Best Bowling Shoes For Women & Men Reviewed

If you’re a serious bowler, you need the best bowling shoes out there and if you constantly find yourself at the bowling alley, it’s probably a good decision to get a pair of your own. Using the shoes offered by bowling alleys is far less hygienic considering they’ve been on countless feet. Plus, with rentals, what you see is what you get. You don’t have an array of choices. Time to give yourself some of the best quality options for bowling footwear. We have you covered!

Best-Bowling-Shoes-Bowlers-Standing-At-Lane-With-Bowling-Ball

Picking the right bowling shoe depends on many factors, such as if you’re a professional or an amateur, or how hard you bowl, for example. Adequate shoes are going to help you elevate your game. Having the best shoes comes in handy for casual bowlers, but is critical when it comes to tournaments and competing.

Last Updated: March 23, 2018
By Alice Frutis:

This update adds seven new bowling shoes while replacing two shoes from the original list with better bowling shoes. Additional information was added to the criteria for selection section of this guide to give the reader even more important information to aid them in their search for the best bowling shoes. The frequently asked questions section has been updated to provide up-to-date answers. More sources have been added so that the reader can use them to learn more about bowling shoes and what to look for in good ones. Finally, a terminology section has been added with key terms that are bowling and bowling shoe specific. For better readability, more headings have been added and grammar and word choices have been corrected and changed to make the guide more accessible.

Featured Recommendations

Dexter Jack
  • Dexter Jack
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Defined Horseshoe Heel
  • Price: See Here
Dexter Vicky
  • Dexter Vicky
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • U-Throat Upper
  • Price: See Here
BSI #651
  • BSI #651
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Light EVA Midsole
  • Price: See Here

You can also play with your cronies and, unless you play for charity itis usually better if your name is on the top of that scoreboard, right? Believe it or not, the right shoes will assist in that. You don’t need to put in hours doing research. We’ve done that for you and compiled a list of the best bowling shoes for men and women. Technique, strength, and concentration make up a huge part of the game, but the right equipment is just as important. So if you’ve made up your mind and have decided to go for quality, you’re in the right place.

 

 

15 Best Bowling Shoes

 

 

1. Dexter Jack

If bowling is your passion, then the Jack from Dexter is a shoe you must own. These shoes have a lenient and resilient man-made upper. They have an upper with lace to toe pattern for a custom fit that you can adjust. They also have a non-marking outsole with a defined horseshoe heel. It is also a universal bowling shoe.
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Slide-Rite Soles
The left and right shoes both have Slide-Rite soles, which are designed to promote sliding. As such, it is a universal bowling shoe designed to suit any player’s slide preferences.

Padded Tongue and Collar
The Jack has a comfortable padded tongue and collar. These padded areas reduce painful rubbing, absorb shock, and protect the top of your foot from pressure originating from the laces.

Cost / Value
They come at a moderate price and are a great investment. As a matter of fact, these shoes are comfier than many shoes. Their classic style is also very appealing.
Pros
  • Slide-Rite Soles
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Synthetic
  • Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
  • Horseshoe Heel
Cons
  • Doesn’t slide well
  • Wide sizes unavailable

2. Dexter Vicky

These are some of the best bowling shoes out there, and Dexter, the renowned bowling shoe brand, makes them. They are very light, and you will love the upper, which is quite breathable, comfortable, soft and built to endure. This alluring universal bowling shoe even comes with some great cushioning properties to provide you with ample comfort while you play.
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EVA Midsole
The Vicky comes with an EVA foam midsole unit. It’s wedged between the insole and outsole. This durable midsole provides extra cushioning to make the shoe more comfortable to wear.

Padded Tongue and Collar
The padded tongue and collar on the Dexter Vicky provide the wearer with extra protection from painful rubbing, abrasions, and small impacts. The tongue also reduces pressure from the laces.

Cost / Value
You can find them at a reasonable price, given the comfort and protection they provide in the arch. The laces are a suitable length, and the shoes are quite well-made.
Pros
  • EVA Midsole
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • U-Throat Pattern
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
  • Slide-Rite Soles
Cons
  • Sizing runs small
  • Not available in wide sizes

3. Dexter Turbo II

These are super durable and well-manufactured shoes that will last a long time. They have a classic and elegant look that matches your favorite attire. The Dexter Turbo II is certainly a game-changer. They come packed with features that provide ample comfort such as a microfiber sliding leather pad and a padded collar. They are also available in wide sizes!
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Synthetic Upper
The leather upper of this shoe is synthetic, so no animals were harmed to make it! The synthetic upper is soft and durable so it’s guaranteed to provide long-lasting comfort.

Wide Width Availability
These shoes come in wide sizes so people with wide feet can bowl comfortably, too! This means you’ll have a roomier toe box and the upper won’t squish your feet!

