Movement and footwork is a crucial part of your pickleball game. The good news is that foot speed can be gained by performing drills that require strength and balance and since players move in various directions on the court, a conditioning program should include different movements. After all, no matter how good your stroke play is, it won’t help you win the point unless you reach the ball.

Follow these drills and tips for better footwork.

Footwork Basics

When several steps are required in chasing down a ball, two general rules can be applied.

Moving toward the ball

The first step is made with the leg closest to the ball. That is, if you are about to move toward a forehand, move the right leg first.

Moving away from the ball

The first step is made with the leg closest to the ball but this is where sideways and backward stepping is commonly required. Since this is more difficult than moving toward the ball, react quickly and move SLOWLY to maintain your sense of balance. If your balance is lost, not only do you loose control of your shot, but you also risk personal injury due to a fall and/or a twisted ankle.

When no move is needed

When not having to move at all to chase down a ball, that is, when only a sideways rotation is required, only two steps are necessary.

  1. Step one is to move the leg on the same side of the hitting side first. Specifically, move this leg (and foot) behind the other foot when beginning the body rotation.
  2. Step two is to move the other leg so that it’s knee is facing four o’clock on forehands (or eight o’clock on backhands). In this position, both knees should be slightly bent.

In summary, step backward first, then step to the side.

A good tip for better pickleball movement – NEVER step forward into your shots unless more than two steps are necessary.

Pickleball step movements

General Concepts of Footwork

To improve your footwork, you need to understand the general concepts of footwork.  I know it sounds basic, but each of these concepts will help you to improve your speed and game.

Footwork and the forward stroke

This concept was covered in the “Form and Balance” lesson.

Which leg to move first?

As a general rule, move the leg closest to the ball first.

When to begin to move?

As soon as humanly possible. This means react quickly so you can get to the ball with plenty of time to spare.

How to move?

Move smoothly without forceful steps. When moving sideways or backward, crouch down slightly to lower your center of gravity.

Heel-toe vs. toe-only stepping

Most steps are done with the body weight on the front of the feet (toe-only stepping). This allows for efficient pivoting and proper positioning of the feet. Heel-toe stepping is appropriate only in extreme running situations.

The quantity of steps

As a general rule, the fewer the better. Minimizing your steps will help you to conserve energy.

The size of the step

Whatever is comfortable for you. Keep in mind however that smaller steps are generally more controllable than larger steps.

Accelerating the body

Do so smoothly. Begin with short steps, then make the steps longer.

Slowing down the body

Do so gradually. Always end with a sequence of at least two or three very small steps to “fine tune” proper position and balance.

Tennis shoes

worn out pickleball shoesWear the shoes out, don’t wear your feet out. This means play pickleball without concern over soiling your pretty new shoes. Pickleball is demanding on both shoes and paddles.

If you have not checked out our guide to the best pickleball shoes, it is well worth a look.  It no only shows you the best buys on the market today, but it also have some great tips to help you choose the right shoes for your feet.

Remember, everyones feet are different, so getting the right shoes is extremely important to both your game and also in preventing any potential injuries.  So take a look and save your feet!

How to Improve Pickleball Footwork

There are seven easy to follow steps which will help you improve your footwork on the pickleball court.

Step 1

Jog backwards around the length of two pickleball courts. You will need this skill when backing up from the net to retrieve a ball.

Step 2

Slide around the length of two pickleball courts. This means bringing both feet together then side stepping one foot out.

Step 3

Lift your knee as high as possible to your chest while jogging. Repeat with other knee.

Step 4

Shuffle your feet to the ball before contact. This helps you regain your balance and make adjustments.

Step 5

Use the bounce step between shots. To do this, put your weight on the ball of one foot, then the other, in rhythmic motion. This ensures you’re ready to jump into action.

Step 6

Slide step into position after hitting the ball. You may lose balance if you cross your feet.

Step 7

Jump rope to improve your footwork and quicken your speed.