Best Bowling Shoes For Women & Men Reviewed

If you’re a serious bowler, you need the best possible equipment out there and if you constantly find yourself at the bowling alley, it’s probably a good decision to get a pair of bowling shoes your own. Using the shoes offered by bowling alleys is far less hygienic than wearing your own footwear, considering the rentals been on countless feet and contain germs and bacteria that remain in the lining even if the previous wearers all wore socks with them. Plus, with rentals, what you see is what you get, ridding you of a number of choices you have when you purchase your own pair of shoes.

Last Updated: July 14, 2018
By Ana Rockov:

The latest update to this article includes a few small improvements in the description of the top ten bowling shoes available for purchase online in July 2018. With better described features, you’ll be able to make the best possible choice when shopping for a pair of footwear that’ll take your performance to the next level.

Picking the right pair of footwear depends on many factors, such as if you’re a professional or an amateur, or how hard you bowl. Another important factor is your bowling style, as well as whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, i.e. which foot you slide on, and which you use to brake. Adequate shoes are bound to help elevate your game, which is especially important if you plan on participating in tournaments and competing.

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

The following buying guide looks at the ten best shoes for bowlers available for purchase online, helping you make the right choice before you spend your hard earned money on a piece of equipment. We’ve researched each and every one of the models on this list, and have put together a handy Criteria for Evaluation and FAQ section so that you can have all the necessary information when choosing the best possible pair of bowling shoes for you.

 

10 Best Bowling Shoes

 

1. Dexter Jack

If bowling is your passion, then the Dexter Jack is a shoe you must own. These have a lenient and resilient man-made upper with a lace to toe closure that will allow for a fully customized fit you’ll be able to easily adjust. Additionally, they feature a non-marking outsole with a defined horseshoe heel and are a pair of universal shoes which makes them great for anyone.
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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, the Dexter Jack will be a good choice for a large number of people, seeing that it will 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 and Value
The Dexter Jack can be bought at an excellent price which ranks average on this list. That is what makes it a great investment for bowlers of any experience level. Additionally, they are comfy, padded and have a classic style that will look just as well as it will perform.
Pros

Slide-Rite Soles

Padded Tongue and Collar

Soft Fabric Lining

Synthetic

Non-Marking Rubber Outsole

Horseshoe Heel

Cons

Lacks in Sliding

Wide Sizes Unavailable

2. Dexter Vicky

If you want a pair of high quality shoes to use at the alley, but also value lightweightedness, breathability and durability, then the Dexter Vicky is an excellent choice. The fact that they’re made by a reputable brand makes them a good choice, and you can rely on them being soft and comfortable throughout the entire foot. These universal bowlers come 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 which was added to improve the amount of cushioning and shock absorption you get from this model. It’s a durable material that will give you a great amount of comfort no matter how long you wear these shoes.

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 and Value
As most Dexter shoes, the Vicky comes at a reasonable price that will be affordable to most. These shoes are a great investment, and you’ll definitely appreciate the arch support and cushioning they provide.
Pros

EVA Midsole

Padded Tongue and Collar

U-Throat Pattern

Soft Fabric Lining

Non-Marking Rubber Outsole

Slide-Rite Soles

Cons

Sizing Runs Small

Unavailable in Wide

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

Problematic Soles

Plain Designs

4. BSI 651

4. 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. The BSI 651 is a stylish shoe which is bound to make a statement!
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Sport Leather
BSI’s 651 model is made of sport leather which was developed with sport use in mind. This means that it will allow for a better, more durable fit with improved breathability and less weight.

Lightweight EVA Midsole
The EVA midsole unit in these 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 and Value
These BSI shoes can be found in the low-to-middle price range, making them a great value! The 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

5. KR Flyer

5. KR Flyer
The KR Flyer is a great choice for a number of reasons. It’s made with a soft and comfortable upper that uses synthetic materials and a Komfort-Fit™ construction. Furthermore, these shoes look amazing, and will make you feel as if you were wearing your most comfortable sneakers. They have a non-marking rubber outsole with FlexSlide technology which makes them a great choice for any bowler.
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Komfort-Fit Construction
The Flyer by KR Strikeforce uses a new method of construction that has absolute comfort in mind. These shoes have been made so as to mold to the shape of your foot in all aspect, bringing you an easy to wear piece of bowling equipment.

Non-Marking Outsole
A non-marking outsole can be a great addition to your shoes, seeing that this type of outsole benefits both you and the other players in the alley. It will keep the lanes clean, plus, it won’t hold on to as much dirt and grime, making it much easier for you to slide.

Cost and Value
Ranking low on this list when it comes to price, the KR Flyer is an excellent choice for any athletic bowler looking for a universal shoe that will feel good on the foot, and that will allow for maximum performance on the lane.
Pros

Komfort-Fit Construction

Non-Marking Outsole

Synthetic

Padded Tongue and Collar

FlexSlide Technology

Universal Bowling Shoes

Cons

Too Much Traction

Runs Narrow

6. BSI Basic #521

6. BSI Basic #521
The BSI Basic #521 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, but allows for a large level of comfort. The microfiber sliding sole helps you slide and brake effectively while the all-black look is easy to pair with any outfit and won’t steal the show away from your amazing skills on the lanes.
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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, joints and muscles.

