Heel And Toe/Blipping On Downshifts

Heel And Toe/Blipping On Downshifts

The other morning I was chuffed to bits, having just used near-perfect heal and toe technique whilst braking for the end of the dual carriageway on my way to work!

I had decided that it wasn’t worth me learning the heel and toe braking technique, as I know far more racing drivers who don’t use it than who do.

As mentioned previously, I suspect it’s one of those big black clouds that people see as the near-impossible difference between us lesser mortals and Racing Drivers.

Either way, I figure this is worthy of a separate blog.

So what IS Heel and Toe?

Well, the basic aim is to blip the throttle as you shift down a gear, which will match the engine revs and result in a much smoother gearshift.  Because the revs are better matched between gears, you don’t get that jolt as the clutch takes all the strain of equalising the revs between gears, and so the tyres are also far less likely to lose grip as you downshift already on the edge of traction.

You need to brake using the ball of your foot below your big toe, so that half of your foot is over the throttle pedal, and as you press the clutch in and change down a gear, you tilt your foot so you catch the accelerator briefly, and then let the clutch out again.

Some keep the top half of their foot on the brake and twist their foot so they touch the accelerator with their heel – hence the name ‘heel and toe’.  I chose to use the side of the foot after watching some YouTube videos of how drivers like Ayrton Senna did things.  You can’t argue with the technique of the best racing driver ever!

It’s kinder mechanically, but also you get that sporty WHOM-WHOM-WHOM sound which sounds beautiful through a tuned exhaust.  Bonus

On a bike it was one of the first advanced riding techniques I learnt, and I use it all the time as it’s now second nature, just like clutchless upshifting.  For the two-wheel version you simply whack it down a gear with your foot and quickly flick your throttle hand to match the revs.  Far easier than a car, it has to be said!

A few nights ago I got to have a proper play around tight, twisty lanes in rural Worcestershire, and got lots of practice in.  My success rate of using heel and toe jumped from around 2 out of 10 shifts at the start of the week when I first tried it, to a solid 8 out of 10!

Maybe I will have mastered it enough to use it in the ARDS test?

This morning I also had my first crack at it whilst wearing my Vibram FiveFingers.  Awesome.  They are PERFECT for it, because you have all the essential feel plus the flexibility!

It was, however, just pointed out by a cow-orker that driving barefoot is illegal.  I wonder how that would go if I got pulled over driving in the FiveFingers?

Hey, Clown Shoes! A Year With FiveFinger KSO’s

Hey, Clown Shoes!  A Year With FiveFinger KSO’s


I’ve had my Vibram FiveFingers KSO now for just over a year.  I know a lot of you had questions about them, such as were they a fad, are they any good, and don’t you feel silly in them.

If anything, my views on them are even stronger than when I first got them.  Look down at your bare feet.  Have a walk around.

Now put your shoes on and look again.  It’s not right, is it?  Have a walk around and feel how different it was to when you were barefoot.

I got into a heated discussion on a forum on the latest super-duper expensive running shoes, and all the scientific studies about which the best conventional footwear were presented.

In short, it’s all crap.  The simple fact is that we did not evolve to wear shoes.  Shoes were bodged around our feet to protect them, and because technology wasn’t very advanced for cavemen, shoes were designed without toes or the ability to allow for natural movement of the foot.

There is no debating this fact – this is nature and evolution and the most basic human physiology.  Shoes are as wrong for feet as fingerless mittens are for hands.

From that little rant you may gather that I don’t think of the FiveFingers as a fad or trend.


I don’t wear them all the time, but I absolutely LOVE putting them on if I’m doing any walking up hills and stuff.  They’re not so great for concrete, but for anything off the beaten path I want to be wearing them.  I’m sure my legs have adjusted, but I still feel some pain after a long trek in my calves.

I’ve put a fair few miles on them now, and they’re still absolutely perfect.  I’ve worn them in forests, high up in the hills, on beaches, and even got a lot of very funny looks wandering around Bulgaria in them!

Sand, mud, soft grass and gravel are all like getting a foot massage – plus you can appreciate the temperature changes between cold marshland mud and scorching hot sandy beaches.  It is awesome, and a truly unique experience of what we should all experience every day of our lives – if shoes were what they should have been, or we stayed barefoot!

Are they worth the money?  It’s a lot… but I’d have to say yes!  You do have to wash them regularly to stop them stinking – so I bung them in the washing machine and have seen no adverse effects of this at all apart from my fiancée moaning.  Nothing has pierced or cut the soles so far (although a huge thorn had gone through at an angle the other day), and I haven’t had any Alan Partridge moments of piercing my foot on a spike.

And the big question – Do I feel silly?

It’s very rare that anyone openly points at them and laughs (only in a shop in Bulgaria, so far!), but you do hear hushed comments and giggling occasionally.  To wear them you have to be aware that they ARE different, and so people will react to that, but I don’t actually feel silly now.

I’m more worried that if I’m wearing them in the high street or a pub that people will think I’ve just bought them to show off, or for the hype.

I haven’t.  I bought them because they made sense, and I thought they might be great – and they haven’t disappointed.