by Mike Jones
It might surprise you to find out that there are a lot of different options out there when it comes time to shop for the best bowling shoes on the market. You can find lots of great pairs for both men and women. To help you make a solid decision on which pair best meets your playing needs, let us recommend a few of our favorite pairs and give you some tips on what to look for when comparing different pairs of shoes for bowlers.
If you're taking bowling from the occasional hobby to a more regular one, then it's time for you to get your own pair of bowling shoes. Stop renting a pair from your local bowling alley and get a pair that help prevent you from sliding or dragging your feet each time you step up to the line.
Shoes are a key piece of equipment in any bowler's repertoire. The best bowling shoes will help you achieve a smoother overall motion by helping you slide down the polished lanes. They also work with your body to allow proper movement during slides, preventing knee, ankle, and foot injuries. When you've completed your throw, the rubber heel acts as a brake to stop your slide. Finally, bowling shoes protect the lane itself. They prevent the polished wood from becoming scratched by debris, keeping the lanes slippery. Oa a side note, If your bowling shoes lose their shininess over time, consider applying some boot oil on them.
While rental bowling shoes provide an adequate solution for the biannual bowler, anyone who is even slightly serious about bowling should invest in their own pair of bowling shoes. From a financial standpoint alone, purchasing a personal pair of bowling shoes will pay off after an average of five trips to the alley. Plus, there's just that gross-out factor that comes with renting and wearing shoes that other people have sweated in - lots of other people! It just makes sense for you to have your own pair.
There is a wide range of affordable options available for the novice bowler. Introductory bowling shoes are similar to the rentals that most beginners are used to. They are often significantly cheaper than more advanced bowling shoes and work for all basic bowling techniques and styles. With most entry-level bowling shoes, you don't need to worry about what hand you bowl with or what style of play you favor.
Advanced bowlers have more factors to consider when purchasing the best bowling shoes for their needs. Professional bowling shoes are expensive and designed with specific features to improve different aspects of their wearer's game. When buying professional bowling shoes, you need to know which foot is dominant and what hand you bowl with. This is important because the soles on each shoe vary depending on which foot is dominant. A rubber sole on your dominant heel helps with breaking, while the other sole is slick and ideal for sliding.
Not sure which shoe is the right choice for you? We've reviewed ten different options to help you make your choice!
Meet the Dexter THE 9 . The ultimate professional bowling shoe, Dexter's THE 9 is the powerhouse of the bowling world, combining advanced bowling technology with comfort and style and top of our list of best bowling shoes.
THE stands for "Toehold Hyperflex Engineering," a revolutionary technology designed to increase performance and add durability to the shoe's weak points. The reinforced toehold on the replaceable soles mitigates the reduced strength that comes with interchangeable soles. This extends the shoe's lifetime - a good thing, given the THE 9's hefty pricetag. The hyperflex channels are a symmetrical outsole system that works to increase flexibility, boosting bowler performance. Its universal raised heel fits any Dexter replacement.
The THE 9's only deterrent is its price tag. Easily the most expensive shoe on this list, the THE 9 is an investment in the wearer's bowling career. All but the most serious of bowlers would likely find other, less expensive professional shoes adequate for their needs.
The verdict: If money isn't a concern, buy the THE 9. These are the best bowling shoes available by a wide margin. The price tag is worth it for professional bowlers looking for top of the line equipment, but less serious players might not get the same return on investment.
Welcome to the big leagues. Able to handle anything a serious bowler can throw at it, the Dexter SST8 is fully customizable to match the wearer's gameplay. Interchangeable rubber soles allow the slide and traction levels to be modified to preference. The replaceable traction on the non-slide shoe means that the SST8 doesn't need to be replaced when the traction's rubber wears thin. Additionally, the slide can be moved to either foot, making the shoe suitable for left- or right-foot dominant players.
Comfort and durability are also key features of the SST8. The shoe features full-grain leather uppers and extensive padding. EVA in the sole molds the shoe to the wearer's foot, reducing the break-in period. For aggressive players, the drag protector adds durability by preventing the slide from peeling.
The only real deterrent surrounding the SST8 is the cost. While not the most expensive professional bowling shoe on the market, the SST8 is definitely not priced for casual bowlers. Despite this, they make an excellent choice for serious bowlers looking for a feature-packed, durable bowling shoe.
The verdict: If you're looking for a professional-grade bowling shoe, the Dexter SST8 is ideal. Its customizable soles make the SST8 flexible, meaning that your shoe has you covered no matter your style.
Another Dexter for the list! The Dexter Pro Am II is still technically a beginner's shoe but comes packed with features more commonly found on intermediate and advanced options. They make an excellent choice for bowlers looking for a more sophisticated shoe without the accompanying price tag.
The Pro Am II comes with lots of padding to help cushion the wearer's feet. They feature a raised heel for added height and increased slide control. Both shoes sport a microfiber slide sole. The plain black design makes them universally appealing, giving the appearance of a regular athletic shoe.