Cost and Value
The BSI Basic #521 ranks average on this list when it comes to price, which means that it’s an affordable option. These are universal shoes, meaning that they’ll work regardless of foot preference, while the cushioning, traction and slide these provide are all excellent reasons to consider them as your next bowling equipment investment.
Pros

Rubber Outsole

Extra Plush Insole

Action Leather Upper

Microfiber Sliding Soles

Padded Tongue and Collar

No Heel

Cons

Large

Tongue May Slide Down

7. Dexter Pro-AM II

7. Dexter Pro-AM II
This Pro-AM II by Dexter is a professional shoe and is one of the few items on this list that was designed with professional right-handed bowlers in mind. 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
The Dexter Pro-AM II feature a Blucher upper pattern that has a customizable lacing system which can be made to fit you perfectly. This means that you can get a tighter grip where you need it, without sacrificing comfort in other places. Furthermore, you’ll be happy to hear that the eyelets have been reinforced so as to prevent any tearing.

S8 Microfiber Slide Sole
The right shoe of the Dexter Pro-AM II features a rubber outsole that provides great traction and makes braking easy, while the left shoe is made for sliding. It features an S8 Microfiber Slide Sole which is one of the best soles you can get in the market.

Cost and Value
Ranking high on this list when it comes to price, the Dexter Pro-AM II is a great choice for professionals looking for amazing performance features. It will only work for right-handed bowlers, so before making a purchase, make sure that this will work with your style.
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 Wear Quickly

8. Dexter Kerrie

8. Dexter Kerrie
The Kerrie by Dexter is a cute and stylish pair of footwear made for bowlers who appreciate both looks and performance. It’s a universal shoe with a Slide-Rite sole on both outsoles, making it a good choice both for right and left-handed athletes, while the light padding it contains offers protection without hindering your movement. What makes the Kerrie different from other items on the list is the textile upper which is lightweight and breathable.
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Textile Upper
With a textile upper, the Kerrie is more flexible than most other leather shoes on this list, which makes it more comfortable, especially for those who have sensitive feet. Furthermore, it gives a better level of air flow to the user, preventing overheating and the buildup of sweat.

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 also great at shock-absorption.

Cost and Value
Ranking average on this list when it comes to price, the Dexter Kerrie is a great choice for those looking for a combination of performance and comfort without breaking the bank. With the textile upper and the universal soles, this is a shoe that will work for most users.
Pros

Textile Upper

Non-Marking Outsole

Lightly Padded Collar

Slide-Rite Soles

Universal Soles

Cons

Runs Narrow

Firm Forefoot

9. Brunswick Karma

9. Brunswick Karma
The Brunswick Karma is a stylish and comfortable option for both right and left-handed bowlers. Its Pure Slide microfiber soles are the same on both shoes, which makes it a universal shoe that will perform well regardless of foot preference. Its rubber outsole provides excellent cushioning and grip while still remaining lightweight so as not to hinder your performance.
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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, but you’ll also greatly benefit from the fact that it will be easy to put on and off, whenever you need it.

Cost and Value
Ranking average on this list when it comes to price, the Brunswick Karma is a great deal for anyone looking for a unique and stylish pair of shoes. The denim upper has excellent performance properties and it provides plenty of comfort for a wide range of foot shapes.
Pros

Denim Upper

Converts to Slip-On

Lightweight Outsole

Microfiber Slide Soles

Foam Padding

Low Collar

Cons

Sticky Rubber Heel

Stiff Sole

10. BSI 460

10. BSI 460
The BSI 460 is a lightweight, plush and comfortable option for those looking for a pair of universal footwear that will work regardless of foot preference. Whether your right or left handed, these shoes will work just as well for you. Plus, the sport temperature managing features, which really make this shoe stand out from the other options on this list.
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Plush Insole
BSI’s 460 comes with a plush insole, which is soft and gentle on your feet. It absorbs shock effectively, lowering the amount of fatigue you will feel in your muscles after a few hours of bowling, and it can even prevent hip, knee or back pain that you may feel after playing..

Ventilating Perforations
In the upper, BSI built in ventilating perforations which improve the airflow in the shoe. This is very important, seeing that training hard is sure to work up a sweat which needs to find its way out of your shoes in order to prevent the development of unpleasant odors, or even the overgrowth of bacteria or fungus.

Cost and Value
The BSI 460 ranks low on this list when it comes to price, which makes it an excellent choice for those who are just starting out in bowling, or are finally ready to make an investment and get their own pair of shoes.
Pros

Plush Insole

Ventilating Perforations

Lightweight Outsole

Padded Collar

Low Heel

Action Leather Upper

Cons

Sole May Detach

Too Much Grip

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 ten. 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 footwear will mess up your approach. Multiple elements in a pair of shoes 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 models 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 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. The footwear you use for bowling has midsoles which 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. 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 pair of footwear made with bowling in mind and is what distinguishes a professional and amateur pair of shoes. 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 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 equipment. 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 shoe which 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 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 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 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. The outsoles used on footwear made for bowling 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.

Shoes intended for bowlers 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 visible, and 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 shoes intended for bowling, as well as the basic skills and techniques, you should opt for customized 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 equipment. 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. 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 shoe technologies that are available. In order to acquire the pair of footwear 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 shoes usually costs $3 to $5 depending on the alley. This may or may not be affordable depending on the frequency with which you bowl. The main issue with rental shoes is that they aren’t affordable once you become a regular player.

Universal 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 with the money you spend on 7 visits. You can imagine how much money you could be saving, especially if you bowl 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 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, they 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 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 the sport 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 pair of footwear you’ll use when you bowl. 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 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 footwear doesn’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 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 any piece of sports equipment 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 shoe would be sufficient and you wouldn’t need to invest in a more expensive professional shoe. However, a universal sole 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 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 special 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 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 equipment. 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 is bowling footwear?
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 this type of 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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