Perfecting Heel And Toe
Heel and Toe is a tricky race driving technique. You have to juggle with your feet at strange angles, pressing two pedals at once and all while hurtling into a brake zone. Do it right and you be able to brake later and more effectively – plus it will also protect your engine. Heel and toe is worth doing then, but how can you give yourself more confidence to do it perfectly each time?
In this article, learn the most common mistake racing drivers make when trying heel and toe. You will then learn two ways you can improve with better pedal ergonomics.
Heel and Toe Is No Longer A Common Skill
Originally a technique developed to enable gear changing in older vehicles, heel and toe is rarely needed in todays regular driving.
The result is that when you are asked to perform heel and toe as a racing driver, you may struggle.
To be honest, heel and toe can even remain challenging when you can do it! 😉
Is Heel and Toe Worth It?
The performance (and reliability) benefits of using heel and toe include:
- Reducing the chances of your driven wheels locking when down shifting.
- Reducing the chances of unsettling your racing cars balance on corner entry.
- Ensuring your in gear revs always perfectly match the road speed so there is no delay when you want to accelerate again.
- Reducing the stress on the engine, clutch and gearbox so they perform at their best for longer.
Applying heel and toe is worth it then, so what is the issue?
The Major Issue It Creates – Braking Inconsistency
One major issue that commonly occurs when using heel and toe is that people suddenly start struggle with braking consistency – sometimes without even knowing.
When you are trying to loose a lot of speed before a corner, for the best braking you want to be at the absolute maximum grip that your tyres can give.
To do this you need to brake consistently hard by applying constant pressure to the brake pedal. You then bleed off the brakes as you turn into the corner.
When you are only using your right foot to brake this is fairly easy.
However, what tends to happen with heel and toe is that when you go to do the throttle blip, your foot lifts off the brake pedal.
This slight lift off the brakes reduces the brake pressure before you ideally want to. It means you are not getting the maximum possible deceleration and so could be faster.
It sounds incidental but in practice, it can be significant.
If you are not braking to the maximum your racing car can deliver it is costing you unnecessary lap time.
Worst, if you are in a race it could mean you get out braked and losing a place.
A Good Example Of Heel And Toe
At the time of writing, the video above has been watched over 1.4 million times on YouTube. It has had over 1900 likes and only 59 people downvoting it. Looking at the stats, you might say then that the majority of people think that this video is a good example of heel and toe.
But look again carefully when his right foot is on the brake pedal.
Can you see when his heel moves across to blip the throttle, that even he is slightly reducing the pressure on the brake pedal?
It does not look very much but I would expect that to show up in the data.
Inconsistent braking pressure whilst doing heel and toe is very common in race driving.
Luckily I have found it is also largely preventable …
2 Proven Tips To Improve Your Heel And Toe
Here follows two tips for you to consider implementing – if your racing pedal box allows it:
1. Pedal Offsets
This is really two things in one. There is:
- the relative pedal fore-aft spacing of the brake and throttle (when not being pressed) and
- the lateral gap between the brake and the throttle pedal
Relative fore-aft spacing of the brake and throttle
When you press the brake down hard, your foot often goes past the point where you can easily roll it on to the throttle pedal for the blip.
To heel and toe, you are forced to lift your foot up to be able to get on the throttle. This lift reduces the brake pressure and means you are slower than you could be. Slower, even if you manage to get back fully on the brake again, once the change is completed.
It is better to be able to blip the throttle whilst still at maximum brake pressure. To achieve that you can typically adjust the throttle pedal position to be slightly further away from you.
This does create a slight step up when you are going from the throttle to the brake. The benefit, however, of being able to maintain constant brake pressure control during downshifts, is worth it – in my opinion.
Lateral gap between the brake and the throttle pedal
The other offset is the lateral placement of the throttle to the brake. If the throttle and brake are too far apart then you will never be able to heel and toe. Often this is the case in normal road cars.
Equally, if the brake and throttle pedal are too close together, then you will keep catching one or the other when you do not intend to. What you are after is the perfect lateral pedal placement for the size of your foot.
Personally I tend to brake on the right-hand edge of the brake pedal. I know not everyone likes this, but it means that setting the pedal spacing laterally becomes fairly easy. If I am catching the throttle when not intended then I know to move the throttle pedal position across until I don’t.
Luckily, you do not often have to change the whole pedal assembly for this, as the pedal plate itself can often be adjusted laterally on its own – or replaced with a larger / smaller pedal as necessary.
2. Add A Heel Board
Until recently I would never have thought about adding a heel board.
Interestingly, I switched pedal setup from one very similar to that shown in the video, to a floor hinged setup.
Clearly I was expecting that switch to take some adjustment. However, I was really struggling with good brake modulation – especially during heel and toe.
We tried all sorts of different things to help improve the situation. This included lots of pedal placements but also brake bias and brake pads changes, all to try to improve the situation.
In the end adding a heel board was the key.
Frankly the heel board was revelation!
Again it took some tweaking in term of distance and positioning. Once set up though, having an “anchor” for my heel was transformational.
The heel board helped with not only with heel-and-toe-accidental-brake-pressure-lifts but also with everything to do with brake modulation.
Here is a picture of the heel board we made:
Heel and Toe: Wrapping up
The nice thing about these two simple tips for improving your heel and toe performance is that they are cheap, easy and quick to try.
Many people struggle with good braking during heel and toe downshifts. This is not because they are not capable drivers but, I am sure because they have underestimated the importance of their pedal box ergonomics.
If you have ever struggled to improve your heel and toe braking consistency then give these two suggestions a go. You might find it makes you faster, more confident and more consistent under braking.
Learn a race track with no testing time –> https://www.yourdatadriven.com/how-to-learn-a-race-track-in-your-lunch-break/
How to drive fast. A mental model –> https://www.yourdatadriven.com/how-to-drive-fast/
Are you really maximising your racing cars grip? Find out for sure –> https://www.yourdatadriven.com/maximising-your-racing-cars-grip/