Everyone rents bowling shoes at some point, but if you enjoy bowling more than twice a year, you’ll find that rental costs seriously add up.
It’s very cost-effective to get your bowling shoes, especially since they don’t undergo the same physical wear and tear as your everyday trainers or shoes.
That said, no two pairs of bowling shoes are made the same way.
Today, we will look at the best bowling shoes, what materials go into them, how they’re supposed to fit, and fully disclose how to know if you’re getting a good deal on them.
If you’re serious about bowling, you need a severe pair of bowling shoes to maintain your traction on those waxed lanes, keep your focus straight like a strike, and keep you comfortable so you can direct your attention to the essential thing in the world—knocking every pin down with style.
Best Bowling Shoes
Brunswick Vapor Men’s Bowling Shoes
Brunswick is the bowling brand that everyone knows about, and it’s for a good reason: they get it.
They know what you’re looking for and make it happen, especially with one of the most comfortable bowling shoes on the market.
Starting the collar and tongue they’re both padded to offer as much support as possible.
Bowling shoes can sometimes be uncomfortable, so this is a big plus. This is coupled with some wool socks. You’re going to be wholly cushioned.
Utilizing an ultra-light EVA outsole, you get plenty of traction where you need it (not on the sliders) and support through hundreds of bowling games.
The synthetic material will last a lifetime, and the stitching pattern is solid.
But it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I said the cushioning is excellent, but the heel cup in the back could be better.
It cradles you for your first twenty-five years, and then it wears down.
Just be sure to untie your shoes every time you put them on, and don’t put extra stress on the heel cup by trying to slip into these. That will help them last longer.
Brunswick did a fantastic job of making tons of sizes available without needing to go half-up or half-down.
You can pick your correct shoe size, and it’s bound to fit, which is one reason it peaked at the top of this list.
When shopping online, it’s hard to find any clothing or shoes that fit a tee.
The sliders are as close to perfect as I’ve ever used.
Made with microfiber (the slider material of choice), this glides on the lane flawlessly, even if it’s not the most upkeep bowling alley you’ve ever been to.
It makes spinning a bowling ball a hell of a lot easier and more enjoyable, for sure.
|Sole Material:||Microfiber, EVA|
|Available Sizes:||7 M US – 14 M US|
BSI Men’s Basic #521 Bowling Shoes
BSI made a close cut for the best men’s bowling shoes, but there was one category they dominated: price.
These are some of the most reasonably priced men’s bowling shoes I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, and despite that price, they’re still able to rope in some great features.
For one, you have a leather upper for increased support. You also have a cushioned collar to help you with support.
I won’t say that the padded tongue is the best, but it’s still a little more comfortable than other shoes I’ve tested (even some on this list).
The heel cup in the back is practically non-existent. If you can look at the rear of the shoe, you’ll notice it’s just kind of flat.
Because the material is thick, it’s not too noticeable, but you shouldn’t be slipping into these shoes, just like I mentioned before. Always untie them.
When it comes to the microfiber slide pads on the bottom, they’re on par with the Brunswick pair that we just reviewed.
They slide nicely, are high quality, and there’s no sign of the glue separating after you open the package (a common issue with ultra-cheap bowling shoes).
Last but not least, you also have a sock liner built into the shoe to help wick away sweat. That means that if you want to wear thinner socks, you absolutely can.
You won’t risk completely ruining your shoes and degrading the insoles. It’s a minor feature, but one that I enjoy a lot.
|Sole Material:||Rubber, microfiber|
|Available Sizes:||6.5 M US – 16 M US|
Dexter Turbo II Wide Width Bowling Shoes
In all these bowling shoe reviews, I haven’t talked about cleaning.
Thankfully, Dexter makes it super easy to clean your bowling shoes because the insole is entirely removable.
You’ll have a much easier time maintaining these shoes for the long haul.
Most insoles are removable, kind of. They’re glued in, so you have to pry around them and remove them, and you risk leaving pieces of them behind.
Dexter designed these so that you don’t have to worry about them.
These have a bit more of an upscale look to them, mimicking dress shoes a bit.
They still feature a padded collar, a must-have for bowling shoes, but they’re also slightly heavier due to the back’s wooden heel. If you look at the underside of these shoes, the magic happens.
You get a substantial frontal slider pad, but there’s a ton of rubber underneath the heel to let you pull back and stop shortly after sliding or if you need to bail out of a swing because you’ve lost your grip on the bowling ball. It feels fantastic to walk in these as a result.
The laces you get match the trim lining of the collar, which extends past the tongue and goes down the front of your shoes.
The problem is the laces don’t last long. They fray easily, so you’ll need a spare pair to have on hand.
The stitching is excellent, and the heel cupping is fantastic. I wish that they had an alternate option available for the coloring.
It’s not bad, and it just limits the options. It’s a perfect bowling shoe with tons of available sizes and an acceptable price range.
|Material:||Synthetic, microfiber S8 (slides)|
|Available Sizes:||7 M US – 14 M US|
BSI Women’s Classic Bowling Shoes
Women’s bowling shoes are in less supply than men’s, which is a problem, but BSI—the creators of our second pick—make one killer pair of women’s bowling shoes.
