Driving without shoes - is it illegal?

Driving without shoes - is it illegal?
There’s a great level of uncertainty surrounding whether or not it’s illegal to drive barefoot in the UK, with numerous reasons cited as to why you’re breaking the law if you do so.

While these may all be valid points, none of them are technically correct. Here is the law in a nutshell: it is not illegal to drive in the UK with no shoes on.

You can, in other words, get behind the wheel of a vehicle barefoot, provided you are able to operate the controls safely. If you do so with wet feet, for example, you might be putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely. This is illegal.

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However, driving with no shoes on doesn’t mean it’s right. According to the Driving Standards Agency – the body that regulates the UK driving test – “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

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There are some basic guidelines you should follow when selecting footwear to drive in. Your shoe should:

  • Have a sole no thicker than 10mm…
  • … but the sole should not be too thin or soft.
  • Provide enough grip to stop your foot slipping off the pedals.
  • Not be too heavy.
  • Not limit ankle movement.
  • Be narrow enough to avoid accidentally depressing two pedals at once.

This does technically categorise some types of footwear – such as high-heels and flip-flops – unsuitable for piloting a car.

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While light, flimsy and impractical footwear can be dangerous, so can sturdy, robust shoes, such as walking or snow boots.

It’s important to have a good base and grip to apply pressure to the pedals, but you need a certain degree of finesse to manipulate the controls. If not, you could strike the brake and accelerator together, producing a heart-in-mouth incident.

Of course, this all doesn’t stop some people. Plenty of motorists do drive in shoes that don’t afford them the proper control over the car. You wouldn’t go for a jog in high heels or flip-flops, so why use them when you’re behind the wheel?

Many do. According to research by insurance price comparison website Confused.com, 40% of women take to the roads in high heels, while 39% wear flip-flops and 24% go barefoot.

Over a quarter of male drivers (27%) admitted to driving in flip-flops, too, while 22% will also wear nothing on their feet.

RAC Verdict

Driving in less than practical shoes – or no shoes at all for that matter – is not illegal, but you have a responsibility as a driver to uphold standards on the road.

If your selection of footwear hampers that, you’re putting yourself at risk.

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Have you ever driven barefoot?