Driving Barefoot (Is It Legal?)

Have you ever driven a car barefoot? Did you feel guilty of breaking the law? If you thought you broke the law while driving barefoot, you are not alone; many think so.

Attention to footwear is a key item when driving.

However, there’s a high level of uncertainty surrounding whether or not it is illegal to drive barefoot. There are also numerous reasons cited as to why you’re breaking the law if you drive barefoot.

Are you really breaking the law when you drive barefoot?

Is Driving Barefoot Legal?

Despite all the conflicting information and numerous uncertainties, it’s not illegal to drive barefoot. In fact, there is no law in any of the 50 states barring people from driving barefoot.

For example, in California, driving barefoot is not prohibited. In Ohio, it is permitted but not recommended, while in Alabama, it is permitted except for motorcycle riders. These are some of the sections of the law in different states when it comes to driving barefoot.

Barefootislegal.org, an activist’s website, says that it is safer to drive with your bare feet than driving while wearing heels and flip flops, among other footwear.

However, there is a but. The law stipulates that when driving, you have to be able to operate your car’s controls including brakes safely.

Accelerator Pedal high quality and high resolution studio shoot

Your ability to operate the car’s controls, such as brakes is essential for road safety. Driving barefoot can put this ability in jeopardy and put you and your passengers as well as other road users at risk. That is illegal.

That said, it is illegal to be the driver of a car involved in a traffic incident because of the inability to operate the controls (such as brakes) effectively when driving barefoot.

Besides, you can be charged with negligence if you get involved in an accident while driving barefoot. The law can perceive barefoot driving as the cause of distracted driving.

This illegality extends to when wearing impractical footwear and can be classified as reckless driving if it is determined that being barefoot while driving caused the accident.

Furthermore, while it’s not illegal to drive barefoot, that doesn’t make it right.

All drivers have a duty of care to other road users, including other drivers. This includes always driving responsibly and doing anything appropriate to avoid causing an accident.

As a driver, you must always remember that every decision you make – while driving – affects your driving ability and affects other road users, including drivers and pedestrians. That decision includes thinking about your footwear while driving.

Why The Misconception

Since driving barefoot is not illegal, several questions can arise. For instance, if driving barefoot is legal, how come so many people believe the opposite? Even police frown at anyone driving barefoot.

The misconception could have been a matter of common sense or intuition that driving barefoot can be risky and dangerous.

On the other hand, it could be because the police often discourage people from driving barefoot, and because of that, people might have assumed that it is illegal.

Bare foot on gas pedal. Taxi driver driving barefoot in Sri Lanka.

What Challenges Can A Barefoot Driver Encounter?

Driving barefoot can pose serious challenges to a driver including:

  • Inability to properly apply heavy pressure to the clutch or brakes.
  • It can be painful when driving over long distances due to clutch friction.
  • Slippery feet due to sweating can cause feet to slip off the pedals which is dangerous.
  • Risk of cut or injury by debris and broken glass in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Here is a point to note:

Emergency braking and crash avoidance require efficient brakes and the driver’s ability to both react swiftly and apply adequate pressure to the car’s brake pedal. Barefoot driving can impact both.

What Footwear Should You Wear When Driving?

It is advisable to choose ‘suitable’ footwear when driving. The word suitable is important because some footwears are not suitable for driving.

It is not recommended to drive barefoot either, because you are unlikely to have the same braking force as you would do when you are wearing ‘suitable’ shoes.

So, what are suitable footwear (shoes)? Here are basic guidelines you can follow when selecting your footwear for driving. Your footwear should:

  • Be a shoe, with a sole no thicker than 10mm.
  • The sole must not be too soft or thin.
  • The shoe must have enough grip to prevent your foot from slipping off the pedals.
  • Not limit your ankle’s movement.
  • Not be too heavy.
  • Be narrow enough (not too wide) to avoid accidentally pressing two pedals at once.

However, these guidelines do not technically categorize some other types of footwear – such as flip flops, high-heels, or clogs as ‘unsuitable’. They are just inappropriate to use.

A girl is driving her car wearing flip flops.

Can Driving Barefoot Invalidate Your Insurance?

Driving in inappropriate footwear, barefoot, isn’t illegal. However, two things can happen in the unfortunate event of an accident:

  • The police can classify it as reckless driving if they determine that the accident was as a result of driving barefoot.
  • The insurance company could also perceive it as dangerous driving.

If both the police and your insurance company perceive the accident as caused by driving barefoot, it can affect your insurance coverage.

Insurance companies are always very keen to determine the reason behind damage that caused you to file for a claim payout. It is standard procedure.

You may not receive any claim from damage caused by driving barefoot. In some cases, it can affect your premiums after your insurer classifies the incident or accident as dangerous driving.

In extreme cases, it could invalidate your insurance.

Motorcycle Laws On Barefoot Driving

There is no particular law about riding motorcycles barefoot except in one state – Alabama.

The Alabama law says, “No person shall ride on or operate a motorcycle or any motor-driven cycle unless he/she is wearing shoes.”

This is the only known law against riding without shoes. It was enacted because riding a motorcycle without the right gear exposes your body, including your feet, to the risk of injury.

However, just like driving barefoot is not unlawful, so it is riding a motorcycle barefoot. The law and insurance will take the same trajectory in the event of an accident, and if it is determined that the accident was caused by riding barefoot.

Riding a motorcycle barefoot or without the correct gear is highly risky and exposes you to other health risks.

Handsome young man wearing casual outfit riding a motocycle at the beach

Final Thoughts

Your safety begins with you. Now we have cleared the misconceptions and uncertainties about driving barefoot. Driving barefoot is not illegal.

Bearing all these thoughts in mind, it is now clear that there are no prohibitions all over the country on driving barefoot, both by the federal and state governments. Most municipalities do not prohibit driving barefoot. In law, if there is no prohibition against something, it becomes legal by default.

However, just because it is legal to drive barefoot does not make it the right choice. Besides, driving barefoot can be perceived as reckless driving and can cause you problems with your insurer.