You probably haven’t considered it much, but the types of footwear people have on when driving really depends on why they’re driving in the first place. People going to or from an office are probably wearing shiny dress shoes or high heels. Those who spend long days at factories or construction sites are likely wearing heavy steel toe boots. Just went to the gym? Probably can’t wait to shed those sweat-soaked tennis shoes. From flip flops to snow boots, most of us hop into the car wearing a pair of shoes that makes sense for where we’ve been, where we’re going, or both.
Which brings us to the topic of bare feet. Many of us have heard that it’s illegal to drive without shoes…but is it?
Can I Go to Jail If I Drive Barefoot?
The short version is, as long as you aren’t impaired or participating in reckless driving, it’s unlikely that law enforcement will ever know about the lack of shoes.
Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean we said you should go right out and drive barefoot. Keep reading.
Bare feet can make things difficult when driving. When barefoot, it is possible to misjudge how hard you need to step on the brake pedal, or your foot may slip off the gas pedal on a particularly sweaty day. So, while you may intentionally practice safe driving, a slippery foot or something weird on your floor mats that got stuck to your naked foot can impede your braking force or acceleration.
How much trouble you’ll get in for driving barefoot depends on the state laws where you’re driving. Some states will consider your footwear if you’re involved in an accident. In Alabama, California, and most states, for example, you can be charged with reckless driving if a car accident could have been caused by bare feet.
In fact, you’ll find that most states don’t specifically mention footwear in their driving laws. Ohio does, but only as something that is “not recommended.”
Tennessee is one area that is a bit of a question mark. In the Volunteer State, drivers will need to check with the traffic laws in various municipalities to determine how barefoot driving is addressed.
The Best Types of Footwear While Driving
While getting arrested for driving barefoot is an urban legend, the shoes you wear while driving can make a difference.
For example, have you ever tried to drive in clogs? Not cushy, bending Crocs-style with a sling back, but heavy leather and wood clogs? The lack of sensation in the thick sole and the open heel make it really hard to navigate between two very important and yet oh-so-slender pedals.
Flip flops are a little easier, as long as the sole is flexible, but trying to keep that little rubber thing balanced in between your toes in stop-and-go traffic is an exercise in precision footwork. High heels can move the center of pivot on your foot, so if you’re not used to driving in heels, you might find yourself stomping on the gas with gusto. Work boots can even be problematic, especially if you find yourself with soaking wet or muddy boots. In fact, driving barefoot may actually be a better solution than any of these.
Your best bet is to keep a pair of driving shoes in your car, so that you can change in and out of them as needed. Not only will you have a nice, comfy pair of shoes that you feel perfectly comfortable driving in, but you won’t worry about encountering that french fry that got loose a few weeks ago with your bare toes.
Your driving shoes should have a flat, flexible sole, preferably with some kind of tread or grippiness. You’ll want your toes and heels covered, too. Your retired gym or running shoes are a great option. That pair of flats that you never got around to wearing are fine. Loafers are fantastic.
If you choose a pair of driving shoes that have laces, make sure the laces are secured before driving off. They can wrap around the pedals, if you’re unlucky, and create a tangled mess you’d rather not deal with. Trust us.
While your passengers may not want to deal with your stinky feet, there are no state laws that specifically prohibit driving barefoot. Just be sure to drive safely and use good judgement.
And you’ll probably want to pay more attention to sweeping your floor mats, too.