Airbags, antilock braking systems, and motion sensors all exist to keep drivers safe. But could the clothes and shoes we wear while driving put us in danger? Turns out, they might. Before jumping behind the wheel, rethink your outfit choice. Here's why your footwear matters, and what you can do about it.
Not All Shoes Are Good for Driving
When you're driving, you use your feet a lot — pressing the gas, braking, and shifting gears in a manual transmission vehicle. Therefore, having good control of the pedals is a must. For example, if a deer darts onto the road out of nowhere, you need to hit the brakes quickly. You can't do that well if you can't operate the pedals comfortably.
What Shoes Should I Avoid?
Avoid these styles of shoes to drive. If you have to wear one of them while out and about, keep a pair of comfortable shoes in the trunk to change into.
High-heels. There's little surface area on the sole to press on the pedals.
Flip-flops. They can easily get stuck under a pedal.
Wedges. The thick soles make pressing the pedals accurately difficult.
Unlaced shoes. The laces can become tangled in the pedals.
Wide-toe shoes. They can make you accidentally step on two pedals at once.
Smooth-sole shoes (like bowling shoes). There isn't enough traction between the soles and the pedals.
Open-heeled shoes. They don't offer enough support on the heel to allow your foot to shift from one pedal to the other quickly.
Is Driving Barefoot Legal?
Given all that, you might assume that driving with bad shoes (or with no shoes at all) is illegal, right? Not so fast. There aren't any states that have laws against driving barefoot. However, that hasn't stopped some states — like the state of Utah — from strongly encouraging drivers to wear shoes while driving.
But just because you can drive barefoot doesn't mean you should. For starters, your bare foot is more likely to lose grip on the pedal. You'll also have to exert a lot more pressure on the pedals, which you're probably not used to and will tire out your leg muscles quicker.
Can Driving Barefoot Get You Into Trouble?
Driving barefoot could distract you. Your mind will likely be on how the pedal feels and how it rubs against your skin. And as you can imagine, that counts as distracted driving. Yes, distracted driving comes in many forms, and it killed 3,522 people in 2021 alone.
If you got into a fender-bender, law enforcement could point to you not wearing shoes as a distracting factor — and fine you for it.
Best Shoes for Driving
You can't go wrong with a pair of closed-toe, closed-heel, snug-fitting shoes. For example, tennis shoes or sneakers make great driving shoes. Choose ones that have a rugged, medium-thickness grippy sole, so they won't slip from the pedals. If they have laces, be sure to lace them up well!
Get Up to Speed on Your State's Driving Laws
Driving laws can sometimes feel confusing. It's why there are so many myths out there about what is and isn't allowed on the road — like driving barefoot being illegal or that you don't need to yield to pedestrians.
Fortunately, you can leave those myths behind and learn your state's real driving laws in a fun and engaging way. Enroll in an accredited driver's ed course and take classes from home at your own pace. It's the first step in being able to drive!