Boxing Footwork – Side Step Your Way to Victory!

by Fran on March 9, 2010

About the Side Step in Boxing

It’s a very simple fact that all top boxers possess great footwork and balance.  The ability to remain highly mobile whilst under full control and in total balance offers the boxer the ability to maximise the opportunities to land effective shots.  Moving from side to side, also referred to as side-stepping, is a key skill to master as it plays such a massive role during offensive and defensive actions.  Side-stepping allows the boxer to cut off the ring, maximising pressure on the opponent.  The side step also allows new angles for attack to be opened.  When mixed with ducking and slipping punches, the side step provides excellent defensive options.

Footwork, side-stepping and moving in and out , is a primary element of controlling the opponent inside a boxing ring.  The side step is a key tactical skill that must become second nature.  The move should combine speed and control and be carried out with efficiency.  Before looking at the video, ensure that you have understood the boxing stance and then follow the video up by reading the ‘mechanics’ and ‘common fault’ sections below.

The Mechanics of the Side Step in Boxing

As with all moves, stay relaxed!  Don’t tense-up.

The Side-Step to the Right

  1. From the boxing stance , the first action is a push from the front foot.  The push should be ‘sharp’, and aimed at providing the drive to thrust the body to the right.
  2. The back foot lifts very slightly from the floor, allowing the power generated from the push from the front foot to shift the body in a straight line to the right.  The back foot should ‘glide’ as opposed to stepping.
  3. Allow the front foot to follow it’s course, catching up with the back foot in order to restore the stance.

The Side-Step to the Left

Pretty much the reverse of the side step right:

  1. From the boxing stance, the first action is a push from the back foot.  The push should be ‘sharp’, and aimed at providing the drive to thrust the body to the left.
  2. The front foot lifts very slightly from the floor, allowing the power generated from the push from the back foot to shift the body in a straight line to the left.  The front foot should ‘glide’ as opposed to stepping.
  3. Allow the back foot to follow it’s course, catching up with the front foot in order to restore the stance.

Common Faults With the Side Step in Boxing

The following problems can occur when performing the side step:

  1. The boxer ‘steps and drags’ rather than using a sharp ‘push and glide’.  For example, when side-stepping to the right, the back foot (right leg) will step across and the front foot is dragged across to the right.  This approach does not offer the same speed capability as the push and glide.
  2. The boxer may sometimes become flat-footed.  This again will result in a very ‘clunky’, almost robotic action.  Remain on the balls of your feet and stay relaxed.
  3. The legs may ‘cross’.  For example, when moving right, the front leg (left) will step across to the right, thus ‘crossing’ the line from the back foot (think boxing stance).  Following this the back leg will also step across.  The same problem can occur when side-stepping either left or right, and it’s a bad mistake to make!

Simple move, and something that can be practised very effectively.  Spend time mastering the footwork, it’s so important.  Any spare moment can be taken to get in your stance and spend time moving around.  The conventional activities of shadow boxing and bag work can always incorporate footwork specific phases to build ‘muscle memory’ and improve your balance and confidence!  After leaving a comment or any questions below, why not check out the articles through the following links:

Moving in and out

Moving diagonally left

Moving diagonally right

The pivot



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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

joe January 20, 2016 at 6:55 am
Can you explain these side steps techniques? are they good techniques to use?


Fran January 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Hi Joe

I quite like the YT clip. Not watched it all yet but clearly the lads are very energetic and ‘in your face’, but they are leading on some smart boxing techniques and the coach and young boxer are very much the real deal…you can just tell. My advice, well worth spending some time analysing the content on that video. The SugarBoxing images I think were representing the same type of side step, but the YT vid represents it much better (to me anyway). Thanks for the link.


Jibri Russell December 13, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I shadowbox and work my footwork so much it’s annoying to people. But it feels natural Tho. Even when I’m at work, at my friends house, walking, doesn’t matter . Lol


Fran December 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm

haha. Excellent Jibri. Keep it up 🙂


matt November 23, 2012 at 12:52 am

Hey Fran

Could you give me some advice on incorporating angles into sparring? Every time I do shadow boxing, bag work or footwork drills I always practice using angles. As a southpaw when sparring I am also very aware of which angles I should use to give me an advantage (like pivoting off my lead right foot to get outside their jab. What I have great difficulty with is knowing WHEN to change my angle. I find it difficult to wait for my opponent to throw a shot them pivot off of it as I can never get a successful counter off in time.

Would it be better for me to change angles all the time as I am feinting gene attacking rather than only when my opponent attacks


Fran November 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hey Matt

Don’t wait for your opponent to punch! Use your pivot off your own jab and your long range lead hand hook. So, your lead hand draws the opponent’s lead and the pivot gets you out of the way readying you to take advantage of the angle you’ve created. It’s a preset routine (the jab could be exchanged for a feint but the outcome is the same).

Hope this helps, and DON”T WAIT!!!!


matt November 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

yeah that’s a great help mate, thanks. I suppose is it a lot like the slip and roll in the sense that its a movement you do proactively rather than relatively? And you work it into your combinations like: jab, jab, pivot, cross hook all in one sequence?


Fran November 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

You’ve got it Matt, I need say no more 😉


Andre February 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hey Mat,
I’m deployed right now and can’t really see the videos, but i’m teaching a few people that I’m deployed with how to box. i was wondering if you can email me some videos on footwork, so i can show these guys. maybe they’ll understand better that way.


Novice February 13, 2012 at 1:29 am

Hey Fran,
Thank you a lot for these videos! They are very helpful.


Fran February 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

No problem, glad that they help.


Matt February 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm


Love the site – everything extremely well explained. I wonder if you could give me any advice on footwork? The only place I am able to train is a small martial arts studio with a padded/matted floor so my feet sink in and I am stepping and dragging my feet as I am unable to “push off” on this surface. Any tips would be much appreciated.
Thanks, Matt


Fran February 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Thanks Matt.

If I could urge you to do one thing, find a way to push off. Many boxing rings have a mat under the canvas, sometimes a mat with quite a lot of ‘give’ in it. Boxers tend to not like it because it is physically harder to move around on. But, this doesn’t mean that it’s not good exercise. Just think, if you can master this movement on that type of flooring imagine the leg-strength and improved mobility on a surface that’s harder. Sorry if this is a ‘glass half full’ type of answer, just feels that you should make this particular disadvantage work for you.

Hope this helps Matt. Thanks for the question.


Charles August 22, 2015 at 4:44 am

yea, my gym has a thick mat. We work MMA, kick boxing and boxing. I find it difficult to move, but I keep moving trying to get my feet across the thick mat without tripping and getting hit. I spare a lot with my friend who is 40 lbs over my weight and much more experienced; with so many details to focus on, I get hit too much. I will continue to work on getting out of the way quick with the foot work you describe here and counter. I have some other skills to incorporate and hopefully my body will begin to incorporate the action so I don’t have to think about it…and get punched. Thanks Fran.


mohammed alley cat October 5, 2011 at 6:16 am

Great footwork info’s, subscribe to this for more precise detail about boxing.


Paul Smith September 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Cool….I love this stuff.



burim August 4, 2010 at 7:00 pm

thanks for the video


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