Cost and Value
You’ll find them at an affordable price and you will love how comfortable they feel the very first time that you wear them. Their size and fit are extremely accurate.
Pros
  • Synthetic Upper
  • Wide Width Availability
  • Raised Rubber Heel
  • Universal Bowling Shoes
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Slide-Rite Soles
Cons
  • Sole may separate from forefoot
  • Plain design

4. Dexter Ricky III

4. Dexter Ricky III
They are comfy and handsome looking bowling shoes. Dexter manufactures these shoes from synthetic material, and they deliver exceptional ease when it’s your time to throw the ball. You just know these are a pair of one of a kind shoes the very first time you glance at them. Moreover, the Ricky III will never seem to be out of style because of their everlasting design.
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Synthetic Leather Upper
The durable leather upper on the Ricky III is designed to feel soft while also providing great support. It’s also all man-made, so no animals were harmed to make it!

Non-Marking Outsole
The non-marking outsole will prevent these great bowling shoes from marking up the bowling alley. The Ricky III’s non-marking outsole is also made of rubber, which gives you great traction.

Cost / Value
The Dexter Ricky III is available in the middle price range. This is a great investment for a universal bowling shoe with Dexter’s patented Slide-Rite soles and several comfort features.
Pros
  • Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Slide-Rite Soles
Cons
  • Slide-Rite soles may wear
  • Doesn’t slide well

5. Brunswick Flyer

5. Brunswick Flyer
Say goodbye to rental footwear and say hello to Brunswick Flyer for men, your new ally in the alley. These shoes are composed of synthetic material and offer a stupendous ride. Moreover, these shoes have a soft and resistant man-made upper for outstanding comfort. The Komfort-Fit feature makes them extra durable; you can bet that these great shoes will last.
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Universal Soles
These bowling shoes have universal soles, which makes them a great shoe for right or left handed bowlers. These soles are also made of rubber, which will give you traction.

Non-Marking Outsole
The non-marking outsole on this shoe prevents it from marking up the alley and the lane. A cleaner floor means that you and your peers can slide and brake effectively.

Cost / Value
You spend a lot of time on your feet for this sport, and that is why these shoes have embedded comfort and provide it regularly for a nifty price.
Pros
  • Universal Soles
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Komfort-Fit Construction
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • FlexSlide Technology
Cons
  • Soles may detach
  • Soles are firm

6. BSI 651

6. BSI 651
BSI manufactured these shoes with deadeye precision, and they have a reasonable price. They are flexible, and you don't need too much time to get used to them. The traction and slide delivered by these shoes are just terrific, and you´ll probably bring your game to a whole new level. This stylish bowling shoe is bound to make a statement!
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Sport Leather
BSI’s 651 model bowling shoe is made of sport leather. Leather by its very nature is firm, but sport leather is designed specifically for sports, so it’s even more durable!

Lightweight EVA Midsole
The EVA midsole unit in these bowling shoes is very light without sacrificing shock-absorption or cushioning. This reduces the occurrence of foot fatigue while you’re wearing the shoes out bowling.

Cost / Value
These cute bowling shoes can be found in the low-to-middle price range, making them a great value! BSI’s 651 model provides great cushioning, padding, and comfort for a reasonable price.
Pros
  • Sport Leather
  • Lightweight EVA Midsole
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Slide Sole
  • Low Heel
  • Embossed Logo
Cons
  • Firm sole
  • May squeak

7. KR Flyer

7. KR Flyer
The KR Flyer is a great bowling shoe! The upper is synthetic and also pretty soft and comfortable. All that comfort is due in large part to the Komfort-Fit™ construction. These shoes are appealing, comfortable and make you feel like you are not wearing cushioned sneakers. This shoe’s non-marking rubber outsole and FlexSlide technology also make it an effective option.
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Komfort-Fit Construction
KR’s Strikeforce bowling shoe was designed for optimal comfort and to provide the best fit possible. From the sole to the upper, this shoe promises to conform to your foot.

Non-Marking Outsole
The non-marking outsole will help keep the lanes clean and won’t hold onto as much dirt and grime. This will help keep the lanes clean so you can slide comfortably.

Cost / Value
These sleek bowling shoes can be found in the low-to-upper price range. If you shop around for the best price, this shoe’s Komfort-Fit design makes it well worth the investment.
Pros
  • Komfort-Fit Construction
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Synthetic
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • FlexSlide Technology
  • Universal Bowling Shoes
Cons
  • Too much traction
  • Sizing runs narrow

8. Dexter Ana

8. Dexter Ana
These stylish plaid patterned shoes by Dexter are flexible and durable. Furthermore, they are synthetic, and that means that they won't stretch. These shoes sport a padded collar and tongue for comfort and protection. The soles are Slide-Rite soles, which help you to slide more easily. The non-marking outsole helps to promote your traction, which helps you keep your balance.
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Raised Heel
The Dexter Ana has a small raised heel. This low heel makes it a great fit for people who have pronation problems, as it reduces the strain on your foot.

Universal Soles
These lovely shoes have universal soles. This means that both shoes have the same sliding sole, so they’re good for any bowler regardless of which foot is their dominant one.

