Girl driving barefootedBare feet are great for walking on the sand, strolling through a lush lawn, kicking up in a recliner, or dangling in a swimming pool. But for driving, the conventional wisdom is that bare feet are unsafe, even illegal.

The reality is, barefoot driving is legal in all 50 states. And though it’s not exactly recommended, it isn’t inherently a safety hazard and, in rare cases, actually a little bit preferable.

First, let’s talk about the cons of barefoot driving. It feels … different than driving with shoes and a little weird if you’re not accustomed. If your feet are wet, they could slide off the pedals. Plus, you don’t have quite the braking force with bare feet as you would with shoes, and in a manual transmission car, you will experience a fair amount of foot stress every time you switch gears.

Moreover, even though it’s not illegal, if you’re pulled over or get into a fender bender while driving barefoot, you might be more likely to be cited, even if your unburdened feet had nothing to do with your questionable driving.

Now for the most valid reason to drive barefoot: The shoes you might be wearing are actually less safe than unshod soles. Skimpy flip-flops have little traction and can easily slide off your feet and under the pedals. And high heels present their own driving challenge.

Some barefoot drivers believe the sole-on-pedal feeling helps them get a better feel for the car and keeps them more focused on the road. Although this can’t be proved, if you are driving barefoot for the first time, you’ll likely be keenly aware that, well, you’re driving barefoot …

The lack of breaking force is the best reason to wear shoes while driving. But if your footwear is making working the pedals difficult, kick off your shoes—it might just be a little safer. And for short trips, say home from the beach or pulling your car from the street into the driveway, barefoot is fine as long as you’re diligent and undistracted (which you should be every time you get behind the wheel anyway). However, keep your loose shoes away from the pedals; put them under the seat or in back so they don’t accidentally interfere with your braking and accelerating.

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