Courier work for owner drivers can sometimes feel like a minefield of safety legislation and regulations, and keeping track of them can be tricky at times. But one of the most important safety aspects for a driver is often overlooked because it’s not covered by legislation, and that’s what kind of footwear drivers should wear.

We’ve all driven off to a barbecue on a sunny day wearing a pair of flip-flops, or even slipped off our shoes altogether because they hurt or our feet are swollen. While we know this is not ideal, we do it because it’s not actually illegal.

But for those doing courier work, what you wear on your feet can become an important safety issue.

Why Does Footwear Matter?

While there is no legal stipulation over what footwear a driver should have on, there is a legal requirement in the UK that a driver be able to operate the controls of their vehicle safely. And it could be argued that some types of footwear can inhibit that control.

Flip-flops, thick-soled shoes, restrictive boots, bare feet and, of course, high heels, can all have an impact on your ability to control your vehicle by causing an obstruction, restricting your movement or altering your ‘feel’ for the pedals.

Flip-flops are considered particularly dangerous as they can become jammed under the pedals or cause you to press down on more than one pedal accidentally. Wearing thick-soled shoes or bare feet can alter the amount of pressure you put on the pedal, particularly when applying the brake.

In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that more than 16,000 road accidents a year were caused by pedal error, and in these pedal-error crashes the majority were caused by the wearing of either flip-flops, heavy boots or high heels.

What is the Ideal Driving Shoe?

While some safety clothing manufacturers have created a specific shoe for drivers who do jobs involving loading and unloading vehicles, such as courier work, many trainers bought on the high street can be just as good.

The things to look out for include:

• Comfort (they must be suitable for wearing for long hours of work)
• A sole of between 0.4 to 2.5cm
• A sole with grip which won’t slip off the pedals
• A shoe rather than a boot so that there is no restriction of ankle movement
• The foot should be covered in case of an accident to protect the foot from injury or broken glass at a collision site
• Weather-proof and suitable for wearing at the roadside in case of a breakdown or collision

Top Tips

Those carrying out courier work should consider keeping a pair of ‘work shoes’ in their van for use when driving. Make sure the spare pair of shoes are not kept in the footwell where they may slide forward and obstruct the pedals.

Even when you wear ideal driving shoes, wet weather can cause a hazard by making them slippery – another great tip is to keep a towel in your van so that you can dry the soles of your shoes to prevent slipping.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work for owner drivers in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

This article is copyright free.