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Maybe you’re wearing six-inch high heels, or perhaps you’ve just gotten off the beach, and your flip-flops are already packed. Whatever the reason, you’re thinking of driving barefoot. Is it legal to do so? Surprisingly, many states have no specific laws against driving without shoes. However, whether it’s advisable to go barefoot or not is another matter entirely. While arguments are on both sides, it is generally not a good idea. Whether you’re a barefoot enthusiast or just dipping your toes into driving this way (pun intended), here are some things you should consider before starting your drive sans footwear.
The most significant consideration one must take before they start driving barefoot is whether it is safe to drive in that way. One could argue that it is entirely safe to drive barefoot, but the vast majority of experts say otherwise. There are a few reasons for this. First, without your shoes, you risk your foot slipping off the pedal. This is especially true when your feet are sweaty or wet, as this can prevent the traction needed to press down properly. Even if you’re not completely barefoot and wearing socks or nylons, you lack this essential traction to keep your foot where it needs to be. This lack of support can obviously cause accidents if your foot slips off either the gas or brake pedal. Also, you should consider older cars and the complications that can occur with them. Many older vehicles have pedals that stick. If this is the case for your car or a car you’re driving, you will need to apply more pressure on either the clutch or gas/brake pedal. This additional pressure can be difficult to apply without shoes.
Another point to consider is that driving barefoot can be distracting. For example, if you stub your toe on the pedal or step on a rock or other miscellaneous item on your floor mat, you may be so focused on the discomfort that you won’t be paying enough attention to the road. Not to mention any potential items that can fall onto your foot as you drive or your loose shoes getting in the way.
In fact, because of these safety issues, there are some states that can penalize you with a reckless driving charge if you are driving barefoot and cause an accident. A reckless driving violation can be significantly detrimental to your insurance. Insurance companies will either increase your rates for this type of charge or deny you insurance altogether. It may be a small price to pay for those who are adamant about not wearing shoes while driving. But for many others, it’s not worth the risk.
Most drivers may not consider the health implications of driving barefoot. And believe it or not, there are a number of them. For example, shoes can help to protect your feet in the event of an accident. Suppose you’re in a car accident and not wearing shoes. Shards of glass can potentially be lodged into your foot, or other debris can injure you more than if you had a layer of protection. Similarly, you risk breaking your toes or foot by not having that extra cushion that socks or shoes can provide.
Proponents of driving barefoot state that shoes prevent you from having complete control of the pedal, as your feet allow you to have full sensory feedback. However, there is still a risk that your toes or feet can cramp up or spasm. In these cases, you would actually have less control of the pedal and inadvertently cause accidents as a result.
Driving barefoot can affect your podiatric health even without the risk of getting into an accident. As you press down on the gas or brake pedal without shoes, the pressure is focused primarily on the ball of your foot instead of being evenly distributed by the sole of your shoe. This repeated pressure over time can cause a plantar plate tear in your foot, which can be painful. A plantar plate tear can also lead to deformities if not treated and may require surgery to fix.
If that wasn’t enough to scare you away from driving barefoot, some health experts claim that going barefoot can cause you to be exposed to heavy metals, which at high levels can lead to poisoning. This is because some heavy metals such as antimony, lead, and tin are used in manufacturing brake linings. Drivers who do not wear shoes risk these metals being absorbed through their skin and causing health complications in the future.
The health impacts of driving barefoot may seem dramatic, but you should consider some practical considerations. Almost everywhere you are driving to will require you to wear shoes when you get there. Public places often do not allow barefoot patrons. Therefore, it’s simply more efficient to wear shoes in the car so you can hop right out when you arrive at your destination. In addition, in the event of an accident, you may need to evacuate quickly. You may not have time to find your shoes and put them on before exiting the car.
You also may not live in a climate where going barefoot is very practical. For example, if the roads get wet, snowy, or icy, wearing the appropriate footwear is essential outside your car. Why bother taking them off just for the drive?
If driving barefoot isn’t an option, then what should you wear while driving? Experts say the best shoes for driving are lightweight, comfortable, and flexible. They should allow you to freely move your foot and ankle without restriction and not contain any material or pieces that could get stuck under the pedals. As such, these recommendations mean flip flops, high heels, or any boot are off the list. In fact, the following shoes are considered generally unsafe for driving:
- High heels
- Sandals with open heels
- Shoes with long laces
- Boots or shoes with thick soles
- Slip-on shoes
- Slippery shoes
Generally, shoes without a heel and a rubber sole are a good idea. And while you don’t need to purchase new shoes for driving, you should make sure whatever you wear is not a driving hazard. A good rule of thumb is that if you can walk without tripping or ride a bike with a specific pair of shoes, they’re probably ok for driving.
Driving barefoot is completely legal in many states and won’t affect whether your insurance company will cover an accident. However, this does not mean it doesn’t come without consequence. Before you make the decision to drive without shoes, you should take the safety, health, and overall practicality into consideration. While it may not be the safest option, you ultimately need to choose however you’ll feel most comfortable. And at the end of the day, if you find that the benefits of driving barefoot outweigh any risks for you, then kick off those shoes and drive!