There are anecdotal reports that pedestrians who wear socks overtop of their footwear are less likely to slip and fall in icyconditions. Advocates of this practice include our local council,which advises residents who prefer to walk (rather than drive) inicy conditions to “put a pair of old socks over your shoes toincrease grip”.
Methods to enhance footwear traction have particular relevancefor our population. While the university, hospital, and businessareas of Dunedin are located on relatively flat land, mostresidential areas are clustered on the surrounding hills. Inwinter, damp weather followed by freezing conditions can transforma quick journey to work into a lengthy and perilous expedition.
Wearing socks over footwear significantly improved traction. Themean self-reported slipperiness scores in the intervention andcontrol groups were 1.6 (SD 1.14) and 2.9 (SD 1.32) respectively(difference in means 1.3, 95%CI: 0.4-2.3). This differenceincreased to 1.4 (95%CI: 0.4-2.3) after adjusting for sex. Therewas a high level of agreement between self-rated and observer-ratedslipperiness (r=0.70).
Despite some residual scientific uncertainty, because of thehigh frequency of ice-related falls in our population, the cheapand simple nature of the socks-over-shoes intervention, and theabsence of physical harm (if correctly fitted), we feel inspired tojoin an eminent professor, herself a long-time proponent of socks,in adopting this practice this winter.
Competing interests: None known. In particular, none of theauthors has financial links with sock manufacturers and none of usown sheep.
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