Socks vs Shoes vs Barefoot for Drumming: Which Footwear is Best?

Different types of footwear can really change how the hi-hat and bass drum pedals feel. Some drummers prefer a sturdy shoes, others prefer to just keep their socks on and some like to go barefoot, but which is the best option? In this article I’ll be comparing these choices and their pros and cons.

Shoes, Socks or Barefoot When Drumming?

Some players prefer to wear shoes whilst drumming as they offer more grip and make the foot feel more powerful. However, some drummers prefer to wear socks as they make slides easier and increase the level of control. Drumming barefoot is preferred by players who want maximum foot sensitivity.

 Increases powerMakes sliding technique easier  Maximum foot sensitivity
Grippy so won’t slip Good range of movementLeast restriction 

Wearing Shoes When Drumming

There are many different types of shoes you can wear whilst drumming.

Vans or lightweight pumps are a popular option as they feel supportive but not too restrictive. Choosing a shoe with a thick sole is not usually preferable as they feel too rigid and heavy.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you also don’t want to be wearing flip flops as your toes will clench up as you try and keep the shoe on causing you to feel very uncomfortable and unrelaxed.

Some players like to wearing specific drumming shoes which give you the optimal level of grip, support and comfort.

Advantages of Wearing Shoes When Drumming:

  • Shoes add more weight to your feet so increase the amount of power you can apply to the kick pedal.
  • They are more hygienic particularly when playing at other venues or when using communal kits.
  • They look more formal which is good for some events such as weddings.

Disadvantages of Wearing Shoes When Drumming:

  • Since shoes act as a barrier between your foot and the pedal, some players find that they feel too disconnected from the bass drum and it doesn’t offer enough feeling.
  • Shoes with a very grippy sole make it hard to slide on the pedal.
  • Wearing a shoe will restrict foot movement compared to wearing socks-only or going barefoot.

Which Drummers Play in Shoes?

  • Neil Peart 
  • Ringo Starr

Wearing Socks When Drumming

Wearing socks is a popular option whilst drumming as it allows the player to feel the pedals more compared to wearing shoes. However, some players find socks too slippy. To combat this you can get some socks which have a grippier sole to give you the best of both worlds.

Advantages of Wearing Socks When Drumming:

  • Socks do not offer much friction so make it easier to slide your foot on the pedal.
  • They don’t feel restrictive which allows your toes and ankles to move more freely.
  • There’s not much material between the foot and the pedal making the drummer feel more connected with the pedal making it easier to control.

Disadvantages of Wearing Socks When Drumming:

  • Socks offer very little grip meaning the foot has a tendency to slide around more on the pedal unintentionally.
  • Playing in socks compared to shoes can make the foot feel slightly weaker because there is no extra weight.
  • Socks don’t provide any protection if the foot is accidentally hit by the beater.
  • Some players find that socks don’t provide enough support and can lead to cramping.

Playing the Drums Barefoot

Playing the drums barefoot gives you the truest connection with the pedal which many players prefer. However, some find that playing barefoot offers too much grip (similarly to shoes) making it harder to slide, and feels too weak (similarly to socks).

Advantages of Being Barefoot When Drumming:

  • There is no material between the foot and the pedal making the drummer feel more connected to the pedal which can help to increase the feeling of control.
  • The ankle and toes can move freely without being restricted by any socks or shoes.

Disadvantages of Being Barefoot When Drumming:

  • The pedal can feel cold and too hard and uncomfortable for some players.
  • There is an increased chance of blistering and it will hurt if the beater accidently hits the top of the foot.
  • It can feel too grippy making it difficult to slide.
  • Some players find that their foot feels too weak compared to playing with shoes on.
  • It is unhygienic if you are at a gig with grotty floors!

Which Drummers Play Barefoot?

  • Nicko McBrain
  • Rick Alan

Which Footwear Option is the Best?

There are so many differing opinions out there when it comes to the best footwear options when playing the drums. I think it’s best to try different options and experiment so you can decide which feels best to you.

You should try a few types of shoes and playing barefoot and with just socks on and see which you prefer. Don’t be afraid to change your mind either down the line!


I’m here to share with you my passion for drumming, as well as some tips and tricks for choosing and making the most out of your drum kit and accessories. Whilst I play primarily on electronic drum kits, I love all things drumming and hope to share this with as many people as possible!

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