Shoes Suitable for Driving?

A quarter of drivers have had shoe problems while driving

21% of women reporting difficulties with shoes when driving were wearing high heels

Each of the tyres on your car contacts the road over about the same area as the sole of a shoe. But shoe soles play another key role in how we drive and how we control a car – they're all that's in contact with the pedals, and the pedals stop and start the car.

The AA Populus survey

A survey through the AA/Populus panel has shown that 27% of respondents have had difficulties while driving because of the shoes they are wearing, although only a small proportion (5%) would say that this has led to them driving dangerously, losing control or having an accident.

Making sure that shoes are suitable for the driving task is clearly important.

Women (30%) are more likely to have had problems than men (25%) while drivers under 24 (40%) are more likely to have had problems than drivers over 65 (19%).

Among those who had reported difficulties, 27% were driving in flip-flops (22% of men and 34% of women) while 21% of women reported high heels as a problem.

While these proportions were not unexpected, the 25% who said they had problems driving in boots (wellington, working or walking, rather than fashion boots) was surprising.

Boots were cited as the cause by 35% of the men who had difficulties and 12% of the women.

This is an interesting finding as by and large drivers are free to choose which shoes they wear, with the notable exception of work boots, the wearing of which may be insisted on by an employer.

Carry a spare pair

The best way to avoid shoe problems is to carry a spare pair - most of us have an old pair of shoes that we know are both comfortable and safe that can be kept in the car to wear for driving.

The study showed that 59% of drivers had done this – 44% of men and 84% of women.

Shoes that pose no problems in one car may do so in another because of differences in pedal layout and foot well design, so changing car might mean changing 'driving shoes' too.

It's important to consider foot wear too when hiring a car particularly if you have particularly big or small feet, or like to wear specialist or fashionable shoes.

Different types of problems

Shoe difficulties can take different forms:

  • Size of shoe versus size of pedal – what works well in a big van may not work so well in a car or car-derived van. This doesn't only mean the 'numerical size' of the shoe – the width of the design may also be crucial.
  • Movement of the ankle – boots can mean that ankle movement is restricted which may mean the pedals need to be operated in a different way to normal.
  • Thickness of sole affecting 'feel' of pedals – in normal shoes a driver has a good idea of where the pedal is on the bottom of the foot. As soles get thicker this gets harder and can increase the risk of the foot falling off the pedal, leading to cessation of braking or sudden loss of acceleration.
  • The design of the sole (tread, etc) – this can diminish 'feel' through the sole and can also catch on the pedal.
  • How the shoe fits the car – whether it can catch in mats, shelves, adjacent pedals or other interior fixtures.

In an emergency

Generally, these factors can be overcome easily in normal driving, by altering driving style. But in an emergency, drivers tend to do things the way they always have and that could mean you get your feet tangled in the pedals, don't hit the pedal cleanly or are much slower in getting there.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


1 October 2010