Inadequate legroom in cars is a major problem for tall people. Besides being uncomfortable, it also puts us at greater risk of getting in an accident due to slower reaction times.1
There are cars out there with decent legroom for us, and there are ways to modify seat rails to get more legroom. But what if you already have a car with poor legroom that you can’t, for whatever reason, modify?
I’ll tell you the solution I use that is surprisingly effective and probably most people have done it one time or another, maybe more. First though, I’ll say that I’m not advising any one else do this as I’m not 100% certain of the legality, it could very well be deemed dangerous, and I won’t be held accountable for any harm that may come from anyone else doing it.
I drive without shoes. But shoe soles are only an inch or two thick, you say, just how much difference can that make? A lot of difference, I tell you. Beyond just material added, soles are stiff and can’t conform to the foot-well and pedal the same way a foot can. If I were to take a stab at it, I would say that driving without shoes is the same as adding nearly three inches to the overall legroom of a car. Three inches is extremely precious when you are borderline too long for your vehicle!
Some also might say that it is dangerous. Your foot might slip off the pedal, sufficient brake pressure may be discouraged by any debris between your soft foot and the pedal, or the removed footwear might get caught under the pedals, and your feet won’t be as well protected in the unfortunate event of an accident nor a quick departure from the car. But I haven’t come across any actual published scientific evidence finding it to be more dangerous. And even if it does exist, the associated risks might not outweigh the risks of driving without enough legroom.1 I also read from one redditor that their driving instructor had actually told them to start off driving barefoot as this gives a better feel for the pedal. I’d add that one always uses the same bare feet, as apposed to multiple pairs of shoes, which is better for familiarity.
Others might say that driving without shoes is inconvenient, and your feet get wet and cold. But for me, it has become second nature taking my shoe on and off. And I’m careful not to get mud, snow, etc. where I rest my foot and have the heat come out the leg vents.
Well, what about the legality of it? I’ve scoured the web and, for the most part, there tends to be an agreement that it is not illegal. 2,3 But, to be thorough, I decided to check in with my own local police department:
Me: “Is it legal to drive without shoes on?”
Officer: “Hold on a minute…”
Officer: “Yes, there are no laws against it, just don’t drive like an idiot and if you run into problems put your shoe on before getting out.”
This conversation might seem to be a waist of time for the police officer, but I figured it was worth having given we tall people really struggle with inadequate legroom. Please remember though, the laws regarding this could very well be different where you live. Also, I seem to get the general sense that if one were involved in an accident and were barefoot at the time, it might be possible this becomes a factor in determining fault for the accident, perhaps deemed as reckless driving for instance.
All this being said, another way to reclaim lost legroom without any of the inconvenience or legal concern is to get some minimalist barefoot shoes (maybe avoid flip flops as those have been found risky). Similarly, removing thick snow and mud floor mats helps. And there are also seat rail extensions, though this might result in more hunching to reach the steering wheel. Beyond reclaiming space, also helpful is cruise control, adaptive braking, and eventually robots taking over the whole process of driving.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested to read about my “driving while tall” run-in with the law.
- 1. Boer ER, Bruin J de, Abbink D de, Ward NJ de, Manser M de. Are Drivers with Small Feet or Long Legs at Greater Risk of Rear end Collisions. In: Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. ; 2006.
- Is It Illegal To Drive Barefoot? Why You Shouldn’t Drive Without Shoes
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