February 3, 2017
Even in more temperate climates, navigating with prosthetic legs in winter weather can take some getting used to.
For those who are new to walking with prosthetic legs in the winter, especially those in Arkansas’ unpredictable weather, a little know-how can make the difference between taking a few tumbles and virtually gliding through winter. The key is to focus on practical footwear, the strategic use of support objects, and adjusting your stride to counter the slippery, uneven conditions.
1. “Size Up” the Situation
Buying boots that are at least a half-size bigger than you normally wear gives you the space needed to add safety and comfort features around your prosthetic. Boots are less flexible than other footwear like sneakers, so giving yourself that extra room makes putting on your boots less of a chore. Extra room in your boot also allows you to add padding to make up the height difference between your prosthetic and biological limbs. In addition, if your residual limb ends in the area encompassed by your boot and is sensitive to the cold, the extra sizing gives you space for added warmth in the form of socks or small pocket warmers.
2. Get the Right Soles
While you are buying those slightly bigger boots, take additional time to focus on their soles. Dressy boots and shoes tend to have hard, slick surfaces that make walking with lower leg prosthetics problematic, especially if it is wet, snowy, or icy outside. Instead, look for rubberized grips on the soles of winter footwear. If it is not practical for you to don boots on certain days, add spikes or rubber attachments to your shoes’ undersides. These temporary systems strap onto your regular footwear, and can be removed once you are indoors.
3. Navigate Wisely
Different winter conditions call for different types of gaits when prosthetic legs are part of the equation. When the snowy terrain is piled in unpredictable drifts (all too common in parking lots and sidewalks), lift your legs up and step onto any drifts you cannot avoid, rather than attempting to push through the snow. If you can find any previously made footprints, you will have an ideal compacted surface on which to walk.
Slippery ice and slick, crusted snow call for a different strategy, where your goal is to keep as much of your boot surface in contact with the ground as possible. Take things slowly and use short, firm steps rather than long strides. Be on the lookout for areas that have been treated with salt or sand, as this can create a barrier between your prosthesis and the ground, which could cause you to slip.
4. Use Support Systems
Even if you normally try to get by without a cane, walker, or crutches, bad winter weather makes these devices invaluable to people with lower limb prosthetics. This is especially true of support implements that are customized to you and to the weather you will encounter.
Not only do customized support tools help you avoid nerve and joint damage associated with ill-fitted generic models, they also give you the option of ordering special accessories, like ice tips, to deal with slick or unsteady winter situations. Even when using a standard support tool, there are several ways that you can customize them yourself with different tips and grips.
And finally, do not forget your support system for prosthetics in Arkansas, the caring team at Horton Orthotics & Prosthetics. Get in touch with us at 501-683-8889 whenever you need advice for navigating winter surfaces with your lower leg prosthetics; our certified clinicians are ready to help you tackle winter.