I've always been unable to understand how rudder braking/toe braking works and how you steer while using rudder braking. Hence I came to this website with possibly the most knowledgeable people I could find. So far I have come to believe you must step on both rudder pedals to used rudder braking, but I find it hard to understand as how must one steer otherwise?

Do I have the whole concept of rudder braking wrong or is there something I may be missing?

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    $\begingroup$ Related question mentions: "To operate the rudder you press on the bottom part of the pedals, so that they slide back and forth on tracks, and to operate the brakes, you press the top part of the pedals so that they rotate towards the floor." $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Commented May 29 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ Where did you hear the term "rudder braking"? Because i think your answer is in the other question... $\endgroup$ Commented May 29 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Micheal Hall, yes indeed that does help! $\endgroup$ Commented May 29 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


I've always heard "rudder brakes" called toe brakes, but I think I understand what you mean.

When you're operating the brakes, you're rotating the pedals about their centers using your ankles (similar to the gas pedal of a car). When you're operating the rudder, you're sliding the pedals backwards and forwards, using your whole leg. You combine the two inputs to provide steering and braking.

  • $\begingroup$ That was really helpful! Appreciate it! $\endgroup$ Commented May 29 at 17:48

In addition to the answers and comments that clarify the potential confusion between 'normal' rudder controls and wheel braking with rudder toe-brakes, I thought it might be interesting to add that at least one general aviation plane is being designed with actual rudder braking.

The DarkAero 1 is unusual in that it has a split rudder that is designed to be able to open out in a way to provide air brakes. Presumably it won't be much use when taxiing, but I suspect that in addition to being useful on approach to landing, could also be useful on the ground when coming to a stop after landing. It might save a bit of wear on the brake pads if nothing else.

There's a video explaining it here:

Edit: Re-reading your initial question and the (currently) only other answer, I feel that your question has not really been answered.

With regards to steering the aircraft on the ground, there are a number of methods, but they aren't all necessarily available on all aircraft or effective at all times.

You can steer using the rudder, but only if there is sufficient airflow across it (ie you are going fast enough) for a sufficient amount of lift to be generated.

Planes equipped with differential toe-brakes (each brake can be operated in isolation to the other) can apply braking to a single wheel which will cause the plane to turn.

Planes equipped with rudder steering (as well as operating the rudder, the pedals are connected to the nosewheel) can utilise this.

My own plane has toe brakes, but not nosewheel steering. I find that on initial acceleration for take off when the rudder is ineffective, I have no choice but to apply brakes to counter the rotational forces of the engine/propeller wash. Applying brakes on take off is not ideal, especially when your plane needs to use most of the runway!


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