Badminton footwork is one of the most important skills to learn in badminton. It is also one of the most complex ones due to how unnatural it comes to people to move around the court using specific steps. In addition to that, it is also one of the skills where guidance is less clear, as there are several different views on how is best to move (we will see them below). All this makes footwork a very complicated topic.
With this article, we want to bring all there is to know about footwork into one comprehensive guide that people can refer to when looking for information about footwork.
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Badminton footwork basics
As we said before, footwork is indeed a very complicated topic. However, there are certain things that are, luckily, very straight forward and where everybody shares the same point of view. We will start with these items as the foundation for our guide.
Base point – Where all starts
The base point is what we could also call the anchor of our game. Is the position in the court we will always come back to after every single shot, while we wait for the opponent to hit the shot back.
At the beginners level, what usually happens is that people hit the shuttle and then stay in the position where they have hit the shuttle, waiting for the opponent to hit it back and then rushing to where the shuttle is going. If your opponent does that, a very useful tactic you can apply is what is called the movement pressure strategy. If you want to know what this strategy is and how you can apply it, be sure to check our movement pressure post.
This is one of the main mistakes that need to be corrected in order to perform good footwork. As soon as you hit the shuttle, you should do your best to go all the way back to the basepoint while the shuttle travels to the court of your opponent so that when your opponent hits the shuttle, you are in the center of your court. As a result of that, you are in the location where you can reach all the corners of the court with the minimum travel required.
If you, on the other hand, stay in the position from where you hit the shuttle, you will be no longer in the center of the court. Because of that, your opponent can hit the shuttle to the furthest point of the court from where you are located, making it much more difficult for you to return the shot.
So, the first basic principle about footwork is to always, always return to your base point. In singles, that will be in the center of the court (with small variations depending on your playing style and on the strengths and weaknesses of you and your opponent). In doubles, that will be the center of the area of the court you are covering.
Waiting position and split-step – The key to a fast reaction
Having the base point principle covered, it is now time to talk about the waiting position. The waiting position is the position you should be in while you are in the basepoint waiting for your opponent to hit the shuttle.
To fully understand the reasons behind the following advice, it is important to highlight that the whole point of the waiting position advice is for you to be able to react as fast as possible to the shots of your opponent. This way, you can start moving towards the place where the shuttle will be landing as fast as possible.
With that in mind, the advice here is clear. You need to keep your center of gravity low by flexing your legs while you wait. That means that you don’t wait for the shuttle fully erected, but with your legs slightly flexed.
Once your opponent is about to hit the shuttle, you need to do what is called the split step. This is a critical point because the split step will help you in reacting much faster to the shot.
In the split step, you need to do a little jump from your waiting position. However, more than jumping up, the idea is to bring your center of gravity a bit lower. So you are more like jumping down.
After this mini jump, your racket leg should be slightly more in front than your non-racket leg. If you are right-handed, your right leg is your racket leg. If you are left-handed, your left leg is your racket leg. Remember this because we will refer to racket leg and non-racket leg all the time in this guide.
In addition to that, your feet should not be flat on the floor, but with the heels slightly raised, so that your body weight is held by your toes. This is done in order to allow for a faster movement reaction.
If you manage to consistently exercise the split step and to return to your base point, your footwork will improve dramatically and you will be able to arrive at the shuttles much in advance and stay in control of the rallies. If you are not there yet, you can check our badminton tactics post, where we explain other strategies that you can use in order to increase your chances of winning.
Body position – Key to a good balance
Another important part of footwork is to keep a good body balance so that you can hit the shuttle in a consistent way and you can also recover to the base point as fast as possible. Good body balance is one of the tips we suggest in our badminton tips post. If you are curious to know what other tips we have so you can improve your game, make sure to check our badminton tips article.
Keeping a good body balance is a complex skill that requires loads of practice, but it is important to have its importance in mind in order to be able to work towards your goal. The three keys to a good balance as far as body position is concerned are the following:
- Keep your center of gravity low
- Use your non-racket arm to balance your movements
- Keep your trunk always straight
Keep your center of gravity low
As we mentioned already before, a low center of gravity is a very important characteristic of your footwork. This is because, with a lower center of gravity, the horizontal force that your movement creates is less powerful the closer to the floor your center of gravity is. If you know a bit of physics, you will understand this without having to see it. Otherwise, you can watch the video below where this is explained.