Cost / Value
These plaid-patterned bowling shoes can be found in the low-to-upper price range, making it quite an affordable buy. The Dexter Ana provides comfort and stability features that every bowler needs.
Pros
  • Raised Heel
  • Universal Soles
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Slide-Rite Soles
  • Stylish Plaid Design
Cons
  • Very firm
  • Short laces

9. BSI 460

9. BSI 460
The BSI 460 bowling shoe is a lightweight, plush, and comfortable shoe. Its universal sole design means that both shoes have the same sliding sole, making it a great fit for any bowler regardless of foot preference. Unlike most bowling shoes, the 460 also sports temperature managing features, which really make this shoe stand out. The rubber outsole provides grip.
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Plush Insole
BSI’s 460 model of bowling shoe comes with a plush insole, which is soft and gentle on your feet. It absorbs shock effectively which gives you a more comfortable step.

Ventilating Perforations
In the upper, BSI built in ventilating perforations which improve the airflow in the shoe. This improved airflow helps the shoe keep your feet dry and cool while you bowl.

Cost and Value
This simple, effective bowling shoe can be found in the low-to-upper price range. This model of bowling shoe can be quite affordable if you shop around for the best price.
Pros
  • Plush Insole
  • Ventilating Perforations
  • Lightweight Outsole
  • Padded Collar
  • Low Heel
  • Action Leather Upper
Cons
  • Sole may detach
  • Too much grip

10. BSI Basic #521

10. BSI Basic #521
The BSI Basic #521 bowling shoe comes with a number of great cushioning features that reduce foot and leg fatigue without compromising on features that improve your game. The action leather used in the upper of the shoe is firm and supportive. The microfiber sliding sole helps you slide and brake effectively. Its simple aesthetic only adds to its charm.
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Rubber Outsole
The rubber outsole on this shoe provides traction where you need it without compromising on the slide offered by the forefoot sliding soles. This lightweight outsole provides shock-absorbing cushioning, too.

Extra Plush Insole
To give you even more comfort, BSI’s 521 model has an extra plush insole unit. This insole is extra soft and it absorbs shock well, which helps protect your feet!

Cost and Value
This comfortable universal sole bowling shoe by BSI provides great cushioning and traction features at an affordable, reasonable price. The BSI 521 can be found in the low-to-upper price range.
Pros
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Extra Plush Insole
  • Action Leather Upper
  • Microfiber Sliding Soles
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • No heel
Cons
  • Sizing runs large
  • Tongue may slide down

11. Dexter Pro-AM II

11. Dexter Pro-AM II
This sleek bowling shoe by Dexter is a professional bowling shoe and is one of the few shoes on this list that is a professional bowling shoe designed for right-handed bowlers. As such, it comes with two different soles for each shoe: one for sliding and one for braking. These unique features give you more control over your bowling approach.
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Blucher Upper Pattern
This bowling shoe’s Blucher upper pattern includes the lacing pattern that allows you to customize the fit to suit your needs. The lacing eyelets are reinforced so they won’t tear.

S8 Microfiber Slide Sole
The slide sole used in this shoe helps you control your slide. This is a right-handed pair of shoes, so only one of them has the S8 microfiber slide sole.

Cost and Value
These are professional, high-quality bowling shoes. They can be found in the upper price range, but they are priced quite reasonably for a pair of right-hand bowling shoes with cushioning.
Pros
  • Blucher Upper Pattern
  • S8 Microfiber Slide Sole
  • Synthetic
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Raised Horseshoe Heel
Cons
  • Stitching may rip
  • Soles may wear quickly

12. Dexter Kerrie

12. Dexter Kerrie
The Kerrie by Dexter is a cute and stylish bowling shoe, but it is also an effective one. The Slide-Rite sole found on both shoes gives you the ability to slide effortlessly regardless of which foot is your dominant foot. The light padding offers some protection without hindering your movement. This universal bowling shoe also offers a soft textile upper.
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Textile Upper
The upper of this bowling shoe is a fabric, or textile, material. As such, it’s more flexible than most leather and synthetic leather uppers, which makes this shoe more comfortable.

Non-Marking Outsole
The non-marking outsole won’t leave spots or marks behind while you bowl and it also helps to keep the alley clean! This outsole is rubber, so it’s great at shock-absorption.

Cost and Value
These bowling shoes can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. The cushioning is light and doesn’t hinder your game while the universal soles make it work for any bowler.
Pros
  • Textile Upper
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Lightly Padded Collar
  • Slide-Rite Soles
  • Universal Soles
Cons
  • Sizing runs narrow
  • Firm forefoot region

13. Dexter Raquel IV

13. Dexter Raquel IV
The Dexter Raquel IV is a cute and effective bowling shoe that comes in two color combinations. While this shoe may not make a loud fashion statement, it does provide a comfortable fit and ample cushioning to reduce foot and leg fatigue and also prevents injuries. These are universal bowling shoes, too, so both shoes have the same Slide-Rite soles.
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Lace Closure Design
The unique lace-up closure design used on the Raquel helps provide a customized, secure fit without becoming uncomfortably tight. The tongue has a loop that the laces are pulled through.

Non-Marking Outsole
The non-marking outsole on the Raquel IV prevents scuffs and marks on the alley floor, which keeps it cleaner. Also, the outsole is rubber, so it offers shock-absorbing cushioning, too.

