If we’d all grown up barefoot from birth, we’d probably strike the ground properly without even thinking about it. Alas, since that’s not the case, proper foot striking, like everything else, is a skill we need to practice.
A good way is by doing some light jumping exercises when you warm up. Find a line on the court, and do the following. For the best results, these exercises should be done barefoot.
- 20 cross jumps (front to back) – put one foot in front of the line, and one foot behind it. Jump, and land with your feet switched; the one in front is now behind, and the one behind is now in front. Repeat.
- 20 cross jumps (side to side) – put one foot on the left of the line, and one foot to the right of it. Jump and cross your feet such that each foot lands on the opposite side that it started on. Jump and uncross, and repeat.
- 20 bunny hops (front to back) – put your feet together behind the line and then hop over it. Then, hop backwards over it. Repeat.
- 20 bunny hops (side to side) – put your feet together to the right of the line and then hop over to the left of it. Then hop back. Repeat.
- 1 foot jumps (front to back and side to side with each foot) – Now hop over and back across the line, but stay on one foot the entire time (the same foot, switch in between sets). Do as many reps as you can comfortably handle; it doesn’t have to be 20 at first.
Keep your posterior chain muscles engaged as you do these – they’ll help cushion the impacts. Most importantly though, you want to feel the springyness in your foot as you land. Everyone’s foot is a little different, so the exact foot strike that serves your particular anatomy best is something only you can figure out.
For most people, the optimal strike is right on the ball of the foot, and during all of the jumps, their heel will barely touch the ground. When the heel does touch the ground, most of the force of the impact has already been dissipated through the arch.
Find Your Own Natural Strike
Don’t hesitate to let your feet do what feels natural (assuming you’re jumping barefoot). Some people turn their feet as they jump side to side; others prefer to keep them pointed straight ahead. Your subconscious brain probably knows how to strike the ground efficiently and safely – even better than your rational brain does, so let it do its work.
The thing you should monitor is any mild pain as you hit the ground. Pain indicates an imperfect strike. Focus on getting each strike to the point where your arch is perfectly absorbing the impact, and your foot, ankle, and knee doesn’t hurt at all.