Tuesday 7 June 2011

Barefoot Badminton

For the most part I play badminton with bare feet. This may draw gasps of horror from some players, who question whether I end up with blisters and burns and twisted ankles, but I have never had any of those things. In fact, the last time I put my badminton shoes on, I quickly ended up with a sprained ankle due to the higher centre of gravity and less-stable platform provided by padded footwear.

At the risk of stating the obvious, playing badminton barefoot is not the same as playing with shoes.

It's not possible to simply plant a foot and rely on the mechanical grip of the sole to begin a change of direction. It's also imperative to keep legs flexed and weight forward so that contact with the floor is primarily through the forefoot, as landing on, or striking the floor with heels is not to be advised.

A light step and swift footwork are required to move effectively around the court. While sliding and heavy landings are precluded, jumping and agility at the net are greatly improved. I am completely free of ankle or knee pain after badminton, which can be a common complaint from those who land heavily in shoes.

Last night, I decided to play a few games in my Vibram FiveFingers, about which I wrote recently.

I have a few observations:

Firstly, the degree of grip with the floor is definitely improved, but I'm not entirely sure that this is a good thing, as it encourages actions that place a great strain on the lower legs and knees, as the momentum of the body is arrested in an artificially rapid manner by the contact with the floor.

Secondly, even though there is almost no padding in the FiveFingers sole, the lack of sensation from the floor into the plantar surface seems to convince the mind that there is a degree of padding available, and as a result I found myself landing much more heavily in the Vibrams than I would normally expect when barefoot. While I think I was still relatively light-footed, I could see a potential situation where this false sense of security could result in injury to the foot, perhaps even stress fracture in extreme cases.

The sensation of playing badminton in Vibram FiveFingers is comparable to playing with bare feet, but it's not a switch I would make permanently. For the time being, I plan to limit their use to a few games per session.

To anyone thinking of shedding their shoes to play badminton, I would certainly commend you to do so and experience the benefits - it's a great way to teach yourself to stay light and agile on court. It may not be suitable for very high-speed competitive play, but for club nights it has served me very well for several years now. It may be a bit of a system shock the first time you play barefoot, so take it easy and stay on your toes, but with a few games' practice you'll be in the swing of things.

Yes, the soles of you feet will end up black by the end of a session, but that's why we invented soap, right?


  1. Its quite interesting to read about barefooting along with badminton. Although I do not generally barefoot unless I am around the house, I do enjoy the game of badminton very much. I can see both advantages and disadvantages to the grip improvement. This did however make for an interesting read :).

  2. Thanks for this post! I've been playing badminton with friends for fun the past year now, and I am a real rookie. I did however start plaing from day 1 in my FiveFingers KSO. I didn't have any other indoor shoes at the time and I have been using them together with my new balance minimus trek while running so I like the light feel on my feet. Sadly my KSO are now starting to break down, so I went in search for information on what I should get instead which lead me here.

    I never even considered playing badminton fully bare feet, which is something I might want to try. I've always had problems with weak ankles, but never had a problem while wearing my five fingers. Which FiveFingers were you using while playing? Bikila? Been wondering which ones I should get for indoor sporting, Komodosport seems popular for that.

  3. I don't play badminton, but I do indoor circuit training in a sports hall and always train in bare feet. Personally, I like the sensation of it and I get a good "connection" with the floor as I can use my feet to feel which improves balance. At least, that how it seems. Yes- I get some funny looks- but the instructor lets me me train like this. I would also do squash and badminton without shoes if i was playing. Unfortunately, some sports centres dont let you train like this which is a shame. I have FiveFigers but they do not give the the same sensation as bare skin.

  4. One thing you may want to be aware of is that your feet are on a floor that has been sweated on, along with other fluids emitted by players during the day... HPV, staph, fungus and even e-coli have been found to linger. A Google search will lead to enlightening results and maybe there are footwear to make it almost barefoot...

    Hope this helps!

    p.s. http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/7-grossest-gym-germs

  5. Since young, kids would have picked up the basic techniques. When they grow up, they'll find their group of friends to play badminton. swingitbig

  6. I have been playing Badminton for 40 years and I just start playing with barefoot shoes in 2019. All I can say is great.

    8 years ago I broke my right ankle twice from twisting in the court and I realized that my Yonex badminton shoes were so high from the ground. I also remember that when I was a kid I spent lot of time working on my footwork training in the living room without shoes and had no injury.

    Now I'm wearing Vivobarefoot Motus II and I can move as good as I did in my old badminton shoes but without fear of twisting my ankle.

    Back in 2018 I started jogging in minimalist shoes (Altra vanish) with 15mm stack high (I also took the insole out made it very thin). first 2 weeks I had some soreness on my feet but after that I felt that my feet get stronger. Often I almost twist my ankle but as my feet close to the ground I always just almost happened.

    People always think that we need a lot of support from
    shoes. They just simple take away our brain and our ability to adapt for the impact out of the equation.
    Why we have to lie our brain that every time we land on the ground is soft.

    After I play Badminton in my barefoot shoes I can see that my footwork changes a bit. I also land softer and I can move my feet quicker. There will be small pain after 3 hours playing but after a good night sleep, the next morning my feet will be back to normal.

    Now I can only wear barefoot or minimalist shoes for every activity in my life. I dumped all my expensive sneakers and other shoes with lot of support in the bin.

    I use to have pain in my right ankle after walking for a while now I think I can forget it for good.

    You don't need to believe me here. Just try it yourself coz only you can tell the different.

  7. IMO this game will not gain more attention..

  8. It's interesting game but it is not going to get any further fame. Unfortunately, it will disappeared with the passage of time.

    In my opinion, playing barefooted doesn't give that grip that we want to perform fully.

    However, if we compare badminton with tennis, tennis is much more mature game and getting fame day by day. You can get the idea of tennis-fame from there that famous professional level player Rafael Nadal has net worth of $180 million and he has won more than $110,279,818 in his whole career.

    Actually I am trying to say that bare-footed badminton is getting out of market so tennis is the thing that is competing other sports.

  9. I have also tried barefooting while playing badminton but unfortunately, I slipped so I injured by left leg. Now I in good condition and my leg is fine. I must say that It really is important to restring your racquets first and you can click this link for more information: www.dmvracquetstringing.com

  10. I don't use the shoes for the exact same reasons you just gave, it's simply a way better experience and I've gotten used to playing barefoot. My game's significantly improved too. My only question is, everybody is recommending that I don't play barefoot cause of the pressure it puts on the knees and ankles, even though it doesn't affect me a bit as of now, so are they talking about the long terms effects or the immediate effects and should I be concerned?

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