Bowling Shoes vs Regular Shoes

There seems to be a lot of debate over what kind of shoes are best to bowl in. Some people say you should always wear bowling shoes, while others say regular shoes are just fine.

So which is it? Well, let’s take a look at the details of both options.

The sole is the most significant distinction between bowling shoes and ordinary sneakers. Sliding soles on each side of bowling shoes allow a right- or left-handed bowler to bowl comfortably. The soles of these bowling shoes are soft without heels, unlike ordinary shoes, which can be slippery.

Do You Actually Need Bowling Shoes?

Yes, in fact, most bowling alleys require you to wear bowling shoes.

If you try to bowl in regular sneakers, you might be asked to rent or buy shoes of your size. Don’t worry, it usually only costs a few dollars to rent a pair of shoes.

Watch out for this rule when you’re going bowling the next time, especially if to a bowling alley where you haven’t been before.

If you don’t have any bowling shoes, you will have to rent bowling shoes from the bowling alley in order to be allowed to step on the bowling lanes and throw a bowling ball.

Nevertheless, it is technically feasible to bowl without specialized bowling shoes, but it’s significantly more difficult and considerably less safe. That’s why it’s not allowed.


The Approach

The approach is the area or part of the bowling lane where you and other players walk on and release the bowling ball to hit the pins. This is an approximately 15 feet long section before the foul line – if a bowler steps over the line during a throw, it’s a foul.

The approach is especially effected by the shoes of bowling players – if somebody’s wearing street shoes on the approach, that will accumulate debris and dust from the shoes.

This in turn can scratch or damage the approach, making it more likely for players to slip when they step on it. With a heavy bowling ball in your hand, this can be a dangerous move.

For the same reason, bowling alleys typically prohibit the consumption of food and drink in the approach area, and it’s advised that bowlers take off their playing shoes before using the restrooms or entering the bar section.

This way no dirt or unwanted liquids are carried into the approach section of a bowling alley.


The Characteristics of Bowling Shoes and Regular Shoes

Let’s see the main differences between bowling shoes and regular sneakers.

Shoe Structure

The main difference between bowling shoes and running shoes is the structure of the shoes that bowlers wear.

One of the main reasons why people suggest wearing bowling shoes is because of how it has a flat bottom and no heels. This helps prevent slipping on the approach, which we just talked about earlier.

On the other hand, regular sneakers have raised heels and soles and can cause you to slip more easily.

Sliding Sole

In addition, regular tennis shoes or athletic shoes will not allow players to genuinely slide, putting a lot of stress on their shoulders.

Bowling shoes are specially designed for achieving high bowling performance.

The sole of bowling shoes is generally made of smooth rubber or leather. Slick shoes helps bowlers to easily slide, and to have a smoother motion on the bowling lanes.


Shoes for a Left Handed Bowler and a Right Handed Bowler

Bowling shoes are available for both right-handed bowlers and left-handed bowlers.

The trick to this game is that you have a pair of shoes (left and right) and one of them is made for braking, while the other is intended for sliding, giving you a smooth movement. You have to practice and synchronize these techniques however.

This is why the shoes are many times identified by distinct colors – to assist you distinguish between them.

The shoe for sliding is the one opposite of the hand with which you bowl.

For example, a right-handed bowler will have the left shoe as the sliding shoe, and vice versa, a bowling player playing with his or her left hand will have the right shoe and foot as the braking one.

Comfort and Style

The other main advantage of bowling shoes is the comfort factor. Wearing them helps reduce pain and stress on your feet and ankles.

Bowling shoes are generally not seen as fashionable, however, the newer bowling shoes are designed to be stylish, and also possess comfort features.

The upper side of these shoes are usually made from breathable mesh material, in order to avoid the buildup of unwanted smell and sweat inside the shoe.

Interchangable Soles for a Bowling Shoe

Some bowling shoes also offer interchangeable soles as opposed to regular shoes or even other bowling shoes, allowing you to switch between the sliding and breaking bottoms.

For example, if you’re about to play in a league game where your approach is slippery, you can put on the soles that slide instead of the regular ones.

Different alleys offer different conditions, so players may also experiment with different kinds of bowling shoe soles.

What is Special About Bowling Shoes?

Bowling shoes are special shoes designed to work effectively on bowling lanes, without scratching the floor and minimizing any risk that may originate from the use of a shoe.

One of the things that makes bowling shoes so special is their soles.

Their rubber soles are specifically designed to slide on the approach, thus creating less friction or resistance between your shoe and the surface you are walking on.

Bowlers should always observe which sole works for them the best.

Choosing bowling shoes is not as daunting as it may seem at first, and there are only a few key things that you need to look out for.


Do You Need to Own Bowling Shoes?

No, you are not obliged to own bowling shoes. However, rental shoes may not always fit properly, so it’s best to get your own pair if you can.

Rented bowling shoes also don’t necessarily have the traction you desire, so for serious bowlers, it is advisable to buy your own bowling shoes, especially if you are looking forward to take part in competitions.

If you are an infrequent bowler or casual bowler, meaning that you don’t play much, rental shoes are enough for you.

Bowling alleys clean all rental shoes thoroughly after each usage to ensure that they are free of germs.

If you are a more serious bowler or frequent bowler, or have wide feet, it might be worth your while to invest in your own pair of bowling shoes.

Don’t Wear Bowling Shoes Outside

Don’t use your performance bowling shoes as street shoes: they are designed for bowling only to be used at the bowling alley.

When you wear them on the street, you might damage the soles of a good bowling shoe or get debris stuck in them that can scratch your approach when you play next time at the bowling alley.


All in all, bowling shoes are quite important bowling accessories.

If you are a serious bowler, it is important to wear the right shoes. A good pair of bowling shoes will provide more stability for your feet as well as give you better traction on the lane surface.

In this guide, we have provided some basic information about what type of shoe is best and why that particular style would be most effective for bowlers at all levels who want to improve their game by wearing the proper footwear.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pro, there’s no substitute for having a great set of bowling shoes! Don’t take our word for it though, see it for yourself!

We hope this article has helped to answer any questions or concerns that may have come up regarding the difference between bowling shoes and street shoes.

Recent Content