Don't Walk Like a Penguin

Don't Walk Like a Penguin

February 13, 2024

Debunking the Penguin Walk

A common theme we have heard across the country with our Slip Simulator™ is that people have been told to walk like a penguin on slippery surfaces. Walking like a penguin on ice seems like perfectly fine advice, after all penguins thrive in icy environments. However, we have found this advice it is not the best when applied to humans.  


A penguin’s anatomical build is very different from a human. Though hard to see on the outside underneath their feathers, penguins are in a permanent squat all the time which results in a very low center of mass. The common advice given is to imitate the stance of a penguin, by widening your feet to shoulder width, pointing the toes out and lowering your center of mass; mimicking a waddle motion. Unfortunately, the wide stance forces you to push away from your body with your feet with each step. On slippery surfaces like ice, this can cause your feet to slip outwards, potentially losing control and falling. Additionally, placing the arms out like wings tends to stiffen your upper body and causes you to over-react and potentially lose balance when you begin to slip. Your body needs to be relaxed, the more relaxed you are, the more your body can absorb a slip.

Skeleton of a Rockhopper Penguin. Penguins are constantly "squatting" when they walk.


Humans were meant to walk upright and most of our bodyweight is at our core. Instead of widening our stance and "waddling", we need to balance that weight over our feet and keep all of that weight as centered as possible. With the use of our Slip Simulator™ we teach a technique that is more of a marching motion.


·        Keep your head up and look forward - Do not look down

·        Keep your shoulders back - Do not lean forward

·        Lift your feet at the knee - Do not shuffle

·        Take half steps with a flat foot - Do not walk heel to toe with long strides


To better present our point of view on the “Walk like a Penguin” vs. our training to “March like a Soldier”, here are two videos of the different techniques on our Slip Simulator™. Watch as the individual tries both methods to navigate across the extremely slick floor of the Slip Simulator™.

While the “Walk like a Penguin” technique has gained a lot of traction with marketing campaigns, its traction on slick surfaces is less effective. Our “Learn by Doing” philosophy has been proven to reduce slips, trips and falls. Having the training replicate hazardous surfaces or obstacles most encountered by individuals has an impact on their understanding of the risks. This understanding will help to change their behavior when they are in these situations.  


So the next time the sidewalks and parking lots are slick and hazardous and someone tells you to “Walk like a Penguin”, think instead about “Marching like a Soldier”.

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