Cost and Value
These quaint bowling shoes by Dexter can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It offers great shoe technologies to make it cost-effective, including Slide-Rite soles and a non-marking outsole.
Pros
  • Lace Closure Design
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Synthetic Upper
  • Horseshoe Heel
  • Slide-Rite Soles
  • Padded Collar and Tongue
Cons
  • Seams may rip
  • Poor grip

14. Dexter Kameron

14. Dexter Kameron
The Dexter Kameron comes with a soft canvas upper, so it is more flexible than many other bowling shoes. It also comes with a soft textile lining to protect your sensitive feet from painful rubbing. This shoe’s non-marking rubber outsole and its Slide-Rite soles give you the right combination of traction and slide. The low heel helps reduce foot strain.
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Side Vents
The side vents on these bowling shoes improve their airflow. This improved airflow helps cool and dry your feet, so you won’t develop blisters or be stuck with stinky shoes!

Removable EVA Insole
This EVA insole provides responsive shock-absorption. This is great for people who need custom orthotics and for when the cushioning wears down. It can be replaced with a new insole.

Cost and Value
These stylish Dexter bowling shoes can be found in the upper price range, but they come with great features, such as a removable insole, that make it a great investment.
Pros
  • Side Vents
  • Removable EVA Insole
  • Canvas Upper
  • Lightly Padded Collar
  • Soft Textile Lining
  • Non-Marking Outsole
  • Slide-Rite Soles
Cons
  • Soles may detach
  • Sticky heel

15. Brunswick Karma

15. Brunswick Karma
The Brunswick Karma is a stylish and comfortable bowling shoe option. Its Pure Slide microfiber soles are the same on both shoes, which makes it a universal shoe and is good for any bowler. Its rubber outsole provides excellent cushioning and grip while the Pure Slide soles provide the right amount of slide. These great shoes also have lightweight soles.
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Denim Upper
The lightweight denim upper on the Brunswick Karma is flexible and comfortable to wear. However, it is also breathable, so your feet will stay cool and dry while you play.

Converts to Slip-On
This shoe is customizable because you can convert it from a lace-up shoe to a slip-on with ease. If you need a more secure fit, you can tighten the laces.

Cost and Value
This denim bowling shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. The Karma is a great deal for a unique, stylish, and comfortable bowling shoe that is also effective.
Pros
  • Denim Upper
  • Converts to Slip-On
  • Lightweight Outsole
  • Microfiber Slide Soles
  • Foam Padding
  • Low Collar
Cons
  • Sticky rubber heel
  • Stiff sole

We’ve reviewed the very best of the best, with the most positive user feedback, tested and tried. Aspects to consider in a great shoe include stability, grip, flexibility and support, and we’ve included every significant metric in finding the top 15. Wearing appropriate equipment for your game is essential to your safety and performance. As such, it’s important to find a good balance between grip and slide, as sliding is an important part of good bowling technique. No one wants to fall in front of the entire bowling alley because their shoes were too slick or too grippy. Naturally, cushioning and support are also important, as these features protect your feet, ankles, legs, and even your lower back from shock-related injury and discomfort. Many of the shoes on this list are made by Dexter, a well-known bowling shoe manufacturer, but it is worth noting that KR, Brunswick, and BSI also create excellent bowling shoes.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Bowling Shoes

The Approach

Best-Bowling-Shoes-approach

The approach is the process of walking up to the foul line before releasing the ball. Walking up to the line is also known as building the approach. Some bowlers argue that the approach is the most important technique in the whole bowling process. While a good approach alone won’t make you a decent bowler, it is very important considering it’s the first step. If you get the approach wrong, things will most likely just get worse from there.

Building an appropriate approach indeed requires practice. However, a good pair of shoes makes a huge difference. And likewise, a low-quality pair of bowling shoes will mess up your approach. Multiple elements in a bowling shoe have an impact on the quality of the approach. For instance, the outsole quality and materials are crucial to an efficient approach, as this is what mainly differentiates a bowling shoe from a regular one.

You’ll require shoes which give you more motion control. The best bowling shoes have stability features built into them with firm, supportive outsoles, and supportive uppers. The more stable you are, the more precise your approach will be.

Cushioning is one of the elements that can provide you with the added stability you need. You may be thinking that bowling is not the kind of sport that needs cushioning on its performance shoes. However, when you’re seeking the most optimal performance, some cushioning can prevent those slight tilts that may put your aim off.

The best bowling shoes will come with a cushioned midsole. However, the cushioning in this type of shoe is not the same as what you’ll find within a running sneaker. Bowling shoes’ midsoles are much thinner in comparison to most other sports, and they don’t deliver as much absorption. Instead, they aim to stabilize each step by acting as a platform.

If you can’t find the right cushioning in a shoe, or you suffer from foot irregularities (high arch, flat foot, etc.), you can always resort to custom insoles. Personalized insoles are an ideal solution that provides what you can’t find in a shoe. For instance, if you feel your shoe lacks some heel cushioning, a custom insole can make it happen without having to acquire a new pair.