Use your non-racket arm to balance your movements
Another element you need to keep a good body balance is to learn to use your non-racket arm as a balancing tool. By extending your arm to counterbalance your racket movement, you can better control and balance your center of gravity
Keep your trunk straight
Another important principle for keeping a good balance is to keep your trunk straight and not stretch it out. This is especially true when moving towards the net. The reason for this is the same reason as for the other points. By keeping your trunk straight, you keep your center of gravity balanced in the middle of your body. Because of that, it will require less force to stop the movement towards the net and return to the base point after you hit the shuttle.
Focus on the technique and not on the speed
The last principle you need to learn is that, while improving your footwork, it is critical that you focus on making it correctly and not on making it fast. As we said at the beginning of the article, the badminton footwork is a rather unnatural way of moving around the court. Therefore, it is difficult for the body to get used to moving around like this. If you focus on going fast, you will start using shortcuts that help at the moment they are being practiced, but that will become a burden further down the line.
So, until these movements become muscle memory and you can do them without even thinking about them, focus on making them correctly, even though you feel you will reach the point faster if you just had run. Over time, once your body starts getting used to the movements, you will start to increase the speed and be able to do it fast and without thought.
The process is a little bit like when you learn to drive a car, especially if you drive manual. When you are learning and you are in a roundabout, you need to be able to change gears while you activate the turn signal or indicator while you are turning the wheel and at the same time checking that there is no car that is impeding your exit from the roundabout. This can be overwhelming at the beginning, but you hardly think about it after a few months of practice.
The same will happen with the footwork. Once you get it in your subconscious and in your muscle memory, you will be able to perform it without having to think about it.
The principle of focusing on the technique and not on the results is also applicable to practicing your shots. At first, when you perform your shots following our guidelines, you might see a drop in your performance because you are learning a new way to shoot. However, long term, your game will improve drastically. We recommend focusing on one shot at a time in order to not become discouraged by the changes. The first shot worth learning is the service, which will not win you games, but it will make sure you don’t lose them. If you want to learn how to serve like a pro, have a look at our badminton service post, where we explain all the different types of serves and how to perform them.
Footwork for the six main points of the court
Now that we have covered the basics of footwork, it is time to get into the unclearer world of the movement itself. As we mentioned in the beginning, there are different schools of thought for which is best and my personal view is that it also depends a lot on the specific player. What is ideal for a tall player might not be the appropriate approach for a short one. However, we will explain here all the different versions, so this can be used as a reference for everybody. We will focus mainly on the footwork for singles.
Before we start getting into the details, it is important to clarify which positions we will talk about. We will discuss the different options for the six main points of the court. These are the four corners and the two sides, as below:
- Forehand front corner
- Backhand front corner
- Forehand side
- Backhand side
- Forehand back-court corner
- Backhand back-court corner
With the positions listed, it is time to talk about the main schools of thought for the movements. These can be divided into two main schools.
The running steps are the first of the two main schools of thought and the one most recommended to beginners due to being the one that comes more naturally to people. Within the running steps, there are also two main variations for each corner, with the difference being the number of steps to be taken.
The chasse steps are the second school of thought. It is also an important way to keep in mind, as it is more recommended for specific movements.
Just keep in mind the two names as we will use them to explain the movements in each corner. Also, keep in mind that we are always starting the movement after the split step.
Footwork for the forehand front corner
The forehand front corner is the corner where you will hit the shuttle with your forehand grip. If you are right-handed, that would be the right-hand corner (if you are looking towards the net). If you are left-handed, the forehand front corner would be the left-hand corner (if you are looking towards the net).
Two running steps
The two-step version of the running steps starts with moving your non-racket leg forward in front of your leg racket, and then end up the movement by landing on your racket leg, extending your racket arm at the same time in order to reach the shuttle.
Once you have hit the shuttle and in order to return to the base, you should push back your racket leg so it is further from the net than your non-racket leg. The last step is to move your non-racket leg back. With these two movements, you should be back to the center of the court, where you can wait for the next shot from your opponent.
Three running steps crossing
This version of the footwork starts the movement by moving your racket leg front, then crossing the non-racket leg through the back and finish again with the extension of the racket leg, while extending your arm to hit the shuttle. I have heard opinions against this technique because it makes it easier for the player to trip over if not done properly. However, I also found it useful in certain situations and thus, it is also added to the guide.
The chasse steps are slightly different and somehow feel a bit less natural to a beginner. That is why sometimes they are taught later on. In any case, as this guide wants to cover everything there is to know about footwork, we have also added them. The chasse steps are used in certain situations, for example when wanting to finish a point with a kill on the net. Even though some people will argue against this, I wouldn’t recommend using this as a standard way to move to this corner.
