Shadow Footwork & Variations

Justin Ma - December 22, 2020 - 0 comments

In this post, we will be talking about shadow footwork, variations, and benefits. These are exercises, similar to shuttle run footwork, where you repeat footwork movement on the court without actually hitting a shot. Shadow footwork is an amazing way to stay light on your feet and make sure that your movement works the way you want it to.

What is Shadow Footwork?

Shadow footwork, like I mentioned above, are drills or exercises that require you to do footwork to different corners without hitting a bird. This video is a good demonstration of what one variation of the drill looks like, with a partner helping you out:

Shadow footwork is commonly done to loosen up your joints and muscles to get warmed up and as a focused conditioning exercise where you exert a lot of energy and speed in going as fast as you can. Shadow footwork is done, and should be done, by players of all skill levels.

Benefits of Shadow Footwork

There are many benefits of shadow footwork, making this a necessary exercise for beginners up to professional players. Let’s take a look at some of the major benefits:

Quality of Movement

This is the most important part of shadow footwork. This drill teaches you the proper footwork and gives you an avenue to practice footwork specifically, without having to worry about the shot you hit as well. For beginners, it is hard for many to worry about learning too many things at the same time (i.e how to combine your shots with your movements). By isolating it into a shadow footwork drill, you can master the footwork before having to apply this same footwork to shots as well.

For professionals, shadow footwork is a time for their coaches to identify any movement flaws or areas that could be cleaned up. These minor differences may save that half second of time needed to reach a shot in a high level match.


When doing shadow footwork, we generally aim to do sets longer than most rallies in a game. Thus, this is a great way to train your legs to be ready for these long rallies and help you keep up the speed regardless of how long the rallies go in.


Speed, like I mentioned above, is extremely important in badminton. Shadow footwork will help you improve this speed. With repetition, you should be able to get to your core movements faster, without thinking, enabling you to move to each corner of the court faster than you would originally.


If you do a variation like the video (will describe in more detail below), you are able to train your reaction time by reacting to the corner that your partner points to. Reaction is vital in badminton to be able to reach smashes, cut off opponent shots, and more.

Variations and Common Patterns

There are probably an infinite number of ways to do different variations on shadow footwork – in this section, we will focus on the 3 most common exercises that I commonly do.

Random Shadow Footwork

The random shadow footwork is the most common shadow footwork exercise done by anyone. Essentially, you will continue doing footwork for either a set number of corners, or a set time period. You will do shadow footwork to 6 different corners, randomly. The great thing about this drill, is that you are able to do this with a partner (who points for you), or alone (you go to the corners you want to go)

This drill is a great way to simulate real game situations since you are always going to random corners. In a match, most shots are not entirely predictable so you should be ready to perform movements to corners that you may not be used to. Additionally, since the sets could be much longer than a normal rally, this will also train your endurance.

Reaction Shadow Footwork

The next version of this drill is reaction shadow footwork. This involves having a partner. The way to perform this drill is: when you are in the middle, continue doing stationary rapid-fire (toe tapping as fast as you can while staying on your toes). Your partner can then “call” a corner or point a corner at a time of their choosing. Then, explode as fast as you can to that corner with the proper footwork, then go back to the middle slowly and begin the stationary rapid-fire again. For this type of drill, a good number of corners is between 15-20 per set up to 10 sets. The video below shows a variety of different footwork drills as well.

When calling corners, the corners are associated like this: 1 – Right Front, 2 – Left Front, 3 – Right Back, 4 – Left Back, 5 – Right Side, 6 – Left Side

Smash -> Kill Shadow Footwork

The final common variation is the Smash -> Kill Shadow footwork drill. This drill focuses on speed. All you do is hit one shadow smash in the back and follow up that smash with a push or a kill. Repeat this pattern of one back and one front as fast as you can. Do anywhere between 10 – 20 reps in each set, up to 10 sets total.


Shadow footwork is a great training method. Even if you don’t want to dedicate an entire training session to it, try to do it as a warmup before your main training session! If you’d like to see more drill highlights, training highlights, or more, please check out my YouTube channel and Instagram Highlight Feed, and feel free to reach out with any questions. See you guys in the next one!

Justin Ma

I am passionate about helping people find joy in playing badminton, while also showing them how competitive the sport can be.

Justin Ma


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