Head to your local bowling alley, and you won’t find anyone wearing standard street shoes. Instead, everyone at the lanes will be wearing specially designed bowling shoes.
Bowling shoes were first introduced around 1888. They are leather shoes with a sliding surface on the sole, which allows you to slide as you release the bowling ball. That’s critical, since the slide allows your approach and ball release to meld together into a single smooth motion. Without sliding on your feet in the lane, you wouldn’t have nearly the same control over where your bowling ball ends up.
Most bowling alleys rent out shoes to bowlers, but it’s well worth your while to invest in your own pair of shoes. Bowling shoes can be matched to your dominant hand for more precision and they can be customized to give you the amount of sliding and traction you need. In addition, if you have your own pair of shoes, you can make sure that you’re getting the perfect fit, with no room for your feet to move around inside the shoes.
So, if you’re looking to improve your bowling game, investing in a pair of bowling shoes is a great place to start. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to choose the best pair of bowling shoes for your game and review 15 of the most popular options for men, women, and children.
What to Look for in the Best Pair of Bowling Shoes?
The needs of every bowler are different when it comes to choosing the perfect pair of bowling shoes. However, there are a few key features that will have the biggest impact on your comfort and your game. Here, we’ll take a closer look at those features to help you understand what to look for when choosing a pair of bowling shoes.
Durability should always be in the back of your mind when choosing a pair of bowling shoes. That’s because if your shoes decide to fall apart while you’re in the middle of a bowl, it could create a very dangerous slip and fall or tripping situation. With a bowling ball in hand, that’s not good.
Bowling shoes can be made from a wide variety of materials, including leather or synthetic fabrics. Leather is typically the most durable material, and you should have plenty of warning that the shoe is wearing through before it breaks in a catastrophic way. Synthetic fabrics are less durable, especially if you bowl frequently. But, they can be more comfortable and easier to fit – just keep in mind that you’ll want to replace them more frequently if you opt for synthetic shoes.
The stylistic appearance of your shoes won’t necessarily have an effect on how you play. But, if you believe that you’ll play better and more confidently if you feel good about how you look, then design can be an important consideration. Entry-level shoes tend to look a little dorky in many cases – think the red and blue shoes that most alleys rent out – but mid-level and professional-level bowling shoes come in a much wider variety of styles to match any aesthetic.
- Inner Sole
What type of inner sole works best for your feet comes down to personal preference, and in some cases trial and error. In general, you will want to look for an insole that offers a moderate amount of cushioning – not so much that you can’t feel the lane beneath your feet, but not so little that your feet are aching by the end of a night of bowling.
Bowlers with specific foot shapes will need to look for specialized types of insoles. For example, if you have high arches, you will want a bowling shoe that offers an insole that’s adapted with more arch support. If you have flat feet, you may want more arched shoes that offer better motion control as you slide.
Keep in mind that you can always replace the insole in your bowling shoe if it’s not quite perfect. However, this costs extra down the road, so it’s best to find the right type of insole at the time of buying your bowling shoes.
- Outer Sole
The outer sole is one of the most important parts of a bowling shoe. This is what controls the amount of slide you’ll get out of your shoes or the amount of traction that will hold you back.
Most entry-level bowling shoes are built with smooth outer soles, which give you the most possible slide with both of your feet. More advanced bowling shoes, though, actually feature a traction pad on the sole of one shoe in a pair. The traction pad is designed to give you more control over your feet, since you can actually drag your back leg to help arrest your slide. When choosing a more advanced pair of bowling shoes like this, the shoe with the sliding outsole should go on the side of your dominant (bowling) hand.
Sizing your bowling shoes correctly is absolutely essential. If your bowling shoes don’t fit right, they won’t help you improve your game no matter how much sliding or traction they offer. We’ll cover the appropriate way to size your bowling shoes in more depth below.
The weight of bowling shoes depends in part on the materials and how thick they are. Beginners will want to opt for a lighter shoe, since this will feel less cumbersome while you’re approaching to bowl. However, as you get more accustomed to wearing bowling shoes, you may want to look into heavier shoes as a way to get more durability or more control over your feet.
The warranty that a manufacturer offers on its bowling shoes can be an important piece of information. In general, a longer warranty will signal that a pair of shoes is more durable and reliable – otherwise, the manufacturer will end up losing money on warranty claims. Of course, warranty isn’t everything, so this shouldn’t be a primary consideration in choosing a pair of bowling shoes.
Bowling shoes, like evert other piece of equipment in your bowling kit, need frequent cleaning to work at their best. It’s worth investing in a brush to clean off your shoes without damaging them and a shoe cover to keep them safe in between days you go bowling. Some bowling shoes come with these to help sweeten the deal, but in most cases you’ll need to buy a brush and shoe cover separately.
