Heel and toe - bradgate
Can anyone offer any tips on how to master this technique?

I have recently been trying to teach myself to 'heel-and-toe' downshifts in my Impreza without, i must confess, much success. I am finding it physically difficult to 'blip' the throttle with the side of my foot while simultaneously braking. My ankle does not want to twist in the necessary direction and my knees are obstructed by the bottom of the wheel as i try to contort my feet.

I have big feet (size 11). Does this make heel-and-toeing more awkward?

All advice from driving gurus would be gratefully received!
Heel and toe - Garethj
Some cars are more difficult to do this in because of the pedal layout, it's just the way it is!

If you're having to contort your feet so that your knee hits the back of the steering wheel then yours sounds like one of those cars.

If there's room and the pedals are well spaced it should be possible to do it with your toe on the brake pedal and the side of your shoe (more than the heel) to blip the throttle. Synchromesh gearboxes means it's not compulsory any more but it can make for smoother changes and I, for one, like the sound of a flat 4 bouncing off high walls.

Heel and toe - apm
Bear in mind that in some modern cars, the engine management elastic-trickery is set up to prevent simultaneous throttle/ brake use. My Seat has this (linked to the drive-by-wire, ABS etc), and if it senses brake and throttle going on at the same time, it cuts power to about 10%! Might be worth checking if the Subaru has a similar system, and if so, if you can turn it off?


Dr Alex Mears
Seat Leon Cupra
If you are in a hole stop digging...unless
you are a miner.
Heel and toe - Vin {P}
My kids (aged 2 and 3)have mastered it:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes...

ah, now I see that this is not the same thing at all.

Heel and toe - Altea Ego
Its more sole of foot and side of foot. I use the left side of the sole of my shoe to brake, and cock the ankle right to brush the gas pedal with right upper of the shoe (if this makes sense)
Heel and toe - waterboy
As a historical note, this is much easier with the center throttle pedal, which brings the heel naturally over it when the sole of the foot is hard - possibly necessarily - on the brake. Stirling Moss had his cars built like that. The present layout is one of these things that were standardised the wrong way.

Tomo as was!
Heel and toe - J Bonington Jagworth
"Stirling Moss had his cars built like that"

Which must have been a bit of a shock to anyone acquiring them later! :-)
Heel and toe - borasport20
If you really need to know, then the best bet is to find a rally/race school using imprezas and take a day or half day course and keep reminding the instructor 'tell me how to do this'. (these courses are not cheap - you may as well get what you want out of it)

preach mode on
If you ain't prepared to spend the money on a driving course to learn the technique, please don't bother. As you've found out, it is quite difficult, and unless you are trained to a decent level of competence, there is no place for heel and toe on the public road.
Nothin' personal
preach mode off

I have to grow old - but I don't have to grow up
Heel and toe - bradgate
If you ain't prepared to spend the money on a driving
course to learn the technique, please don't bother. As you've found
out, it is quite difficult, and unless you are trained to
a decent level of competence, there is no place for heel
and toe on the public road.

I didn't say i was not prepared to pay for instruction, and there is nothing in my posting which implies that this is the case.
Having bought an Impreza, i am keen to learn to drive it properly, and if that includes instruction, fine.

I asked politely for a few tips, that's all.
Heel and toe - PhilW
Sounds like you might be from Leics?
If so, try a day at Donnington - they will teach you to heel and toe while going round the track at amazing speeds in Touring Cars. My wife bought me a day there for my 50th birthday and it's the best present I've ever had! One of my proudest moments was when the young lad in the back (to start with you go out in twos) said he didn't want to be in the car because I went too fast, and then the instructor asked how many times I had done this before. (Mind you, he probably says that to everyone)
Saving up for another day! And so much safer than trying these things on public roads.
have fun. and if you ain't from Leics then there are similar things at all the racing circuits.
Heel and toe - none
Heel and toe belongs with the old racing driver straight arm and double declutching sort of driving. Completely unneccessary in a modern car, especially on a public road.
If you really want to drive your new car properly, have a quick look at the basic driving instructions in the handbook, and then a quick look at the Highway code. Then set off carefully, and be aware that other non racing drivers might be around you.
Heel and toe - Morris Ox
I'd echo that, I'm afraid Bradgate.

Heel-and-toe dates back to a time when engine and transmission systems were far less advanced than they are now (non-syncro gearboxes, for example). I had to learn it on my first car because it (not me!) was of a certain age, but other than occasional faltering forays on the track I've never used it since. In a modern car on modern roads - and within any kind of sane limit - it's not necessary.

