We spent 45 hours researching and testing over 20 different kinds of bowling shoes for men and women and found that fit, performance, and cost were the most important factors for consumers who were shopping for bowling shoes. Dexter Turbo II Wide Width Bowling Shoes scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. The classic, elegant look of these men’s bowling shoes is just one of the things to like about them. The soft fabric lining and padded collar and tongue provide comfort that allows you to concentrate on the game rather than how your shoes feel.
Bowling Shoes Buying Guide
Renting vs. Buying
If you rarely bowl and just do it for fun rented bowling shoes are just fine. Rented bowling shoes may not be the most comfortable but they have a universal sole that works well for kids and bowlers that only occasional engage in this sport.
If you are interested in improving your game, are part of a league, or bowl on a regular basis to participate in tournaments you will be much better off purchasing a pair of bowling shoes. Choosing the correct shoe can immediately improve your accuracy due to the construction and features they have that are designed to make the most of your approach.
Below, we have provided some information on the different types of bowling shoes available, how bowling shoes are different from other types of shoes and how you can choose the right one for your needs.
Performance vs. Athletic
Athletic bowling shoes have a sporty, running shoe look to them that many bowlers prefer. A regular gym shoe will not work for bowling due to the tread it has among other things. Athletic bowling shoes feature a sole that is meant for sliding and also have more traction and support than typical rental bowling shoes do.
Many athletic bowling shoes have padded collars, lining or cushioned insoles. They provide the bowler with a lot of comfort which is one reason they are popular among some bowlers. This extra padding minimizes the movement of your feet inside the shoes and will provide extra support as well. When lacing your athletic bowling shoes lace from the toe to the top which will provide a good fit.
Performance bowling shoes are specially made for bowling and are designed to improve your performance. The majority of advanced and expert bowlers prefer performance bowling shoes. Bowlers can customize performance bowling shoes to their own performance, the length of their slide, and the conditions of the lane. The soles as well as the heels of the shoes are able to be changed with performance bowling shoes.
Each individual shoe has a purpose. One shoe is designed for sliding while the other one is made for braking. When choosing bowling shoes not only will you look as size you will choose according to whether you are a left-handed or right-handed bowler. The sliding shoe will be the opposite of the hand you bowl with. (The hand that holds and releases the ball) You will notice that performance bowling shoes have a firmer fit around your ankle and a wider base to provide more stopping ability at the foul line.
The soles of performance bowling shoes are special. The sliding shoe will have a sole that allows you to easily slide during the approach and release of the ball. The other shoe, the one for braking, has a sole with more traction and is made from material that offers more friction, usually rubber.
If you want to be a competitive bowler consider getting a pair of performance bowling shoes that offer interchangeable pads for the soles so you can match your bowling style with the surface of the lane you’re bowling on.
There are many different widths and sizes that a bowling shoe comes in. You want to choose a size that will provide a fit that is neither too tight nor too loose. If your bowling shoes don’t fit properly it can mess up your balance which will have a negative effect on how well you play.
The best way to get a good fitting pair of bowling shoes will be to have them professionally measured, if possible, by a bowling pro who sells shoes in his shop. Feet can change over time due to weight loss or gain and other factors so it is a good idea to measure your feet again even if you think you know what size they are.
Other features and qualities
The padded collars and lining along with the cushioned insoles that some bowling shoes offer provide stability, extra support, and comfort as well. The added stability you get from shoes with these qualities can improve your balance while bowling which can improve your game. Breathable uppers are another quality that some bowlers like due to the airflow they allow in. This airflow can result in keeping your feet drier if they sweat a lot.
The brake shoe and the sliding shoe
In case you were wondering due to being a new bowler, the foot that is considered the braking foot is your dominant foot. It is the opposite of the sliding foot. The braking bowling shoe provides the traction you need to keep your body stable as you transfer energy to the ball. Without this traction that is pushed into your slide there will be less leg power since in many cases your foot will slide backwards and throw everything off.
