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What are Hacky Sacks?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Hacky sacks or footbags are small stuffed bags which are designed to be used in a game known as hacky sack. The bags are around the size of a fist, and they are typically stuffed with beans, plastic granules, or other hard fillings so that they have some weight and loft. Sports stores sometimes sell footbags, and they can also be purchased from traditional craftspeople in various regions of the world, or from toy and hobby stores.

In the game of hacky sack, players kick the bag back and forth to each other without allowing it to touch the ground. Typically, the players engage in a series of complex tricks which are designed to showcase their dexterity and skill with the hacky sack, and players may challenge each other to specific moves. Any number of people can participate, with small games of three to five players being especially popular, since the players can form a small, loose circle with enough room to play around without having to kick the bag across a great distance.

The origins of this game appear to lie in Asia, judging from discussions of similar games in written accounts of life in Asia, along with depictions of hacky sacks in Asian art. However, many other cultures have developed similar games; the concept of kicking a small padded object around in a group of casual players can also be seen in parts of Africa and South America. Some cultures have developed their own unique versions of the game, complete with complex rules, and travelers sometimes enjoy learning new rules and styles.

Hacky sacks became popularized in the 1970s, when they were introduced as part of the originally trademarked game of Hacky Sack, an adaptation of traditional footbag games which was marketed by Mike Marshall and John Stahlberger. The inventors failed to aggressively protect their trademark, and as a result it became diluted, leading people to refer generically to all footbags as hacky sacks, regardless of their origins.

Players often enjoy hacky sacking, as it is sometimes called, because the game has no set rules, and players can invent their own take on it. The supplies are cheap, since hacky sacks often sell for only a few dollars, making the game accessible to people in all economic classes. People can also make their own hacky sacks by sewing, knitting, or crocheting various materials together, and hacky sacks may be painted, embroidered, or beaded with decorative accents.

Sports&Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports&Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By nanny3 — On Dec 09, 2011

This sounds like a great game to introduce to my five year old. I think she’d really enjoy it! She’s so limber and agile that I bet she could really put a number on a hacky sack.

Today, kids have so many things to do that just doesn’t keep them active. It’s like a waste of time that doesn’t feel like a waste of time because they are never bored. So, I’m always looking for active games they can play, but that are also simple and inexpensive.

I’m sure my little man would love hacky sack, too. I just don’t think we’re ready for those kinds of motor skills at the age of two, however. He’d probably just enjoy chunking them at the dog.

By poppyseed — On Dec 09, 2011

Okay. So I’m a dork because I totally didn’t know how to play hacky sack until right this second. I’ve forever seen the little gizmos, knew they were hacky sacks, but just never had an inkling what they were used for.

We actually used to take them and toss them through a piece of cardboard which we had cut several holes into and propped up. We’ve also used them to throw at each other mercilessly, because they didn’t really hurt. (And, they didn’t leave marks for mom to see.)

I’m thinking we might have enjoyed our hacky sacks more if we’d actually known what to do with them…

By Mykol — On Dec 08, 2011

I know that people collect just about anything you can think of, but most people give me a weird look when I tell them I collect hacky sacks.

These sacks always bring back fond memories of growing up. There were 4 boys in my family and we lived out in the country. We spent many hours of our free time playing with these hacky sacks.

Now I travel quite a bit and have been all over the world. In many countries I have seen some pretty creative and intense hacky sack games.

This is a fun, cheap thing to collect from different countries and places I have been to. They are also small and don't take up much room in my luggage.

I have all kinds of hacky sacks from many different countries. Everything from hemp hacky sacks, to homemade crocheted ones, bright colored patterns and tea bags.

They are also filled with all kinds of different material. Sadly, most of them don't get used, but this is something I always look for when I travel to a new place.

By bagley79 — On Dec 08, 2011

I really enjoyed reading about the history of the hacky sack. Not only how it was played all around the world, but especially the lack of marketing by the two men in the 1970's.

This is when I remember the hacky sack being popular. How we looked forward to recess time so we could get some good games of hacky sack going!

It is too bad they did not aggressively pursue the marketing of these sacks. This is an inexpensive product that is portable, fun to play and can be used just about anywhere. It is a great alternative to sitting around and playing video games or watching TV.

By LisaLou — On Dec 07, 2011

@OeKc05 - The great thing about hacky sacks is that you can be pretty creative when it comes to filling them.

My boys loved playing this game with others in the neighborhood, and I have made quite a few of them through the years.

I wouldn't usually go out and buy something special to fill them with, but use what I had handy around the house.

The hacky sacks I have made have been filled with things like popcorn, rice, beans, lentils, small plastic beads and balls. Sometimes if I didn't have enough of one thing, I would even use a combination of more than one of the items listed above.

For some reason, my boys seemed to prefer those that were filled with the beans or plastic beads. I don't know if it was the size or how it felt when they kicked the sack, but those are always the ones they grabbed first.

