Perfecting Heel And Toe
Heel and Toe is a challenging driving technique that requires some fancy footwork, simultaneously pressing two pedals, all while hurtling into a braking zone. It’s not an easy technique to learn, and many drivers struggle with it. However, when executed correctly, it enables you to brake later and more effectively while also protecting your engine and giving you a more balanced car. So, how can you gain the confidence to perform heel and toe flawlessly every time?
In this article, discover the most common mistake racing drivers make when attempting heel and toe, and learn two ways to enhance your skills with improved pedal ergonomics.
Heel and Toe: A Dying Art in Modern Driving
Heel and toe technique was originally developed for older vehicles that required a double-clutching technique to change gears.
However, with the advent of modern transmissions, this technique has become less common in regular driving.
As a result, many drivers struggle with it when asked to perform it in a racing or track setting.
Is Heel and Toe Worth It?
Despite its challenges, there are many benefits to using heel and toe technique, including:
- Reduced chance of driven wheels locking when downshifting
- Reduced chance of unsettling your car’s balance on corner entry
- Perfectly matched revs and road speed for faster acceleration out the corner
- Reduced stress on your engine, clutch, and gearbox for better performance over time
Applying heel and toe is worth it then, so what is the issue?
The Major Issue: Braking Inconsistency
A common problem when using heel and toe is inconsistent braking, which can go unnoticed (especially if you can’t analyse data.)
To achieve the best braking, you need to maintain constant pressure on the brake pedal while utilising the maximum grip your tires can provide. This involves braking consistently hard and gradually releasing the brakes as you turn into the corner.
When using only your right foot to brake, this is relatively easy.
However, with heel and toe, your foot often lifts off the brake pedal when you go for the throttle blip, unintentionally reducing brake pressure.
This means you’re not achieving maximum deceleration and could be going faster. In a race, this could result in getting out-braked and losing a position.
A Good Example Of Heel And Toe
Although the video above has received over 1.4 million views on YouTube and has been liked by more than 2.2K people, it’s important to note that even the best examples of heel and toe technique may not be flawless…
As you watch the video, pay close attention to the driver’s right foot on the brake pedal.
You may notice that even he slightly reduces the pressure on the brake pedal when he moves his heel to blip the throttle (look at the top of the brake pedal move slightly.)
While this may not be immediately noticeable, I’m sure you’d see it in the data and if so, it could be having an impact on your driving performance.
In fact, small reductions in brake pressure during heel and toe technique can add up in terms of longer braking zones, or missed apexes and thus end up costing you valuable time on a lap.
Here are a couple of easy quick-wins you can do in order to reduce the possibility of this happening in your car.
2 Proven Tips To Improve Your Heel And Toe
To overcome the challenges of heel and toe technique and achieve better performance, here are two tips to consider – if your racing pedal box allows it:
1. Pedal Offsets
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to improve your heel and toe technique is to adjust your pedal offsets.
This refers to the relative fore-aft spacing of the brake and throttle pedals, as well as the lateral gap between them.
When you press the brake pedal down hard, your foot may go past the point where you can easily roll it onto the throttle pedal for the blip.
This requires you to lift your foot up, reducing the brake pressure and slowing you down.
To avoid this, adjust the throttle pedal position to be slightly further away from you.
This may create a small step up when you’re moving from the throttle to the brake, but the benefits of being able to maintain constant brake pressure during downshifts are worth it.
The lateral gap between the brake and throttle pedals is also important.
If they’re too far apart, you won’t be able to perform heel and toe technique at all.
If they’re too close together, you may catch one pedal when you don’t intend to.
As a driver it is ok to be fussy about this in my opinion. I found it takes a few goes, with practical track sessions, to find the perfect lateral placement for your foot size to ensure maximum efficiency.
Like a wrinkle in your sock, small adjustments make a big difference.
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.
Keeping your heel on the floor (if your pedal box allows) will help you a lot with your braking.
Here is a picture of the heel board we made:
Bonus Tips: Heel and Toe Inspiration
While adjusting your pedal offsets and adding a heel board can go a long way in perfecting your heel and toe technique, there are a few other tips and inspirations you can try to take your driving to the next level.
Pedal Surrounds for Better Lateral Placement
One approach is to add surrounds around the pedal itself to provide some lateral location of the foot.
This can help you find the perfect lateral placement and improve your braking confidence and consistency – even if it only on one side rather than both shown in the picture.
A pedal surround can help you achieve a more precise and consistent foot placement, which can be particularly helpful when performing complex manoeuvres like heel and toe.
It also reduces the likelihood of accidentally hitting the wrong pedal or losing your footing during a race.
Alternative Pedal Box Designs
Another inspiration for improving your pedal ergonomics is to look at alternative pedal box designs:
For example, if you’re able to get rid of the clutch pedal, you could try a design like the one in the pedal box above, which features an angled brake pedal.
What looks like a clutch in this pedal box is not but it shows another main brake pedal design you could consider to help improve your heel and toe.
If you are not familiar with the story of the “fiddle brake” in this image from the 1997 McLaren then take a read here – a really innovative solution that was instantly worth 0.5 seconds per lap!
Even in a standard pedal setup, this main brake pedal shape design might offer some ideas for you for improving your pedal ergonomics.
Heel and Toe: Wrapping up
At the end of the day, perfecting your heel and toe technique will be significantly helped by tweaking your optimal pedal ergonomics.
By adjusting your pedal offsets, adding a heel board, using pedal surrounds, or exploring alternative pedal box designs, you can find the perfect balance between braking consistency and throttle blips, ultimately leading to better lap times and more satisfying driving experiences.
The nice thing about these simple tips for improving your heel and toe performance is that they are cheap, easy and quick to try.
Many drivers struggle with consistent braking during heel and toe downshifts, not because they lack skill, but likely because they’ve underestimated the importance of pedal box ergonomics.
If you’ve ever found it challenging to improve your heel and toe braking consistency, give these two suggestions a try. You might discover that they make you faster, more confident, and more consistent under braking.
If they still don’t work, then my recommendation is to ditch the heel and toeing all together and just focus on maximising your brake pedal application.
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/