Try it on the track if you want to, but as several contributors have hinted a desire to use heel-and-toe on road suggests a driving style at odds with the ordinary mortals around you.

I'm sure you can have plenty of fun in a Scooby without resorting to that.
Heel and toe - J Bonington Jagworth
" Completely unnecessary in a modern car"

Really? I've been doing it for 30 years - it makes slowing down through the gears smoother (because you can keep your foot on the brake) and more satisfying (because you can also match the revs to the gear you are about to enter). I have also never had to replace a clutch...
Heel and toe - Morris Ox
" Completely unnecessary in a modern car"
Really? I've been doing it for 30 years - it makes
slowing down through the gears smoother (because you can keep your
foot on the brake) and more satisfying (because you can also
match the revs to the gear you are about to enter).
I have also never had to replace a clutch...

Neither have I, JBJ, and I don't do heel-and-toe on the road. So I'd repeat: it isn't necessary with modern transmission systems. Whether it's desirable is another matter.
Heel and toe - owen
Are people on this forum actually able to answer a perfectly reasonable query without twisting the thread round to the "no place for that on public roads" argument????

This is, after all, a motoring forum, which i would expect to be frequented by motoring enthusiasts, i.e. the ideal place to ask a question such as this. Could we perhaps assume that bradgate is going to be sensible about practicing this technique, and not try it when he's drunk, on his mobile phone and careering towards the nearest bus stop full of old ladies????

Heel and toe - volvoman
For every true 'motoring enthusiast' there'll be several who drive cars, don't know much/anything about how they work and although heavily reliant on their vehicles (as most of us are these days) find them a source of worry and driving a source of frustration. Most of these probably live in urban areas where there really is little fun to be derived from the car and, potentially, loads of grief. The BackRoom is also open to these people and they might, quite understanably, have a very different view on cars/motoring. What's important is that this place remains open to people who have views on cars/motoring and that, whilst we might disagree with them, we allow them the right to pass comment. I'm sure Bradgate is very sensible but in the time I've been here there have been posts made by the sort of people who give driving a bad name and think it's quite ok to do what they like on public roads or want to upgrade their cars without informing insurers etc. and that may explain the response of some here to the original question. It's very hard to make safe assumptions about anything or anyone these days and what may appear safe/acceptable to some won't be to others.
Heel and toe - Flat in Fifth
I would say that is fair comment V.

Further to my post to bradgate lower down re disused airfields, and it applies to others wanting to try technique, here is a resource to find out spaces to "play".


Do not want to teach anyone to suck eggs, I hope we are all adults here, but please act responsibly! Especially YOU MUST make sure that your access and activities are allowed. We do not want any irate farmers etc.

Finally just remember if the public does have access as the law stands you can be done for totally irresponsible hooning around.

:Engage po faced mode.:

Needless to say absolute safest way is, of course, under organised conditions.

:disengage po faced mode:

Brrm Brrm ! YKIMS ;)

Heel and toe - Vagelis
Heel and toe used to be necessary. Everyone driving a car those years had to do it, if they wanted to actually change gears, that is!

Were all those people "irresponsible" by doing it on public roads?

I remember reading an old book about cars and driving, and this specific technique was recommended! It even had step-by-step illustrations!

Now, that's veeerrryy irresponsible!


PS: Even if cars of today do not require it, what's wrong with "heel and toe"-ing safely? As always, you learn something new at a place where you do not present a danger.
Heel and toe - borasport20
No offence meant, bradgate, but a lot of people would baulk at £300+ to pay for a day at a rally school, which is what a good one is going to cost

So ... you've got the money. whatcha gonna do ? Silverstone (1) www.silverstonerally.co.uk/ was good when I went, Phil Price (2) www.philprice.co.uk/ has been going almost as long and has a reputation as one of the best, the same goes for Chris Birkbeck www.gorally.co.uk/

(1) nothing to do with silverstone race circuit
(2) turn the awful sound off
(3) avoid the half day gift voucher type job
(4) don't know if any of them run scoobies
(5) let us know how you get on

I have to grow old - but I don't have to grow up
Heel and toe - borasport20
or if you've really deep pockets,

one-to-one tuition in a wrx, for a half day, £650, full day £950

I have to grow old - but I don't have to grow up
Heel and toe - Garethj
Bradgate, unlike some people I don't think that wanting to learn a new driving skill makes you a bad person, don't be put off! If you can find a race school and are interested then it's a good option, but there is a place for it on the public roads because (as stated) it can make for smoother driving.

