While in training, it is advised to pivot on your foot when going in for a kick (such as a side or round-house kick), so that your foot is facing as much in the opposite direction as possible. The idea being that the kick is much better supported and has a better reach.

However, when trying this on standard training mats, I find there tends to be a lot of friction with the mat and my foot, so as to make the turning of my foot difficult - especially in fast-paced situations. Are there any specific approaches to take when attempting this, such as how to execute the technique; or what type of foot wear to use?


Different to the suggested duplicate as this is referring to a side stance and pivoting, rather than a forward stance and raising onto the ball of the foot.

  • I have EXACTLY the same problem. Several techniques involve pivoting on your foot, and I always find it hard to actually pivot any, due to my foot "sticking" to the mat, and it dramatically slows down the techniques.
    – eidylon
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 16:31
  • Also, if you are on asphalt, wearing shoes, this will be even harder. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:05
  • @HannoFietz: Yup. Doing a little training on various surfaces and in various footwear can be a very enlightening experience. Though if you train in a traditional dojo system then your street versions should be less flamboyant in any case. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:53
  • Possible duplicate of Going up on the ball of the foot for a front snap kick
    – Zero
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 16:14
  • how long you have been practicing ? after 6 mount or so your feet grain enough callus to withstand any friction.
    – kifli
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 15:05

7 Answers 7


Try pivoting on the heel, before you shift your weight onto the foot, as opposed to pivoting on the ball after the weight is already on it.

I had an interesting experience regarding this question when I switched from traditional Tae Kwon Do to Shaolin Kung Fu years ago:

In TKD, there was a very intense focus on all the little details of how exactly to position which part of your body. Pivoting my foot on the ball prior to a kick, with most of the weight on it, was something I practiced over and over and over, for years, with limited success.

When I switched to Kung Fu, I immediately noticed that everybody was pivoting on the heel, and, more specifically, pivoting before they put their weight on the foot. This felt very natural, was very quick, and I quickly forgot my TKD training.

Perhaps more interestingly, from that day on, that was about it on pivoting. To TKD or Karate students, Kung Fu seems to have a great degree of anarchy in it. I asked my teachers on many occasions for detailed instructions like how far I should pivot, 45, 90, 180 degrees? I was accustomed to those things mattering a lot.

The answer was always something like "don't bother, that depends on far too many things to make this a useful thing to worry about". I asked, what does it depend on, and they said, are you wearing footwear? How important is effectiveness vs elegance? What's the ground like? What shape is your body in (like, if you're not warm, or slightly out of shape, you should pivot less)? Do you need to be very quick? Are you aiming high or low? What technique comes next? Is it important to hide your intent? Etc.

  • Just another anecdote to serve as further illustration: I have been dancing Tango a lot, recently, and had to get back to pivoting on the ball of the foot (for elegance). This showed me once again that a) it's harder, b) puts constraints on your footwear and the ground (dancing in the street, which we do, vs in the ballroom requires specially prepared footwear) and c) mostly makes a difference for looks. Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 14:14
  • Excellent description. I have lived this same changed, from TKD to Chinese style and you describe versatility and good anarchy very well.
    – gpupo
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 11:42

Roundhouse kick - if not already, try rotating a bit more on the balls of your feet to reduce some of the surface area that may be causing friction. Just be careful you're not compromising your balance in the process.

You can also try different mats - foam puzzle mats, such as those used for taekwondo sparring matches, may be more comfortable for practicing kicks.

Vibram five fingers have also become a popular choice of footwear for martial arts. It's more flexible than traditional martial arts shoes.

Some people just build up callouses though, and eventually it becomes less of a problem.


I was a dancer first and became a martial artist later. As I have bad knees, in order to protect them from overrotation, I started off wearing 'footundies', a specialised version of the socks rolled up halfway we used to wear in dance classes to be able to spin on the ball but also to have friction when putting down the heel. I found that I pivot much more on the heels, though, so I don't wear the footundies any more. Still, it might be a good idea for those who tend to use the ball of the foot more for pivoting, as they reduce friction, and they are practically invisible.


A way to avoid the pivoting is to use step-through or jumping techniques.

Step-through is specifically taking a small step forward/backwards from opponent and putting your foot down pivoted (i.e. pivot in the air whilst stepping) then you can kick with all of the power that pivoting offers you.

It also works by jumping instead of standing pivot. You can jump backwards as well as forwards, but generally only the forwards jumping side-kick will be more powerful. Either way I would suggest training to obtain callouses so you can do all the kicks.

Better to have all the weapons in your arsenal!


So did I. I had this issue when I first started going barefoot, going with shoes, doing Japanese swordsmanship.

You eventually learn to move your weight. There are no 'tricks'. It is a skill, a subtle but important one.


The danger when pivoting is the foot not sliding and the knees over-rotating, which can injure the ACL among other things. I've always trained in bare feet and maybe it's specifically because a bare foot is more likely to stick to the floor than shoes, you're forced to learn very early to take the weight off the foot when pivoting - after awhile, it becomes second nature to lift vertically a bit when pivoting - that is, move the body vertically a bit to take the weight upward. I don't think I would've learned and developed this practicing in shoes.


Puzzle mats still sometimes tear the balls of my feet after 4 years of training. I have bunions on both feet and my Orthopaedic doctor said that could cause additional pressure on the balls of the feet when pivoting. I just use athletic tape around my foot there and it is more comfortable (although sometimes I have to adjust or reapply the tape during breaks in a workout). Be sure to flex your toes back and forward to find the right tightness to the tape.

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