You've all seen how fast the top players move, or can if you visit Youtube and do a search for "Table Tennis top players." And perhaps you are young enough or in such great shape that you too can learn to move like that. If so, work with a coach if possible, and someday maybe we'll be watching you on Youtube!
But for most players, that type of footwork isn't really possible, and in fact that style of footwork won't work. Watch the top players move, and you often can't even tell which foot moved first, their left or right - even in slow motion it's tricky to tell, since they often move both feet together. Their footwork relies on great athleticism.
If you can't move like that, but still want to develop decent footwork, even if you are way overweight or 80 years old, there are three keys.
- Always bounce slightly between shots. This will prepare your legs for moving on the next shot. There are many older and out-of-shape players who don't move fast, but they move well, meaning they move to every shot - and this is one of the keys that allows this. They are often called "light on their feet" - and this is why.
- Assume you will move. Don't wait to see if you have to move - expect to, and only wait to see what direction you will be moving. Make it a habit that if you have to move one inch, you step one inch. Then you'll habitually step to every ball.
- Start with a very short step with the near foot. If you have to move to the right, start with the right foot. If you have to move to your left, start with your left foot. This is how footwork was taught for years, and is probably still the proper way for most players.