Is It Safe to Drive Without Shoes? | Is It Illegal?


Bare Feet on Vehicle Pedals

It’s summertime, and you are about to go for a drive. Naturally, you are wearing your go-to summer footwear — a pair of slightly worn-out but super comfy flip-flops. The question is: is it better to drive in your flip-flops, or should you toss them on the back seat and drive barefoot instead? 

It is generally safe to drive without shoes. What’s more, driving barefoot is preferable to driving in flip-flops, high heels, platforms, and certain types of boots. That being said, the safest and most comfortable footwear for driving is a flat shoe with a non-slip sole. 

If you are thinking of going for a barefoot ride, make sure to read the pros and cons of driving without shoes below. Toward the end of this post, you will also find a few expert tips on how to choose driving footwear. Investing in the right type of shoes will not only ensure your comfort on the road but can also save your life — and that of others. 

First Things First: Is Barefoot Driving Even Legal?

As surprising as it may sound — yes.

Barefoot driving is legal in most countries around the world as well as in all 50 U.S. states. Strangely enough, many Americans are under the false impression that driving without shoes is against the law. That, however, is nothing but an urban myth, albeit a very persistent one.

How do we know that? In 1994, a man named Jason Heimbaugh contacted the departments of motor vehicles of all fifty states and the District of Columbia to ask if barefoot driving was legal. Eventually, all fifty departments wrote back to confirm that it was — and the law has not changed ever since. 

Why Wearing No Shoes Is Better Than Wearing the Wrong Ones

When driving, you want to be able to gauge the exact amount of pressure required by the pedals to reach the desired acceleration or braking at all times. This is critical for your and everyone else’s safety. 

However, the problem is that many types of footwear will not allow you to feel the pedals properly. Some examples include platforms, wedges, chunky boots, and any other shoes with soles that are on the thicker side. 

Furthermore, some shoes, such as ankle or knee-high boots, can be too rigid. As a result, they may end up constricting the movement of your feet. That’s another health and safety hazard: you want to be able to flex and bend your feet deep enough so as to have full control over the brake and accelerator. 

Another common problem when driving with shoes is the lack of a firm grip on the pedals. If the soles are too smooth, the shoe could slide off the pedal when you least expect it. That might also happen if your soles are wet. And if you are driving in flip-flops, you risk your feet sliding off your Havaianas at any moment: they are literally hanging by a single piece of strap. 

And don’t even get us started on high heels! They provide your feet with the least amount of support. To further complicate things, heels also often come with platforms, smooth soles, or both. 

So, if your choice is between driving barefoot or wearing any of the types of footwear above, foregoing shoes altogether may very well be your best and safest option. 

The Pros of Barefoot Driving

Driving barefoot will give you an unparalleled feel for the car, the pedals, and the clutch bite point. That can help prevent stalling the vehicle. You will also get a lot more flexibility and a much larger range of movement for your feet.

What’s more, your feet and ankles might not get as tired, swollen, and sweaty as they do when constricted in tight or closed-in shoes, especially after a long drive.  

And as long as your feet are dry, you should also have a fairly secure grip on the pedal.

The Cons of Barefoot Driving

However, there are certain risks that come with driving barefoot. 

First and foremost, your feet may become moist with perspiration. That will make them slippery, causing you to lose your grip on the pedals. That may also happen if you are wearing tights or socks made from nylon or some other slippery material. In any case, no socks or bare skin could ever give you a better grip than high-quality non-slip shoe soles. 

Another thing to consider is that your vehicle’s pedals may require more pressure than your bare feet can handle. Whether you are hitting the brake or the accelerator, a relatively small surface area will end up exerting a high amount of pressure on the ball of your foot. That can be painful and even harmful to your health in the long term. You can also experience cramps or spasms, which may affect your ability to control the vehicle. 

In contrast, if you are wearing shoes, the pressure will get distributed more evenly across the entire surface area of the soles.  

You may not have thought of this: In the event of a traffic accident, shoes may protect your feet from injuries. And that goes for when you step out of the car too, as you may also have to walk over broken glass and other debris. 

What Are the Perfect Driving Shoes?

If you suspect that driving barefoot might not be your cup of tea after all, you should invest in high-quality shoes instead. While they don’t need to have been designed specifically with driving in mind, they should be lightweight and comfortable enough for long hours behind the wheel. 

You also want your driving footwear to be soft, flexible, and not too rigid. The goal here is to ensure unrestricted foot and ankle movement. It’s also a good idea for your shoes to be breathable. That can help prevent perspiration, swelling, and unpleasant odors. 

However, the most important consideration when it comes to driving shoes is the soles. They shouldn’t be too thin or too thick. The ideal thickness is between 0.17 inches (4 mm) and 0.98 inches (2.5 cm). That will allow you to feel the pedals while at the same time supporting your foot. 

Caution: The soles of your chosen footwear should not be smooth; otherwise, you risk jeopardizing your grip. The soles shouldn’t be too wide either, as that may cause you to step on two pedals simultaneously. 

The good news is that you probably don’t need to go out and buy new driving shoes. A decent pair of sneakers, walking, or business shoes should do just fine. They typically fit well and feel comfortable but are also sturdy enough to protect your feet from minor injuries. If you are worried that your shoes might be slippery, you can get these LIPOVOLT Anti-Slip Rubber Soles or a similar product.

Final Thoughts

To recap, driving without shoes is generally safe. It can also be a better option than driving in flip-flops, high heels, platforms, or any type of chunky or rigid footwear. If your feet are bare, you will get a much better feel of the pedals, a more secure grip, and a broader range of movement. Driving barefoot might also feel easier on your feet, especially if they tend to get tired and swollen. 

That said, however, the best and safest option for driving is flat and flexible footwear such as sports, walking, or business shoes with non-slip soles. 

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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