Slackline Fitness: Is it better to slackline barefoot?

Slacklining is a unique and exciting form of exercise that involves walking, balancing, and performing various tricks on a narrow, flexible band that is suspended between two anchor points. Whether you’re a seasoned slackliner or just starting out, one question that often arises is whether it’s better to go barefoot or wear shoes while slacklining.

The difference between barefoot and wearing shoes whilst slacklining is down to personal preference. Wearing shoes can provide increased levels of comfort, arch support and better protection. Barefoot slacklining has its own benefits including improved grip and increased foot strength.

Whilst I am still very much learning to slackline, my preference is to wear shoes whilst slacklining. I find the slackline can be quite sharp when barefoot and prefer the support I get from shoes. As I improve and begin to learn more freestyle tricks I expect this may shift as the improved grip may become more important.

Me learning to slackline wearing shoes.

Barefoot Slacklining

Many experienced slackliners prefer to go barefoot when practising their skills. There are several reasons for this, including increased sensitivity and better grip on the line. Here are some of the benefits of slacklining barefoot:

Improved Balance

One of the main reasons why barefoot slacklining is so popular is that it improves your balance. When you’re barefoot, your feet are in direct contact with the line, giving you a better feel for its movements and allowing you to make adjustments more quickly. This increased sensitivity can help you maintain your balance on the line and perform more complex tricks.

Improving balance is also important for promoting healthy ageing, I discuss this more in my article about slacklining as a tool for rehabilitation.

Better Grip

Another advantage of slacklining barefoot is that you get a better grip on the line. This is because your feet are able to mould themselves to the shape of the line, creating more contact points and increasing your overall grip strength. Shoes, on the other hand, can sometimes slip on the line or get caught on the edges, making it harder to maintain your balance.

Slacklining on the beach barefoot.

Strengthened Foot Muscles

Slacklining barefoot can also help strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles. When you’re walking on the line, your feet are constantly making small adjustments to maintain your balance. This requires a lot of small muscle movements that can help improve your overall foot and ankle strength.

By slacklining barefoot one of the main muscle groups that you strengthen is your toe flexors. These are the muscles that run along the top of your foot and control curling your toes. These muscles help with balance and stability. The stronger these muscles are the better they can grip the ground and can provide a more solid foundation for movement. This can be particularly important for athletes who require quick changes or explosive power such as sprinting.

Increasing your foot strength also improves your ankle stability. The muscles that support your ankle are the peroneals and tibialis posterior, and these help to stop your ankle from rolling or twisting. The small adjustments that are constantly made whilst slacklining improve the strength and stability of these muscles. This still happens whilst wearing shoes but to a lesser extent as the shoe provides some additional support.

Increased Foot Health

Finally, going barefoot while slacklining can help improve your overall foot health. Shoes can sometimes cause blisters, calluses, or other foot injuries, especially if you’re wearing them for long periods of time. By going barefoot, you can give your feet a chance to breathe and move more naturally, which can help prevent these types of injuries.

By walking on an unstable and uneven surface your foot is forced to adapt and this improves the flexibility and range of motion of your feet. This can help in preventing injuries in both your feet and ankles.

Finally slacklining barefoot can also improve circulation in your feet. Being barefoot stimulates nerve endings in your feet and stimulates blood flow which can help with healing. Improved circulation can also reduce inflammation and pain in your feet making them feel better overall.

Slacklining in Shoes

While barefoot slacklining has many advantages, there are also some good reasons why you might want to wear shoes while practising. Here are a few benefits of slacklining wearing shoes:

Increased Protection

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of wearing shoes while slacklining is increased protection. Shoes can help protect your feet from cuts, bruises, and other injuries that can occur while walking on a narrow, bumpy surface. This is especially important if you’re practising on rough or uneven terrain.

Me slacklining in shoes.

Improved Traction

Another advantage of wearing shoes is improved traction. Shoes with rubber soles can provide excellent grip on the line, making it easier to maintain your balance and perform more complex tricks. This is especially true if the line is wet or slippery, as shoes can help prevent your feet from sliding around.

Better Arch Support

Many shoes also provide better arch support than going barefoot. This can be especially important if you have flat feet or other foot conditions that require extra support. Shoes with good arch support can help prevent foot pain and other issues that can make slacklining uncomfortable or even impossible.


Finally, wearing shoes while slacklining can be more comfortable for some people. If you have sensitive feet or are prone to blisters and other foot injuries, shoes can provide a layer of protection that can make practising more enjoyable.

The sole of a shoe is also fixed, which means if your foot is wider than the slackline you still have a flat surface within your shoe. This can be more comfortable than barefoot where your foot grips around the line itself.


So, is slacklining better barefoot or shod? Ultimately, the answer depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you’re an experienced slackliner who enjoys the feeling of being connected to the line and wants to improve your balance and foot strength, going barefoot is probably for you. But, it’s likely you’ve already figured that out. I have found learning whilst wearing shoes to be better for me however, I will be doing more slacklining barefoot in preparation for bigger tricks.

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