The 15 Best Bowling Shoes for Men, Women, and Children
Now that you know more about what to look for when choosing a pair of bowling shoes, let’s look at some of the best options on the market for every bowler. We’ve picked out 15 bowling shoes that we think stand out from the crowd. Our picks are categorized into shoes for men, women, and children, so anyone can get the shoes they need.
The 5 Best Bowling Shoes for Men
1. Dexter Men’s Kam Bowling Shoes – Most Comfortable Bowling Shoes for Men
These men’s bowling shoes from Dexter are about as breathable and lightweight as it gets. That’s thanks to the fact that the upper is built from cotton canvas, which allows free air movement and doesn’t rub uncomfortably against your feet like leather.
To be honest, these bowling shoes look more like stylish street shoes than bowling shoes until you get a look at the soles. On the bottom of the shoes, you’ll find sliding outsoles on both the left and right shoes. There’s a well-defined rubber heel, though, which adds some braking power to your slide so you don’t end up too far down the lane.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind about these shoes is that they don’t have laces. Instead, they’re designed to slip on. That’s extremely convenient, but you lose the snugness and control of traditional lace-up bowling shoes. So, the Dexter bowling shoes are generally restricted to use for occasional and entry-level bowlers.
- Breathable and comfortable cotton upper
- Extremely stylish
- Slip-on construction is very convenient
- Rubber heel for braking action
- Not very snug without laces
- Only suited for entry-level bowlers
2. Brunswick Vapor Men’s Bowling Shoes – Best Padded Bowling Shoes for Men
These mid-level bowling shoes from Brunswick are designed to work best for bowlers looking to up their game. The first thing you’ll notice about these shoes is that they’re thickly padded. The shoe is built with a nylon synthetic upper and is filled with foam padding on the tongue and sides. For many bowlers, that makes them very comfortable, although this comes at the cost of weight and breathability. It’s also worth noting that the shoes have a molded EVA foam insole, which provides plenty of padding under your foot.
The shoes aren’t all that stylish – they come only in black or silver color combinations – but they reflect the aesthetic of professional bowling. Both the left and right shoe have sliding outsoles, so they’re not quite ready for professional play. But, you’ll be happy to find that the rubber traction pad on the heel offers quite a bit of control once you start putting it to use in your back foot.
- Thick padding for extra comfort
- EVA foam insole
- Rubber traction pad on heel
- Not that expensive for Brunswick shoes
- Slightly heavy because of all the padding
- Not the most breathable shoe
3. Pyramid Men’s Ram Black Bowling Shoes – Best Advanced Bowling Shoes for Men
If you’re looking for a shoe that verges on professional play, the Ram shoe from Pyramid is it. To start, these shoes are built to last. The upper is constructed entirely from synthetic leather, with metal eyelets around the lacing that won’t wear down over time. Pyramid added some padding to the tongue and sides of the shoe, which gives you plenty of comfort when wearing the shoes for long days.
The sole is felt, which starts out stiff and breaks in over time to adapt to your preferred level of sliding. That said, they can be extremely slippery the first few times you use them, so you’ll need to be careful. The rubber traction pads on the heel give you just the right amount of braking ability. But, keep in mind that these shoes are built with slippery outsoles on both feet, rather than on just one shoe.
It’s also worth pointing out how stylish these shoes are. They look professional, with white accents throughout the black material. It might not impact your performance, but you’re likely to get compliments from your fellow bowlers.
- Synthetic leather upper with metal lace eyelets
- Padding around tongue
- Felt sole breaks in over time
- Very stylish, professional look
- Only available with slippery outsole on both shoes
- Extremely slippery during the first few uses
4. Michelin Storm Gust Bowling Shoes – Best Cotton Bowling Shoes for Men
These interesting bowling shoes from Michelin are an ideal choice if you prefer the feel and breathability of cotton canvas shoes. The material is thicker and slightly less breathable than what you get with the similarly made shoes from Dexter. But, that also makes these shoes significantly more durable and adds just the right amount of weight to give you more control over your approach.
On top of that, these shoes add a traditional lace-up closure rather than take a slip-on approach. That allows you to get a perfect, snug fit for more competitive bowling play. The lace-up closure also doesn’t take away from the stylish nature of these bowling shoes.
However, you’ll need to be wary of the soles on these shoes. Both the left and right shoes are built with standard slipper outsoles and rubber traction pads on the heels. But, quality is a major issue and it’s not uncommon to find that the outsole needs to be replaced after less than a year’s worth of bowling. If you can commit to replacing the soles on these shoes, they’re a great choice. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, it may not be worth the investment in a quality, comfortable upper.
