Slips, Trips, and Falls

A Toronto Lab Studies Winter Footwear Slip Resistance

When wintertime arrives in your part of the world, the chance that you’ll slip and fall on icy or slushy surfaces naturally increases. Fortunately, scientists are looking for ways to make such accidents less likely by testing the interface between footwear and walking surface.

Take, for example, the research programs at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network (TRI). A method developed by TRI’s iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation, and Technology) Center for Rehabilitation Research, had participants — ou tfitted in boots, as well as harnesses for their protection — walk on inclines at various angles. The testing happened in iDAPT’s “WinterLab,” a chamber that recreates typical Canadian winter conditions, including sub-freezing temperatures, snow- and ice-covered surfaces, and winds up to 30 km/hour, all within the safety of a controlled laboratory setting.  

The result? According to Dr. Geoff Fernie, Institute direcotor at TRI, only 10 pairs of boots out of 98 fully withstood the slippery conditions ( While this might seem discouraging, Fernie says that new technologies that increase the grip that boot soles have on ice are in the works and these innovations will be incorporated into an increasing number of boots.

John Brault, chairman of ASTM’s committee on pedestrian/walkway safety and footwear (F13), notes the significance of this research. 

“TRI-iDAPT’s practical and innovative approach to cold-weather footwear research will certainly result in improved pedestrian safety,” says Brault, president, Semper Scientific. “I’m particularly encouraged that their ‘top picks’ for boot soles in icy conditions are produced by F13 member-companies. Our current F13 research relies on a similar research model of using human subjects to rank walkway surface slipperiness that we hope leads to equally impressive results.”

Standards developed by Subcommittee F13.30 on Footwear are instrumental in any study of slip resistance. Primary among these standards is a test method that measures the slip resistance of footwear and test surfaces (F2913).

F2913 simulates walking in specific conditions while wearing specific types of footwear. It is unique among ASTM slip performance standards since it focuses on evaluating the slip performance of footwear, as opposed to flooring materials. 

F13 members will participate in the Slips, Trips, and Falls International Conference on June 15-16 in Toronto. Hosted by iDAPT, the conference will coincide with F13’s June meeting in Toronto and will bring together risk and safety managers, footwear and flooring manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and many others with an interest in slip, trip, and fall research. Researchers, policy makers, technical experts, and others from around the world will present their latest work, products, and exchange research ideas.

One of the major goals of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is to help people overcome everyday challenges. The research and standards work of both TRI and F13 will help us all with the challenge of traipsing on our own icy, slushy hometown sidewalks.

Issue Month: 
Issue Year: 
Industry Sectors: 
Consumer Products