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Published Sep 24, 2022 9:15 AM
If you live in a region that gets any amount of snow in the winter, then you need a good snow shovel. While shoveling snow is hard work, and painful for senior citizens and people with chronic joint or muscle pain, it is the best (and most affordable) means of digging out after a snowstorm. Frankly, there are health risks associated with shoveling, and we’d advise older homeowners with underlying health concerns to hand the responsibility to someone else. If you have to, though, the best snow shovels for seniors will help you safely clear your walkways and driveways.
Before you buy: The health risks of shoveling snow
Shoveling snow is strenuous labor. If you aren’t regularly working out or at least working around the house, it should not be the one physically taxing chore you do every year. With poor form, poor fitness, or poor equipment, you can hurt your back, and put yourself at an increased risk of a heart attack.
In our guide to the best snow blowers for elderly people, we spoke to Dr. Claire Ankuda, assistant professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, who warned that clearing snow is always risky for older people with physical limitations, and that same advice applies here.
Colder temperatures and the intense physical exertion of shoveling snow can push your cardiovascular system, specifically your heart, potentially leading to a cardiac event. It is even more dangerous if you have a pre-existing condition like coronary disease, according to the American Heart Association.
The cardiovascular demands of snow shoveling are akin to an intense workout. As you raise and lower your arms, your blood pressure will increase and put more strain on your heart. The cold air you inhale may also contribute to the problem by constricting blood vessels, including your coronary arteries.
We highly recommend that anyone with muscle, joint, or coronary health issues consider hiring professionals to clear the snow from their homes. If that isn’t an option, buy a snow blower and use it as much as possible before picking up a snow shovel. As any homeowner will tell you, though, a snow blower can’t clear every nook and cranny of your outdoor space, so using a shovel may be necessary from time to time. If you have to shovel, take precautions before stepping outside: Stretch before you begin to warm your body up, and take frequent breaks.
How we picked the best snow shovel for seniors
I’ve been writing about gear for over a decade for sites like TechnoBuffalo, CNN Underscored, and Popular Science. During that time, I’ve covered everything from the best snow blowers to the best energy-efficient air conditioners. To put this guide together, I drew on PopSci’s past research and personal insight for recommending the best snow blowers for elderly people and the best snow shovels. I also considered recent reviews from experts and users to make sure our recommendations are up to date as we get closer to the snow season.
What to look for when picking the best snow shovel
A snow shovel should be light, durable, and offer an ergonomic design that puts less strain on your back. Everything from the material to the shape of the handle and the scoop will significantly impact the overall experience. You shouldn’t just grab the first one you can find at the hardware store the day before a blizzard. Take your time, and keep these things in mind while shopping for a new snow shovel.
You’ll come across three main types of snow shovels, which are mostly designed by the shape of their blades, or the part you use for scooping, pushing, and lifting the snow. Some shovels are designed to lift snow, others to push it. Some aren’t actually designed for snow removal at all.
A corn scoop shovel, or grain shovel, features a straight handle and a flat blade in the shape of a spade. While they’re often heavy enough to cut through heavy, ice-covered snow, they’re rarely the best choice for shoveling. The flat, narrow blade can’t hold very much snow and isn’t designed for pushing it around.
A snow pusher shovel is, as the name implies, designed to push snow out of the way rather than scooping it up. The wide, curved blade is excellent for moving light, unpacked snow, especially from long walkways and driveways. A pusher blade takes less effort to use, especially in drier snow, but they’re not as easy to maneuver on narrow paths and stairs.
A combo shovel splits the difference between a corn scoop design and a pusher. They generally feature a bent or curved handle and a wide blade with a deep well that can scoop and push dense snow. Thanks to the ergonomic handle, you can scoop more snow without straining your back.
Realistically, we’d recommend anyone who gets snow multiple times a year have a combo shovel and a pusher. The combo shovel is the best universal option—it can handle all kinds of snow well. Depending on the layout of your home, you may be able to use a pusher to clear some pathways without lifting much snow, which is both easier and safer.
The handle design of a snow shovel is also essential. Many basic shovels have a traditional, straight handle, which allows you to dig deep into a snowbank. But you don’t want a straight handle: It forces you to bend over more, putting strain on your back and making the act of shoveling harder.
