Haims: Avoid a hospital visit with proper winter footwear
As winter nears, many of us will soon put snow tires on our cars. Researching the best tires for our particular car is often an interesting process. There seems to be so many variables when choosing just the right winter tire; all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, front wheel drive, SUV, cross-over, sedan. Then, there are additional choices of winter specific, studless, studs, and all-season. Sifting through all the choices and cost variables takes time.
However, this article is not about tires. I mention tires because we place so much importance on the proper tires that keep ourselves and our families safe yet many of us don’t have the same consideration for the shoes we wear in the winter. Falls due to ice and snow are one of the most common injuries causing people to visit the hospital. Proper choice in our winter footwear is as important to our safety as our winter tire choices.
While appropriate footwear is critical for technical activities like hiking, running, sports, and walking, it’s also as important for everyday life throughout the winter. Winter shoes and boots need to provide not only traction, but warmth and comfort. Here are some suggestions for choosing the right shoe or boot:
- Comfort and coziness
- Ankle support
- Water resistance
- Ease to take on and off
In general, winter shoes should provide versatility for both indoor and outdoor safety. This means that a shoe tread should be chosen that offers slip protection when on flat indoor surfaces and traction while outdoors on the snow and ice. That’s a lot of variables to place on one product.
For winter conditions here in the mountains, often the most versatile choice for foot gear is a lightweight waterproof boot with insulated lining or even faux shearling. You should make sure that you do not choose a boot that is more hiking specific than general purpose. Hiking boots often have a harder rubber sole and stiffer boot support than other boot types — thus not conducive for general purposes, indoors and comfort.
A good all-round choice boot should be lightweight, waterproof and be at least mid-ankle height so that when you come across slushy snow or puddles of water, your feet stay dry. Be aware that just because a boot may be mid-ankle or higher, does not mean that it will provide a high level of ankle support. Look for padded sides, a firm structure, and lacing all the way to the top to make sure the ankle is well supported. As for tread choice, look for footwear that offers deep lugs or a gummed rubber sole as these will most often provide greater traction versatility.
Be cautious about purchasing traction products (crampon cleats) that have metal studs, rubber cleats, or spiraling wire that slip over your shoe/boot. While these products work well while outdoors in inclement weather such as snow and ice, they do not transition well to the indoors. Often, such products can be very slippery indoors on hard surfaces.
Locally, Dr. Noel E. Armstrong, is a great resource for assessing your foot and ankle biomechanics and providing guidance on proper footwear. In Eagle County, Dr. Brian Maurer at Eagle-Summit Foot & Ankle is also available to assist.
By the way, should you choose to use a crampon or traction cleat to attach to your shoes, make sure you remove them before walking inside. These devices are susceptible to causing slipping on smooth surfaces.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.