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Driving Barefoot; Driving in Thongs; Driving in High Heels

Pair-pink-flip-flop-007“You can’t wear those when pay for homework you’re driving,” my father said, pointing to the high-heeled shoes I was wearing at the tender age of sixteen when I was getting one of my first driving lessons.  “There’s no way that you can operate the pedals properly in those.” So I ended up taking that lesson driving barefoot.

I have to confess that I like driving barefoot.  People talk about enjoying the feeling of the steering wheel and the more hands-on method of driving provided by manual gearboxes or paddle-flapper semiautomatic gear shifting.  But not much has been mentioned about the sensory pleasure and subtlety of what you do with your feet. If anything, the trend seems to be to use your feet as little as possible, given the trend towards auto-braking on top of automatic transmissions and cruise control.  A naked foot applies brake and accelerator (OK, I drive an automatic) with minute shades of control.  A little pressure here, a slight bit of easing off here, a brief flicker of the brake there.  Simply shoving one’s hoof down for maximum acceleration followed by jamming on the brakes seems, well, crude. Like scribbling with a vivid marker, whereas driving barefoot is more like delicate pencil sketching.

Cars tend to like that sort of driving, too, as it doesn’t create as much wear and tear.  So does your wallet, for the same reason.

However, the problem with driving barefoot comes at the end of the journey, as where you’re parked is less likely to be pleasant to walk on without something between you and the elements. Quite often in the warmer months, that something is a pair of thong sandals (aka flip-flops or jandals or whatever else you want to call them – you know the things I mean!).  All the same, I don’t drive in them.

Contrary to popular myth, it is legal to drive barefoot (how could it not be?) and it is also legal to drive in thongs, except, apparently, in Victoria.  However, it isn’t safe to drive in thongs, even though a lot of people do it, especially in our warm climate.  There have been road safety studies in various parts of the world, and it seems that thongs might slip off and interfere with the operation of the brake and the accelerator because they can jam underneath the pedals.  Describing and visualising how this happens can be tricky – the best bet would be to go out to your car in a pair of thongs and, with the engine off, fidget your feet around a lot and see what happens.

It’s also a dumb idea to kick your thongs off and leave them floating around by your feet, as they can still get stuck and/or in the way.  Chuck them into the passenger seat or stick them in the glove box (who keeps driving gloves in the glove box these days, anyway?).

You do get some stories about people not braking properly when driving barefoot because a sharp stone is sitting on the brake pedal and they jerk their foot back automatically.  But how often does this sort of thing happen really?  I usually go through a little ritual of sliding my feet up and down the brake pedal before I start the ignition (partly because I’m readjusting the seat after my husband’s been driving), which gets rid of any stones.

And as for high heels… well, obviously, not many of you guys wear them.  They do put your feet at an awkward angle for applying the pedal (into the passenger seat with them and drive barefoot again).  They also have next to no grip and slide off pedals at the wrong moment into the bargain.  However, this wasn’t the case for one car I’ve driven.  This was a late 80s Alfa Romeo of my grandmother’s, and the accelerator pedal was at an awkward angle that meant that you had to either raise your heel from the floor to operate it or floor the thing.  How Italian is that? Either high heels or furious driving.  The more recent Alfas have, thankfully, corrected this fault.  However, in my grandmother’s car, I struggled along for most of the trip getting a very sore ankle and calf as I drove along with one heel in the air. Then the sneakers came off and I ended up using my bare toes to operate the accelerator. It still hurt and I was glad when that trip was over, but it was a lot better than the high heels.


  1. Sally says:

    I clicked hoping to see the article of my dreams seriously addressing this important issue of unsuitable footwear for driving FINALLY……but it failed miserably and wasted my time big time, as I suspect would be the case for anyone else reading it. It wasn’t funny nor cute or even interesting and supplied no useful information that could be applied by anyone concerned about applying diligent care for safety’s sake.
    I am very disappointed because I am aware how critical it can be to be wearing the correct footwear when driving and it certainly warrants much more effort than this flippant, scant drivel. I am ashamed that I bothered to read it!
    Her father would possibly cover the topic better?

    March 7th, 2014 at 6:44 am

  2. Chris Blackman says:

    I discourage people from driving barefoot after a near miss when driving overseas. The driver was suddenly faced with an emergency while driving quite legally at 100km/h when a truck pulled out in front of him, and due to his bare feet was unable to exert sufficient pressure on the brake pedal to avoid it. True, this was in the days before EBD braking systems, when harder foot pressure was needed for heavier braking, but the lesson in survivability has stuck with me for life. No shoes, no drive.

    March 7th, 2014 at 8:10 am

  3. Tony Palazzo says:

    You are correct, thongs are a no no. Applying the brake in an emergency is very awkward in that you can “very often” end up with the thong jamming under the pedal and only having part of your foot on the pedal. If you have experienced that you will know that it can be painfull under your foot(the sharp end of the pedal digging into the soft part of the foot) and you cannot apply the correct pressure to stop quickly and safely.
    The best thing to use in summer are slip on shoes will soxettes.
    You can take them on & off and be safe – right Dad’s.

    March 7th, 2014 at 8:19 am

  4. Dot says:

    When I got my driver’s licence in 1961, it was not legal to drive in thongs nor bare feet. I had no trouble driving in high heels, even 3″ spikes, but I have always preferred to drive in lace-ups or comfortable fitting flat-heeled shoes. Then it’s one thing you don’t have to think about. When you need to brake suddenly, you don’t have time to think about your feet or footwear.

    March 7th, 2014 at 9:16 am

  5. Rosemary Norris says:

    I have driven in bare feet
    But believing it was illegal not enjoyed the ex perience but now since you point out is not llegal at all will do so and enjoy

    March 7th, 2014 at 10:34 am

  6. Bare Foot all Summer long says:

    On most holidays, esp on the coast, barefoot driving is the norm – who wears shoes to the beach anyway – but I would have to say driving with thongs or high heels or indeed platform shoes is highly unrecommended irrespective of the laws.

    I know someone who was in a nose to tail accident wearing platforms and managed to twist their right ankle quite nicely when attempting to slam on the brake pedal. She even thinks that the shoes may have had something to do with her not being able to apply the brake properly in the fist place. Lesson learnt and she will absolutely not use platforms when driving since. In fact she will bring flat ‘driving shoes’ and put on the platforms/high heels or whatever other fantastic variations on shoes the ladies like to wear, at her destination. Far safer approach.

    March 7th, 2014 at 5:12 pm