Slipping and sliding for science

(NBC News) – Trips to the emergency room spike each year when the ground gets slippery with ice.

“A lot of broken bones,” says Dr. Sanjeev Malik of Northwestern Medicine. “In particular, wrist fractures are more common with the icy weather as people have slips and falls.”

Canadian researchers are working on the problem.

Related: Keeping your pets safe from the cold weather

“We all go out and put on snow tires in the winter, or at least in this part of the world we do, but no one gives much about their shoes,” explains Dr. Geoff Fernie of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Researchers at the institute are slipping and sliding in the name of science. They’ve tested 98 boots on how well they do on ice. Most failed. Researchers found it’s not the depth of the tread, but the material of the sole that matters.

Some of the highest rated boots have granules of carbide embedded in their soles.

“When you run your hand over it, it feels like a very rough sandpaper and it scratches into the surface,” Dr. Fernie says.

The Toronto researchers are sharing their findings with the boot industry to improve the next generation of frost-proof footwear.

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