible lead into the fall starting with your thigh, hip and then shoulder. Falling like this will help absorb the impact from the fall. This is a technique that is worth practicing in good weather on soft grass so you can react quickly should you fall in winter.

Avoiding problems…

Lastly, reading the terrain ahead is a good way of avoiding problem areas. Look for the easiest route that avoids potential ice patches for example instead of trying to tackle a icy path perhaps walk on the grassy verge running alongside it where you will gain more traction and are less likely to slip.

Paying attention to what is going on around you is another safety consideration. A friend of mine was knocked down by a car in winter last year. He was walking past the car as it was struggling to get up a snowy and icy slope. The driver lost control and the car skidded from the road on to the pavement and, as my friend was paying more attention to the icy path under his feet, he was knocked down and suffered a broken leg. This would have of been avoidable if he were paying attention to his surroundings so please be alert.

Week three lessons

While the snow and ice has been enjoyable to walk through, it did cause some upset to my walking schedule and I end this week with a deficit of nine miles which I hope to make up next weekend when I head to the hills.

Walking in a cold climate also requires the amount of calories taken in each day to be increased to keep you performing well. This was something I failed to address at the beginning of the week but I did increase the count as the week progressed making the walking easier going and more enjoyable.

Walking on…

This week has been great fun but, as much as I love the snow, I hope that we do not get too much of it covering Fife in the coming months otherwise I am going to have to rethink my schedule. If you have any questions about this challenge or anything Walk Fife related, then please drop me a email at sean@walkfife.com or direct message me through my twitter account @SDMakin.

Catch up with you again next week.

Happy Walking!

About Sean : Sean Makin is the founder of Walk Fife and is one of the volunteer coordinators behind the Walk Fife website and community.

Sean presents our regular audio podcast and can often be found walking along the Fife Coastal Path and over the Lomond Hills. You can follow Sean through his twitter account at @SDMakin and you can email him at sean@walkfife.com

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