Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

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If you have ever been told not to drive barefoot because it is illegal, that directive is perpetuating a myth. It is not illegal to drive barefoot in any state across the U.S., although this common misconception has been told many times. This urban legend has been around for many years and has been debunked.

In the 90s, a man named Jason Heimbaugh wrote to the motor vehicle department in each state asking if it was illegal to drive barefoot. Though it took some time to get a response from all 50 states, he eventually did — and all advice regarding driving without shoes.

Is it illegal to drive barefoot in any state?

In many states, driving barefoot is generally considered an unsafe practice. Some individual cities or towns may have laws against it, so it may be simplest to avoid driving barefoot as a general practice. A few states have taken a specific stance on barefoot driving, either against or in favor, as outlined below.

State Policies or recommendations
Alabama Driving a motor vehicle barefoot is permitted but motorcycle riders must wear some type of footwear.
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada It is not illegal to drive barefoot but you could be charged with reckless driving or face civil fines if driving barefoot contributes to an accident.
Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Wyoming While it is not illegal to drive barefoot, it is formally considered unsafe.
Michigan Some believe a driver may have more control over the car when driving barefoot than with some shoes.
Tennessee Though barefoot driving is not illegal, local regulations could prohibit it.
Virginia While not illegal, barefoot driving is not encouraged. Instead, drivers should wear safe footwear without an open heel.
Wisconsin Not only is it not illegal to drive barefoot, it is preferable to wearing heels or other shoes that may inhibit safe driving.

Why do people think it is illegal to drive barefoot?

Like many urban legends or misconceptions, the definitive origin as to the myth that it is illegal to drive barefoot is not widely known. It may be that because most people drive with shoes on, it is generally accepted that you should not drive barefoot. While states recommend or discourage barefoot driving, that does not make it illegal. In other states, it may even be recommended as preferable to driving with unsafe footwear.

However, if someone is involved in an accident and is found to have driven barefoot, they could be cited for reckless driving or negligence. Making safe driving choices is the best way to avoid an accident, and that includes paying attention while driving and avoiding distractions, as well as considering your choice of footwear.

Why would driving barefoot be a potential safety risk?

While it is not illegal to drive barefoot, the safety risk in doing so is why some states recommend driving with proper shoes. Here are a few things to consider about the potential safety risk of driving barefoot:

  • Bare feet may slide off the pedal more easily than with shoes, especially when wet.
  • You may not be able to apply the same braking force in bare feet as you can while wearing a pair of shoes.
  • It could be considered distracted driving, especially if driving barefoot causes an accident. You could also be ticketed if a police officer suspects driving barefoot was the cause.
  • In the event of an accident or other incident, bare feet leave you at additional risk of injury, and could limit your ability to retreat to safety quickly.

Are some shoes more dangerous than driving barefoot?

Some shoes may be more dangerous to drive in than driving without shoes at all. If a shoe affects the way you use the pedals or reduces your ability to gauge how hard to press down, you may want to reconsider your footwear.

Driving while wearing some of these common shoe types could be more dangerous than driving barefoot:

  • Flip flops
  • Open heeled sandals
  • High heels
  • Wedge heels
  • Thick soled boots or shoes
  • Shoes with long laces
  • Shoes without traction or with slippery soles
  • Open toed shoes
  • Slip On shoes

For the best control while driving in regulating speed or braking, it is recommended to wear shoes with no heel or a low heel. The shoe should also have tread with traction or some grip, and the shoes should not be too thick, which could cause you to have trouble controlling the pedals. Close toed shoes are better than open toed shoes, as gaps can cause your shoe to catch on the pedal, and shoes with long laces may impede your foot’s movement or get looped around the pedal. In cases such as these, bringing a pair of safer shoes for the duration of the drive may be necessary for safety reasons.

Frequently asked questions

Are you insured if you drive barefoot?

Since it is not illegal to drive without shoes, you will still be covered by insurance when driving barefoot. However, driving barefoot could be linked to the cause of the accident, and depending on your policy’s coverage, at-fault drivers might have varied degrees of financial protection.

Can you drive in high heels?

It is not illegal to drive in high heels, though the elevation and angle of your foot could affect your driving ability. If you cause an accident or get pulled over, it could be considered careless or distracted driving. While driving in heels is not illegal, other penalties could affect your driving record in the event of an accident.

Can you drive in socks?

Yes, you can legally drive in socks. However, just as with wearing high heels or flip flops, you may not have the same reaction time or control over the pedals while driving in socks. It could be risky to drive in socks if it affects your ability to drive safely.

What are the best shoes for driving?

The best driving shoes may be different for everyone. Choosing a shoe with no heel or one with a low heel is generally recommended over a wedge or high-heeled shoe. Avoid shoes with thick soles that could reduce the feeling of the pedal underfoot. Shoes with short laces are preferable, and be sure they are tied securely before driving.

Written by
Mandy Sleight
Insurance Contributor
Mandy Sleight has three years of experience writing for insurance websites such as Bankrate.com, MoneyGeek and The Simple Dollar, and has been a licensed insurance agent since 2005. Mandy writes about auto, homeowners, renters, life insurance, disability and supplemental insurance products.
Edited by
Insurance Editor