By OeKc05 — On Dec 07, 2011

My dad made me a hacky sack out of an old washcloth and some dried corn. He kept all of his corn cobs, even the ones we didn't intend to eat. After the corn dried, he would save some for planting next year, and he would find creative uses for the rest.

The corn provided plenty of flexibility to the sack. The washcloth, though rough, was pliable, so the hacky sack flopped around wonderfully well.

Does anyone else know of any creative fillings for hacky sacks? I imagine there are dozens of possibilities that I haven't even thought of yet.

By orangey03 — On Dec 06, 2011

I remember watching a bunch of hippies playing hacky sack. They didn't seem to have anywhere else to be, so they hung out on the street corner and honed their skills.

They were extremely good at this game. For hacky sacks, they used large tea bags that had been filed with sand and sewn shut. The strings had been cut off of them so that they wouldn't get tangled up in someone's sandals.

They seemed to have a game plan. They were so good that people gave them tips. It was like watching a circus act of sorts!

By Perdido — On Dec 05, 2011

@wavy58 – Homemade objects that were crafted during a time of need do take on a special meaning. When my siblings and I were children, my parents had to make all our toys, since they were struggling financially.

Our mother crocheted us a hacky sack. It was soft and floppy, like one should be. She filled it with dried beans, because they were the only thing big enough not to fall out between the spaces that crocheting creates.

My brothers were a little rough on it, but anytime they would destroy a hacky sack, she would make us a new one. I am glad she was so resourceful!

By wavy58 — On Dec 05, 2011

My husband and I loved playing hacky sack when we were younger. When we got married, we had to watch every penny, so we made our own sacks.

The house we rented had a barn out back, and that barn was filled with many old things. Our landlord had told us we were welcome to use anything we found out there, as it had been abandoned.

We found some old canvas material and a dusty sewing kit. We enclosed cheap rice in the canvas and sewed it up tightly. It made a perfect hacky sack.

I even embroidered our initials on it with a heart in between them. Even though we could easily afford to buy a hacky sack now, we continue using the original one, because it is so special.

By candyquilt — On Dec 04, 2011

@truman12-- I agree with you, it's not a good idea to get it online, especially if you're planning on getting a marble one. I did once and the hacky sack the online shop sent me had too many marbles in it. I had to cut it, remove some marbles and sew it back. It was annoying.

If I had gotten it from the store, I could have checked if it had too many marbles or not. But unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hacky sack store. You just have to look around stores selling sports equipment and hope they carry it.

I actually think I might make it myself next time. I'm sure I can get all the stuff I need from a crafts store. Maybe you could do the same?

By ysmina — On Dec 03, 2011

@burcinc-- It's great to hear that people still play hacky sacks. I used to play it in the early 90s, it was pretty popular in those years. All of my friends owned one and we used to play all the time after school. It's such a fun game, I'm glad it's still around. I thought that there was no more interest in it.

I've played with both sand filled and marble filled hacky sacks and personally, I prefer the sand filled ones. I think it's easier to maneuver and play with. But I also think that it's a personal preference. It doesn't cost much at all, so just try it out and see if you like it. You should be able to get it at sports stores. Sometimes the little shops and stalls at the mall have hacky sacks for sale too.

By truman12 — On Dec 02, 2011

What is a good place to buy hacky sacks? I have seen hacky sacks for sale on the internet but I am thinking that it might not be worth it to buy it from someplace where I can't feel the weight and try it out.

On the other hand, I have not seen many stores that sell hacky sacks and a lot of the ones that do seem to have a poor selection. There is definitely more stuff available online. So where should I go?

By backdraft — On Dec 02, 2011

I love hacky sack and have been playing since I was in high school. I still get together with some buddies at least once a month to set up a decent circle and kick the bag around.

I have never really been about tricks. I mostly like to see how long we can keep it going and use it as an excuse to hang out with my friends and crack jokes.

What I love is that almost every time we play a stranger comes up and asks if they can join in. Sometimes they are great and other times they stink but it is always fun to meet new people. Hacky sack is a great social game.

By Kat919 — On Dec 02, 2011

@burcinc - I can't shed any light on sand hacky sacks versus marble ones; the ones I've seen always seem to be filled with tiny plastic beads or something.

But if you are looking for a unique, handmade hacky sack, you might try a street fair. You know, the kind of event that draws glass blowers and tie-dyers and other artisans, like a Fourth of July event or cultural fair. Someone there is bound to be selling hacky sacks!

By burcinc — On Dec 02, 2011

I've been playing hacky sack with my buddies for a while but somehow it's lost and it was the only one I had. I hadn't even bought that one, it was just in our garage, my dad probably kept it from a long time ago.

The one I had was handmade, I'm guessing it was crochet, had all sorts of funky colors and filled with small marbles. It was kind of worn out but worked pretty well. My dad must have picked it up at a garage sale or a street seller or something.

So where can I get a new one?

I'm planning on getting another marble one but I've heard that the sand filled hacky sacks are nice too. Has anyone used the sand ones before? Which do you prefer?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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