Durability is a concern with the Pro Am II. Its synthetic material wears out quicker than Dexter's higher-end leather shoes. The shoe's fit runs small, especially in its extra sole. If purchasing online, buyers should choose a size larger than the one they usually wear (especially for those with wide feet). Finally, the Pro Am II is a heavy shoe, with the excess rubber occasionally sticking to the lane in ways other bowling shoes don't.
The verdict: The Pro Am II is easily the best beginner shoe on our list. It is comfortable, affordable, and boasts some of the more advanced features found in professional shoes. For novice bowlers looking to up their game (and willing to spend slightly more to do so), the Pro Am II is an ideal first step into professional bowling shoes.
The next step up from the Pro Am II, Pyramid's HPX bowling shoe is the introductory professional shoe you've been waiting for. It is an especially solid choice for those who dislike the Dexter brand and are looking for an alternative. The HPX features biomechanical contouring for exceptional comfort and support. It is made with full-grain leather, minimizing break-in time, and is designed to be flexible for ease of movement.
On the bowling-specific side, the HPX has multiple features designed to increase sliding, breaking, and overall movement control. Their interchangeable soles are compatible with other brands' heels and soles, easing the financial impact of having to buy name-brand replacements.
One thing to watch for with HPX's is their sizing. The shoes are available in left, right, and ride-wide fits. It is prudent for the purchaser to carefully measure their feet before ordering a pair of HPX's to ensure that they get an optimal fit.
The verdict: Pyramid's HPX bowling shoes are an excellent overall professional shoe. They come packed with features designed to make moving feel effortless while retaining the comfort most bowlers crave. The HPX is a great option for professionals - and for novice players looking to make the leap into competitive play.
This beginner's shoe is an excellent choice for those looking for an inexpensive introductory bowling shoe. The BSI Men's Basic #521 is easy to find in sporting outlets and online. It features a lightweight, outer rubber sole with excellent sliding capabilities. The shoe is as durable as can be expected for the cost. The Basic is sneakerlike in appearance for a more fashionable look.
One common complaint about BSI's Men's Basic #521 is its fit. The shoe fits almost a full size bigger, making measurements all the more critical. Additionally, the shoe and sole both wear out relatively quickly (but are still worth it given the accompanying price tag).
The verdict: The BSI's Men's Basic #521 is probably the casual bowler's best bet. It is a low-investment option for beginners while still providing a good quality bowling shoe. Those wishing to pursue bowling more seriously in the future might find they outgrow the Basic quickly.
The KR Strikeforce Flyer is a slight step up from BSI's Basic. The Strikeforce Flyer is an affordable option for entry-level bowlers. It is a stylish shoe, coming in a variety of colors. The universal sole means that bowlers don't have to consider which foot is dominant. This also makes the Strikeforce Flyer a solid choice for ambidextrous players and players who have not yet determined whether they are right or left-hand bowlers. The soles use KR's Flex Slide technology to improve the shoe's slide and provide adequate traction in crucial moments. Perhaps the Strikeforce Flyer's strongest feature, however, is its comfort. The top part of the shoe, or collar, is made of a soft and durable fabric designed to cushion the wearer's foot.
Unfortunately, the synthetic leather material used over the majority of the shoe makes the Strikeforce Flyer less durable overall. Additionally, the shoe trends towards a wide fit, making online shopping a challenge.
The verdict: A great alternative to the BSI Men's Basic, the Strikeforce Flyer provides exceptional comfort for its price point. Its overall lack of durability is a deterrent for any buyer looking for the shoes to last moderate wear and tear. Still, the Strikeforce Flyer's sturdiness should be adequate for the casual or beginner bowler.
The Dexter Jack II is the first of several Dexter shoes on our review list. Dexter bowling shoes are known for their quality and are widely considered to be the brand with the best bowling shoes available. The Dexter Jack II mostly lives up to the Dexter brand, with some notable drawbacks. It is a very comfortable shoe, designed with good support and a soft fabric collar. The extra-long slide soles work with the bowler's motions to increase the smoothness of each ball release.
The Dexter Jack II fits small, requiring savvy purchasers to try the shoe on before buying online. Durability is also a concern. The synthetic material is prone to wear, and while the Jack II isn't an especially expensive bowling shoe, the amount of bowling time that you'll get out of it is something to consider.
The verdict: The Dexter Jack II is a very comfortable beginner shoe. Though it doesn't quite live up to the Dexter name, it is nevertheless a decent option for the casual bowler. Be sure to try it on in stores before purchasing to guarantee a snug fit!
The BSI Women's Classic is the only bowling shoe designed specifically for women on this list. While women can wear appropriately sized men's bowling shoes without issue, the Women's Classic is tailored for female feet. Designed for both left- and right-foot dominant players, the Classic is made to be durable and comfortable. The lightweight midsole contours to the wearer's foot for added support. This makes the Classics particularly beneficial for women suffering from pronation or supination issues. The shoe's collar is brightly colored, offsetting the otherwise black finish.