Instead, look for a shovel with a curved handle. An ergonomic curve in the handle positions your leading hand higher, guiding you to better posture and less back pain. They’re just as stable and durable as any other shovel, so there’s no downside here.
Some snow shovels offer a more pronounced bend close to the blade, which does come with a tradeoff. The deep-bend handle makes things even easier on your back, but the more pronounced bend requires more effort for users to lift snow and toss it aside.
Manufacturers will make shovel blades from all kinds of materials, including plastic, steel, and aluminum. For the average homeowner, a lighter shovel is almost always better, so plastic is the way to go. It’s lightweight yet still offers excellent durability when scooping and pushing. Shovel blades made of steel or aluminum are better for breaking down icy snow, but they’re much heavier, so you’re more likely to hurt yourself. Metal shovels may also scratch or damage delicate surfaces like wood patios or stone tiles.
Most of us think of the snow shovel as a very simple piece of equipment, but there are some bells and whistles that you may find on a more expensive model. Some shovels feature a wear strip, which is a small plastic or metal strip that protects the end of the blade. If possible, we recommend looking for a plastic wear strip with a rounded edge.
There are also useful third-party accessories: If you buy a shovel with a straight handle, you can get an attachable front-hand grip for about $10, which can improve your posture just like a curved handle.
The best snow shovels for seniors: Reviews & Recommendations
The snow shovel isn’t a complicated tool, but it’s worth buying the right one. Above all, keep safety in mind, and choose a shovel that will make things easier on your body. The best snow shovels for seniors come in a surprising variety of shapes and sizes, which we hope will help you have an easy winter season.
Best overall: True Temper 18-inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover
Why it made the cut: True Temper’s Mountain Mover features a wide blade, ergonomic handle, and a lightweight, durable blade.
- Weight: 3 pounds
- Type: Combo
- Material: Plastic, metal
- Handle length: 37.4 inches
- Blade width: 18 inches
- Comfortable design
- Strong, wide blade
- We wish a second grip on the handle came standard
The True Temper 18-inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover features a durable design, a curved aluminum handle, and an 18-inch-wide plastic blade. It’s light for its size—just 3 pounds—and the wide combo-style blade makes it a versatile option for clearing small patios and long walkways. The oversized grip is big enough to accommodate hands wearing big winter gloves, and it works with a handle attachment, providing users with improved leverage when scooping snow. The blade even features a plastic wear strip, which will extend its lifespan and keep it from gouging your hardwood deck.
Best pusher: The Snowplow 36-inch Wide Model
Why it made the cut: The Snowplow’s 36-inch blade makes it a breeze to uncover wide surfaces.
- Weight: 5.84 pounds
- Type: Pusher
- Material: Plastic, fiberglass
- Handle length: 47 inches
- Blade width: 36 inches
- Wide blade
- Works well on various surfaces
- Great for breaking up ice
The ultrawide Snowplow shovel is ideal for cutting paths in unpacked snowfall on sidewalks and driveways. It features a 36-inch plastic blade, allowing users to create a huge path in a single pass. It also features a sharp edge when flipped over that you can use to scrape and break up clumps of ice.
It’s worth noting that you will need to assemble the Snowplow before using it, and some reviewers have noted the bolts on the shovel can come loose if not installed correctly. If you don’t mind doing a little prep, though, it can make clearing paths a whole lot easier.
Best with wheels: Orientools Heavy Duty Rolling Snow Pusher
Why it made the cut: The snow pusher’s heavy-duty rubber tires and adjustable handle make it easier to move light-to-moderate snow.
- Weight: 12.3 pounds
- Type: Pusher
- Material: Plastic, steel
- Handle length: 45 – 50 inches
- Blade width: 25 inches
- Heavy duty design
- Large tires
- Adjustable handle
If you want to shovel without bending down, the OrienTools Heavy Duty Rolling Snow Shovel lets you carve a path without scooping and lifting any snow at all. It’s a 25-inch shovel blade on wheels, with a wide, two-handed handle that you can push like a hand truck or a shopping cart, creating a path through up to 5 inches of snow. It isn’t cheap, but its extreme durability and heavy-duty rubber wheels make it a good choice for seniors with larger areas to clear. Plus, the adjustable handle allows you to maintain proper posture, no matter your height, saving your back from aches and pains.