They don’t get patronizing with the color scheme, which is a breath of fresh air.
You can choose between a purple tip and tongue or a light cyan version. The BSI logo is also colored in whichever one you choose.
One of the most significant benefits of these shoes is that they’re super easy to break in.
You don’t have to get to game ten before they start feeling welcome; give it five games at the most before you feel at home.
Initially, I worried this was a quality problem, but it’s a high-quality build between the excellent stitching and synthetic/leather.
The sizing options are wide enough to be acceptable, but the price stuck out here.
It’s a perfect budget-friendly option without skimping on quality and still gives you that slightly raised heel (0.25″, but it’s even there).
The padded tongue and collar, however… that’s where the problem comes into play.
Often, when something is manufactured for women, it cuts down on comfort to give aesthetics.
The collar is rough, so I recommend thick socks with these. That’s the only major design flaw that these shoes have, though.
They’re lightweight at 10.8 oz, so you won’t kill your feet lugging them around.
|Material:||Leather upper, synthetic|
|Available Sizes:||5 W US – 11 W US|
Karma Ladies Bowling Shoes
Even on our best bowling shoe review list, somebody has to come in last in the race.
Karma is a line of shoes by Brunswick, our top-place winner.
That’s why it was so surprising to find the quality was lacking just a little bit here.
The padded tongue and collar improve the BSI shoes we just reviewed, but it’s still only in the acceptable range.
The problem is that the laces don’t do too much for you.
Even when you tighten them, it doesn’t provide enough extra support since there are three eyelets.
It’s built out of textiles, which means you have one to two years on these tops. That’s if you play about three times a month.
You’ll start noticing some wear and tear taking its toll on these shoes.
So why did they make this elite list?
They’re supportive, even if they aren’t last you as long as you’d like.
The rubber outsole and foam cushioning help you stay nice and stable while you’re trying to crash into those pins, and the textile is also very easy to clean.
A decent amount of sizes are available, and the price point is worth it for what you get.
They’re lightweight and comfortable, just not the last pair of bowling shoes you will buy.
|Available Sizes:||6 W US – 11 W US|
Bowling Shoes Buying Guide and FAQ
What Shoes Can Be Used for Bowling?
Strictly bowling shoes. You can’t use sneakers to bowl with.
If you look at any best bowling shoe brands, you’ll see that they all have a uniform design trait—sliders.
These felt, or microfiber pads on the bottom of bowling shoes allow you to glide and slide around the waxes alleys without hurting yourself.
They’re for safety but will help you with your form and overall scoring.
You’re supposed to have a simple, fluid motion while sending your bowling ball down the lane.
If you can’t do that, you’ll stop short, and there will be a hiccup, so to speak, in how your arm moves and your kinetic energy flows through the bowling ball.
A short stop means a slower ball, which could cost you a great shot.
Theoretically, you could add felt pads to the bottom of regular or dress shoes, but good luck getting them to stick.
I’d argue that for safety, as well as performance, actual bowling shoes are always going to be your best bet.
What is Different About Bowling Shoes?
These are the main differences between bowling shoes and formal shoes.
Felt or microfiber padding on the bottom of your bowling shoes allows you to glide and slide with the bowling ball’s motion.
If you’ve ever seen a bowler lean forward and almost slide down the lane when they release, that’s because of the sliders on their shoes.
This is why you can’t wear bowling shoes besides the lanes—dust, and debris could immediately ruin these slider pads.
They can usually be removed and replaced, but it’s a process that most of us would rather avoid in the first place.
Arguably, these are far less comfortable than sneakers. Even with padded tongues and collars, bowling shoes aren’t designed to help you relax or kick back.
They’re designed for athleticism, so they only provide enough comfort not to dig into your ankles during use.
Even from a bowler’s perspective, bowling shoes aren’t attractive (not the ones you rent from the alley, anyway).
There’s a reason you never see people sporting the same design on their classic shoes.
That’s okay, though, because these are just designed to be worn in the alleys, nothing more. It’s only a noticeable difference.
Do You Have to Wear Sock With Bowling Shoes?
If you’re going to rent them, then yeah, sure. I wouldn’t want my bare feet in a shoe where someone else’s sweat was.
If you’re going to buy your own, you should still wear socks.
Bowling involves athleticism, and the materials of bowling shoes are usually thick and tough. You’re going to sweat.
Your sweat will tear into your insoles and any cushioning inside your tongue or collar.
Even if you have a padded collar, it will wear down from direct skin contact.
You want your bowling shoes to remain comfortable, so wear socks to wick away the sweat and keep them feeling fresh.
Renting vs. Buying Bowling Shoes
Well, now it comes down to it—get the top bowling shoes on your list, or rent them at the alley.
This is a comparative list, so we’ll go over all the different aspects and weigh in on what’s better and what isn’t.
Arguably, renting bowling shoes can be expensive. I don’t think you’re looking at this guide because you casually bowl once or twice a year—I think your bowl often.