As with most beginner's shoes, the soles of the Classic are not interchangeable. (The shoes make up for this with significant durability - casual players should have no issues). Sizing can also be a concern. The Classic is known to fit small and narrow compared to other bowling shoes and has very little give, making them hard to stretch out and break in.
The verdict: The BSI Women's Classic is a great option for women looking for gender-specific bowling shoes. They are an inexpensive introductory shoe that prioritizes comfort and style over diverse features, making them a universally adequate choice.
Are you a big fan of Converse and Vans? Look no further than the Storm Gust when searching for basic bowling shoes. These kicks are best for social bowlers who prioritize fashion over features. Storm Gusts are essentially rental shoes with slightly more padding. They feature a molded EVA insole and padded collars, giving the wearer some additional comfort. Their cotton canvas material is breathable and lightweight.
Storm Gusts can't really grow with the wearer because of their lack of specialized features. This makes them a poor choice for new bowlers looking to grow in the sport. And, much like other canvas shoes, Storm Gusts require extensive breaking in to get that casual, comfortable fit.
The verdict: Storm Gusts are perfect for style-conscious social bowlers. If all you're looking for is a shoe to wear to your bowling league once a week, a pair of Storm Gusts will be a welcome step up from the alley's rentals. Bowlers looking to improve or grow their game should choose a shoe with more features.
The Brunswick Edge is another beginner's bowling shoe worthy of consideration. The Edge is all about comfort, trading some functionality for a better feel. It's bulkier than most of the others on the list of best bowling shoes due to extra padding. This padding increases the wearer's comfort but also adds weight to the shoe. The Edge uses lightly molded EVA outsole technology to contour the shoe to the wearer's foot. Another benefit of the Edge is its microfiber soles. These soles are ideal for heavy sliders who frequently use the slide step.
The extra padding found in the Edge is a double-edged sword: while comfortable to wear, the shoes are both more cumbersome and less durable than other bowling shoes. Their long laces also present an (albeit easily mitigated) challenge. Finally, the Edge's treads wear out quickly. As the soles are not replaceable, this significantly shortens the shoe's lifespan.
The verdict: A comfortable beginner's shoe, the Brunswick Edge is a suitable option for casual bowlers who prize comfort over performance. They're also an excellent choice for heavy sliders who don't rely on a solid tread for stopping.
For both men and women's models, you will come across only two basic types of shoes for bowlers. There are athletic options and performance options. Here's a quick explanation of their differences:
Now that you know which type of shoe is best for your needs, it's time to consider a few other things before you pull the trigger on your purchase. Below are a few features and other things for you to consider after reading through the list of best bowling shoes.
If you're going for a pair of performance shoes, then you have to know if you need a left-handed or right-handed pair. This doesn't mean with hand do you write with, but which hand do you release the ball with, instead. So, if you release the ball with your right hand, buy a pair of right-handed shoes. And if your ball hand is the left one, get a pair of left-handed shoes. If you're getting the 'athletic' type, then you don't need to worry about this.
Okay, so you're a serious bowler and going with a performance pair of shoes. Good choice! But you also need think about interchangeable or replacement slides for better performance out there. You'll notice that the sliding soles are rated on a range of one to 10, with one meaning they give minimal slide and a 10 meaning the sole gives maximum slide. Keep in mind that lane conditions tend to dictate with level of slide is the best for the game. For instance, if you're in a cold New York winter, then you'll want a lower slide rating to help you out on the cold, slick surface. But, if you're playing in humid New Orleans, then you'll prefer maybe an 8-rating slide to help you move on the lane floor. You'll also want a high slide rating if the land has a scuffed floor.
Since the point of purchasing the best bowling shoes for most casual players is to save on rental costs, the shoes' longevity is a critical factor. Shoes that fall apart after ten trips to the alley don't make for a savvy investment.
For entry-level players, most introductory pairs will be durable enough to make the purchase worth it. Durability is more of a factor for serious or professional bowlers. Since the shoe is worn much more frequently and tends to be put through a more strenuous range of motions, a well-crafted shoe will guarantee that the wearer is playing at their peak.
If you know what size you wear in a regular shoe, then you already know what size you need for your best bowling shoes. It's really that simple. When you're wearing your new pair of bowling shoes, they should fit like a regular pair of athletic shoes. Your heel should not slip in the back and your foot should feel adequately supported without feeling too tightly wedged into the shoe. And your toe area should have around a quarter of an inch between the tips of your toes and the end of your shoe. As you walk in the shoe, it should not slip and your foot should not move around. If you have wide feet, then you need to choose bowling shoes for wide feet for the best fit. And if you tend to have sweaty feet, then be sure to choose a pair that has breathable uppers for air flow.
About Mike Jones
As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."