Best ergonomic: Snow Joe Shovelution Strain-Reducing Snow Shovel
Why it made the cut: With a spring-assisted handle, the Snow Joe Shovelution takes it easy on your back.
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
- Type: Combo
- Material: Aluminum
- Handle length: 50 inches
- Blade width: 20 inches
- Second handle
- Combo blade
- Lightweight and durable
- Metal wear strip isn’t suitable for wood or stone surfaces
The Snow Joe Shovelution is the most novel snow shovel we’ve seen in a long time. It’s a 20-inch combo-style shovel with a secondary, “spring-assist” handle for your lead hand. This allows you to lift a shovel full of snow while only barely bending your back. When you pull the snow free, the bendable front handle snaps back to position, flinging the snow forward without any effort. The Shovelution is very lightweight and suited for tackling all kinds of jobs.
It isn’t perfect for every situation: The hard edge will scuff up wood and tile. The snow-flinging action forces you to pile snow in front of you, which may impact how you shovel. Still, the Snow Joe Shovelution is far and away the most interesting snow shovel we’ve looked at.
Best budget: True Temper 16-inch Poly Snow Shovel
Why it made the cut: True Temper’s affordable snow shovel is simple but effective.
- Weight: 2.14 pounds
- Type: Combo
- Material: Plastic, steel
- Handle length: 36 inches
- Blade width: 16 inches
- Very affordable
- Good for shoveling and pushing
- Straight handle isn’t great for your back
True Temper, the company behind our top pick, also makes a basic, but solid combo-style snow shovel. As the name suggests, this model features a 16-inch plastic blade suited for shoveling and pushing snow. The plastic blade won’t scratch your deck or patio, and its steel grip is made for gloved hands. This shovel’s best asset is its weight: At only 2.14 pounds, it’s easy to maneuver. This shovel is smaller than many of our other picks, and it lacks a curved handle, so it isn’t exactly ideal. That said, it’s close enough that we’d recommend it over picking up the first thing you can find at a store.
Q: How much do snow shovels cost?
Snow shovel prices vary depending on the blade type, materials, and additional features. That said, they aren’t especially expensive. Our best overall pick costs just under $30. Some more expensive options, like the Orientools Heavy Duty Rolling Snow Pusher costs as much as $70, while our budget pick costs only $12. Snow shovels are very durable, so all of them should last many years.
Q: Is a plastic or metal snow shovel better?
As we explained, plastic snow shovels are lighter, easier to use, and won’t damage delicate surfaces. That said, metal shovels can help you push deeper into frozen snowbanks, and break up solid ice. We recommend a plastic snow shovel for seniors with back, joint, or heart problems who should minimize their effort as much as possible.
Q: How can you keep snow from sticking to the snow shovel?
According to AccuWeather, coating your shovel blade in a lubricant like vegetable oil or cooking spray can keep snow from sticking to your shovel.
Q: How do you make snow shoveling easier?
Beyond buying the right snow shovel, we recommend making a plan before you start shoveling, so you spend less time working out in the cold. We also recommend stretching before shoveling: It won’t make the work “easier,” but you’re less likely to get hurt or feel aches and pains afterward. Lastly, if you’re using a shovel with a straight handle, consider buying a front handle attachment. Having a better, more ergonomic grip on your shovel will ease the strain on your back.
Q: Should you shovel while it is still snowing?
If you’re expecting a light snowfall, you might want to consider shoveling while it’s still coming down. It may sound counterintuitive, but the snow may freeze if you let it sit, especially if snow falls overnight. That said, shoveling multiple times per day may be too exhausting for some people. Use your best judgment and only shovel if you feel up to the task. In heavy snowstorms, it’s better to wait until the sky clears.
Q: At what age should you stop shoveling snow?
There’s no specific age for when you should stop shoveling snow. If you have chronic health conditions, particularly any issues with your heart, you should not shovel snow. Likewise, if you have muscle or joint pain, you should avoid shoveling snow. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor before picking up your shovel.
Final thoughts on the best snow shovel for seniors
If you’re unsure if your body can handle the stress and strain of a hard workout, you should think twice about shoveling snow. For seniors with chronic health issues, it can be a serious health risk if you push yourself too hard. If you have the option, consider hiring someone to shovel for you.
We know that’s not practical for everyone, though. If you have to do it yourself, buying one of the best snow shovels will make things at least a little bit easier on you.