What is Badminton Footwork?

When talking about basic footwork in badminton, there are a few things to keep in mind.  The first thing you need to understand is why badminton footwork techniques are important.  Once you understand the purpose of a solid footwork foundation, you’ll feel more inclined to really put the work into improving yourself.  You need to focus on what what your weaknesses are as a player, and then decide which badminton footwork techniques you can work on both at your facility and at home to strengthen those areas.  When you do these drills and practice techniques consistently, you’ll notice a serious uptick in your competitive shuttling. Let’s break down a few of the Why’s and How’s together.

Why is footwork important in playing badminton?

When we use the word “footwork” in badminton, we’re referring to the speed and skill with which a player moves from one zone of the court to another during the game.  If you can’t get to the shuttle quickly enough, it can lead to missed shots, missed points, and eventually a lost rally.  Many badminton pros would even tell you that footwork is the single most important skill a badminton player should possess.  The power to smash a 300mph shuttle at your opponent is useless if you can’t get to the shuttle in the first place.  

This is a photo of black athletic shoes on a pair of feet wearing black athletic leggings.

Those pros that appear to float along the court, making it look easy, are the pros that often have the best footwork and therefore the best agility.  Please bear in mind that footwork and agility, while going hand in hand are not synonymous. Footwork is just one leg of agility training.  While footwork refers to the specific steps and movements, agility refers to the overall quickness and coordination.  We should be deliberate with our footwork to increase agility.  

One of the first concepts a beginner needs to understand about badminton is the idea that every player needs a home base during a game.  Think of this base point as the safest space on the court to await a return shot from your opponent.  

What is a base point, and why is it important?

A base point is the starting point from which a player moves to connect with the shuttle.  By centering yourself, you’re creating the shortest possible distance between you and ALL four corners of the court. One of the most common rookie mistakes in badminton happens when a beginner returns a shot, and then remains planted where they hit the shuttle.  The opponent simply needs to send the shuttle into an opposite court zone, creating a distance that can’t be crossed in time. By not returning to a base point, you’re telling the opponent exactly where they can hit the shuttle for their next point.

Returning to a base point, or centralized location is paramount to returning as many shots as possible.  Each time you hit the shuttle, you need to train your muscles to immediately RESET to that base point.  Once you master this, you can begin building your footwork out from your base point.

The base point is located differently depending on whether you’re in a singles game or a doubles game:

  • Singles – The base point for a singles game is going to be in the center of the court. 
  • Doubles – The base point for a doubles game is going to be the most centralized point in the area of the court you are covering. 

When at your base point, you’re going to want to train your body to be in a “ready” stance until it’s time to react.  This ready stance involves widening your feet to about shoulder width, with your racket foot about a half step ahead of your non-dominant foot.  You’ll remain slightly couched to lower your center of gravity and improve balance for the sudden movement that will follow.

This is a shot of dozens of shuttlecocks and several badminton rackets laying on a green surfaced badminton court.

Photo by eric anada from Pexels

What are the basic badminton footwork steps?

There are dozens of variations of footwork techniques touted by trainers, coaches, and pros alike.  Scissor jumps, running steps, cross steps, lunges, split steps, chasse steps, and sidesteps – just to name a few.  Feeling overwhelmed?  Let’s take a look at a few of the most used and most efficient badminton footwork steps used by intermediate and advanced players. 

Split-Step

The split step, sometimes referred to as a “split drop”, is a quick movement used (hopefully after resetting yourself to your base point) to set your body up in anticipation to return the next shot. It’s more like a jump than a step and is made easier when we know where our opponents shot will be headed.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

In a split step, you’ll push off using the foot opposite the direction you want to head.  Check out a demonstration of the split-step here.

The split step is used every time an opponent is about to hit a shot.  This piece of footwork magic readies you to spring back in the direction the shuttle is headed.  It’s the first step in a sequence of footwork that’s going to get you where you need to be if timed perfectly.  It will take some real-time game practice to get the split-step timed just right with your opponent’s racket swing.  Hit the split-step too early and you don’t get the repulsion in one smooth motion – too late and you’re heading in the right direction, but a fraction of a second too late.

Running Step

A running step is the most natural bit of footwork for a beginner.  It’s most often used before a badminton player begins learning more complicated and refined footwork techniques.  It’s exactly what it sounds like – a short running movement.  Place one foot in front of the other, hopefully ending the series of steps with the racket foot while extending the racket arm to return the shuttle.

A running step is most often used to cover a longer distance, for example, if you were caught in a back corner and need to reach a front backhand corner to get the shuttle, a running step would be most effective.  

Though you may think to yourself, “I know how to run.” It’s worth looking at a demonstration of this type of badminton footwork on the court.

Chasse Step

A chasse step is an efficient little move.  A Chassé is also a ballet step.  Its gracefulness will get you from point a to point b without tripping all over yourself and with the fewest number of steps possible.

The term comes from the word chasser, meaning “to chase”.  This term is used because it appears as if one leg is chasing the other.  It’s a “Step-together-step” movement, where the lead foot steps forward, then both legs move together as the non-racket leg “chases” the racket leg in front of it. The player leaps off the ground and brings the rear foot towards the front foot while in mid-air, landing on the rear foot and then extending the front foot out into a shallow lunge.  

When executed properly, a player will cover the distance of two steps in one fluid movement.  This type of footwork is better understood with a demonstration

What can I do to improve badminton footwork?

There are a lot of badminton footwork drills out there.  Each one develops a different muscle group or trains your body’s muscle memory to do something different.  As your body becomes comfortable with each specific type of step and movement, you improve your speed and reaction time.  The best way to do this is with purposeful practice and repetition

While there are some quality badminton footwork video tutorials that we’ll compile later in this blog post, let’s take a look at some of the basic drills and exercises you can be doing both at the gym and on the court.

This is a photo of a pair of athletic shoe clad feet practicing running in place on sand, sometimes referred to as sand training.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Can my badminton shoes improve my footwork?

Badminton shoes are all designed specifically for indoor court sports, but some are better than others.  Ankle support plays a big role in free movement.  This unrestrictive shoe design will help you change direction on a dime and return to your base point quickly.  Make sure your foot is not sliding to the toe in your shoe, and that your insole provides adequate shock absorption and rebound for jump shots.  All of these seemingly minute details add up to great footwork.  Check out some of our recommended shoes, as they go hand-in-hand with a good footwork training regimen.  

Can I do badminton footwork training at home?

The pandemic forced badminton players (beginners and Olympians alike) to figure out how to continue adequate training at home.  Footwork training is no exception and there are many drills, exercises, and activities you can perform at home to continue to improve badminton footwork, with very little equipment.  A simple agility ladder, speed cones, and some resistance bands can be great tools for effective drills right in your backyard.

Victor Axelson has a great series of Youtube videos through his own personal VAAcademy brand that outlines dozens of great footwork and leg strengthening exercises. He’s posted badminton training videos for beginners and pros alike. 

Here is a list of some other great resources and tutorial videos we’ve compiled from the badminton online community, including some of my own:

Follow me on Instagram and Youtube for the latest in badminton footwork training videos, drills, and exercises – as well as tips, tricks, and techniques for badminton players at every skill level.

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