Winter is coming… Ok, enough of the Game of Thrones references every time we post something about it being cold, and let’s face it – winter is already here. Although we Brits seems to batten down the hatches and run (or skid, maybe) around in blind panic at the sight of even a single snowflake, spare a thought for our Commonwealth cousins in Canada where it gets really, really cold.
Toronto, in the Canadian province of Ontario, is one of the balmiest places to be during the Canadian winter, so you can expect an average daytime high of around -1˚C if you’re out and about. No self-respecting Canuck would be seen without a decent pair of grippy snow boots to stop them sliding around on the snow, but a new study by the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network suggests that most of the boots on sale in the country are too slippery to walk safely on ice. In fact, only eight per cent achieve the minimum slip resistance standards outlined by the test.
Get a grip
To test this, the team used a really slick (groan) piece of kit called the WinterLab, an state-of-the-art underground research facility that recreates the freezing temperatures, icy surfaces and windy conditions found on the North American continent. It can also tilt to recreate slopes, which are especially hazardous if your boots can’t get a grip.
By measuring the angle participants were able to walk before slipping up, the team were able to give the boots a ‘snowflake’ rating between 0-3, 3 being the grippiest – and the results were pretty grim.
Of the 98 boots available for sale that were tested, only eight were able to muster a seven-degree angle, the minimum requirement to get just one snowflake and none of them were able to reach the 11-degrees needed to get two.
The researchers found two types of grip technology, Green Diamond and Arctic Grip, to be particularly good at gripping but you can see how yours fare by visiting ratemytreads.com.
Fill your boots
So why should we care about slips and trips on the icy tundra? Well in Ontario alone more than 20,000 visits are made every year due to injuries from falling on ice and snow, with 60 per cent of 60–85 year olds avoiding going out as a way to deal with the potential hazards.
The team hope that by working with manufactures to introduce the snowflake measurement system they can produce safer winter boots and give customers a clear guide as to how effective their purchases will be.
“I expect that many serious and life-changing injuries will be prevented this winter by people choosing to buy better non-slip footwear,” says Dr Geoff Fernie, Research Director, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. “I also expect the impact to grow with future winters as more manufacturers strive to develop products that score well in our system and can be recommended to consumers.”
Alexander is the Online Editor at BBC Science Focus and is the one that keeps sciencefocus.com looking shipshape and Bristol fashion. He has been toying around with news, technology and science on internet for well over a decade, and sports a very fetching beard.