How to prevent slips, falls, and ankle sprains:
1: Fix your walking form:
Most importantly you should make the attempt to take shorter quicker stride such that your foot lands more beneath your center of mass. Having your foot land more beneath your center of mass and NOT excessively out in front will help reduce your chance of slipping. Just imagine taking a long stride walking on ice. In doing so, you would be sure to slip. This is the reason why people tend to shuffle on ice, because this places is the foot more beneath the center of mass which results in better control. This doesn’t mean you need to shuffle when walking, it just means that you should be taking a shorter quicker stride.
Taking a shorter stride will also help prevent ankle sprains. If you go to sprain your ankle, but are in the habit of taking a shorter stride, you have a greater chance of maneuvering out of it secondary to having better control. This is because your weight is over your base of support when your foot is underneath your center of mass. In this way, you can maneuver out of the sprain position with greater ease and more quickly shift the weight to your other leg thus avoiding injury. In contrast, if your foot is excessively out in front of you, you cannot shift your weight over to the other leg until your body is over your foot. By this time, it may be too late and you will have sprained your ankle. As a vertically challenged fellah standing at 5’5”, during my Army years I was advised to take a longer stride so as to be better be able to keep up with the tall guys. I followed the advice and as a result constantly sprained my ankles. Since my time in the Army however, I’ve change my walking and running techniques. I am a regular hiker and trail runner; activities which many people fear because of ankle sprains. However, I almost never sprain my ankle anymore. I start to, I quickly and reflexively pull out of it because my walking and running technique has been changed such that my foot lands more beneath my center of mass. Learn how to walk with good form here:
2: Use a minimalist shoe:
A minimalist shoe has a thin sole which allows you to feel the ground better. By being better able to feel the ground, you will have quicker reaction times. A shoe with a thicker sole prevents one’s ability to feel the ground and so your reaction times will be slower and less precise. Furthermore, having a shoe with a higher heel or a thicker sole lifts your foot up far the from the ground where you are more likely to teeter. If you start to roll your ankle, there will be greater torque (AKA force) in the direction of the ankle sprain and so you are more likely to get injured. My preferred minimalist footwear brand can be found at this link: https://xeroshoes.com/go/jamesob (affiliate link)
3: Improve your balance.
By having better balance, you essentially have better control. When placed in an awkward position, one with good balance is less likely to get into a state where they lose control. It is obvious that when someone has better balance, there are less risk of falling, but this is also the case with regards to an ankle sprain. If you have good control of your foot, ankle, hip, and knee, your body can react more quickly and effectively to positions and episodes where your ankle is in the start of a “sprained position”. Better balance means having better ability to react to the body being placed in awkward positions. By having better reactions and control, you are less likely to fall as well as less likely to have a soft tissue injury such as an ankle sprains and knee sprains. Here are balance exercises I use for my athletes as well as geriatrics to improve their balance and neuromuscular control in order to be at less risk of injuries like sprains, slips, and falls: https://programs.perfectingmovement.net/programs/balance-training-program?categoryId=24895
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am James O’Brien and the founder of Perfecting Movement. In my 10+ years-experience as a physical therapist, my predominant focus has been in orthopedic physical therapy and personal training. During this time I have developed a logical formula based in good movement practices and safe therapeutic exercise to deal with common orthopedic injuries and pain. I have had an excellent success rate at getting my patients better.
I am extremely passionate about teaching my patients and clients how to self-manage their injuries and to prevent such injuries from happening again. I hope to share with you some of my successful treatment and injury prevention strategies.
OUCH! INJURIES HURT!
LETS PREVENT THEM FROM HAPPENING.
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