Driving a stick shift with stitches.
July 29, 2007 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I recently had stitches on the underside of my big toe and second toe on my left foot and four days later, it's time to go back to work. Unfortunately, I drive a stick shift.

I have a hospital 'boot,' which provides a hard flat surface upon which I can hobble about. The doctor at the hospital said that after three or four days, more pressure may be applied to the stitched up toes.

I live alone and none of my friends know how to drive my car. How can I maximize my temporarily-weakened left foot to operate the clutch effectively and safely, without jeopardizing myself, the car or my stitches?
posted by vkxmai to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Press the clutch with the heel of your foot by turning your foot slightly sideways so it fits down there.
posted by Loto at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2007

Driving a clutch effectively with a rigged up hospital boot will depend entirely on the mechanical arrangement of your pedals, and the available surface of the boot. Cars with the pedal pivot points below the floorboard are a bit more forgiving than those where the pedals are "hung" from an actuator axle under the dash.

I'd examine the situation in the parking lot a bit, with a very jaundiced eye towards safety and healing. You may be much better off renting a car with an automatic transmission for a few days, than trying to operate a stick with physical handicaps that make that unduly difficult. Rent-A-Wreck offers low cost rentals of late model used cars that may fill your needs until you can get your foot into regular footwear, or at least normal sandals, again.
posted by paulsc at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2007

What about renting a car, or joining one of those car-share clubs if there's one in your area. You'll probably feel it when you've healed enough to go back to your clutch. Why chance it in the meantime?
posted by nadise at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2007

I managed a similar situation by wearing a too-big biker boot with a thick sole and pressing the clutch with my heel.
posted by astruc at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2007

Ouch! As a fellow stick-shifter I can empathize. I had a neuroma in the ball of my foot, and coming back from the doctor's office was excruciating at times. I would second renting a car for a day or so, or, practice a bit with the "boot" in your driveway or something. The thing that I'd be concerned about with the boot is that part of it might get under the brake pedal and cause problems with braking.

Good luck!
posted by la petite marie at 11:15 AM on July 29, 2007

I sprained my left knee once when I had a stick shift. I got a cane instead of crutches. I then used the cane with my left hand on the clutch pedal, my right hand on the gear shift, and my right knee to hold the wheel in place. I did fine with that for the few weeks until l my knee got better. I just had to choose the point on the road where I shifted so that there were no big turns.
posted by procrastination at 11:39 AM on July 29, 2007

Thanks for all of your advice.

I'm under 25, so renting isn't an option. I live near Cleveland and my commute is over 40 miles one way, which would be cost-prohibitive for something designed for local moving.

The clutch is hung from the dash, so the boot won't fit.
posted by vkxmai at 3:18 PM on July 29, 2007

Take the boot off and tape your affected toes to each other, and also to the next toe over that is not cut. Forget about the boot for driving, and just patch up your foot as best you can so the toes don't move, even if you have a big ol' blog of tape on the end of your foot.

I've had to drive with a sprained ankle; not the same thing, but I taped the heck out of it and I was able to get by until it was well enough to drive more normally.

I'm glad procrastination didn't have any issues driving the way he did, but that kind of scares the crap out of me.
posted by Doohickie at 6:22 PM on July 29, 2007

Do you have a lot of starting and stopping on uphills on your commute? If so, then I'd really suggest trying to buy/rent/borrow/steal a car with an automatic transmission. Uphill starts require enough finesse that doing those one-footed can be quite tricky.

But if not, then it's not such a big deal. I've twice driven with a left foot that was too injured to use the clutch at all, and the only trick is getting started from a dead stop. To get started without using my left foot at all, I variously used: right foot on clutch, right hand on gas pedal; right foot on gas pedal, left hand on clutch; or right foot on clutch and just slooooooly let it out to avoid stalling. (Obviously, using your hands only works in a small car, and with longer arms.) Once you are moving, the easiest thing is to just shift without using the clutch (match rpms to avoid those nasty grinding sounds), or use your right foot for clutch duty as well (as in, right foot off gas, right foot onto clutch, shift gears, right foot off of clutch, right foot back on gas).

The minute you can use your left foot at all, things get enormously easier, because you can use both feet to get started, even if you don't use your left foot while actually moving. As my foot healed from the surgery, I found that driving worked ok if I wrapped bandages and socks around my foot until it looked like a grapefruit -- all that padding was enough to allow relatively pain-free shifting. I found the padding easier to use for driving than the hospital boot, but that will really depend on your car as much as anything.

I also worked to avoid shifting as much as possible. In my car at the time, that meant first to third to fifth. Maybe not ideal for the long term, but not a problem to get through a few days. Don't lug the engine mercilessly, but most modern cars have a fair bit of overlap in your shifting options.
posted by Forktine at 7:47 PM on July 29, 2007

PS: If you decide to use Procrastination's cane (or broomstick) approach, please duct tape the bottom of the stick to the pedal, so it won't slip off at an inopportune moment. It's still a bit of a bad idea, but you may as well avoid one possible pitfall.
posted by Forktine at 7:48 PM on July 29, 2007

I did it! (Posting from work)

My commute is 6 miles on a state route @ 50MPH, 17 miles on the Ohio Turnpike @ 65MPH and another 10 miles on Cleveland city streets at 25-35MPH.

I taped up my toes and found a sweet spot on my foot that didn't hurt!
posted by vkxmai at 8:10 AM on July 30, 2007

posted by Doohickie at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2007

« Older Laurel and Hardy Bio   |   Which is correct verb? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.