- Thick, durable cotton upper construction
- Lace-up closure for snug fit
- Perfect balance of breathability and weight
- Major issues with sole quality (plan on replacing the outsole)
5. Hammer Men’s Bowling Shoes Slider – Best Bowling Shoe Slider for Men
Okay, this isn’t actually a bowling shoe. Instead, it’s a slider accessory that you can add to just about any men’s bowling shoe. This slider is designed to increase the slipperiness of your bowling shoe’s outsole, so it makes the perfect addition to your kit if you want to give your dominant foot more slide or to improve the slide of older bowling shoes.
Keep in mind that unlike many other bowling shoe sliders, this one doesn’t have a strap that runs around the back of your shoe. That means less fuss to put it on and take it off, but beware that the slider can fall off the front of your shoe if you wear a smaller size. So, this shoe slider is ideal for men’s shoes that are roughly size 9 or larger.
- Shoe slider can add slide to your bowling shoes
- Very inexpensive
- Don’t have to deal with a strap to put it on
- May fall off smaller men’s shoes because it lacks a heel strap
The 5 Best Bowling Shoes for Women
1. BSI Women’s Classic Bowling Shoe – Best Leather Bowling Shoe for Women
This genuine leather women’s bowling shoe from BSI offers a level of snugness that synthetic shoes simply can’t match. While the shoes may be uncomfortable for your first few games, they break in relatively quickly to your feet. The tongue and collar are padded for extra comfort, so you don’t have to worry about developing blisters on your heel if your feet get sweaty while bowling.
Of course, the big downside to leather bowling shoes is that they’re not particularly breathable. That’s unfortunately true of these shoes – BSI did not add any mesh areas or breathable panels to help with airflow. But, the leather material is extremely durable, so recreational bowlers can expect to see these shoes last for years of use.
The other thing that’s worth noting about these shoes is that they’re very stylish. The color accents give them some flair, while the mostly black color is true to the historic style of bowling.
- Leather upper construction
- Padded tongue and collar
- Extremely durable
- Stylish color pattern
- Not very breathable
- Take some time to break in
2. Dexter Women’s Kristen Bowling Shoes – Most Comfortable Bowling Shoes for Women
If you didn’t know better, you could easily mistake these bowling shoes from Dexter for street shoes. They have a Nubuck leather upper that mimics the style you’d find in stylish street shoes, along with a colorful padded collar around the top of the shoe. The leather is snug once you break it in, but surprisingly not all that tough when you first try out the shoes, either. So, these leather bowling shoes are incredibly comfortable while offering great performance. While breathability is an issue with these shoes, it’s not all that bad compared to many other leather bowling shoes.
The biggest downside to these shoes is that the soles and heel pads can’t be replaced once they wear out. That means that once the sole starts to get tacky, there’s not much to do but replace the shoes. The sole only lasts for one to two seasons of frequent bowling, so you can end up spending a lot on these bowling shoes over time.
- Extremely comfortable leather and padding
- Snug without a long break-in period
- Very stylish street shoe look
- Soles and heel pads can’t be replaced
3. Brunswick Aura Ladies’ Bowling Shoes – Most Breathable Bowling Shoes for Women
If you’re worried about getting sweaty feet while you bowl, these women’s shoes from Brunswick are the best option for you. The upper is made from the same breathable mesh material you’ll find in running shoes, so you get maximum airflow while you bowl. The mesh also makes these shoes extremely lightweight, which can be helpful for newer bowlers.
The sliding outsole on these shoes is pretty thin to keep the overall weight of the shoes down. However, that also means that the lifespan of these shoes is severely limited. The soles can’t be replaced and they wear through within a year if you bowl a couple times a week.
Brunswick makes the Aura ladies’ shoe in three different color patterns. So, when you replace the shoe, you can always choose a new color to create a new aesthetic for your bowling.
- Very breathable mesh upper
- Lightweight construction
- Padded tongue and collar for comfort
- Available in three color patterns
- Lightweight outsole wears through quickly
- Soles cannot be replaced
4. Storm Meadow Bowling Shoes – Best Entry-level Bowling Shoes for Women
These women’s bowling shoes from Storm are a great choice for bowlers looking for their first pair of shoes. To start, they’re quite comfortable. A synthetic and cotton canvas upper offers a soft feel against your foot, while the collar and tongue are padded to eliminate any hotspots. At the same time, the lace-up closure allows you to snug down the shoe around your foot so there’s no extra space to interfere with your bowl.
