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Best Foot Forward

Best Foot Forward


Putting your best foot forward when choosing the right driving shoes. Find out what Swansway Motor Group have to say as they review some interesting stats!

Gloves, shoes, coats, hats, you name and there seems to have been an item of clothing specifically designed for the motorist; but, why?

With climate control and air conditioning we’ve lost sight of just how ‘open-air’ driving used to be and that the right clothes were absolutely essential.

When motoring grew fashionable among the Edwardian elite, there was a need to keep to keep these fortunate folk, warm and protected from the elements. The design of the earliest automobiles meant that the driver and passenger sat ‘on’ them rather than ‘in’ them, meaning total exposure to the elements.

And not just exposure to the elements, the early motor car made sure its driver and passenger were on full public display, an opportunity to display their wealth and privilege for all to see, as clothing, rugs and blankets became more and more glamorous and stylish.

Old blackand white photograph of a man in goggles holding a steering wheel

There was a whole host of specialist items; goggles, gauntlets, car rugs, overcoats, gloves, hats. Driving demanded that clothing be protective and water resistant, qualities already found in clothing by long established outerwear suppliers, Aquascutum and Burberry, names still synonymous today with quality British waterproof macs and coats.

Alfred Dunhill moved the game on, away from the stout water-resistant fabrics and using instead, leather often lined with beaver, musquash or squirrel for warmth.

The one thing that early drivers didn’t have in abundance was specialist driving shoes, though many of us today do have a pair of shoes that we keep in our cars, especially for driving.

Are we right to do so, and if so, what type of shoes should we be using.

Putting your best foot forward

In 1963 what has become the iconic driving shoe was patented, a thin leather or suede moccasin type shoe with no sole, but instead rubber nubs which protected the sole and gave grip on the pedals when driving.

The driving shoe was born, with the original patented in 1963 by Gianni Mostile; a thin sole the shoe allowed for ‘feel’ when driving and Italian company Car Shoe was founded to sell this innovative shoe.

In common with the original driving apparel, the driving shoe was first aimed at the rich gentleman who drove the iconic Italian roadsters of the day; another famous Italian brand, Tod’s, began to make the iconic driving shoe, and as its manufacture grew, so it became more popular with the mass market.

Now a style classic, available in a whole rainbow of colours, the driving shoe is no longer restricted to inside your car, nor just to wealthy gentlemen, with ladies versions available too.

High street brands such as Next produce their own driving shoes and they are enjoying a high street resurgence. They are still the best shoe for driving in and here’s why.

Person standing on a concrete step wearing well worn trainers

Choosing the right footwear for driving is hugely important, from both comfort, and safety perspectives. A poll by uSwitch in 2015, found that more than eight out of 10 drivers, 82%, believed that their choice of footwear could affect their safety whilst driving, and one in 10, 12%, admitted they have stalled a car because their shoes were difficult to drive in.

The thickness of the soles and height of the heels are both crucial elements in whether shoes are suitable and safe to drive in; if they’re too thick then you can’t feel the pedals properly. This means you can’t feel how much pressure you’re applying and can mean uncertain, jerky movements, plus if you can’t feel your pedals properly then you’re at risk of stalling your engine which clearly creates a hazard for others on the road.

The survey revealed that 35% of people had experienced some sort of driving mishap in the last year due to the shoes they were wearing. It may be somewhat of a surprise, but trainers are the biggest culprits in causing accidents or near misses at 34%, whilst those shoes that you’d probably consider to be more unsafe, slippers and flip-flops were only involved in 20%.

Person wearing orange Nike Air Max trainers stepping up on to the pavement

The problem with trainers is that many have thick, spongy soles; these make for great comfort when walking or running, but give no real ‘feel’ when you’re driving and this lack of ‘feel’ can lead to all sorts of problems.

Despite all this just 8% of men keep a pair of shoes in their car solely for driving, but 22% of women do, possibly because of the difficultly of driving in heels and the likelihood of ruining them in the process.

The unfortunate thing is that many of those shoes, kept specifically for driving, are in fact trainers!

Keeping a pair of shoes, especially for driving, in your car, be they ballet pumps, driving shoes or moccasins, is really a must; they’ll help you reduce stalling, swerving, jerking and stopping too quickly or too slowly and needn’t cost a fortune.

There are some basic guidelines which will help you choose a suitable pair of shoes to drive in:

Have a sole no thicker than 10mm. The sole should not be too thin or soft. Provide enough grip to stop your foot slipping off the pedals. Not be too heavy. Not limit ankle movement. Be narrow enough to avoid accidentally depressing two pedals at once.

What does the law say…

It is not illegal to drive in the UK either barefoot or wearing flip flops - there is a catch though.

Two feet with bright pink nail polish in a pair of brown flip flop sandals

You can get behind the wheel of a vehicle barefoot or while wearing flip flops, provided you are able to operate the controls safely. If you did this with wet feet, you could put yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely and this is illegal.

And while it's not illegal to drive without shoes on, that doesn’t mean it’s right or safe; according to the Driving Standards Agency – the body that regulates the UK driving test – “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

There’s never been as better reason to go out and buy a new pair of shoes!

The information comes from a survey undertaken by uSwitch.