Driving in heels? More dangerous than you think

NTHABISENG MOLOI
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Driving involves the constant use of pedals which can take its toll on your feet and ankles. By wearing the right shoes, you not only ensure that your feet feel relaxed but also be sure that you have better control of the car with accurate clutch control, braking and acceleration, claims MiWay insurance.

Forget about high heels – while they look great in social settings, they are probably the worst possible choice for driving a vehicle!

WHICH SHOES ARE APPROPRIATE? 

The sole of the shoe is very important in determining what type of footwear to use. The sole should neither be too thick or too thin, nor too soft or too flexible – it should have enough grip on the pedal to avoid slipping.

With thick soles, your feet can't feel the pedals properly, so you can't accurately judge how much pressure to apply, making braking and accelerating more abrupt and jerky. Also, avoid wide soles, as you run the risk of pressing two pedals at the same time. The important thing is that your shoes should allow you to feel the pedals and gauge how much pressure to apply.

DRIVING IN HEELS/PLATFORM SHOES


Female drivers are warned about the risks of driving with high heels, which go well beyond the possibility of damaging the precious shoes and can include causing a crash.

 • The heel of your foot needs to be on the floor to achieve the correct pedal action: high heels elevate it and distort the ability to measure how much pressure needs to be applied.
 • High heels result in a reduced grip on the pedals from an uncomfortable driving position.
 • The heel can get caught in the floor mat or stuck under the pedal.
 • Platform wedges are more dangerous than heels – they deliver a double whammy of high heels and thick soles.

If you do wear heels and drive, it’s a good idea to keep a spare pair of sensible shoes in your car. Kick off the fancy footwear and slip on your tekkies for the trip.  

DRIVING BAREFOOT

How about ditching shoes altogether? Although it is not illegal to drive barefoot, there are also risks associated with barefoot driving. They include:
 • Repeated use of the clutch can cause cramp or spasms in the foot, reducing control of the vehicle.
 • Bare feet may become slippery from perspiration.
 • Nylon socks or tights can reduce grip between feet and pedals.

FLIP-FLOPS

Flip-flops are also not ideal. Risk factors associated with this footwear choice include:
 • Inadequate ankle support, which could result in a foot slipping off the pedal or missing the pedal altogether.
 • They come off easily and can get jammed or trapped under a pedal.
 • It makes it difficult for drivers to apply full braking, releasing the clutch brake or accelerator.

While South African law doesn’t have any restrictions on footwear for driving, it is in your best interest and that of other road users to minimise any hazards that could compromise your ability to reaction and control of your car. That means sensible shoes are your best bet behind the wheel.

Do you drive in heels or flip-flops? Email us and we'll publish your thoughts or use the Readers' Comments section below...