The shoe that is designed for braking stops your foot from moving forward and features rubber on the bottom so there is plenty of strong energy delivered to your slide. If you bowl more than one time a week or if you want to improve your game, you will definitely want to find shoes that have a well-constructed braking shoe.
The sliding shoe goes on the opposite foot and includes several sliding soles made of leather that can be changed out. This shoe allows you to slide on that last step of the approach. The soles of the sliding shoe are usually made from leather or a synthetic form of leather. One of the fundamental aspects of a good bowling shot is a proper slide.
Together, the sliding shoe and the braking shoe make up a pair of great performance bowling shoes. Because this type of bowling shoe is already fairly soft they will not require breaking in or stretching.
The sole bends easily and features a flexible sole. Since the bottom of the sliding shoe has Velcro for easy changing of the heel and sole depending on the lane conditions. Performance bowling shoes are usually made of all leather so they are long lasting, durable, and strong.
If you bowl on many different types of lanes or use different approaches for different shots you will find the changeable soles and heels very beneficial for the optimum performance. The type of flooring will affect your slide so the changeable heels and soles can help you adjust to the lane without giving up performance.
Making your Bowling Shoe Investment Last
Bowling shoes can cause a couple hundred dollars for a high end pair so taking care of them is paramount to making that investment last. We’ve provided some helpful tips below that will help your bowling shoes last as long as possible.
- If you are storing your bowling shoes for an extended period of time, use shoe trees to keep their form
- Don’t remove your bowling shoes by using one foot to push the heel off the other foot, loosen your laces and remove them the normal way.
- If you are a daily bowler get two pairs of shoes and alternate them to avoid one pair wearing out quickly
- Wear clean socks that absorb moisture well
- Don’t leave your bowling shoes in the car. Store them in a place that is cool and dry.
- Wipe the oil off your shoes after you wear them. This oil can especially destroy synthetic shoes and soles.
- Wipe off the outside of your shoes with a cloth before you store them
- Don’t stick other things on top of your shoes so they end up crushed
- Wear shoe covers whenever you venture away from the players area.
- Do NOT wear your bowling shoes outside. The elements and asphalt can ruin the sliding shoe and the rubber on the braking shoe.
- Don’t get your bowling shoes wet
- Use a soft bristle brush to clean your shoes if they get dirty.
- If the soles of your bowling shoes get damp use shoe conditioner (very sparingly)
- Use a bristle brush gently on the bottom of the soles to lift the nap and return the sole of the shoe back to the right texture.
Choosing the right pair of bowling shoes will not guarantee a perfect game but it will improve your game for sure. Before purchasing a pair of bowling shoes, think about how often you play, the fit you need (measure those feet!) the style you prefer and how much you want to spend on a pair of bowling shoes.
The best place to get good bowling shoes is the pro shop if you have one available. The pro will be able to analyze your swing, stance, and gait and will be able to recommend some good brands and styles that work with your personal needs. If you practice a lot during the week and enter tournaments you will want to strongly consider a performance bowling shoe.
The three top-rated bowling shoe selections we have reviewed above are really good for beginning to intermediate bowlers and provide plenty of comfort, fit, and style. All three of these selections are from well-known names in the bowling industry and will not disappoint you in their performance and fit. There are many sizes available and you can choose wide widths as well.
The information we have given you in the buying guide will ensure that you understand the difference between a performance bowling shoe and an athletic bowling shoe and how to determine which type you should consider. You’ve also gotten information on the purpose of the different features and why they are necessary for a better game.
Having the right information can mean the difference between purchasing shoes that don’t fit properly or don’t work for the amount of time you spend bowling and being happy with your choices and using those bowling shoes for a long time.
Bowling shoes are not cheap so you want to ensure that this investment in your interest in bowling is a good one that you will be happy with for years to come. No one likes having to deal with returns and credits so taking the time now to learn what you need to learn and using all the new knowledge this guide has given you will give you the confidence to choose the bowling shoes that will be perfect for you and your bowling goals.