Given the construction of the upper, it’s surprising how stiff these shoes can feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s easy to be fooled just by looking at the shoes. They do break in over time, though, so this isn’t a huge deal for most bowlers.
The soles on these bowling shoes are not replaceable once they wear out. But, unlike some lighter shoes, the outsoles are plenty thick to last most recreational bowlers for years of use.
- Very comfortable with padded collar
- Relatively durable outsoles
- Breathable and lightweight upper material
- Fits snugly with lace-up closure
- Surprisingly stiff and need to be broken in
- Outsoles cannot be replaced once worn down
5. KR Strikeforce Women’s Curve Bowling Shoes – Best Advanced Bowling Shoes for Women
These bowling shoes from KR are designed for women looking to take their game to the next level. The shoes have a much more pronounced heel rise than most entry-level bowling shoes. By offering that, KR intends for bowlers to emphasize heel drag as a way to control the slide while bowling.
The construction of the upper on this shoe is also notable. It’s made of leather to offer maximum snugness. But, there are also a few holes poked into the leather to increase breathability. The collar and tongue are very thickly padded with foam, which improves comfort – especially in the days before you’ve fully broken in the shoe to your foot.
Perhaps the best thing about these shoes is how much slide the outsole offers. Compared to more entry-level women’s bowling shoes, it’s much more slippery on the lane. Just make sure you clean these shoes frequently to maintain that slide, or else they can become very tacky over time.
- Pronounced heel rise for more control
- Leather upper construction for snug fit and durability
- Thick padding around collar and tongue
- Extremely slippery on the lane floor
- Requires a break-in period
- May be too slippery for entry-level bowlers
The 5 Best Bowling Shoes for Children
1. Brunswick Karma Ladies’ Bowling Shoes – Best Slip-on Bowling Shoes for Children
When you’re putting bowling shoes on your kid, a simpler process will mean having a more enjoyable day at the lanes. These shoes from Brunswick help with the goal of simplifying bowling by offering a slip-on entry. But, your child also doesn’t have to give up on a snug and comfortable fit just to get convenience. A miniature lace-up closure allows them to tighten the shoe as needed once it’s on.
The upper of this shoe is made of highly breathable mesh, which is another plus. However, Brunswick didn’t pad the collar or tongue of the shoes, so they can cause hotspots or even dig into the heel over a long day of bowling.
The shoes are extremely lightweight, which is another helpful feature for small kids. They’re also available in three fun colors, so you can match your child’s favorite style. Just beware that the shoes are sized for women, so you’ll need to adjust for boys’ feet.
- Slip-on entry with lace tightening
- Breathable mesh upper
- Lightweight construction
- Available in three colors
- No padding on collar
2. Pyramid Youth Skull Bowling Shoes – Most Stylish Bowling Shoes for Kids
Kids are sure to love the unique design on these bowling shoes from Pyramid. The shoes feature a skull and crossbones design on the upper, with a bright green tongue that’s sure to attract attention. Even better, the shoes glow in the dark – that’s something any kid will be excited to bowl in.
The upper of these shoes is made from synthetic leather. Unfortunately, that means they’re not very lightweight and not that breathable. So, as stylish as they are, they can be a little bit more difficult for young bowlers to control. Thankfully, there’s a lace-up closure system to help the shoes fit snugly around your child’s feet.
The outsole on these shoes is made from microfiber, so it offers an intermediate slide. It’s good for kids just starting out with bowling, but it won’t offer enough sliding for them to grow with as they get better.
- Very stylish design that glows in the dark
- Synthetic leather upper
- Microfiber outsole is good for beginners
- Heavy and not very breathable
- Intermediate slide isn’t great for mid-level young bowlers
3. BSI Girls Basic #432 Bowling Shoes – Most Comfortable Bowling Shoes for Children
These girls’ bowling shoes from BSI are designed to make your child feel as if they’re walking on clouds. The shoes are extremely padded with foam, both throughout the upper and with a thick EVA insole. The upper itself is made of synthetic leather, so all that padding helps to ensure that your child’s feet will be comfortable yet snug.
Since all that padding is made of foam, these shoes are still very lightweight. Where they suffer more is in breathability. There are no mesh panels or airflow holes in the leather upper, so they can get pretty hot inside.
The sliding sole is made of microfiber, which offers an intermediate amount of sliding. Somewhat problematically, though, the microfiber layer on these shoes can be pretty thin. So, they’re best suited for kids that are still growing and will need to change out bowling shoes after a year of wear in any case.