Lastly, stiffness is a key point for stability when it comes to bowling shoes. If you’ve ever owned a pair – or tried rental shoes at the alley – you noticed they are stiffer than your average pair of shoes. The upper build features a hard material that isn’t too flexible; this is to provide a more solid structure. Because of this, it’s harder for your feet to swing laterally while building the approach.

 

Outsole Surface

Best-Bowling-Shoes-outsole

The outsole is the key element in a bowling shoe and is what distinguishes bowling shoes the most. Usually bowling outsoles are completely flat, however, some designs may feature a heel that’s slightly raised. The outsole surface varies from model to model, and in professional performance, they’re often different from one another (right outsole and left outsole).

This is because the outsole surface of your dominant foot features a different build than your opposing foot. Your dominant foot’s shoe aims at sliding, and the opposite one aims at braking. We’ll enter into further detail about sliding and braking later into the guide. Keep in mind that regardless of what your dominant foot is, the sliding and braking ability depends on the outsole design.

For instance, outsoles equipped with a raised heel provide slightly more sliding than that of flat outsoles. This is because the heel provides inclination to the outsole, making momentum and impulse help you slide forward. Keep in mind that going for too much slide is not the ideal thing to do either – you want to maintain control of your motion as much as possible.

Your foot dominance is also something to take into consideration while looking for the best bowling shoes. If you’re a dedicated player, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes support your performance. This means that your shoes should have opposing outsoles like we explained previously. One foot will slide, while the other outsole will be responsible for stopping the slide.

Opposing outsoles are considerably costlier and are usually only used on professional level bowling shoes.  Hence, you might reconsider this feature if you’re just looking for a casual kind of thing. In this case, you can get a universal type of bowling shoe. This design has matching outsoles, and depending on the manufacturer they may feature a brake on the back of the heel of both shoes.

If you’re getting started in bowling, but eventually want to take the leap to professional shoes, we recommend getting used to universal designs first. Once you’ve got a good grasp of the motions and practices of the approach, the slide, the brake, and the throw, you’ll be ready for professional performance shoes. Making the switch too soon may make it harder for you to learn the proper technique.

The outsole materials in most cases consist of materials such as rubber, synthetic rubbers, and certain types of fiber. The materials that cover the outsole surface prevent you from moving any more than you actually want to. They are specially engineered to deliver accurate and firm steps, preventing any form of slippage or drag while building the approach. This type of materials delivers unique traction.

A bowling shoe is mostly judged by the quality of its outsole. However, there’s a lot of controversy regarding the “ideal” outsole design. This is because the topic is very varied due to personal preferences and the many different styles of bowlers.

 

Slide & Brake

Best-Bowling-Shoes-slide

We previously mentioned these two terms in the approach section of our criteria. The sliding and braking sole parts are features of the outsole that allow you to slide or brake. Although these two features are separated from each other on professional shoes, some universal designs make soles with no particular structure. This latter is mostly used by beginners and is considerably less optimal than the professional design.

Sliding in bowling technique occurs immediately after approaching the foul line. Once bowlers have built their approach and lean forward to release, they slide. Each player desires a different amount of slide as they release. Sliding allows you to keep your movements fluid and connected so that your release can be as accurate and controlled as possible.

For instance, after approaching, some bowlers like to slide as close to the foul line as possible. Professional shoes make this much easier, as users can apply the brake to regulate their sliding. Keep in mind that sliding is not easy, and it’s important to remain in control of your slide. The slide, if any, should be very brief – over sliding will cause you to either lose balance or cross the foul line.

If you’re a slider, you should be picky when it comes to your bowling shoes. Not everyone goes for the same amount of slide – or the same style. It’s important that you look for a shoe that’s comfortable for you to slide with. Although they may all look the same, the design of bowling shoe outsoles can vary greatly. Depending on the manufacturer (and model) you’ll be looking at more slide, less slide, or no slide at all.

On the other hand, if you’re a planter you should be looking for a flat outsole. The best bowling shoes include a planting feature, which usually consists of small slugs on certain zones of the outsole. When applying pressure to this zone, you’ll instantly stop the current motion with no sliding at all. Keep in mind that the shoes will do the functional part for you; however, maintaining proper balance and technique is a matter of practice.

Lastly, regardless of the type of technique and shoe you employ, there’s one huge factor to consider: obstacles. Bowling shoe outsoles are extremely easy to disrupt, as the materials, as well as surface, can get dirty with almost anything. For both sliding and planting, it’s very important that the outsole is properly polished and totally free of any objects on it. Likewise, the approach has to be adequately treated in order to achieve the most optimal performance.

Bowling shoes are more delicate than you would normally think. The only place to wear them is the alley. The outsole of these shoes is not made for any other surface, and not only will it degrade on other surfaces, but they will also get dirty. The dirt that obstructs the outsole is not always visual, any kind of oil or grease absorbed by the outsole will mess up your sliding ability.

 

Customization

Best-Bowling-Shoes-three pairs

This is a very important aspect when it comes to professional-level practice and performance. Once you’ve obtained a good grasp of regular bowling shoes, as well as the basic skills and techniques, you should opt for customized bowling shoes. Customization is constantly underestimated by players who are looking to transition to professional bowling. It’s important to remember that once you go pro, you’ll need to be equipped like a pro.

