What is route running in football?

Route running in football refers to a receiver’s ability to generate separation from a defender when running a receiving pattern. Players who are elite route runners are able to beat defenders consistently due to their technique and skill.

For many new to football wide receivers’ ability to catch the ball is believed to be their most important trait. Little do they there is a ton of work that goes in before the quarterback even throws the ball.

In order to get balls thrown your way in football, you need to find ways to create separation from your defender. The best way to do this is through effective route running.

Being a good route runner in football relies on many different factors. Below we will break down several different things a receiver should take into account when running their routes.

What makes a good route runner?


One of the keys to running effective routes in football is good footwork. On most passing patterns receivers should have a pre-determined number of steps they should take before making their cut.

This makes their routes more consistent and improves their timing with the quarterback.

Footwork also plays an important role in receivers coming out of their cuts. If the cut is sharp and concise it is going to make it much harder for the defender to stay close by.


On top of footwork, explosiveness is also a key trait that can help receivers when route running.

Explosiveness in football refers to a player’s ability to pick up speed quickly. With good speed in short distances, receivers will have a much easier time running routes and creating separation from defensive backs.

This speed to start the route can allow the receiver to get a great release. If they are able to avoid contact at the line of scrimmage it will generally make it much easier for them to run their route.

If players are able to explode out of their cuts it will also help to create space from the defender. It is the moments right after a wide receiver makes their cut that they are usually thrown the ball.

If a receiver can use their explosiveness to create more separation out of their cut they will be more likely to be thrown the ball.

Eyes and shoulders

A wide receiver’s eyes and shoulders are two more things they need to take account of when route running.

Players that are not technically sound at route running will often tip off the defensive players as to which route they are running.

Usually, this is done by leaning with their shoulders or by starting at the location they plan to go with their eyes.

This makes things much easier on the defensive back as they will be able to know where to go before the receiver makes their cut.

To avoid situations like this receivers need to keep their shoulders square facing downfield throughout their route. They also need to stare straight ahead so that the defender cannot read their eyes.

Doing this is going to help you get open if it feels like defenders are able to anticipate which route you are going to run.

That’s all on route running if you want to learn about some specific routes in football check out our guide to the wheel route or the fade route.

Leave a Comment