Many driving techniques from the real track can be transferred to sim racing, and one of these is heel toe shifting. But if you’re a beginner or have just never used it before, you might be wondering how heel and toe shifting works and why it’s so popular.
Heel toe shifting in sim racing involves using the heel of your right foot to ‘blip’ the throttle pedal while braking with the upper part of the same foot. It is a very useful technique for sim racing if you drive manual cars, as it allows you to maintain the balance of the car as you downshift.
Using heel and toe shifting in sim racing can also help you prepare to use the technique when you head out on track in real life. Below, we’ll take a closer look at heel toe shifting, how to do it, and why it’s such a useful technique.
How To Heel Toe Shift In Sim Racing
In sim racing, the heel and toe technique is not essential, as it’s only useful in manual cars with a clutch pedal. Many people will use the paddles on the back of their steering wheel to shift gears without a third pedal, and there’s no risk of wearing out a clutch or brakes or destroying an engine as there would be in a real car.
However, when you’re driving a classic car, rallying, or driving any other car with a manual gearbox, it just feels wrong to be using the paddles on the back of your steering wheel. The best way to get an authentic racing experience is by using the clutch pedal and a sequential or H-pattern shifter. But using these while still setting fast lap times can be tricky for beginners.
Racing with a manual gearbox is very different to just driving around town or along the highway or motorway. Being able to go fast while working all three pedals and a shifter requires skill and some specific techniques, and one of these is heel toe shifting.
In a sim racing game, heel and toe shifting tends to work the same as it does in real-life. The only difference is that in real life there are consequences to getting it wrong! However, some sims are more realistic than others, and the handling model of the sim will influence how the sim responds to heel toe shifting.
Why Should You Learn Heel Toe Shifting?
Shifting into a lower gear when you’re traveling at a speed that’s too high for that particular gear will cause the car to jerk and jolt. These shockwaves can cause the car to become unstable, and they could even send the car into a spin. One way to make your downshifts smoother and improve your balance through corners is the heel toe shifting technique.
As you approach a corner, you need to position your foot half on the throttle pedal and half on the brake pedal. The heel of your foot will be positioned over the throttle pedal while the toe area of your foot will be positioned over the brake pedal (hence “heel toe”). Your left foot needs to be ready to depress the clutch to change gears.
During the braking phase, you need to downshift through the gears to reach the optimal gear for the corner exit. When downshifting, you push the clutch in and use the heel of your right foot to ‘blip’ the throttle while your toe remains on the brake, pressing it down to slow down into the corner.
What Does Blipping The Throttle Mean?
Blipping the throttle is simply when you press down on the throttle pedal very quickly to bring the engine revs up. Blipping typically takes less than a second, as it really is a fast tap of the throttle pedal.
Blipping the throttle helps you to rev-match. When you depress the clutch pedal to shift down, the car’s speed doesn’t change much but the engine’s speed drops dramatically. When you then engage the lower gear, the engine needs to speed up again very quickly to match the gear’s speed, which can cause the car to jolt.
If you blip the throttle when you press the clutch, the engine’s revs increase momentarily to “catch up” with where they will be when you engage the lower gear. Lower gears demand higher engine speeds than higher gears, so this is only an issue when you shift down. When you shift up, the engine speed drops, but the higher gear also requires a lower engine speed anyway, so it’s easier to match them.
A summary of the process looks like this:
- Approach a corner at a high speed in a high gear
- Brake for the corner and press the clutch pedal to change gear
- As you’re changing gear with the clutch pedal pressed down, quickly blip the throttle pedal with your heel while still braking with your toes
- Select the right gear for the corner and release the clutch pedal
- Release the brake and accelerate out of the corner
This all happens very quickly, and it will take a lot of practice to get right. One of the hardest parts is keeping your brake pressure consistent as you blip the throttle, as it can throw the car’s balance off if you blip the brake harder as you blip the throttle. That’s why practicing in sim racing can be so useful for real life driving, as you can make mistakes without real consequences!
Using heel and toe downshifting in sim racing can be effective, but it entirely depends on the simulator you’re using and the car you’re driving. For example, a game that uses more arcade-style physics won’t benefit as much from heel toe as a more realistic sim. You can still try it of course, but something like iRacing will better reflect heel toe’s effects than a game like Forza Horizon 5.
Why Should You Learn Heel Toe As A Sim Racer?
The main goal behind heel and toe shifting is to keep the car balanced and settled as you downshift into the corner. This will ensure that your car remains stable through the corner and that you’re in the correct gear at the corner exit. You’ll get a much better exit because the car is more stable and ready to accelerate.
Sure, you normally don’t need to worry too much about damaging a gear box or engine when sim racing, but the main benefit of heel toe is in your performance and improving the car’s balance in the corners. That alone makes it ideal for sim racing in a manual car, but it can also provide useful practice for real life driving.
Preparing For Real Life
If you’re planning on driving your own manual car on a track, it can be helpful to understand the heel and toe technique. But when it comes to practicing a heel and toe technique, it’s a lot riskier to do when you’re in a real car compared to a simulator.
You need to be fully confident in the car and in your own abilities when practicing heel toe shifting in real life. That’s something that you won’t need in a simulator. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get some practice in a simulator before you try it out in real life.
KEY POINTS• Heel toe shifting is only useful in manual cars
• It allows you to improve the car’s balance through corners
• Sim racing can be a very useful tool for practicing heel toe before trying it out in a real car
How To Practice Heel Toe In Sim Racing
One good thing about a racing simulator is that you can set it up in such a way that you can see what your feet are doing on the screen. Activate your brake and throttle indicators so that you can clearly see how much brake and throttle pressure you’re applying. At first, you might lose brake pressure while blipping the throttle, but that’s normal, and practicing will help you nail this part of it.
You can sit on the starting line and practice blipping the throttle without losing any brake pressure. Eventually, you will become more consistent as you train your feet and get the hang of how the technique works. From there you can slowly but surely incorporate it into your driving by starting with some slower laps.
Once you’re feeling confident, it’s time to try and beat your fastest lap times using the heel and toe technique. As soon as you get the hang of the technique and how it works, you will start to automatically use it and become faster and more consistent when using heel toe shifting!
How To Set Up Your Sim Racing Pedals For Heel Toe
The position of your pedals is also important when it comes to using the heel and toe technique. That’s because your feet will be doing a lot more work than before. It’s difficult to determine how the pedals should be set up because the optimal position will look different for each person.
The best way to get your pedals set up correctly is to practice your heel and toe technique at the start line like in the previous section. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, or you find that you just can’t keep the brake pressure high while blipping the throttle, try adjusting the position of the pedals to bring them closer together.
You can usually do this via screws on the front of the pedal faces. You’ll likely want to move your throttle and brake pedals closer together to allow you to keep your right foot on both of them at once without feeling uncomfortable.
Eventually, you will find the right position for your pedals and get the set up fine-tuned to your liking. Each driver will have their own preference when it comes to the pedal set up, so take some time to experiment with different pedal positions and angles until you are comfortable with it.
The heel and toe technique is an advanced technique used by some of the best drivers in the world in cars with a manual gearbox. The goal of this technique is to keep the car more stable when downshifting for corners, and while not everyone will get use out of the technique, it can be incredibly powerful for rallying or racing in manual cars.
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