Why Do You Have To Wear Bowling Shoes?

According to the late, great George Carlin, bowling is not a sport because you have to rent the shoes. Some serious bowlers not only have their own ball but their own shoes. Bowling shoes are famous for loud, clashing colorways. This may be to keep people from wanting to steal them.

Some modern bowling shoes come in more sensible colors. Despite whether or not bowling qualifies as a sport, the shoes are available at sporting goods stores. Are they very necessary? Why?

why do you have to wear bowling shoes

Do You Have To Wear Bowling Shoes?

The reasons are comfort, safety, and the ability to play the game. Prior to 1888, bowling was a lawn game that could be played in any shoe suited for the outdoors. When it was brought inside, shoes for bowling became made out of leather.

A bowling ball has a sliding plate to give the user the ability to roll a smooth bowling ball down the lane to get a strike. The player needs to glide up to the release line with a release that is not only smooth but fluid and quick to give the ball the momentum it needs to knock down the pins.

The heels of these shoes are made out of rubber so that the glide can be stopped once the ball is released. It also protects the polished surface of the lanes.

What Is Special About Bowling Shoes?

Most shoes do not have the “give” that bowling shoes have to make bowling easier. While most sporting shoes are made with traction in mind, bowling shoes are made to be slippery.

Why Are Bowling Shoes Slippery?

The soles of bowling shoes have very much in common with the bowling lanes themselves. They are both designed to be extremely slick. Wearing slick shoes aids you in sliding while you bowl.

This is vital as it helps you to achieve a smooth motion. If you didn’t slide while bowling, you could injure your foot ankle, or knee. You are not Fred Flintstone. You cannot bowl while dancing on bare toes.

What Are Bowling Shoes Made Of?

They are largely made out of leather and rubber. The rubber is all in the heels so that you don’t slip too much.

Bowling Vs. Regular Shoes

The major difference between bowling shoes and ordinary sneakers is the sole. On a bowling shoe, there are sliding soles on either side to fit the needs of a right or left-handed bowler. These soles are also rather soft and have no heels.

Sneakers, tennis shoes, and other shoes meant for athletics were made to be grippy and not slippery at all. What’s more, the sliding pad for each shoe can be changed. This way, the bowler can adjust their friction to fit for different alleys.

Why Are Bowling Shoes Two Different Colors?

For rentals, a lot of the time the coloring is to indicate whether the shoes are for left-handed or right-handed bowlers. One shoe will be for sliding and one will be for braking, depending on which side the player favors.

Can You Wear Bowling Shoes As Regular Shoes?

That is not recommended. If you wear bowling shoes outside the alley, they could lose their slickness. If you want to have your own bowling shoes, they must be a pair that you only use for bowling. These should be shoes that will not track in anything from the outside on the approach.

What Makes A Good Bowling Shoe?

If you want to buy your own bowling shoes, they will likely look more like athletic shoes than the rentals do. They will fit a lot like the average athletic shoe. They will also have the usual sliding and gliding sole. People who take part in tournaments will want to look into performance bowling shoes.

One shoe will be for sliding and one will be for braking. A right-handed bowler will wear the sliding sole on the left foot. The braking shoe offers more traction in order to stabilize your body as you do your delivery. The soles on these shoes are often changeable.

Are Bowling Shoes Supposed To Slide?

Yes, they are. The whole point of bowling shoes is that they are more slippery than ordinary athletic shoes.

How To Make Bowling Shoes Slide More?

You can put a little bit of sliding powder on the heel and sole of your sliding shoe. This would be the right shoe if you are left-handed or your left shoe if you are right-handed. The powder is generally available for sale in pretty much any bowling alley shop.

You can then take two or maybe three test slides and then a full slide towards the foul line to test it out. You may need to utilize an additional pat of powder for new shoes.

Because of the pressure put on your sliding foot when you bowl, the sole of this shoe will flatten out over time. This makes more friction, causing sliding to be more difficult and results in your foot being stuck on the approach.

To take care of this problem, scrape the sole of your shoe, going from the toes to the heel, using a steel brush just before you bowl. You are only required to scrape the sole just enough to get rid of some of the friction.

Working the sole using a steel brush causes the material to be fluffier and thus better able to slide. Though sometimes, all you need to do is tighten your laces a little.

Top Brands Of Bowling Shoes

  • The KR Strikeforce comes with universal slide soles so they can be used by left-handed or right-handed players. They also feature non-marking rubber outsoles and have a stylish, athletic design. They are well priced and provide great support and comfort.


  • Dexter has interchangeable soles for your convenience. Along with soft, full-grain uppers they come with a non-marking rubber sidewall and a drag protector. Everything is meant for a supreme slide and traction as well as comfort.


  • For the ladies, there is the BSI Women’s Classic. It is inexpensive, durable, stylish, and comfortable. The padded tongue and collar plus the durable leather upper were all built especially for the female bowler who wants to up her game.


  • For the more serious bowler, there’s the Brunswick Vapor. It delivers just the perfect amount of flexibility and versatility that is needed to lift up a game and improve one’s score. The molded EVA outsole provides the wearer an extra level of needed comfort.


  • Karma also makes a good shoe for vegan ladies. It features a lightweight denim upper that is flexible, which makes it very comfortable to wear. It is also breathable and thus your feet will stay cool and dry while playing.


  • Storm Gust uses canvas for the vegan man. It’s not only a highly-breathable material, but it halts the buildup of noxious odors inside the shoes. This will keep your feet smelling fresh.

What Bowling Shoes Do The Pros Wear?

They use performance bowling shoes. They are a great investment for anyone who is really serious about bowling. These shoes feature a sliding sole on one foot plus a braking (traction) sole on the other. Some of the more high-end performance shoes will come with interchangeable slide pads of differing slickness that can be utilized on either shoe.

How To Break In Bowling Shoes?

Start by just wearing them around the house until you get used to them. When you’re at the alley with new shoes, maybe take a few practice slides. Use bowling shoe protectors in the snack bar and restrooms. (You do NOT want to know what has been on that floor!)

If your shoes come with interchangeable soles it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. Going over your soles with a shoe brush may improve your slide.

How To Clean Bowling Shoes?

You should always make use of a wire brush or bristle brush in order to clean your shoes. Never allow your bowling shoes to get wet. If your shoes get wet then let them dry off first. You may then utilize a bristle brush to fix up the affected area. You might also want to disinfect your bowling shoes from the inside after every bowling session.

How Long Do Bowling Shoes Last?

With ordinary use, they could last anywhere from eight to ten years. Some people claim to have had the same pair of shoes for twenty years. This depends on how well the shoe was made and if it was kept well maintained. The slides may have to be replaced slightly more often. Every six months or so should do it.

Can Bowling Shoes Be Resoled?

There are places where you can take bowling shoes to be repaired. Many places that sell bowling accessories will also sell replacement heels and soles as well as slides. Do keep in mind the cost of repairs. Eventually, it will get to the point that buying a new pair of shoes will be cheaper than getting them fixed yet again.

How Much Is Bowling Shoe Rental?

This of course will vary from one alley to another. The people in charge will all have a different idea of what a fair price for a rental is and if there’s more than one alley in town, they may compete with their prices to bring in more customers. There’s also location.

A bowling alley in New York City is going to charge more for a shoe rental than Podunk, Iowa. On average, though, the cost of the rental is more or less four dollars. A mid-range quality bowling shoe costs around twenty-four dollars, so the shoes will have paid for themselves after six games.


A frequent bowler might want to look into buying their own bowling shoes. The shoes do have to be maintained so they don’t gum up and lose their slickness. Take care of your bowling shoes and they will be cost-effective.

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