badminton footwork

Badminton footwork: the secret to smooth gameplay


Last Updated on June 2, 2023 by Aske

How the hell do you win a point like this?

The shot is good but nothing special at this level. It’s not deceptive nor a surprise… 

Have you guessed it?

It’s footwork. 

It allows Axelsen to reach the shuttle in time while still offering him the split second necessary to judge if it’s out and where to play it if not. That difference allows him to turn a near-lost point into a winner.

If there are too many shots out of your reach, you come to the right place.

Badminton footwork has more impact on your game than smashes, serves, and any other individual shot — we use it in every shot, rally, and match!

From a fitness perspective, footwork has both its upsides and downsides. 

On one hand, you’ll lose less weight playing badminton because you become more efficient with your energy on the court. On the other hand, you’ll be more effective, meaning that your games will last longer and they’ll be more intense which in turn makes them a harder workout.

In fact, regarding footwork, there are two ways to achieve more intensity and better results in games:

  1. Use your energy more efficiently
  2. Build more energy (stamina)

In this article, I’ll cover how to use your existing energy more efficiently through footwork, and we’ll save the idea of building more energy for another article as that is a huge subject on its own.

I’ve found that when I’m learning something new, it helps to first understand why I should bother learning it and exactly how I can use it in the real world. Let’s start there.

Besides saving energy, good footwork allows us to get earlier on the shuttle and that opens up for new shots.

Specifically, with a shot near the net, good footwork allows us to intercept the shuttle earlier in its trajectory, while it’s above the net, and that opens up more angles and shot possibilities compared to below the net where often only a lift or net shot is possible. That gives us a high chance of converting the rally to a point rather than giving the opponent the attack.

The key point with footwork isn’t just reaching the difficult shots on time but also having a stable body as you shoot, as it’ll otherwise affect the quality of your shot. At the same time, an important part is to recover well so we are ready for the next shot.

But… if good footwork is the remedy to reach even the most difficult shot, how do we play against it?

The perhaps best shot against good footwork is when the opponent is locked into a move and can’t go in the other direction before it’s too late. Footwork can’t fix everything.

Rather than attempting to explain how to practice footwork myself, I’ve gathered some of the best tutorials around.

There are several levels to badminton footwork and we don’t need to learn everything from 0-100 upfront. There are also differences between defensive and offensive footwork, playing singles vs. doubles matches. 

It might feel a bit weird to be the champion of badminton footwork with perfect moves but suck at hitting the shuttle, so I’ve prepared a few different stages that you can choose to learn it through.

First, let’s dive into the first stage which covers the necessities for moving around the court so we can cover most areas effortlessly.

Basic footwork in badminton: cover the corners effortlessly

My friend just started playing and she pointed out that even at her level, the footwork made badminton much more fun because it enabled her to reach most of the shots.

Compare that to before when anything that wasn’t shot right at her would quickly be out of reach, and she’d be out of breath.

For beginners, there are a few key items we need to master upfront as it makes everything easier moving forward. Those are:

  • Split steps for faster reaction
  • Lunges to cover the hard-to-reach corners
  • Chassés to get the timing just right

First, we’ll learn the important split step to speed up our reaction time when returning shots.

Then we’ll build upon it in order to reach the faraway corners early and be ready for a good quality shot.

Most people will read the article, watch the videos… and do nothing, but you know that just watching the videos will make little difference compared to repeatedly drilling them on the court. If this is your first foray into badminton footwork, this is all you need. Go get it!

When you feel confident in the moves above, it’s time to master the rear court.

The first step is mastering the techniques at a slow pace before speeding them up. That way, like muscle memory, your body will learn and remember the correct moves and soon you’ll be doing them fast without even thinking about it.

Footwork is somewhat easy to train without a partner, and even without a court (although it’s ideal if you have one available).

The videos we just saw covered both drill examples and theory, and for your convenience, I’ve cataloged videos below specifically for drills so it’s easy to pull up this article when you want to practice.

After improving my footwork,
I reach most of my opponents’ shots earlier.
That gives me more chances to smash!
Master your footwork with
former world champion Thomas Laybourn and win more points!

