Is It Illegal to Drive Barefoot? (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

Many people vehemently believe that driving barefoot is illegal. But is it illegal to drive barefoot in any state? You may be surprised to learn that no state in the U.S. explicitly requires drivers to wear footwear while operating a motor vehicle. But if you ask a room full of licensed drivers, "Is driving barefoot illegal?" you will almost certainly hear a chorus of affirmative replies.

Is It Illegal to Drive Without Shoes?

There is a common myth in the United States that driving barefoot is illegal. However, no state in the USA has laws explicitly requiring drivers to wear shoes or other footwear while driving a non-commercial vehicle. Does this mean it is illegal to drive barefoot?

In 1994, Jason Heimbaugh decided to find out for sure. He wrote to the department of motor vehicles for every state and the District of Columbia to make sure no obscure law, provision or accepted interpretation outlawed the practice. Eventually, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. confirmed that barefoot driving is allowed by law. No state (or the District of Columbia) has passed a law banning the practice since then.

There are few exceptions, however.

  • The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires commercial truck drivers to wear shoes or boots that facilitate a secure grip on the pedals and offer adequate foot care and foot support.
  • Taxi cab drivers may be required to wear shoes under state or local regulations (such as Connecticut's Taxicab Rules of Operation).

If you are a commercial driver, you may be required to wear shoes pursuant to your local health and safety codes, company policies, professional license terms or operating contracts.

Is It Against the Law to Drive Barefoot?

Even though it's not illegal to drive barefoot per se, many states have provisions requiring drivers to maintain proper control of their vehicle. A shoe or flip-flop kicked off next to the driver's feet can interfere with their ability to operate both pedals safely. If driving without shoes leads to reckless driving or a collision, the driver could be cited for failing to control their vehicle, negligent driving or reckless driving.

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Is it Illegal to Drive Barefoot in Any State or City?

Cities, towns and municipalities also have the power to regulate drivers more strictly within their boundaries than state laws provide. For example:

  • In New York City, it is illegal to turn right at a red light, except at certain intersections in Staten Island with posted signs allowing right turns on red.
  • In Minnetonka, Minnesota, driving a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway can be cited as a public nuisance.
  • Tire screeching, drifting, drag racing, loud radio playing and other noisy or disruptive road activities are prohibited in many municipal areas.

Driving barefoot may be illegal under city or local regulations. These regulations are more specific and change more easily and frequently than state laws. If you're a fan of driving without shoes, ensure you know the municipal regulations in your area.

Is It Safe to Drive Barefoot?

While driving barefoot is not illegal, it makes sense to think that it is against the law because it seems like a bad idea. Driving barefoot is generally not recommended by most safety experts and actively discouraged by others. The primary concerns include:

  • Reduced Control. Shoes, particularly those with a firm sole, can provide better control over the pedals. Bare feet might slip, especially when wet or sweaty.
  • Shoe Interference. If you kick off your kicks next to the pedals, you run the risk that a shoe may slip underneath the gas or brake pedal and interfere with its operation.
  • Injury Risk. If you are involved in a car accident or have to quickly exit your vehicle, being barefoot increases the risk of foot injuries from road debris, shattered glass or hot pavement. This can hamper your ability to escape and distance yourself from a vehicle fire or other hazardous conditions.
  • Liability Issues. If you are driving barefoot and cause an accident, your insurer may be more likely to assign responsibility to you and deny a claim.
  • Police Stops. Many police officers also mistakenly believe it is illegal to drive barefoot. If you are issued a ticket, you will likely waste a lot of time contesting the fine, even if you win.
  • DUI Tests. If you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, an officer may refuse to allow you to put on your shoes before taking a field sobriety test. Navigating uneven roadways and debris barefoot could cause you to fail even if you aren't legally intoxicated.

On the other hand, wearing shoes like high heels or flip-flops that can interfere with your ability to operate your vehicle can also be dangerous. You should err on the side of caution and make the safest decision in your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • No U.S. state has a law prohibiting driving barefoot, although many strongly discourage the practice. Cities, counties and localities may have rules requiring appropriate footwear when driving within their boundaries.

  • Whether it is illegal to drive without a shirt isn't addressed by any state vehicle code. However, local and state laws about indecent exposure may apply. Commercial drivers may be subject to attire requirements under licensing rules, state regulations or union contracts.

  • Driving barefoot isn't illegal under any U.S. state law. However, legal permissibility does not equate to safety. Driving barefoot can impair a driver’s ability to control the vehicle, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Proper shoes can enhance control over the pedals, provide protection in case of accidents and potentially avoid complications with insurance claims.

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