In order to move with chasse steps to the forehand front corner, you need to move both feet at the same time, while bringing them closer in the air during the movement. In your landing, you will land with your non-racket leg back and your racket leg in front. They need to be fairly apart, but with this type of movement, you will not achieve the same extension that you do with the running steps.
Footwork for the backhand front corner
For your backhand front corner, the same type of principles holds true. However, in this case, the crossing version is much less used because it is much easier to reach the corner with only two steps.
Two running steps
In this case, the same logic as the forehand front corner is used. However, due to the fact that you are hitting the shuttle with your backhand grip, it becomes much easier to do this movement and to reach further. Therefore, this is pretty much the standard version for this movement.
So, to perform a running step, first, move your non-racket leg in front and then extend your racket leg while also extending your racket arm in order to hit the shuttle.
To go back to the center, move back your racket leg first, then move your non-racket leg and finish aligning yourself with a split step.
Three running steps crossing
This version is hardly used because the two running steps work really well in your backhand front corner. However, you can also do this version the same way that you do it in the forehand front corner. Start moving your racket leg while rotating your body so your hips are facing the side of the court, then cross over with your non-racket leg on the back of your racket leg and finish by extending your racket leg forward while also extending your arm to hit the shuttle.
When would you use this footwork? Only if, for whatever reason, you have not managed to reach the center of the court after the previous shot and you are a bit further than usual from this corner. In this case, it might be required to do three steps instead of only two in order to reach the shuttle. Also, if you struggle to reach the shuttles with only two steps from the center of the court, it might be that it is better for you to use the three steps as a standard.
To return to the center, the same system as with the two running steps apply.
The chasse steps for the backhand front corner require a bit more of starting explanation, so we will first clarify that. Bear in mind that with the chasse steps going to the backhand front corner, you will need to rotate your body so you will be not facing the net but more the side of the court.
Therefore, you either need to make a normal step before you can do the chasse steps or you need to change your position in the center. Due to that, it is not very common footwork in singles, but it is can be used if you are playing on that side of the net. It is more used in doubles, where you have a bit less court to cover and thus you can change your waiting position to be a bit more directed towards a specific movement.
Footwork for the forehand side
The footwork for the sides is not as complicated as for the front, mainly because the points you want to reach are closer to the center of the court. Therefore, less movement is needed in order to reach them.
One running step
In this version, you only do one step to reach the side of the court. This can work well if the shuttle is directed close to your center position. In order to perform this movement, you need to just move your racket leg to the side while also extending your arm. To go back to the center, bring back your racket leg and then get ready with a split step.
Two running steps
The two steps version of this movement is similar to the three steps movement we explained for the forehand front corner but eliminating the first step. Therefore, you start by crossing your non-racket leg back from your racket leg and you finish the movement by extending your racket leg.
This step can also be performing with a first short step with the non-racket leg that does not cross over but that simply brings the non-racket leg closer to the racket leg. After that, you take the final step as with the other version.
To come back to the center, perform a normal chasse step.
The chasse steps are not very much used in this specific point, but they can be important in some situations, such as when playing doubles and wanting to hit the shuttle fast to gain the initiative of the point.
For this, the same logic as the forehand front corner applies. Jump forward and bring both legs closer while jumping, and then land first on your non-racket leg and then on your racket leg. To go back, just repeat the chasse steps but moving towards the center.
Footwork for the backhand side
For the backhand side, the movements are a bit different than they are for the other corners. Here, due to being close to your center and due to the fact that is your backhand, there are basically two movements that are widely used and accepted. Each is used in different circumstances.
One step version with your racket leg
This type of movement is used when the shuttle is going to your side but close to the sideline. Therefore, you need to turn your body while at the same time extending your racket leg. With only one step, you will easily reach the line so two steps are never required or used in this location of the court.
To come back, simply bring your racket leg back and then do a slip step to get in position.
One step version with your non-racket leg
This movement is more used when the shuttle is going to land not too close to the sideline, but more towards the center of the court. It has the advantage of being faster to do and easier to recover from, but it has the disadvantage of a smaller reach. That is why it is used for shuttles that are closer to you.
In order to do this movement, simply move laterally your non-racket leg, while keeping the trunk of your body facing the net.
To go back to the center, simply push back your non-racket leg and you will be in the center.
Footwork for the forehand back-court corner
Things get complicated again when it comes to the back side of the court. In here, there are many more options and subtleties, but I believe they can be grouped into three main footwork types.
