Hacky Sack: The Definitive Guide Footbag 2023

Hacky sack is one of the coolest kicking game around. To get real good at the footbag kicking game you need a solid combination of athleticism and coordination skills. We built this guide for players who want to enrich their knowledge about the origin of the game, it’s basics and it’s benefits.

Hacky Sack

Hacky Sack Definition

Hacky sack, other known as a footbag, is the term for a small, round bag filled with dry grains. The bag is kicked into the air as part of a competitive game or as a display of dexterity and skill.

Where it all began?

To be very clear, the components that constellate footbag have been around for a long time – much longer than we tend to acknowledge.

I have read texts that cite similar games played for centuries in Chinese and Native American societies, but it is difficult to say where and how it actually began.

Who invented hacky sack?

The exact origins of the game are murkier than we acknowledge, but credit is typically given to Mike Marshall and John Stalberger.  

The story of footbag, or “Hacky Sack”, is traced back to the summer of 1972. During the summer of ’72, Mike Marshall and John Stalberger began to develop the new game.

It all started when Mike had been introduced to the fundamentals of footbag from a fellow inmate, an unnamed Native American man while serving time in a military brig.

hacky sack origin

The game involved repeatedly kicking a small bean bag to keep it off the ground for as long as possible. You can use all parts of your body except your hands and arms. Until you eventually pass it to another player.

Later, Mike happened to meet John Stalberger at a music festival in Oregon and showed him the new game he learned.
John was recovering from a knee injury and discovered that the game Mike had introduced him to was rehabilitating.

The term “hacky sack” emerged because they described the activity as going to “hack a sack”.

Footbag in 2023

Today “Hacky Sack” is the name of a brand of footbag that gained popularity in the 1970s (currently owned by Wham-O). It has since become a coined synonym for footbags of all kinds.

While the game had a big Buzz of coolness around it during the 80’s and 90’s it seems like in later years it’s popularity dropped among youngsters.

But still walking around high school and college campuses you are most likely to see a bunch of people standing in a cycle and passing a sack. Playing according to the unwritten rules of footbag.

Where else is it played?

In the southern American countries, you can usually find at least one person with a footbag on his foot. It really is an amazing activity.

While traveling in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore) you will see many people play a similar game. Commonly known as “Chinese hacky sack” or “Jianzi”

Taking a closer look you will notice, the game is played in a similar manner. But the sack is actually a bunch of coins connected to feathers and it can fly quite high and fast.

At its core, footbag is about keeping an object aloft without using your hands and arms which makes the Asian version and the American one very similar.

2 professional levels to play footbag

“footbag net” is the name of the first game. In this game two teams or singles kick the sack over a net, trying to score by hitting the court of the other team. The rules are similar to volleyball or tennis.

The other game is “footbag consecutive” where the aim is to complete as many consecutive kicks as possible without dropping the sack. Couples or singles can compete in this game.

What’s inside a hacky sack?

Over the years the sack filling evolved in many different directions. To the point that there are so many different types of footbag fillings and mixing it’s hard to keep track.

The most common and popular fillings types are sand, dirt, metal, and beans. Other than that you can also find footbags filled with plastic, rice, corn, beads, cork and more.

Of course, you must consider each filling type pros and cons before buying a footbag. For example weight, durability, firmness and more.

A good bag I always recommend for beginners is the SandMaster footbag since it’s easy to stall and to learn new tricks. You can read my full SandMaster review here.

How to start playing?

You can start by picking your first footbag that is suitable for beginners, after that you should practice with friends or alone.

You can practice alone in your room by bouncing the ball as many times as you can, kicking it against the wall or even trying to hit a target from a distance. Later, you can start practicing some footbag tricks and kicks.

That way when you join the circle you already have a nice set of basic skills.

hacky sack shoes

3 Basic hacky sack kicks To Begin With

There are basically endless hacky sack kicks and they are all legit. The more creative and versatile a player is with his kicks and stalls the better player he is. But there are 3 very basic kicks that are performed by everyone and are the bread and butter of any footbag circle.

basic footbag kicks

The three basic hacky sack kicks:

Footbag has three basic kicks that everyone needs in their arsenal: Inside kick; outside kick; and toe kick.

In order to develop control with kicks, it is important to try to make the surface of your foot/shoe parallel with the ground as it makes contact. By doing so, this will ensure the bag is propelled straight up into the air.

Moreover, you should consider getting a footbag suitable for beginners.

Inside kick

Performed by the inside of your foot

footbag inside kick

Gently drop or toss the footbag in front of you. Using the inside of your foot where the arch of your foot is to kick the bag directly straight up.

Be sure to angle your ankle so that the inside of your foot is parallel to the ground in order to kick the sack straight up. You should also know There’s a big difference in the way you kick a sack filled with sand, metal or dirt.

Outside kick

Performed by the outside of your foot

footbag outside kick

Gently drop or toss the bag to the side of your body and use the middle of the outside of your foot to kick the bag upwards.

Just like with an inside kick, angle your ankle to keep your foot parallel to the ground in order to kick the footbag straight up. It’s true that hacky sack does not really have rules for kicking, but there are a few unwritten rules.

Toe kick

For a “Toe kick” Drop the sack and kick it with your toes

hacky sack footbag toe kick

Make sure to drop the sack a little bit further in front of you than you would when performing an inside kick.

Toe kicks can be performed either in a marching motion or by flicking the foot. In either case, the important component is timing. Timing will take time and practice to become consistent.

Use your toes to kick the bag straight up in the air. Be sure to kick your toes up instead of toward your head to avoid getting hit with the hacky sack! These are 3 basic kicks you should know and perform naturally.

Best Equipment For Footbag Beginners

I would suggest footbags filled with sand or plastic beads if you’re focused on juggling. Sacks made of these materials tend to be softer and easier to control.

If you want to focus on juggling as well as stalls, then I suggest sand or metal filled bags. In my opinion, sand-filled bags are great to begin with, because they allow for developing both juggling and stalling skills.

Tip: Wear lightweight shoes with a thickly cushioned sole

Tennis shoes and skate shoes are common choices for people who play Hacky Sack regularly. Shoes like these aren’t too heavy and have flat planes that make kicking and stalling more predictable.

The shoes you choose will significantly impact how you play. Shoes made of smooth leather or other slick materials will be difficult to play with because they lack grip.

Choosing shoes made from suede, canvas, or net provide more grip when contacting the bag. Many players opt for Rod Lavers. I, personally, play with Puma Classic Suede shoes, and these have become my favorite due to their large textured surface areas and flexible structure.

Everyone will have their own preference of shoe that will help to elevate their game. But for better play, almost every shoe can be modified.  

The benefits of playing Footbag

Everyone that plays Hacky sack will tell you the benefits are many.

You can play it in a group or alone, the sack is small and you can bring it literally anywhere!

Moreover, it’s a great physical activity to improve balance, knee strength, coordination, and technique.

Footbag is an amazing activity to bring your whole family together

You can get everyone in a circle. After that, explain the hacky sack rules for those who are new to it. This can really bring laughs and smiles to the whole family.

In conclusion, I recommend picking up a hacky sack or Jianzi Shuttlecock and start playing!

you will not regret it I promise!

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