This is one of those questions that often stumps drivers. There’s lots of hearsay that it’s illegal to drive without shoes on, but the short and simple answer is no, it’s not.
Quite where the rumour comes from is unknown, but it seems to persist. Whilst driving barefoot might not be as safe as driving in strong sturdy shoes, it still isn’t an illegal offence.
So why do people think it’s illegal?
It’s illegal to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner and wearing no shoes heightens the chance of you having an accident because you can’t operate the foot pedals as deftly when not wearing any shoes. When going au naturel in the feet department, you exert less pressure in your feet, meaning it would be harder for you to perform an emergency stop.
While it might be tempting to take your shoes off in warmer weather, you could be putting yourself and others at risk by operating the pedals with slippy and sweaty feet, just like if you were to drive a car with wet shoes on.
It’s not just bare feet that are a grey area of driving. High heels are also another type of shoe that make you less likely to be able to operate a car properly, with the heels making it harder to exert the right amount of pressure on the pedals.
What should I wear on my feet?
The type of shoe you wear should fit the Goldilocks standard – that is, they should be “just right.” They shouldn’t be too flimsy (flip flops) but also shouldn’t be too sturdy (walking boots). The sole shouldn’t be too thin or thick and should provide grip to prevent your feet from slipping off the pedals.
You also don’t want to wear anything too heavy, or too wide in case you press two pedals at once. So put away those clown shoes!
Ideally you need a shoe that lets you feel the pedals beneath your feet but provides you with grip and cover so you can exert the right amount of pressure on the pedals.
In addition to ensuring you wear the right footwear while operating a car, you should also take steps to maintain good driving skills such as planning your route, knowing what all the controls in the car do and making sure you have enough petrol to get to where you’re going. In addition to this, having breakdown cover on your car reduces the worry if anything goes wrong. All this put together should provide you with a smooth journey.
So whilst driving barefoot isn’t against the law, it’s not recommended by road safety experts. The Highway Code says you should “make sure clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.”
If you ever feel tempted to get your tootsies out, be prepared to provide a little more pressure than usual to the pedals, and make sure that you’re being extra vigilant in case you have to react quickly.