- Thick foam padding and EVA insole
- Synthetic leather upper
- Microfiber sole for intermediate slide
- Outsole is not all that durable
- Not very breathable
4. Brunswick TZone Bowling Shoes – Best Beginner Bowling Shoes for Kids
This kid’s bowling shoe from Brunswick is very similar to what you’ll find at many bowling alleys for rent. It’s a terrific beginner shoe that can grow with your child as they get better at bowling. Plus, it’s unisex and available in several different color patterns, so it’s a shoe that can work for just about any child.
What makes this shoe so great is the design of the sole. The rubber heel cup is raised significantly compared to what you’ll find on most other children’s bowling shoes. So, it encourages kids right from the start to develop good form while releasing the ball. At the same time, the microfiber outsole provides just the right amount of slide for most kids to learn with.
The shoe’s upper is made with synthetic leather and features plenty of padding around the collar and tongue. It also has an EVA insole to cushion your child’s feet. The only major issue to speak of is that it’s not very breathable, so your kids may want to take the shoes off in between bowls.
- Unisex, available in multiple colors and sizes
- Raised rubber heel cup for developing good form
- Microfiber outsole for slide
- Synthetic leather upper with padding around collar
- Upper is not very breathable
- Can require some break-in time
5. Dexter Bowling Ricky III JR Youth Bowling Shoes – Overall Best Bowling Shoes for Children
This bowling shoe from Dexter Bowling is specifically designed for kids, and it knocks the design out of the park. The shoe is built with a synthetic leather upper, but Dexter made sure to add holes to enhance breathability. At the same time, the shoe requires almost no break-in period and fits snugly right from the get-go. The shoe has plenty of padding, but that doesn’t add much to the weight.
The outsole is less defined than what you’ll find on the Brunswick TZone shoe, but it does a nice job at encouraging good footwork nonetheless. The heel cup is raised to help with foot drag, while the microfiber outsole offers plenty of sliding for most children.
The only thing that could be done better for this shoe is if it was available in multiple colors. Right now, it’s only available in white and black, which won’t appeal to most young kids’ senses of style.
- Synthetic leather upper built for breathability
- No break-in period
- Very lightweight with plenty of padding
- Raised heel cup and microfiber outsole
- Only available in white and black color pattern
How Should Bowling Shoes Fit?
Getting the proper fit from your bowling shoes is extremely important. In many ways, bowling shoes should fit just like most of your other shoes – they should be comfortable, yet snug. Your feet shouldn’t ache from being in a pair of bowling shoes for hours at a time, but you also don’t want to leave extra space between your toes and the front of the shoes. Any extra space leaves room for wiggle, which can throw off your slide and ball release when bowling.
Importantly, sizing your bowling shoes isn’t about balance. Bowling shoes have a different sole than standard street shoes, so they might feel a bit strange at first. Don’t let this fool you, and be sure to focus in on whether or not your feet are comfortable but snug. If you’re looking at shoes with a lace-up closure (like you probably are), make sure you do up the entire laces to determine whether you can get the perfect snugness just with the laces rather than a different shoes size.
The Benefits of Using the Right Bowling Shoes
The benefits of using the right bowling shoes on your bowling game are immense. The most important thing bowling shoes do for you is to allow you to slide across the floor as your approach turns to releasing the ball. That might not sound like much, but it’s critically important in following through correctly with your body. Imagine if you approached the bowling lane then stopped suddenly just as you were about to release the ball. The resulting bowl probably wouldn’t turn out the way you intended.
Getting the right bowling shoes allows you to get the amount of sliding that’s right for you – not too much and not too little. Just as important, your shoes allow you to control the slide. Using the traction pad on the heel of your shoe, or the traction outsole on your non-dominant side, you can brake yourself just as much as you need to impart forward momentum on the bowling ball.
The other things that bowling shoes do for you aren’t as central to your bowl itself, but they’re just as important. For example, getting the right bowling shoes ensures that your feet will be comfortable over the course of multiple games. That in itself isn’t going to help your game, but just think of how hard it would be to concentrate and approach properly if your feet are in constant pain.
Along the same lines, bowling shoes help ensure your safety. You don’t want to either slip or fall forward from stopping suddenly mid-bowl. Getting the right bowling shoes ensures that neither of these dangerous situations can happen while you’re bowling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Getting your own pair of bowling shoes is one of the best ways to step up your bowling game. The right pair of bowling shoes can improve your bowl by giving you a perfectly controlled slide as you step into the lane to release the ball.
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the best bowling ball shoes. But, the most important thing to keep in mind is comfort and fit. If you have snug-fitting shoes that are comfortable to wear for full days of bowling, you’re well on your way to having the best possible game.