Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Driving Barefoot


Is it illegal to drive barefoot in your home state?

I posed that question to my anatomy students at Liberty University recently and the answers were shocking but not surprising. Shocking because the vast majority of my 145 students – coming from all over the US – firmly believe a myth. Not surprising because…. well, it’s a prevalent myth.

In case you are wondering: YES, it is legal to drive without shoes in your state because it is legal to drive a car barefoot in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia). I spoke with some of those students after class. Interestingly, even though 2/3 of the class believed it was illegal to drive barefoot in their home state, they were often quick to accept that it might be legal in other states, but they were usually slow to be convinced it was legal in their state.  

The Society for Barefoot Living was formed in 1994. Other pro-barefoot organizations, like The Primalfoot Alliance and Living Barefoot Show, joined the scene more recently but have been around a few years now. Born to Run was released in 2009 and my book, The Barefoot Book, was published in 2010. Several books on barefoot running also hit the shelves in 2010-11. I would like to think that the public is becoming more informed on shoe/foot issues, but the results of my classroom poll clearly indicate that we still have a long way to go. I still have daily conversations with students who are amazed that I claim going barefoot is safe and healthier than wearing shoes, and the same old questions about germs, support, protection, etc., return afresh every semester with the sea of new faces.

But I’m encouraged. The barefooting movement is still young and many of my students are thrilled by what I say. They say they love going barefoot and they seem to love the idea of going barefoot, but unfortunately, I’ve not seen many “converts” to a barefoot lifestyle. Perhaps they are taking off their shoes more in private places, and I have seen more bare feet in public places, too. And, come to think of it, I can name a few real converts – hardcore ones that live almost entirely barefoot now. Undoubtedly, I’m just impatient. I want everyone to have that “A-ha” moment followed by a mass shoe-burning ceremony, but I’ll have to accept the baby steps. The wheels of change turn slowly. And for at least one class of 145 students, I can rest assured that they all know the truth that driving barefoot is perfectly legal!

19 comments:

  1. I drove barefoot for the first time at some point this year, and was very happy to do so. Thanks for continuing to give us the information to overcome our anxieties about doing things differently!

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  2. Thank you for busting this myth at your uni! Sad to hear it's that great a percentage of folks believing this myth, but not surprising. On Twitter too, people who say they're driving barefoot are far more likely to be told 'that's illegal' than not. And indeed, some people remain convinced it's illegal, even when I show them sources from AAA, their state's DMV, and newspaper articles available online. I know urban legends can be persistent but why this one grew *this* big and *this* persistent, I still don't really understand.

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  3. From a reasoned and logical position, wearing something to protect the soles of your feet from shattered glass should an accident happen is a precaution worth taking. I equate it to riding leathers and helmets while riding a motorcycle. Illegal? No. Smart? Yes.

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    1. I've been barefoot for 16 years, walk in inner cities, walk past the glass bin a lot, walk and run at train stations, other places with lots of litter, and I've NEVER had a cut. Feet are much stronger than people think. Even if there is glass at an accident scene and your feet are not tough from regular barefooting, a glass cut would be a minor matter compared to the usual level of injury at a car accident scene. Totally *unlike* riding a motorcycle without a helmet; head injuries are disabling and often fatal, a cut on the foot would require a band aid or at most a few stitches. Unless you have a job requiring you to walk miles every day it wouldn't cause you to miss work.

      I don't think this risk is worth wearing footwear for, of course you're welcome to make your own choices; the point of the blog post is that fortunately the law allows us to do so.

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    2. I concur with Myranya. I've been barefooting everywhere for the last 10 years. None of my encounters with broken glass (most of them at home, inside the house) have resulted in even a minor cut. (This includes accidentally stepping in and crunching, with my full weight, large pieces of broken glass.) I see no reason to expect my experience to change dramatically in the event of a car accident, and therefore I don't see anything smart or logical about subjecting my feet to the constant pain and discomfort imposed by shoes simply because I *might* be in a car accident.

      Even if I *did* get in an accident, and broken glass was EVERYWHERE...my feet are the LAST part of my body that I would be worried about! I'd be more likely to get cuts on my arms and face than on my feet, during the accident, and on my arms, legs, and torso while trying to get out of the car, afterward, even if I had to step in a lot of glass. I'd certainly be a lot more worried about my eyes and face. But I don't hear anyone insisting that we all wear ski masks and safety goggles in case of an accident.

      Also, if you are at all familiar with motorcycle accidents, you should know that the shoes almost always come off during the accident anyway.

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  4. Chad provides the perfect paradigm as to why this myth persists and got so widespread. He likes the idea and just makes up any old excuse to support it, regardless that his excuse is not based on anything by speculation.

    First, the odds that an auto accident will spew glass is pretty low, and if it does, shouldn't one also be wearing protective gear all over? Somehow, nobody does.

    Furthermore, auto glass is tempered so that it falls apart into small bead-like pieces that don't have sharp edges. I can walk on regular glass (and do so occasionally to freak out people who think it is so dangerous), but you can walk on broken tempered glass all day with baby feet and not cut yourself.

    So, smart? Not particularly.

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  5. ^Chad, do you also wear leathers, goggles, helmet etc while driving in a car? I often drive in shorts and a tank top as do many of the other drivers i see. If broken glass were truly an issue, i'd be far more concerned for my neck, which has vital blood vessels and is in direct line with multiple panes of glass, or my arms as opposed to my feet.

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    1. Yes! Sorry, I didn't read your comment before replying to Chad, above.

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  6. The driving barefoot myth has been around forever thank you for trying to debunk the myth. Albeit there will still be the naysayers who will go the other way that you must be shod to drive.
    I'm 65 and I've driven barefoot forever.I love the feel of the rubber covered pedals under my toes and soles. It gives me a total feeling of control on the pedals.


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  7. Hello Daniel,
    I'm curious do you teach barefooted and do any of your students come to class barefoot?

    "Set your feet free and your mind will follow"

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  8. Ah, yes, but did Chad go back to this blog to read the accurate rebuttal to his comment by "Ahcuah"? Probably not, and he still remains blissfully ignorant of the reality. He probably learned nothing from all this.

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  10. DUI attorney... I don't understand your comment. Were you drinking and posting? :)

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  11. If you asked them why they feel it's illeagal, they probably couldn't tell you. It's all based on preception. The were giving this information by their parents which in turn was handed down from their grandparents. It would be interesting to know if any of the students have driven with gloves on, my guess it would be zero. Surely they would say they don't drive wearing gloves due to it feeling awkward and to gain a better grip on the steering wheel. So why should wearing shoes be any differnt? To gain more control of the pedals.

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  13. just quick question (unrelated to this post)...maybe someone here will know the answer - I have high arch foot (pes cavus) and I want to start walking barefoot (most of the time - some of our classes at uni still require footwear)... but people keep telling me I need to wear good supportive shoes or my feet will get worse...anyone with high arch feet out there with experience in barefoot walking/living? :)

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  14. Jarka, "Get worse?" Worse how? Over time, everyone who uses their feet will see their arches flatten a little, that's why your shoe size goes up as you get older. Does "arch support" actually stop this process? If so, why would we want to? And doesn't putting a pad under the arch make it so it can't function as an arch? Arches are there for a reason; we'd all have flat feet if they had no purpose. Like the arch of a doorway that supports a stone castle above it, the function of the arch is defined by the empty space below it in addition to the structural elements. No empty space, no functional arch. So why stuff the space with "supportive" stuff? Whether it's a lumpy thing in the shoe or a bunch of pillows stuffed under the archway of an old cathedral, I can't imagine it actually does anything but interfere with the structure's purpose.

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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.