Although some bowlers may have similar preferences, they all have a unique style and technique. Thus, everyone has different tastes when it comes to professional bowling shoes. These preferences apply to both the comfort side as well as the performance side.

On the comfort side, it’s a matter of how you feel in your shoes. Some players like to insert a personalized insole for better heel cushioning. Others prefer a flat shoe with a thin sole to be as close to the ground as possible for better balance. While this looks unnecessary, and even silly at first sight, customized comfort is something that can, and will, affect your performance.

If you think about for a moment, the greatest athletes in all types of disciplines had their equipment custom made. Manufacturers would make shoes according to their exact feet size, their material preferences, and their style of performance. There is a reason why Muhammed Ali had his boxing shoes designed for him, and why elite football players do the same. It’s because it makes a huge difference.

You may not be looking for shoes with your exact foot length and width, and that’s fine. Our previous example is just to highlight the importance of customization. You can, however, optimize your practice by using equipment that fits your performance style. One very common example of customization is the foot-dominant design. Most manufacturers offer their models based on designs for both lefties and right-handed players. Every professional bowling player purchases equipment based on their dominant hand and foot, and so should you.

Some players don’t have one specific technique – they play differently depending on the circumstances. Thus, being tied down an inclined with one pair of shoes for all scenarios isn’t practical for them, and buying multiple pairs of customized shoes isn’t cheap. Instead, they use shoes with removable outsoles. Basically, they consist of outsoles that can be removed and replaced with another. This also serves the purpose of exchanging the left shoe outsole with the right shoe outsole.

Although this technology is considerably costlier than the average bowling shoe, it improves your performance considerably over the average bowling shoe, too. Removable outsoles allow you to fully customize your strategy and practice for pretty much any scenario. It also makes the shoes much more durable, as the outsole is the element that degrades that fastest. Normally, you would have to obtain a new pair of shoes or send your pair for a sole replacement. Instead, you can just replace your sole.

 

Know Your Equipment

So far we have explained a variety of bowling techniques and bowling shoe technologies that are available. In order to acquire the pair of bowling shoes that suit you the most, you need to find out what works best for you. Is it extra space in the toe box, or is it a raised heel that provides more slide? It’s really up to you.

Once you have figured this out, there’s only one thing left on the list: finding which shoe suits those needs. Aside from knowing yourself and your preferences, you need to know your equipment; especially when there’s such a variety of it. Let’s see some of it:

Rental Shoes

Best-Bowling-Shoes-rental shoes

These are the pairs of shoes bowling alleys set you up with during rental games. They usually don’t feature any specific design, but rather a generic outsole following bowling shoe standards. Rental shoes come with the basic features needed for bowling performance; a somewhat stiff upper build for support, a bowling outsole design, and a flat build.

Some alleys may present you multiple options when it comes to rental shoes; you may opt for a raised heel or a totally flat one. Although, this is not always the case and it’s completely up to the alley. Usually, the only preference you’ll get while picking rental shoes is the size. Don’t get us wrong though – for people who visit the bowling alley two or three times a year, these pairs will suit them just fine.

Renting bowling shoes usually costs $3 to $5 depending on the alley. This may or may not be affordable depending on the frequency with which you play bowling. The main issue with rental shoes is that they aren’t affordable once you become a regular player.

Universal bowling shoes can be purchased for around $35 with no special features. This is the type of shoe you’ll generally find in bowling alleys. At $5 per rental, you could buy your own pair of shoes after with the money you spend on 7 visits. You can imagine how much money you could be saving, especially if you play bowling once or twice a month.

By buying your own shoes you not only save money, but you also get to choose your style of build. Like we previously mentioned, you don’t get much access to any feature in particular when using rental shoes.

Bottom line: Acceptable for very occasional players. Not affordable if you’re a frequent bowler, and also not the best for boosting your performance.

 

Athletic Shoes

Best-Bowling-Shoes-pair

This is the ideal pair of bowling shoes for beginners and occasional players. Athletic bowling shoes, also known as universal shoes, feature sliding outsoles on both feet. This covers both left-hand dominant users and right-hand dominant ones. The aesthetic is very casual and often looks like a normal sneaker. As for the fit, the upper build is slightly firmer than a regular shoe.

Athletic bowling shoes are often the ones you find at bowling alleys and are rental shoes. Most of them are fairly affordable, with prices ranging from $25 to $40 for an average pair of these. The features of this type of shoe aren’t too detailed; they follow a rather standard design instead. They’re not manufactured aiming at optimal performance; instead, athletic bowling shoes focus on comfort and support.

Universal shoes are a great option while you’re learning the proper bowling form. We recommend that your first pair of bowling shoes are universal ones. These will help you get used to the approach, as well as the basic bowling motions and techniques. Once you’re fairly familiar with bowling in general, you may eventually transition to professional shoes.

