As kids, when we were first introduced to the sport of soccer, many of us used our toes to shoot – a.k.a the toe-punt. Whether for reasons of comfort, instinct, or whatever it might have been, we used our toes. Not only is this technique visible in youth learning the sport, but a classic example can be seen with inexperienced soccer players (of all ages) who kick a ball for the first time…not exactly graceful.
But, before players can even develop the habit of using their toes, coaches and parents teach us to shoot properly. We are told to completely eliminate the toe-punt from our soccer vocabulary. I remember as a young soccer player, I never used my toes to kick because when I did, it hurt. That was reason enough for me to never use my toes again.
Why, then, do some of the best players in the world use their toes to shoot? As shown in the picture, Ronaldo used his toe to score a goal in the World Cup final of 2002. So is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Ironically enough, as players become more skilled – and this applies more to forwards than to any other player on the field – the toe-punt is taught as an effective way to beat a goalkeeper and score goals. Who would have thought: what was completely removed from our skill set as kids is being re-introduced as a weapon.
First I want to breakdown how to use the toe-punt. This should not be confused with a full wind-up and shot. If you have the time to wind up and take a full shot, never use your toe, use your instep or the inside/outside of your foot.
The toe punt is meant to be used in limited time situations and tight spaces. The toe-punt should not be predictable. The beauty of it is that nothing in the movement of your body can give a signal that a toe-punt is coming. Normally, when a players is winding up for a shot, everyone knows the player is about to shoot because of the way he sets his body up. With a toe-punt, it’s simply unpredictable.
The reason it is so effective is because players can hide the wind up of their shot into their stride. It almost appears as if their next touch on the ball is going to be a dribble; however it turns into a quick shot. You will notice that both defenders and goalkeepers have a very difficult time anticipating the shot and, as a result, get beat almost every time. Watch as potentially the greatest forward of all time, Ronaldo of Brazil, uses it perfectly:
Here are three reasons the toe-punt will make you a more effective and dangerous forward while guaranteeing to increase the amount of goals you score.
1. It is the quickest possible shot you can pull off in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of available space to maneuver. In the 18 yard box, professional forwards are taught to use their toe because it is a shot they can get off the quickest with players all around. If you are to take a full wind up, defenders have enough time to get in the way or even poke the ball away. The toe-punt can be pulled off in the blink of an eye. This will not give adequate time for the defender or goalie to react quickly enough.
2. On breakaways, it is not suggested you use your toe to beat a goalie. Using your toe is a risky decision because the accuracy of your shot is not guaranteed to be where you would like – in comparison to using the inside of your foot where you can place it exactly where you would like. So, if you are on a breakaway and have time to make a move or pick your corner, do not use your toe. However, if on a breakaway and the goalie is attacking you and you realize you do not have much time to make a decision, the best thing to do is quickly use your toe and put it right past the goalkeeper. Using your toe in this instance is very tricky to judge. The goalie is expecting a wind up and a shot, but the toe punt is a quick snap of the leg and that’s it. It’s nearly impossible for a goalie to react to a shot being taken that quickly.
3. Many times you will see players stopped with the ball at their feet in the box trying to score. There are players everywhere around them and these players are beginning to close the ball down. If the player with the ball sees a brief opening for a shot to be made, he/she cannot wind up and shoot because that opportunity will disappear before the wind-up is finished. However, if you quickly jab the ball with your toe, the same instance you saw that opening is the same instance the ball can be shot.
So remember, do not use your toe if you do not need to. But in tight situations, limited time situations and situations where you see a brief opening, use your toe to make a play. Using your toe is the quickest possible way to get the ball from point A to point B in the smallest amount of time.
Have you thought about using your toe to shoot lately?