Tai Chi Walking 

  How to walk safely on slippery ground

One of the most important lessons in the Fearless Falling classes is "Tai Chi Walking."  This means balancing on the rear leg, and reaching out with the front foot, placing it gently on the ground, and then smoothly transferring your weight forward into the front foot and leg.

You cannot walk in a normal manner and be safe on a slippery or uneven surface.  

The main problem is that your forward momentum puts much more force in a forward horizontal direction when the front foot strikes the ground.  Normal walking is quite efficient: on a flat path we recover about 65% of our energy by planting the front foot and letting our momentum carry us forward and over it.  In a normal walking gait, every step is actually a forward fall, caught by our front foot as shown below.
normal walk

But, if there is no friction to hold the front foot it shoots forward, and driven by momentum and your weight pressing into the skidding leg, down you can go.  In the image below, a front mis-step and slip is simulated:

walk and slip

Ideally, you can use "Tai chi walking" to reduce the horizontal slipping force to nearly zero.  You balance on one leg while the other reaches out "empty" with no weight.  When the front foot touches the ground you smoothly transfer your weight from the back leg to the front leg: the force in the front foot is almost straight down.  When all your weight is on the front foot the empty back foot is picked up and gently moved to the front, placed on the ground, and the cycle repeats.  This image below shows the slow and exaggerated stepping movement from the Tai chi form.  Although the step is large, there is no forward push on the front foot, or rearward push-off from the back foot.

taiji walk

This may sound complicated but you did it all the time as a kid: "walking tiptoe" we called it.  Whether you touch with the toe or the heel first the important thing is that there is hardly any weight on the foot when it makes contact.

To walk more safely you must give up some efficiency and speed:  reduce your momentum by walking more slowly and shorten your stride length to shrink the horizontal force pushing forward on the front foot.  Step forward lightly and carefully.

Be sensible, pay attention, and shift into more of a "Tai chi walking" movement when crossing slippery or unsure  areas.

But, don't drag your feet by shuffling, or bend your head over to look straight down.