The main downside to this kind of build is that it’s pretty plain. It comes with the necessary features for the basics of bowling. Aside from that, they don’t offer much enhancement towards performance. The build is one piece altogether, not counting with removable soles or adjustable heels. Because of this, players would have to purchase different pairs if they wanted to experiment with alternate styles. By having two sliding soles, these models lack a braking shoe.

Bottom line: The best option for introductory bowlers. These are essential while learning the basic techniques as well as a proper approach. You should be fairly familiar with these before acquiring performance ones.

 

Performance Shoes

Best-Bowling-Shoes-yellow pair

The last and best type of shoe when it comes to professional performance. This build offers anything you could possibly seek in a bowling shoe. Like we previously mentioned on our criteria, customization plays a huge role when it comes to professional sports shoes. Bowling isn’t an exception.

If you bowl regularly or are looking to take the leap to professional-level bowling, you’ll need performance shoes. Performance shoes usually consist of two different shoes: a braking shoe, and a sliding one.

The braking shoe features a thick rubber compound and might have short slugs as well. This is to enhance friction between the shoe and the approach, reducing friction and thus preventing further sliding. Its counterpart, the sliding shoe, is the whole opposite. The sliding build usually goes on the dominant foot and features a very smooth sole that slides easily. Additionally, some sliding shoes include a raised heel to increase sliding. Keep in mind that the amount of slide depends on the user’s preference.

Professional performance shoes offer removable thus, being outsoles. This functionality allows bowlers to switch their sliding foot with their braking one. It also makes outsole replacement much easier when an outsole comes to an end. Because of this feature, bowlers can accommodate their tactic and their lay-down based on the circumstances. It allows them to use the same pair of shoe for multiple occasions, rather than owning a bunch of pairs.

Bowling performance shoes feature top-notch materials made to obtain the most optimal slide and performance in general. Because of this, they’re utterly durable and rarely need early replacement.

Bottom line: Once you’re serious about bowling, and you’re confident about your skills, it’s a must that you transition to performance shoes. Prices fluctuate amongst manufacturers, depending on what kind of model you’re looking for. The replaceable heels and soles are very much recommended.

 

Removable Soles

Best-Bowling-Shoes-sole

Aside from the ability to exchange soles, it’s important to know which sole to use during specific occasions. For this, you’ll need to learn what the different types of soles are, how they’re different from each other, and how each one works. Exchangeable outsoles are of very little use if you don’t make good use out of them. Having the right sole at the right time will boost your performance. Wear a wrong one, however, and you’ll watch your performance decrease.

The soles are categorized based on their ability to slide. They are graded from 1 to 10 based on this; where 1 is the lowest value, and 10 is the highest. Depending on the type of lane, the game mode, and the weather, you should adjust your shoes for more or less sliding. In most cases, it is the lane condition which determines the amount of slide you should use.

For instance, in circumstances where the weather is warm, you should be opting for more slide. Typically, warm weather makes the surface of the lane drier, and thus less susceptible to sliding. Hence, under this circumstance, it’d be wise to increase slide considerably, perhaps up to 10.

Cold weather, on the other hand, make the lanes much more slippery. The colder the environment, the less slide your shoes should have. Always keep in mind the amount of slide you as a bowler are comfortable with. For example: in neutral circumstances where no factors affect your sliding, you would set your sliding to 3. If the environment is mildly cold, you might switch it down to 1, as the weather will provide you with the other 2-3 grades of sliding.

The physical state of the approach lane has a big impact on sliding. The smoother the lane, the better the sliding. While competitive bowling alleys properly prepare their lines prior to a competition, regular alleys may not. Deterioration and degrading of the lane will interfere with sliding.

 

Additional Considerations

All of the above criteria are essential to determine how great the bowling shoe itself is specifically for bowling. However, there are other important factors to consider, including arch support, heel support, and overall value. These factors don’t necessarily make the shoe better for bowling specifically, but they do make the shoes better and more comfortable for the wearer.

Arch Support

Most bowling shoes don’t come with a lot of support features for people with pronation problems or high or low arches, but there are some out there that exist. Be sure to look for shoes with arch supports built in. If it hurts when you put it on or the support is insufficient, don’t wear them! This can exacerbate any pre-existing medical conditions and cause significant discomfort.

Heel Support

If you have heel pain, you need to also consider whether or not the bowling shoe provides enough support in the heel area. Keep an eye out for support features such as heel cups, extra depth, and low heels. These will reduce the strain that high and flat arches create that results in heel pain.

Value

The cost-effectiveness of a bowling shoe depends on a number of details: sole style, aesthetic, durability, longevity, and actual monetary price.

If you are a casual bowler, a universal sole style bowling shoe would be sufficient and you wouldn’t need to invest in a more expensive professional bowling shoe. However, a universal sole bowling shoe wouldn’t be sufficient if you are a professional bowler or otherwise bowl competitively. As such, the shoe would be more valuable to you if it had removable sole parts to customize it to suit your play style and technique.

The aesthetic doesn’t affect your game, but it is always nice to feel confident and look nice when you’re playing a game, especially if it is in public. The aesthetic plays a role in how cost-effective the shoe is. Which isn’t to say that you should invest in a pair of shoes that looks nice if it isn’t as effective for bowling as another shoe that isn’t as stylish.

