How to Play Better Pickleball FAST with Smart Footwork, Pickleball Strategy & Pickleball Drills

Written by Adam (HV)

May 6, 2022

pickleball strategy for footwork

Your feet are incredibly important in pickleball but it’s an area that is often overlooked. 

Your feet are the foundation of your pickleball strategy in many ways because before you swing, you first must establish your feet. If you neglect your footwork, your game could suffer, but if you use smart footwork, you have better balance, efficient movement, and a lower risk of injuries.

Today we’re going to look at a few ways to improve your footwork, drills you can do at home to improve your speed, and I’ll share my secrets for keeping your feet pain free.

Welcome to high five pickleball, where we help you improve your game so you can maximize your time on the court. My name is Adam Richards and today we’re covering how to quickly enhance your game with footwork. Footwork is important because it gets you into optimal position for hitting the ball. In this video we’ll cover techniques you can use, drills to quickly enhance your speed, and a few ways to keep your feet pain free. So stick around until the end.

Watch the full video here.

Pickleball Strategy & Footwork Technique 1 – Split Step 

The first technique we’re covering is called the split step. 

The split step is a small hop that gets you into an athletic ready position where you’re engaging your legs. From this position you can shift into many other shots, push off into different directions, or pivot your feet. In my opinion, you are a bigger threat in this position because you are ready to react and push off the ground compared to one where you’re already in motion. 

In other words, I would rather hit the ball to a person in motion compared to a person who is in a ready position because the person in motion is shifting their weight and balance, their optimal strike zone is in motion, and they may have a harder time reacting to my shot.

Also, I try and time my split step just as my opponent hits the ball so I can be ready.

Just like everything though, I want to include the caveat that a split step doesn’t have to be a dramatic hop. It can be subtle. The goal here is to be mentally and physically engaged to receive the ball, the split step is just a repeatable mechanic for doing that.

Pickleball Strategy & Footwork Technique 2 – Shuffle Step

When you’re at the non-volley zone, it’s important to move efficiently, to keep the ball out front, and to keep your weight balanced. You can move efficiently at the net using a shuffle step with your shoulders square to the net and always returning to the center of the court.

A few footwork techniques you’ll want to avoid are: 

  • lunging – if you do this, you are not able to react quickly and the deeper you lunge the harder it is to step out of it.
  • Putting your weight on your heels – you don’t want to be caught flat-footed

If you need to cover a long distance quickly at the net, one useful technique is a cross step. If you’re not used to this, it can be a little harder to do especially if you’re hitting a backhand shot, so try ghosting this shot before trying it in a game.

When you’re playing doubles, you’ll want to follow the ball and slide with your partner. One way to do this is to imagine there’s a rope tied between you and your partner. This will help you move together and cover the court. 

Pickleball Strategy & Footwork Technique 3 – Stretching & Longevity

In pickleball, there are certain motions and body mechanics that become habitual because of how the game is played. On one hand, you build muscle memory and you can do it without thinking, but on the other hand, your body can experience wear and tear over time which can lead to chronic pain or injuries. This is why it’s important to use good mechanics, to warm up, and to stretch. 

For example, in pickleball we’re constantly advancing forward to the net. Although this is a simple motion, this motion over and over can cause wear and tear on your feet. That’s why it’s important to stretch out your foot, your lower calf, and your upper calf.

Also, it’s helpful to roll out your feet before and after games. There are tons of products out there you can use, but I use this simple ball for breaking up tension in my feet and improving blood flow. 

I also use insoles to help absorb shock. The brand of insert I use is called powerstep. Again, there are a ton of products out there, but after a few years of trial and error, this is the best and most affordable option that I can find. If you deal with plantar fasciitis or turf tough, definitely check into the different versions they have. 


What do you think?

Which tip was helpful for you? Let me know in the comments.

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