Off-court footwork drills in badminton to improve footwork

Next level footwork in badminton: speed up, dominate the court and win

At this point, you know your way around the court. In this next section, we’ll look at ideas to improve, especially with faster speed.

There are several ways to break down the footwork further. Let’s look at defensive and offensive footwork next.

Defensive and offensive footwork

Here’s first a fun video of singles defensive footwork coached at four different levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and elite, so you can get a feel for the difference. See if you can spot the difference in the exercises.

Let’s first look at defensive footwork and how to practice the footwork for a singles defense against a smash.

Then we’ll dive into how to defend the forehand corner in order to be able to cover a drop or a net shot for example.

Finally, we’ll finish the defensive tasks by working the rear court.

Next up is the attack and how to attack from the backhand side.

Following that, let’s compare the footwork in singles and doubles. I’m not including positioning and double rotation here as I’ve covered those topics separately.

Footwork examples for doubles games

For those of you who want to drill double techniques, I found these examples.

Here’s another example if you are looking to work on your doubles defensive footwork.

Off-court footwork drills in badminton improve movement and speed

5 footwork tips from the pros.

Side-to-side footwork routine.

Sand training for extra difficulty. 

Variation one – check out the Instagram post here.

badminton footwork example - sand training alternative 2

Variation two – check out the Instagram post here.

badminton footwork example - sand training

Real-world badminton footwork session with the pros

It’ll be tempting to skip the other sections and go directly to this one. Don’t.

In badminton footwork, the pros have figured out which steps and patterns are the most efficient way to move around the court depending on which shot you’ve made and which one you’ll receive. The ideal approach for us is to imitate the best first and then build upon it based on our own strengths, weaknesses, and the opponent we play against.

To get things going, let’s look at this example of a real-world footwork session done by the pros where Viktor Axelsen and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus break down a few of their footwork sessions.

He described the session as follows:

After warm up we did 8×15 secs footwork with focus on defense. Followed by:

Approx. 40 mins of: 

1vs1 30-45secs exercises with focus on change of pace during rallies.

2 times of 3min 3vs1 defense:

First one was 2 feeders in front, one in the back attacking.

Second was 2 in the back, 1 in front.”

In one of the comments he dives deeper based on Hans-Kristian Vittinghus’ description of a footwork session they did together:

Usually start out every morning practice with 5-8mins short duration footwork to get 100% warmed up.

– Then every monday during WC prep we do 60 mins footwork session. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus did an update last year: 

The footwork session consisted of 4 “sets” of different exercises:

1st set: 10 x 45 seconds work/30 seconds break, 5 times offense and 5 times defense and each time with one change of pace for two shots going from either offense to defense or vice versa.

2nd set: 12 x 30/30, with individual focus. Three different focuses four times. This is what the uploaded video shows. My focus in the video is on defense to the sides and at the net and then making an explosive move to the back to attack and follow up, then back into defending, trying to stay low. The clip is from my third rep with this focus. Sorry about the video quality btw, looks a lot better on my phone, but you should still be able to see what’s going on…

3rd set: 12 x 20/25, partner pointing to all four corners both offense and defense plus sides for defense. High speed, correct movement.

4th set: 10 x 10/10, free choice of exercise and focus.

All four sets were done with a heart-rate monitor – all worked with an almost constant heart-rate between 90% and 95% of our max all the time. This should give you an idea of what kind of intensity this was done with.”

This is a good example of what a footwork session might look like!”

Here’s another example from the two but with a video included.

We’ve looked at different levels of badminton footwork and example drills to get better. At some point, we don’t need more information — what are you waiting for? New badminton shoes? A new racket?

Go test the drills and tell us what you learn!


  • Badminton footwork is unavoidable. We use it for every shot, rally and game — it’s one of the hidden secrets we so easily overlook in favor of strokes and shots
  • Mastering the footwork at a slow pace first before speeding it up is hugely beneficial as you’ll learn the correct habits the first time
  • It’ll be tempting to skip the basic footwork in badminton and go directly to the advanced stuff but it’ll bite you in the ass later, as you’ll have to start over
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