Although volleyball is primarily played with hands and arms, you are well within your rights to use your feet.
You can, legally, use any body part to bounce the ball.
This isn’t used that often by players, though, because you’re much more accurate with your hands and volleyball shoes aren’t made for ball kicking. Volleyball shoes are actually designed to improve jumping and landing, not kicking.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the basic touch rules in volleyball, where you should and where you shouldn’t use your feet, how to use your feet, and see if feet use has a future in the game of volleyball.
The Basic Rules of Volleyball
One of the most basic rules of volleyball, set by FIVB, is „The ball may touch any part of the body.“ Unlike soccer, where you can’t touch the ball with your arms, volleyball permits touching the ball with any body part, including your feet.
So, can you kick in volleyball? Yes! But this isn’t the primary method of bouncing the ball.
There are five basic offensive and defensive actions in volleyball:
- spiking, and
There’s a whole lot more once you get into it, but this is all we need for the topic at hand.
Blocking and spiking is virtually impossible to do with your feet. While volleyball foot rules allow spikes and blocks, you would have to jump crazy high, do a flip, and hit the ball upside-down. I have never, in my entire life, seen someone attempt it, let alone successfully do it.
On a side note, this is actually a well-known move in soccer, called a bicycle kick.
When it comes to serving, while you might be able to pull off the move, it’s actually illegal to serve the ball with anything other than your palm! The official rule states “The ball shall be hit with one hand or any part of the arm after being tossed or released from the hand(s).”
Finally, we have passing and setting, which are the only two actions you can successfully perform with your foot.
However, in 99.9% volleyball scenarios, it’s much more effective to do it with your arms.
Instances Where Feet Can Be Used
Let’s start with passing and setting first. If you’re unable to get to the ball with your arms, you can hit the ball with your foot.
If the ball reaches another player, who then sets the ball for a hitter, you’ve just completed a pass. If the ball reaches a player who spikes the ball, then you’ve just completed a set.
These are the only situations in which a player will use their feet, as it’s really a last resort method for getting the ball.
The question remains – do coaches recommend using your feet? Do professional players really do this?
Absolutely not…unless they have to. From experience, I can tell you that volleyball players have great vision, and if a player goes after a ball with their foot, that means that they truly couldn’t have gotten to the ball with their arms.
My advice is that you don’t use your feet unless it’s absolutely necessary, but let’s take a look at a few famous examples of effective foot use.
Take a look at this play from the Russia-Poland game a few years ago.
Polish players blocked the ball and it immediately bounced back into the Russian part of the court.
The ball traveled at such a high speed that the libero had no choice but to extend her leg and use her foot. You can even see her lock her hands together, preparing for a dig, but she gave up on that idea once she realized how fast the ball was coming.
This is an example of appropriate foot use, as there was really no other way to get to the ball on time.
Now, look at this Argentina-USA insert.
The ball bounces to the player from a very small distance, more or less a foot away, directly towards her leg. The only way she can get that ball is by kicking it.
The vast majority of examples of kicking in volleyball look similar to this – it’s the last ace up a player’s sleeve that they only use when the situation calls for it.
If possible, a player will always position themselves in a way that allows using their arms.
When You Can’t Use Your Feet
The volleyball kicking rule doesn’t apply to the service, as I explained earlier.
If you serve with your foot, it will be called a foul, the opposition will score a point, and you’ll concede ball possession.
Even if you’re playing volleyball with your friends, not an official game, I’d strongly discourage you from using your feet during service as it diminishes the integrity of the game.
Service aside, there aren’t any situations where you’re prohibited from using your feet.
I already explained that blocking and spiking with your feet is borderline impossible (although there’s a sport called foot-volley where they do precisely this).
With all of that in mind, and as I explained before, I really don’t suggest using your feet to kick the ball unless it’s a last resort.
Controlling the ball is so much easier with your hands and arms than your feet that kicking doesn’t make much sense (unless you’re Leo Messi or Luka Modrić).
Tips and Techniques for Using Feet in Volleyball
Whenever you’re hitting the ball, try not to overhit it. The most powerful muscles in your body are found in your legs, and just one of your legs can generate more power than both of your arms combined.
Therefore, when you’re hitting the ball, don’t overhit it as you’ll most definitely send it out of bounds.
Secondly, don’t hit it with the tip of your shoe, as you’ll send it flying forwards instead of upwards. Hit it with the topsole, where your laces are.
When hitting the ball, my go-to technique is straightening my leg and foot completely. If you drew a line from my hip to my toes, it’d be completely straight. Although my foot makes contact with the ball, my leg does all the work, and my foot is completely locked in that extended position.
I then just slightly (and I truly mean slightly, because if you apply any real power to the kick, you’ll send that ball flying) swing towards the ball and send it to a teammate.
There’s also the option of just planting your foot on the ground and letting the ball hit it. If the ball is struck with enough power, it will just bounce off your foot and you won’t have to apply any force on it.
The situation will determine which method you’ll use.
Foot use is rarely advised by coaches (if anything, coaches discourage it because “These balls aren’t free!”) and it’s almost never trained. Kicking the ball is an instinctive thing.
Famous Moments of Foot Use in Volleyball
The South Korea-France game from 2015 will forever be etched in my mind because after the ball bounced awkwardly from the receiving player, the player at the right back position ran the length of the court, left the court, and almost crashed into the billboards to get the ball with his foot, which he did. The result at the time was 27-28 and it was a set point for France!
During the Canada-Mexico game in 2015, a Canadian player actually crashed into the billboard wall while getting the ball with his foot, but he saved his team a point!
However, This is the most impressive foot save I’ve ever seen.
The player doesn’t only leave the court, but he runs behind the team bench, through his own players, all the way to the stands, where he gets the ball before crashing into a wall. Talk about playing your heart out, huh?
All of these plays highlight what I’ve been saying – you should only play with your feet if it’s the last option.
The Future of Foot Skills in Volleyball
If you played volleyball twenty years ago, you would get penalized for using your feet. Kicking a volleyball was illegal, and you could only use your arms when playing the ball.
The rules have since changed, as it became obvious that your legs and feet can be useful in specific situations.
At this point, there’s nothing to suggest that the foot rule won’t evolve further. It’s possible that in the future, FIVB will allow serving with your feet, and maybe we’ll see some coaches incorporate foot use in their style.
Are you allowed to kick in volleyball? Yes! All open play contact is allowed, be it with your arms, feet, legs, head, or any other body part. The only instance in which you’re disallowed from using your feet is serving.
Despite it being allowed, players almost never use their feet. Using your feet is a last resort that players hang onto when they know they won’t be able to get to the ball with their arms.
With that in mind, I’d strongly suggest you respect the rules of the game and don’t use your feet unless you absolutely have to.
Do Coaches Recommend Using Your Feet?
No, coaches don’t recommend using your feet. Kicking the ball too hard can damage the ball, and since kicks are so rare in volleyball, they won’t make you practice them.
Can You Kick the Ball Over the Net in Volleyball?
While you can definitely kick the ball over the net from the backline, that type of strike won’t be dangerous for the opposition as it’ll travel too slow. It’s almost impossible to spike the ball with your feet from the frontline.
How Many Times Can We Use Feet In Volleyball?
You can hit the ball three times with your feet, just like with any other body part.
Can You Hit a Volleyball with Your Knee?
Yes, you can use your knee and every other body part in volleyball.