A winter wonderland has its beauty, though you might be a bit more hesitant to go out and appreciate it with a prosthetic leg. Slippery surfaces and snow piles may be hazardous, but we have tried-and-true methods to stay steady and get around with confidence.
Here are 5 tips to help you safely get around and enjoy winter with a prosthetic leg and enjoy the season.
1. Look Before You Tread
Nobody is immune to taking a bad spill on the ice, so caution is the name of the game when walking around with a prosthetic leg in Winter. Be sure to look well ahead so you can plan your approach to your destination. If it’s at all possible to avoid a slick, icy patch or large snowbank, it’s best to walk around it. Be sure also to take advantage of railings or other handholds.
As you walk more in the winter, you’ll get a better sense of how your prosthesis and gait can handle different types of snow. With each step, carefully distribute your weight and try to stay on a firm surface. When walking through deep snow, lift your legs high with each step to avoid tripping forward.
Walk slowly at all times when there’s any chance of ice, as we all know sometimes those icy patches are near invisible. With each step on the ice make sure you completely flatten your foot to avoid slipping. Be wary of walking too fast through icy patches that have been treated with salt as the salt can throw your prosthesis off balance if you walk over too quickly.
2. Choose The Right Boots
Sacrificing function over style could land you in trouble with winter footwear. Dress boots have hard soles which won’t provide much grip. Rubber soles are your best bet to avoid slipping, and you can also take advantage of Winter traction devices for your boots such as Yaktrax strap-ons.
You’ll also want to get boots that are half a size larger than your normal footwear. It will make putting boots on your prosthetic foot much easier, and also provides a buffer to add padding for height differences in your legs.
3. Consider a Cane
They say pride cometh before the fall. If you feel like you need additional support walking in inclement winter weather, and particularly if you’re new to a prosthesis, don’t shy from using a cane or crutch. Better safe than sorry. You can also customize your support with different types of grips for winter.
4. Fall With Grace
Your prosthesis will make you more susceptible to slipping so be consciously prepared with how to fall safely. Falling safely requires practice and something you may have worked on with during rehab.
When falling try to remain flexible and bend at the joints. Falling on an outstretched arm is an easy way to lead to break or fracture the arm, hand or fingers. If it all possible, roll into your fall, trying to land on your rear and avoid hitting your head or hip.
Prostheses may not be cheap, but always let the prosthesis take damage before yourself.
5. Try Your Hand at Winter Sports
Having limb loss doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy winter activities. There are plenty of modified ways to enjoy winter sports with a prosthesis.
No matter your level of limb loss, downhill skiing is accessible to anyone. The skier wears full skis below them (some single amputees choose to remove their prosthetic and use their biological leg), and if needed holds outrigger crutches that have ski tips. There are also sitting versions of skiing involving a sled supported by either a single ski or two skis.
Disabled Sports USA has adaptive ski programs all across the United States.
Sled Hockey is a modified version of ice hockey where players sit on a specialized sled with two skate blades underneath. Rather than use one hockey stick, players have two smaller sticks they use for propulsion, passing, and shooting. Otherwise, the rules are the same as standard ice hockey.
Sled hockey is a Paralympic sport and there are various sled hockey programs and leagues hosted by Disabled Sports USA.
Enjoy The Magic of Winter
We hope this advice helps you get the most out of the winter season with a prosthetic leg. For more winter navigation tips specific to double amputees, be sure to read: Get Prepped for Winter as an Amputee.