Intermediate Passing – The Toe Poke



The toe poke in soccer is literally directing the ball forward by hitting it with the front part of the shoe that covers the toes.

19 Surfaces of the Soccer Shoe - Front Toe (#1)

While it can be used for passing and shooting, or even tackling, it is not very commonly seen.  This is because the instep drive and the inside of foot are preferred over a toe poke, when they can be used.

Use of the toe poke often comes down to a “desperate” set of circumstances due to a lack of space or time.  If a touch to the ball is needed quickly, to get the ball to a teammate or to score, and the ball carrier is surrounded or doesn’t have time to cock (perform the backswing of) the kicking leg, a poke to the ball with the toe may be just in order.

The toe poke has been around forever.  Very young children will likely first kick a ball using the toe-end of their shoes.  Unfortunately, this runs contrary to trying to teach the control, power and flexibility of the instep drive.

Accordingly, toe kicking should not only be discouraged, but essentially banned, during youth instruction. There are three basic reasons for this.  First, physiologically, toes are not made for kicking and are subject to injury.  Second, the extremely small surface area of the toes does not provide for accuracy when kicking.  Third, it is very difficult to obtain maximum power with this type of kick.

Only after players are fully trained in dribbling, the instep drive, and the inside of the foot pass, should coaches introduce the toe poke:

Introduction – The toe poke is most often used to get out of a jam when other options are not available.  From a basic dribbling stance, the ball is struck with the front (toe) of the shoe in the center.  The ankle is locked with the sole of the foot essentially parallel to the ground.

Demonstration I – Prepare a very tight circle of cones that makes little more space available inside than that for one player and the ball.  Describe the cones as being “people, legs, and feet, surrounding the player.”  Show poking the ball out of the circle with the toe of the right foot, while not hitting any of the cones.  Mention that there is no “wind-up,” or “advance step,” just the kick.

First Drill – If enough cones are available, set up one circle for every two players.  One player toe pokes a ball outside the circle – without hitting any cones – while the other player retrieves.  Right foot, then left, at least two times each. Switch positions.

Demonstration II – Show that the player not in the circle is to now make a straight run approximately 10-yards perpendicular to the kicker.

Second Drill – The player in the circle must now use a toe poke to send a (leading) pass to the receiver.  Again, the kicker must not hit any cones. Right foot, then left, at least two times each. Switch positions.

Demonstration III – Replace cones with at least three stationary defenders, feet shoulder-width apart and enough space between the players to ensure that a ball may pass through.  Combine groups into five-players each, one inside the circle, three creating the circle, and a runner.

Third Drill – Repeat the Second Drill, now with the stationary defenders.  Alternate feet and players.

Demonstration IV – Move stationary defenders’ “circles” into the front of goals. Remove the runner.  Show the toe poke to score.

Fourth Drill – Toe poke to score.  Alternate feet and players.

Optional Fifth Drill – Defenders go live.  Defenders have their legs together at first. When coach says “Go,” defenders may move and the player in the circle with the ball must kick it before it can be blocked.  Coaches may have to modify the distance of the defenders away from each other or away from the ball (the size of the circle) in order to ensure that this drill works effectively.

After players have developed an understanding and a facility for the toe poke, they should be challenged to improve accuracy, both to properly hit a moving receiver and to shoot past a goalkeeper.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • An extension of this instruction can be the toe kick for power, which requires a kicking-leg backswing. This is actually an advanced technique which can add ball movement when shooting, similar to a “knuckleball” shot.
  • Also see the Toe Poke Tackle.
  • When a defender’s foot or lower leg is in the way of the toe poke, a player my try a toe lift (toe lob or toe loft) by placing the top part of the front of the shoe covering the toes under the ball and “slinging” the ball forward slightly in the air..


© Copyright, John C. Harves