If you spend $50.00 on a pair of bowling shoes but only go twice a year, then you’re financially better off just renting your bowling shoes.
The average rental cost is between $6 and $10 on average.
If you spend that much on a pair but go upwards of a dozen times a year (once-a-month bowling nights), you’re saving money by purchasing your bowling shoes.
Not to mention the time you’ll save waiting in line for rentals.
Bowling alley shoes get worn down over time. If you suffer from pronation issues or flat feet, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Some people are comfortable in any shoe, and we envy those people.
If you’re particular about your comfort, especially planning two or more hours at the alley, you’ll want to prioritize comfort.
There’s no harm in calling the alley ahead of time to see if their shoes are new (they get that more often than you think).
Let’s be honest for a minute: nobody wants to share shoes with someone else.
I wouldn’t even want to share shoes with my brother, let alone a revolving door of strangers (who may or may not have foot fungus).
Bowling alleys clean out these shoes with specialized sprays and whatnot, but is that enough?
If it were, then they probably wouldn’t look so worn down and discolored. It’s just more hygienic to have a factory-fresh pair of bowling shoes.
You don’t have to worry about availability when you buy your shoes—they’re yours, don’t lose them.
While most bowling alleys try to have the right amount of different stock sizes, it’s impossible to meet the general public’s requirements.
By pure coincidence, many men who use a size 11 could be bowling simultaneously, and you’re left with a size 12 instead.
That means less traction and stability while bowling.
If you buy your shoes, you can place your insoles in them.
Countless people have worn the standard rubber insoles that come with bowling alley shoes, and no matter how much they may try to clean them, the wear and tear are the same.
If you’ve ever rented alley shoes, you’ve probably noticed those vibrations in your feet when you step around.
That’s because the support has worn out. Adding new support to purchased bowling shoes is more expensive, but if you go often, it’s worth the cost.
Read next – Best Bowling Ball for Synthetic Lanes.
Time to Find a Good Pair
Whether they’re bowling shoes with interchangeable soles or simple, inexpensive shoes without many features, you must stop paying exorbitant rental fees to your local bowling alley desk.
Get a reliable pair of bowling shoes that you can use time and time again, take care of them, and you can still have them ten or twenty years later.
Read next – Bowling Recommended Gear.
Top 5 Best Bowling Shoes 2023
KR Strikeforce Aviator Black/Grey Men's Bowling Shoe with FlexLite Technology for Ultimate Comfort
3 used from $40.00
Strikeforce Flyer Mesh Lite Black/Royal Mens Bowling Athletic Shoe with FlexSlide Technology (Black/Royal, Numeric_9_Point_5)
1 used from $38.40
Q: What are the top 5 bowling shoes on the market?
A: The top 5 bowling shoes on the market are: 1) KR Strikeforce Men’s Bowling Shoes, 2) Hammer Men’s Black Widow Legend Bowling Shoes, 3) 3G Kicks Bowling Shoes, 4) Dexter Men’s SST 6 Hybrid BOA Bowling Shoes, and 5) Brunswick Men’s TPU X Performance Bowling Shoes.
Q: Where can I shop for bowling shoes?
A: You can shop for bowling shoes at your local sporting goods stores or online on websites such as Amazon, eBay, or bowling-specific websites.
Q: Are there specific bowling shoes for men?
A: Yes, there are specific bowling shoes designed for men. These shoes are typically designed to accommodate the shape and size of men’s feet.
Q: Do bowling shoes come in different sizes?
A: Yes, bowling shoes come in different sizes to fit the various foot sizes of bowlers. Make sure to select the appropriate size when purchasing bowling shoes.
Q: What is the difference between right hand and left hand bowling shoes?
A: Right hand bowling shoes are designed for bowlers who use their right hand to throw the ball, while left hand bowling shoes are designed for bowlers who use their left hand. The soles on these shoes may have different traction patterns depending on the bowler’s dominant hand.
Q: What are some of the features to consider when buying bowling shoes?
A: Some important features to consider when buying bowling shoes include the shoe’s construction, the type of toe it has (such as rubber or leather), the durability of the shoe, and any additional features like disc lacing or the BOA fit system.
Q: Are there any bowling shoes specifically designed for beginners?
A: Yes, there are bowling shoes specifically designed for beginners. These shoes often have features that make them more user-friendly for novice bowlers, such as extra slide soles and added stability.
Q: Can I rent bowling shoes at the bowling alley?
A: Most bowling alleys offer rental shoes for bowlers who do not have their own. These rental shoes are typically more basic in design and may not offer the same level of performance as owning your own pair of bowling shoes.
Q: Are there bowling shoes available for wide feet?
A: Yes, there are bowling shoes available for wide feet. Many brands offer shoes in various widths to accommodate different foot sizes and shapes.
Q: Can I return bowling shoes if they don’t fit?
A: Each retailer or website may have its own return policy, but generally, bowling shoes can be returned if they don’t fit properly. It’s recommended to check the return policy before making a purchase.