Winter in Canada means ice, snow and cold. And, while this brings many opportunities for outdoor sports and activities, this environment can make simply getting outdoors and walking dangerous. Having a mobility issue or physical disability can make negotiating the outdoor in winter even more challenging. Knowing how to choose the best winter footwear to prevent slips and falls is important for every Canadian’s safety.

Snow and ice on driveways and sidewalks pose a serious risk for people of all ages and physical abilities. In the winter of 2016-2017, there were nearly 9,000 hospitalizations due to falls on ice in Canada. In fact, falls were the number-one cause of sport or winter injuries, according to stats from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. These injuries range from sprains and bruises to broken bones and head injuries.

A recent Toronto Public Health report revealed that over 40 per cent of those aged 35-59 years and 60 per cent of those aged 60-85 years said they would go out less to cope with the winter weather.

While avoiding going outdoors in slippery weather conditions is definitely a solid strategy in some cases, there are times where going out cannot be avoided. In addition, nobody should feel like they are stuck or trapped because of the weather.

How to Choose the Best Winter Footwear

One strategy that is vital to help minimizing your risk of falls is to ensure you have safe winter footwear. In 2016 a team of researchers from the iDAPT lab at Toronto Rehab tested the slip resistance of 98 winter boots. The research was able to mimic the conditions of walking on ice at level ground and both uphill and downhill slopes at various angles.

Although eight percent of the winter footwear achieved the minimum slip standard the researchers found that those shoes that contained special outsole material designed to provide better traction on wet ice may be most helpful in reducing falls risk.

iDAPT ranked some popular winter footwear on their site Rate My Treads. Here are some of the brands that ranked the highest.

Best Winter Footwear for Men

Best Winter Footwear for Women

best winter footwear for women Propel Physiotherapy

Find the full results of the testing at

The Canada Safety Council recommends these guidelines when choosing winter footwear:

  • well-insulated,
  • waterproof,
  • thick non-slip tread sole made of natural rubber,
  • wide low heels,
  • and light-weight.

As well, ice grippers are great for walking on hard packed snow and ice, however can become dangerous when walking on smooth surfaces.

At Propel Physiotherapy, we have experience working with clients who have problems with sensation, muscle weakness, visual and vestibular disturbances that can affect their balance.  Our therapists are trained to assess any impairments that can contribute to falls and slips in winter conditions. Let us help you in gaining the confidence you need to manage any kind of unpredictable weather.

You can also talk to us about choosing the best winter footwear for your safety, particularly if you wear an AFO or have other mobility issues to take into consideration.

Written by

Kathy Mileski
Kathy MileskiRegistered Physiotherapist and Mindfulness Trainer
Kathy Mileski loves the idea of helping others be as mobile and active as they possibly can. She believes that every person has the potential to do amazing things. That belief bolstered by her training and experience has helped her clients to achieve success in their rehab goals no matter where they are in terms of their recovery.




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