The best bowling shoes are durable and long-lived. No one wants to invest in a pair of shoes, especially if they are used only for one purpose- bowling, in this case- and then have the shoes fall apart after only a few months of wear. Some features to look out for that increase the longevity of your bowling shoes are removable insoles and removable outsoles. If the insoles and outsole units can be removed and replaced, you can essentially double the lifespan of your new bowling shoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Can I bowl in normal sneakers?

A: Technically, it’s possible. You could bowl in any shoes for that matter – but it’s nowhere near good for your performance. However, bowling alleys won’t allow you to use normal shoes.

Q: What should I look for in bowling shoes?
A: Depending on your level of practice you may use athletic (universal) shoes or performance ones. You should also consider your personal preferences for cushioning, support, and slide.

Q: Why do I have to use bowling shoes at alleys?
A: Regular shoes are not only impractical for bowling, but they may also make the lane dirty. Normal sneakers tend to have a considerable amount of dirt on the soles. Dirt which would remain in the lane and obstruct performance shoes.

Q: How much does it cost to rent bowling shoes?
A: Depending on the alley, it may be a fixed price or an hourly one. Most alleys will charge you a fixed price that goes from $3 to $5, regardless of the number of hours played.

Q: Why are bowling lanes slippery?
A: The approach is cleaned with a special product to increase the performance of bowling shoes. Additionally, the lane is oiled further to maximize the ball’s spin and speed.

Q: How do I clean my bowling shoes?
A: Bowling shoes are not like casual ones – cleaning is not optional. You MUST clean the outsole of your bowling shoes to make them as smooth as possible.  Use a soft cloth and an adequate shoe-cleaning product for this. Should the upper of your bowling shoes become dirty, you can clean them using a small brush or soft cloth dipped in a shoe detergent or a mixture of dish or laundry detergent with a little water. Never wash your bowling shoes in the washing machine, even if the upper is made of fabric or denim. Don’t dry them in the dryer, either. Important: If the upper of these shoes are leather, use a leather-cleaning product to clean it and never submerge the shoes in water. This will ruin your shoes.

Q: How much are bowling shoes?
A: Depending on the quality of the shoe, as well as the type (universal, performance), a bowling shoe can go from $25 to $90 and beyond.

Q: Can I use bowling shoes without socks?
A: You shouldn’t. The stiffer materials of bowling shoes aren’t made for barefoot performance. Rental shoes may contain a considerable amount of bacteria, and it’s a must to use socks with them.

Q: How can I improve my shoe’s ability to slide?
A: If your shoes come with removable soles, you’ll be able to adjust the slide and heel to make it slide more. Additionally, cleaning your shoes regularly will improve their sliding ability as well. Keep in mind that applying substances to the outsole may be illegal in certain competitions.

 

Terminology

  • Approach: The approach is made up of sliding and braking techniques as you walk towards the lane to release your bowling ball. It is also the region of the bowling alley that the player walks on as they prepare to release the bowling ball.
  • Slide: In bowling, it’s a good technique to slide forward slightly as you approach the lane to release the ball.
  • Brake: Braking helps you control your sliding and prevents you from sliding out-of-bounds into the actual lane where the ball rolls.
  • Insole: The part of the sole that your foot touches. It provides cushioning and shock-absorption, but can also provide support and moisture-wicking.
  • Midsole: The part of the sole that is wedged between the insole and the outsole. Usually, this part of the sole is used for cushioning across the whole foot, but sometimes there are separate midsole units that are used throughout the shoe to provide cushioning and support in specific areas, such as the arch or the heel.
  • Outsole: The part of the sole that touches the ground. This part of the sole is usually firm and durable. It can have interlocking units or be a full piece of molded rubber. The outsole provides cushioning, traction, and support.
  • Replaceable/Removable Outsoles: Some professional bowling shoes come with removable outsole units so you can customize which foot brakes and which foot slides based on your personal preference.
  • Vamp: The vamp is the area of the shoe where the laces are located if the shoe has laces. It’s always the area above and including the tongue of the shoe.
  • Upper: The upper is the top part of the shoe that closes around your foot.
  • Universal Bowling Shoes: Universal bowling shoes have the same style sole on both shoes- usually a slide sole- which make them good for any bowler.

 

Sources

  1. Wikipedia, Bowling, Wiki Article,
  2. Bowlers Advantage, Bowling Shoes, Product Information,
  3. Wonderopolis, Why Are Bowling Shoes Slippery?, Entertainment Article,
  4. LiveAbout, Bowling Shoe Choices, Shoe Informative Guide, Sep 19, 2016
  5. eBay, Bowling Shoes Guide, eBay Purchasing Advice, Mar 03, 2016
  6. Street Directory, Why Bowling Shoes are Necessary, 2018
  7. Las Positas College, The Bowler’s Bowling Dictionary, 1998
  8. BowlingBall.com, Why is Owning Bowling Shoes Important?, February 1, 2016
  9. LiveHealthy.Chron, Why Are Bowling Shoes Necessary?, 2018

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