Shoes are one of the most underrated components of bowling gear. Of course, most of the player's expenditure evaporates on the balls. After all, a bowling ball makes a strike, not shoes (unless throwing a shoe at that remaining 10th pin sounds nice). However, good shoes not only help to maintain a steady throw and balance but also prevent injuries.
We will not be talking about the bowling shoes found in a bowling alley. Let's jump to a high-quality product designed for professional bowling sport.
Like a basketball player can't perform with suit shoes, a bowling player can't make an accurate shot while wearing the same sneakers worn to Sunday brunch with Janet from accounting.
Bowling shoes are unique
While regular sneakers are covered in rubber and offer the best possible surface grip, bowling shoes are made slightly differently. For the player to maintain his balance and make a proper shot, his left foot (for right-handed players) must slide toward the foul line during the last step. The player must slide because he creates momentum while approaching the foul line with a 7 kg bowling ball. For instance, if you brake your car gently against an obstacle - the vehicle will stop nicely without discomfort. But if you put all your leg weight on the brake pedal, you will likely leave the front teeth on the steering wheel. It's the same with bowling shoes - to leave teeth in their natural position, the bowler must stop lightly - i.e., to slide.
Therefore, bowling shoes have two parts - the sole is made of textile material, and the heel is made of rubber. So, during the last step, the player slides with the front part of his foot, reducing the speed due to friction, and then 'presses the brake' fully when the heel touches the lane surface. A proper slide helps maintain balance and execute every shot the way the player expects it to be.
Bowling shoe types
Bowling shoes can be divided into two main types - interchangeable and solid.
Solid shoes are made with a mounted slide pad on the front part of a shoe and a rubber heel that you cannot replace. You must change the shoe pair when the slide pad or rubber heel wears out. However, they are pretty cheap, starting at 40 euros.
Meanwhile, shoes with interchangeable soles and heels, as their name suggests, can adapt to the player's style and the conditions of the bowling center. The more you play, the more you will be surprised to learn how much various factors, such as the room's humidity and the washing of the approach, can influence sliding. The slide pads and heels of interchangeable bowling shoes can be easily removed and replaced with others that perform more or less slide.
Slide pads are numbered according to the ability to slide - the higher the number, the more slippery the pad is. Usually, numbers 8 to 10 are used most often. Although shoes with interchangeable slide pads and heels are much more expensive (the price varies between 200-300 euros), they are made of high-quality materials, and well-maintained shoes of this type can last a long time.
Our experience shows that solid shoes last for about a year because, eventually, the slide pad wears out, and such shoes are no longer suitable, so you need to buy new ones.
We recommend solid shoes for beginners or children. It's always a lot nicer to have shoes of your own, not the ones someone else wore 10 minutes ago. If you go bowling more often or aim for higher results, it would be worth investing in good quality interchangeable bowling shoes. Having a good pair of bowling shoes will save you some money in the future.
You must maintain shoes. While not in use, athletes use shoe covers (similar to those given to wear in the hospital). They are placed on the shoe when walking off the lane, during warm-up, etc. Remember to take it off before the throw. Otherwise, you could embarrass yourself by falling on the lane.
During the game, the slide pad covers with dust or lane oil residues, so after each throw, it is worth refreshing it with a brush - this way, the slide pad will last much longer.