There’s a lot to hate about the wintertime: the salt that gets kicked up on the road, gray skies, the 700 or so people who die from hypothermia in America each year due to lacking proper shelter, or the thousands of auto accidents that occur due to icy roads.
Another very real and very inconvenient part of winter is simply walking outside of your home without slipping and getting injured. The CDC reports that around 1 million people are injured annually from slips and falls and that the rate of bodily harm from this specific scenario increases “significantly as temperatures decline.”
However, there is a way to make sure you can walk outside in even the iciest of conditions without falling, if a TikTok experiment is to be believed. At the risk of becoming part of someone’s social media schadenfreude compilation, the hack involves an item you probably are wearing on your feet right now.
A TikToker named Jojo (@imliterallymexican) uploaded a video where this “life hack,” as she calls it, was tested and the results were staggering.
The video begins with Jojo recording a man who stands at the front door of a home. He’s wearing a winter coat and a hat, and extricates a pair of socks from his jacket pocket.
“So apparently if you put on socks on the outside of your shoes you can walk on the ice better,” he says.
As any thorough TikTok scientist would do, the man then begins to test this hypothesis. He then opens the door to reveal an outside porch and a portion of a residential street and sidewalk covered in a layer of snow.
First, he needs to see what it’s like walking outside without the socks and shows that even the thought of walking is nearly impossible in a standard pair of sneakers. The thin layer of ice has him slipping and sliding and if it wasn’t for his impressive balance, he would’ve fallen back-first on the pavement.
Once back inside the house, he whips the socks out again and then puts them over his sneakers.
“Pretty attractive he quips,” before saying, “Moment of truth.” He ventures outdoors onto the icy porch again to assess whether or not the ice-walking hack works, but not before tapping the bottom of his trusty feet for good luck.
He gingerly tests his foot on the mound of ice then fully puts his weight on it—he appears to be instantly stunned.
“Oh no way,” he says.
“Really?” the person recording says.
“No way,” he repeats as he walks down the porch steps without any problem whatsoever—it appears that the socks hack is the real deal when it comes to walking on ice.
“No way!” he exclaims once more as he ambles into the middle of the street and back up the porch steps.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Jojo via TikTok comment for further information. Viewers seemed impressed that it worked, leaving one TikToker to come up with a grippy hack of their own.
“imma put socks on my tires,” they commented, which was a thought echoed by another user: “Okay so instead of chains or snow tires, we just need to have Hanes start making us tire socks.”
Someone else thought of a way to up the ante with a more specific kind of footwear, writing, “Has anyone tried grippy hospital socks?”
Then there was a user who thought the TikTok would come back to bite the TikToker in the behind, saying, “POV: your boss seeing this, after you said it was too icy to come to work.”
If for any reason you’re dubious of social media “hacks” and think that perhaps this TikToker is trying to prank a bunch of people into slipping on ice, there have been studies conducted on this practice. The local government for the town of Blackburn in the United Kingdom posted a lengthy slideshow extolling the benefits of putting socks over one’s shoes for a more secure snow/ice walking experience: “Wearing socks over shoes appears to be an effective and inexpensive method to reduce the likelihood of slipping on icy footpaths. That was the conclusion of a study reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal which tested the widely-known tip.”
So why does it work so well? That’s what one Medium piece published by David Latchman looks into, and it seems to have to do with the fundamental way that ice operates. The reason why it’s so slippery is because there’s a “quasi-liquid layer on the surface of ice” leaving them “free to move like the molecules of liquid water.” And since “these molecules remain semi-liquid and provide lubrication…friction is not necessary.” So wearing boots with a rough tread won’t help as much as wearing a pair of socks, which helps to soak up the near-imperceptible layer of liquid on top of ice, which allows people to walk, slip-free.
So if you’re worried about falling on ice and cracking your head, bust out some thick pairs of old socks and put them over your kicks—it’s a scientifically proven way to ensure you don’t end up like this infamous outdoor runner who crashed to the ground directly after a TV interview.
If only they knew about the socks hack.