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Besides the bowling ball, bowling shoes are the most important tool in a bowler's kit. The right shoes can make or break your game, changing how you play. If you're interested in purchasing the right pair of shoes, it's helpful to know all the different types available. So, we've scoured the available information and have compiled this list of types of bowling shoes.
Bowling shoes are specifically made to protect the lane surface from damage. They are designed to allow the bowler to glide their foot while bowling, removing resistance from the process. Here are the 7 types of bowling shoes:
- Adjustable slide
These terms probably don't make sense to a beginning bowler. Don't worry: we'll discuss each one in-depth, explaining the difference between each type. Plus, we'll help you figure out which shoe type is best for you. Keep reading for all the details!
What are bowling shoes?
Like most other sports, bowling has its own specific type of shoe that is worn while playing. For bowling, shoes are designed to protect the lanes from damage. A bowling lane is made out of heavily polished wood and is delicate. Because of the way bowlers perform and the bowling ball rolls, it's important that the lane be perfectly smooth.
Thus, bowling shoes typically have slick, smooth soles so that the bowler can move smoothly. The bowling motion is precise and must stay the same each time, so any resistance must be removed. These specialty shoes must also have a tough, durable toe since bowlers drag a foot behind each time they bowl.
On a high-quality pair of bowling shoes, the slide sole is made out of microfiber material. This is so that it glides over the surface of the floor. Because this is a delicate material, most bowlers never wear their shoes outside.
A good bowling ball is also important! Read this article for information on how to take care of yours: Can You Use Windex On A Bowling Ball?
The 7 Types Of Bowling Shoes
Let's take a closer look at the 7 types of bowling shoes.
Right-handed bowling shoes have a slick sole on the left shoe, but a thick sole on the right. This thick sole is normally made out of rubber or some other tacky material. It's known as the brake shoe because it gives the player enough traction to stop their momentum whenever necessary.
This is important both for performance and safety. The brake shoe allows the bowler something to push off while bowling so that they can get the necessary power behind each roll. It also keeps them from slipping and sliding too much, or when the need to be steady.
Right-handed bowling shoes come with leather, suede, or mesh fabrics. Depending on the quality of the shoes, you can find them anywhere from $25 to $250. Here are a couple of mid-level pairs available for purchase.
Pyramid Right-Handed Bowling Shoes
Brunswick Right-Handed Bowling Shoes
Left-handed bowling shoes have the sliding sole and brake sole on opposite feet. Otherwise, they are almost exactly the same as right-handed shoes. Because left-handed bowlers are significantly less common than right-handed bowlers, there are fewer options on the market. Here are a couple of the best.
Dexter Left-Handed Bowling Shoes
Hammer Left-Handed Bowling Shoes
This is a top-of-the-line shoe that is popular amongst serious bowlers.
Don't know which hand you bowl with? Or, will you be sharing your shoes with another person? Then universal bowling shoes are the right choice! Universal shoes have no brake sole; instead, they have two sliding soles. Though this makes gripping the floor more difficult, it's more comfortable for inexperienced or recreational bowlers.
Universal shoes come in the same price range as right and left-handed shoes, but have cheaper options because they're more common. This also means they come in a wider range of sizes and styles. They're great for those who enjoy bowling for fun but want to invest in a pair so they don't have to rent.
Elite Bowling Shoes
KR Strikeforce Bowling Shoes
Now that you understand the basic element of bowling shoes, which handedness they're intended for, let's move on to shoe quality. As far as quality goes, rental shoes are the bottom rung. They're intended for people who bowl infrequently and only for fun. These are the shoes that bowling alleys buy in bulk to rent to visitors.
Because they're used by many people, rental shoes are almost exclusively universal. You can rent a pair for anywhere between $3-$6, depending on seasonality and the location of the alley. They are sold more cheaply than other types because they aren't performance-based.
Also, many rental bowling shoes are gaudy and unique in color so that bowling alley employees can easily spot them. This prevents thieves or customers from walking out of the building with them on. They might also say "Rental" across the heel like the ones below. They are usually made out of faux leather.
Bowlerstore Bowling Shoes
BSI Bowling Shoes
Curious about how much it costs to bowl a game? Read this article for information: How Much Does It Cost To Go Bowling? [And Should You Buy Your Own Gear]
Athletic bowling shoes are a step up from rental shoes in both performance and comfort. Generally, athletic shoes are more concerned with appearance than performance shoes (the highest-quality type of bowling shoe). The sliding sole on most athletic bowling shoes are more durable than rental shoes.
Athletic bowling shoes are meant to look more like generic athletic shoes than rental shoes. This, along with better arch support and more specific sizing, makes them more comfortable. Most athletic shoes are universal, though you can find some that are based on your dominant hand. This level of shoe often comes in leather or mesh, with a typical bowling sole.
Brunswick Bowling Shoes
Dexter Kerrie Bowling Shoes
Pyramid Mesh Bowling Shoes
Of all types of bowling shoes, performance shoes are designed to elevate the player's game to the next level. They pair superior performance -- extremely smooth slide sole, powerful brake -- with comfort. Serious bowlers should invest in a pair of performance shoes.
Almost all performance-level shoes come with a slide sole and a brake sole depending on handedness. For a really solid pair of performance shoes, plan on spending somewhere between $100 and $250. Because performance shoes have bigger priorities than style, they are often plain and come in a small selection of colors.
Dexter The 9 Bowling Shoes
Hammer Bowling Shoes
7. Adjustable Sole
Many performance bowling shoes also come with adjustable soles. This lets you customize how much slide and how much brake you want each time you compete. The soles are removable and can be swapped based on the lane you're playing on or personal preference.
Most adjustable sole shoes let you change both pieces of the sole: the primary and heel positions. These shoes are similar in price to performance shoes. They are intended for ultra-competitive bowlers.
Pyramid HPX Bowling Shoes
Dexter SST 8 Pro Bowling Shoes
Most adjustable sole shoes come with one set of soles, with other sets sold separately. You can find them in all sizes with varying degrees of glide or braking ability.
Dexter S8 Sliding Pad
Dexter The 9 Sole
Which Type Of Bowling Shoe Is Right For Me?
There are really three factors to consider when picking out a pair of bowling shoes. The first and most basic is how competitively you play. Do you enjoy playing with friends just for fun? Then a pair of athletic shoes will suffice. Are you a part of a league and take your skills seriously? Then consider investing in a pair of performance shoes, possibly with adjustable soles.
If you decide you are playing competitively or want something more substantial than a universal pair, you should buy shoes based on which hand you use. This will help you combine power and control for the best results. Keep in mind that whichever hand is your dominant hand should be the foot with the brake sole.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to know your budget. How much are you willing to spend on bowling shoes? As we've seen, there's a wide variety of prices, so you're sure to find a pair that fits in your budget.
If you enjoy bowling or want to do it competitively, you should know the 7 types of bowling shoes. Each type comes with its own positive and negative aspects and falls somewhere on the price spectrum. To decide which shoe is right for you, figure out your level of competition, which hand you use, and how much you're willing to spend. Whatever type of shoe you choose, we hope you have lots of perfect games in your future!