Three steps crossing with scissor movement
This is one of the two most common movements when it comes to forehand backcourt corner. In this movement, you first move your racket leg, then you cross your non-racket leg on the back of your racket leg and finally you move your racket leg forward towards the back of the court.
The key here is that you, in your final movement, do not extend the racket leg too much, but only a bit so you are in a very straight position when hitting the shuttle. When doing so, you need to bring your non-racket leg backwards so, by the end of your hitting movement, your non-racket leg is on the back of your body and you can use it to impulse yourself towards the center of the court.
Chasse steps with a jump
The other typical footwork used for this corner is a chasse step finished with a jump. In order to perform this footwork, you must first perform a standard chasse step while at the same time rotating slightly your body in order to move efficiently. Once the chasse step is completed, then you jump towards the back of the court and you hit the shuttle while jumping.
This footwork is a bit more complex to perform than the first one, but it will help you reach the shuttle much faster, especially when the shuttle is going close to the corner.
Three steps crossing with standard landing
This last type of footwork is very similar to the first type. The difference lies in the last step. Once you have crossed your non-racket leg, then you do extend your racket leg forward, in a similar manner as you would do on a forehand front corner.
With this type of footwork, you will typically hit your shuttle at around your shoulders height. This makes it, generally, a defensive shot. Moreover, because of the way your body is positioned, you will not be able to use any of the inertia from your body to increase the speed of the shuttle. For that reason, it will, for some people, narrow down the types of shots they can do from that position.
With all these disadvantages, why would anybody decide to perform this footwork? Well, it has a big reach, which means that you can easily reach the corner with it. Moreover, because you hit the shuttle lower, you have a bit more time to hit it. This is a good characteristic when you have been caught off-guard and you need to recover.
Footwork for the backhand back-court corner
This is the last corner and probably the trickiest one of all, mainly due to the fact that you can hit the shuttle here either with your backhand grip or with your forehand grip. Due to them being different grips, you have completely different ways to move towards the moment of impact.
Chasse step with scissor movement for a forehand grip shot
The first type of footwork is a chasse step which ends up with a scissor movement. We have already seen all parts of this footwork in previous movements, but not altogether, so let’s get it all wrapped up.
To start, you need to rotate your body so that your hips, instead of facing the net are facing the side of the court. In order to do that, you need to bring your racket leg back.
Once you have rotated your body, you then do a chasse step towards the back of the court. Professionals, instead of doing a standard chasse step, do more of a jump with their non-racket leg, but the underlying logic is the same.
After this step, you hit your shuttle while you bring your non-racket leg behind, with what is called a scissor movement. This is the same type of movement that we explained with the forehand back-court corner.
To go back to the center of the court, you can either do it with standard steps or with chasse steps.
Chasse step with a jump for a forehand grip shot
In this footwork, you reach the corner by doing a chasse step and then jumping. This is the same footwork that was also explained for the forehand back-court corner. The difference is that here, due to it being the backhand back-court corner, you will start the chasse step with your non-racket leg without rotating your body at all and, when landing, you will land also in your non-racket leg.
To come back to the center, just come back using the chasse steps.
This footwork will feel quite unnatural as it is quite contrary to the logic of all the other movements. However, it is very useful because, due to not having to rotate your body, it is a fast way to reach shuttles in that area. The downside? That it doesn’t have as much reach as the other, so you won’t be able to reach the corner. Also, the way you land, it is more difficult to recover and come back to the center.
Two steps footwork for a backhand shot
The last one is the footwork used if you are going to hit a backhand shot. This is not the recommended approach because your backhand shot is most likely much weaker than your forehand shot. So, if you use this footwork, you will be giving a lot of advantage to your opponent. However, the game is not perfect so you might be forced to use it in some moments. Don’t make it the first resource, though!
In this footwork, you first move your non-racket leg towards the back and then you land with your racket leg. While moving your racket leg, you should also start performing the move with your racket in order to hit the shuttle precisely at the moment you land with your foot on the court.
Once you have hit the shuttle, your body will not be facing the net but the back of the court. In order to return to the center, rotate your body while also bringing the racket leg to the front and then reach the center using a chasse step.
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You made it! With this, we have arrived at the end of this guide. We have come a long way and it is really good that you went through it all.
In this guide, we first described the basics of footwork that are commonly accepted in the badminton world.
After that, we have described the different types of footwork for each of the six corner of the court.
Are you missing any specific movement? Is there something that you did not understand well enough? Then let us know in the comments below!