Bowling Shoes

Bowling Shoes

All these shoes!! All these prices!!! But what do I need??? Ugh!

Yes, there are a lot of different bowling shoes out there & their prices seem to be all over the map.  Why is this one $39.95, this one is $99.95 &, OMG, this one is $209.95???  Well, just like any other shoe line, there are vast differences in bowling shoes and the different price points really are justified.  Let’s explain why.

Before we get into the specifics, let’s explain why there is a need for a bowling shoe.  When we bowl, part of delivering the ball is your last step is actually a slide.  Yes, some of us “plant” on our last step but for the most part, most of us do at least a little bit of a slide.  Because of that slide, there is a smooth sole on the front of the shoe, to allow you to slide.  If we wore treaded shoes when we bowled, we would stick on that last step & sometimes even join the ball going down the lane!  If you bowl right handed, you will slide with your left foot & conversely, left handed will slide with your right foot.

You want to keep the bottom of your shoes dry.  At all times!  Any type of moisture on the bottom of your slide shoe will also cause you to stick.  Ever notice the signs “please don’t wear bowling shoes outside”?  That sign is there mostly to protect you from getting the bottom of your bowling shoes wet.  Have you ever seen a bowler go into the restroom & they are walking on their heels? That’s to ensure they don’t get their shoes wet.  Of course, there are shoe covers that most bowlers use to protect the bottom of their shoes.  Many will put the shoe cover after every turn.   Again, that is all for safety & to keep from ruining a nice pair of bowling shoes.

There are two major categories in the bowling shoe industry.  The universal shoe & the performance shoe.  The universal shoe means that there is a sliding pad on the sole of both shoes.  This means that it doesn’t matter whether you bowl right or left handed.  Often times the universal shoe is referred to as an “Athletic Shoe”.  The performance shoe is designed to be right or left hand specific.  For right handed bowlers, the left shoe will have a slide sole & the right shoe will have tread, just like a tennis shoe.  For the lefties, it is opposite.  The tread on the right shoe actually gives the bowler a little more stability during their approach & does make a difference.

The Universal Shoe

There isn’t a huge difference in the abundance of universal shoes that are available.  With all falling between $40 – $90, most of the pricing deals with multiple color patterns, stitching & material type.  The newest trend with universal shoes is using EVA material to produce a much lighter & more flexible sole.  The EVA sole can reduce the weight of the entire shoe by up to 40%!  The EVA technology will be listed in each shoe’s description.

Another difference you will see in universal shoes are flat heeled shoes versus a heeled shoe.  The adding of a small heel does make a difference.   The raising of the heel provides two functions.  First, the raised heel positions your foot so the there is more pressure & stability at the ball of your foot, where you are actually sliding from.  Second, the heel acts as a brake, giving you a more consistent slide.   Please note images 1 and 2.  You can noticeably see the raised heel of the shoe in Figure 1 compared to Figure 2. If you believe that a heeled shoe is an important factor when shopping for a bowling shoe, remember that the heel is not listed in any manufacturer’s description.  It is a detail of the shoe that needs to be noted in the images.

KR Knight: Hand Specific Athletic Shoe

There are some instances that you will find a right or left hand specific shoe within the athletic shoe department.  In this instance, there is the tread sole on the non-sliding shoe, however, the slide sole is not going to be “interchangeable”.  We will get to “interchangeable” in the performance shoe section.  When coming across these shoes, be aware that the description will include “Available in Right Hand”.  In many cases, a shoe like this will not be
available in Left Handed.  Examples of this type of shoe are the KR Knight and Dexter Pro Boa.

The Performance Shoe

Performance shoes are designated by 2 criteria.  They are made specifically for right or left handed bowlers and the shoe has interchangeable parts.  Pricing range from $70 – $210.  Performance shoes are a bit more complicated than athletic shoes.  Not in the fact that they are difficult to use or figure out but more so because there are so many varying degrees of options, all of which are noticeable in the price point.  Material can be anywhere from synthetic, manmade leather all the way up to kangaroo leather.  The type of material will be listed in the shoe’s description.

The biggest difference & what to take note of the most in a performance shoe is how many parts of the shoe are interchangeable.  What is meant by interchangeable is that the soles and/or heels are actually Velcro onto the shoe, allowing you to replace soles & heels because (1) they have worn down from use or (2) to change to a different amount of slide to fit your personal preferences.   You will find that some shoes, the heel & sole of both shoes are interchangeable while in others, only the slide sole is interchangeable.  Examples of a shoe that only the slide sole is interchangeable are the KR Raptor, Hammer Rogue, Hammer Vixen & Dexter Match Play.  These types of shoes are on the lower end price point of the performance shoe category.

The next level of performance shoes allows the sole & heel of the slide shoe to have interchangeable parts.  Interchangeable parts are not available on the non-sliding shoe.  The KR Legend & Dexter SST 6 Hybrid are perfect examples.  Note that with these shoes, they are right or left hand specific & most are not made in left handed.

Interchangeable Both Shoes

The highest level of performance shoes is those in which the heel & soles of both shoes are interchangeable.  With this option, you are also able to replace the tread sole of your non-sliding shoe if it ever wears down or is damaged. This feature allows for a very long lasting shoe.  You are able to replace all the components of the shoe, which allows you to fine tune every aspect of sliding to your personal likes.  Dexter has the patent of making a shoe that the slide & tread soles are interchangeable between each shoe.  With this feature, it is not a concern if you are right or left handed when purchasing the shoes. You simply swap the right & left shoes interchangeable parts. (All shoes come prepared as if you are a right handed bowler).

One thing to note when shopping for performance shoes is how many extra parts actually come in the box.  Some shoes only come with what is actually on the shoe.  Others will come with extra heels & soles in the box, each with a different amount of sliding ability.  Others will also come with a free shoe cover.   Replacement heels & soles can run from $15-$30 each.  A shoe with 2 extra heels & 2 extra soles is at least a $50 value!

We hope that you have found this article helpful when shopping for a new pair of shoes!  We most certainly can tell you that all the bowling shoes listed are much more comfortable than house shoes.  And you don’t have to wonder who wore those rental shoes before you!!!  Hopefully all of your questions you had about bowling shoes have been answered but if not, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have more questions at

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