Heel and toe - Deryck Tintagel
I can't offer advice about heel and toe, but I read about this Ripley's book on the subject of driving. I tried it once to imprrove my down-shift but couldn't quite get the technique either. I find that my down-shifts are better from a higher speed and, I assume, higher revs remaining from depressing the clutch. At lower speeds they can be a bit clunky - I reckon it's something to do with the Vauxhall gearbox as I don't seem to have problems with other cars
Heel and toe - Flat in Fifth

Obviously I'll also have to go and stand in the naughty boy's corner as heel & toe is something I do.

I know all the theory says brake to desired speed, then correct gear, then go, hence heel & toe unnecessary.

Despite this there are occasions, eg approaching downhill to turn at a junction, where it is really helpful to be able to keep gently on the brake thus controlling speed and have ability to match engine speed to the new gear. Also on occasions overlapping braking and gear changing allows one to make progress as expected by other traffic.

Above two occasions specifically mentioned in Roadcraft where overlapping gear change and braking is "approved" and that is good enough for me. Heel & toe allows one to do this with smoother progress.

Basically have the ball of the foot on the brake pedal and rock the right side of the foot onto the throttle. If the throttle and brake are too widely spaced, unlikely with size 11's I might add, then you can get pedal adapters to close the gap.

Don't take this the wrong way but are you an unusual shape? ie extremely long legs or what? A complete re-evaluation of seating position might be in order.

Also it is true that some engine management systems do cut off the throttle when braking, eg some Bosch systems are a beggar for this. I'd be amazed if an Impreza is so set up.

But clearly if you are having trouble mastering a technique, Queen's highway is not the place to do it. Any disused airfields round your way? Saltby any good?

Hope that helps.
Heel and toe - spikeyhead {p}
I'd like to echo FiF's support of heal and toeing.
It makes for much smoother progress when you're downshifting and looking to continue in a lower gear. I've been doing it in all my cars for years, including my Imprezza. I learnt the technique in a mini many years ago on the public roads but didn't have any problems learning it.
It may be worthwhile to practice with the car stationary, handbrake on and in neutral. Practice appliying varying ammounts of pressure to the brake pedal with the ball of the foot and find a suitable way to use the same foot to blip the throttle. The sound from the scooby engine when your doing this is one of natures great delights.
Whatever you do, make sure that you concentrate just on the braking and make sure that you don't compromise the braking in any way whilst practicing. Don't use the technique when it may affect anyone near you until you've completely got the hang of it, and once you have enjoy the smoother ride and more satisfying engine sounds that a heal and toe downshift provide.
I read often, only post occaisionally
Heel and toe - bradgate
Thanks for the considered, helpful replies.

I fully take the point about not practicing heel-and-toe on the public road until i have mastered the new skill.

Instruction may well be the answer.
Heel and toe - jeds
Heel and Toeing is a perfectly natural thing to do. It is useful when sitting in very slow moving traffic and travelling uphill. You don't want to be continually pulling on the handbrake when you know you are going to be moving off immediately and you don't want to be slipping the clutch to hold on a slope either.

I know you can jump from the brake to the clutch but it makes for a much easier and smoother action to heel and toe.

I can't see much of a need to use heel and toe when de-clutching with modern gearboxes but it does no harm.

In fact I don't actually heel and toe I use the ball of my foot to brake and the outside of my foot to accelerate. This needs no contortions and is very easy, natural and perfectly safe. I suppose it does depend on the distance between your brake and accelerator.
Heel and toe - John S
I taught myself to heel and toe many years ago, mainly to deal with old cars with weak synchro. Learned it on the road too (oops, naughty).

I still do it today, as I drive a 45 year old Morris Minor, and the synchro on that is not good at all. The Minor pedals are ideally spaced for the technique, but many cars are not, and certainly the actual method of what part of the foot does what varies from car to car.

There's no doubt it can sometimes give a smoother drive (as Fif says braking downhill is an example) but most of the time in modern cars I don't bother. I still double declutch sometimes when shifting down at higher speeds, hoping to ease the work of the gearbox, but that's it.


John S

Heel and toe - GrumpyOldGit
Bradgate - another one here who uses h&t all the time, purely for the satisfaction of being able to.

Of course you can teach yourself on public roads. You don't have to be driving at high speeds to use the technique, and I can't believe you would be any more at risk than a newly-qualified driver improving their basic skills.

I brake with the ball of my foot and blip with the heel as the pedals are a toush too far apart in my car. You just suit your foot action to the pedal layout of the car.

In an old MGBGT I used to own I took the throttle pedal off and used heat to bend the shaft so it was closer to the brake pedal. Then I could keep my foot more or less straight, braking with the ball and rocking the right side onto the throttle.

Have fun!


Value my car