Selecting Bowling Shoes

Bowling shoes serve multiple purposes. First, the sole of the shoe allows the bowler to best control their motion on the approach (the part of the alley where bowlers walk and set up their shot prior to releasing the ball).  Second, the sole of the shoe protects the approach.  Street shoes are not allowed on the approach because they can have dirt or debris stuck to the sole. More importantly, a good pair of bowling shoes will help improve a bowler’s performance by offering stability, support, and features to consistently perfect each shot.

Bowling shoes help improve foot stability and comfort, and high-end pairs are designed to slide and brake so bowlers can perfect their bowling motions. With shoes, renting shoes should only be seen as a short term solution. In all likelihood, each time you rent shoes, it will be a different pair of shoes, and they will behave differently from the previous times you have bowled. These subtle nuances will make the effort of acquiring your new skills, or bedding in your existing skills just that much more difficult.

Whether you are a beginning bowler just starting out, and about to select your first bowling shoes, or a seasoned bowler, looking to replace or upgrade your current shoes, you will find a plethora of different brands and styles of bowling shoes available.  Select those specifically designed for bowling as is appropriate for you.

There are three important functions of bowling shoes to consider:  Soles, Fit, and Performance,  

Soles of Pro Bowling Shoes

The shoe sole is one of the most important considerations when selecting bowling shoes.  Whether performance or competitive bowling shoes, the sliding shoe (non-ball-side shoe) features a sole should allow the bowler to easily slide during their delivery. The braking bowling shoe (the ball-side shoe) has a sole which provides traction, and is usually made of a higher friction material, such as rubber. If you are, or plan to be, a competitive bowler, you will probably want to consider a shoe with interchangeable sole and heel pads, so that your slide and braking matches your style, and the surface you are bowling on.

Before considering any shoe, examine the sole of your shoe to determine the area on the non-ball-side shoe that you walk on.  This will differ from individual to individual.  When selecting a bowling shoe, determine that there is a sliding surface that matches where you slide.  This changes over time, and well worth your time to inspect your bowling shoe to determine the sliding surface remains on the sliding surface.

Proper Fit for Your Bowling Shoes

Bowling shoes come in a variety of widths.  While it’s probably obvious that you don’t want too tight of a fit, it’s also important to avoid a bowling shoe that is too loose.  Bowling shoes that do not fit snugly can throw off your balance, and can have an negative effect on your game.  Measure your feet, or have them professionally measured, even if you already know your size – feet can change over time.

Bowling Shoes can Improve Performance

A bowling shoe is designed to give bowlers the proper balance of grip, slide, brake, and support when needed. When bowlers release the ball, they typically slide on their front foot as they approach the the foul line to release the ball. Skilled bowlers will want to slide right up to the line, making sure not to cross while keeping an even, smooth motion upon release. A good pair of shoes is the only point of contact between the bowler and the approach, making them crucial to a good performance.

Other Features to Look for in Bowling Shoes

Bowling shoes with padded linings and collars, and cushioned insoles will not only provide extra comfort, they can also provide extra support and stability by minimizing the movement of your foot within the shoe. This added stability can improve balance, and thereby improve your performance. For maximum comfort and coolness, you will also want to look for bowling shoes that have breathable uppers.

After obtaining a pair of bowling shoes, it is highly recommend that you try them without the ball.  Just walk up to the foul line and give them a few tries.  It is important to determine that your feet don’t slide out from underneath you, or that your slide is not too heavy and you stick on the approach.  DO NOT use any sort of sliding powder if you stick on the approach.  This powder can easily affect the slide of other bowlers, and endanger their safety.

Other Considerations

As you change due to age, health, weather changes, etc., it is not unusual to slide and brake differently.  There are shoe accessories such as “shoe socks” that slip over the front of the sliding foot that provides extra sliding surface.  In addition, there are other alternatives to improve slide such as an adhesive Teflon pad that accomplishes the same slide-ability as the shoe sock, and it lasts longer and provides extra protection from dampness and other debris.   

Adjustable Slides

Serious bowlers often consider buying replacement or interchangeable slide soles for their performance bowling shoes. A bowler can adjust their soles based on the bowling surface or personal style preferences. Sliding soles have ratings that range from 1 to 10, where one gives minimal slide and 10 gives the maximum slide. Lane conditions may dictate which slide to use. For example, bowlers in a warm, humid environment on a scuffed floor may want more slide and switch to a eight or ten, while bowlers playing on a cold winter may want less of a slide to counterbalance slick, cold lane conditions.

Ask a CERTIFIED IBSIA (International Bowling Pro Shop & Instructors Association) pro.  They are trained to provide accurate data for your reference.