Everyone rents bowling shoes at some point in their lives, but if you actually enjoy bowling more than twice a year, you’re going to find that rental costs seriously add up.
It’s actually very cost-effective to get your own bowling shoes, especially since they don’t undergo the same physical wear and tear as your everyday trainers or shoes.
With that said, no two pairs of bowling shoes are made the same way.
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the best bowling shoes, what materials go into them, how they’re supposed to fit, and fully disclosing how to know if you’re getting a good deal on them or not.
If you’re serious about bowling, you need a serious 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 most important 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 they make it happen, especially with one of the most comfortable bowling shoes on the market.
Starting with the collar and tongue, they’re both padded to offer as much support as possible.
Bowling shoes can be fairly uncomfortable at times, so this is a big plus. This coupled with some wool socks, and you’re going to be completely 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 games of bowling.
The synthetic material is set to last a lifetime, and the stitching pattern is pretty solid.
But it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I said the cushioning is great, but the heel cup in the back could be better.
It cradles you for your first twenty-five years, I’d say, and then it starts to wear down.
Just be sure to actually untie your shoes every time you go to 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 and without needing to go half-up or half-down.
You can actually pick your true shoe size, and it’s bound to fit, which is one reason it peaked at the top of this list.
It’s so hard to find any clothing or shoes that fit a tee when you’re shopping online.
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 that they dominated in: 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. In terms of support, you also have a cushioned collar to help you out.
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 get a chance to look at the rear of the shoe, you’re going to notice it’s just kind of flat.
Because the material is thick, it’s not too noticeable, but just like I mentioned before, you shouldn’t be slipping into these shoes; always untie them.
When it comes to the microfiber slide pads on the bottom, they’re basically on-par with the Brunswick pair that we just reviewed.
They slide well, they’re 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 run the risk of completely ruining your shoes and degrading the insoles. It’s a small 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 completely removable.
You’re going to 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 that.
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 take a look at the underside of these shoes, it’s where the magic happens.
You get a huge frontal slider pad, but there’s a ton of rubber underneath the heel to let you pull back and stop shortly after you’ve done 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’re going to need to get a spare pair to have on-hand.
The stitching is great, 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. With tons of available sizes and a fair price range, it’s an excellent bowling shoe to own.
|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 bit of 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, either, which is a breath of fresh air.
You can choose between a purple tip and tongue or a light cyan version as well. The BSI logo is also colored in whichever one you choose.
One of the biggest 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 welcoming; give it five games at the most before you feel right at home.
I initially worried that this was a quality problem, but between the excellent stitching and synthetic/leather, it’s actually a really high-quality build.
The sizing options are wide enough to be acceptable, but what really stuck out here was the price.
It’s a perfect budget-friendly option without skimping on quality and still gives you that slightly raised heel (0.25”, but it’s still 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 a bit rough, so I really recommend having some thick socks with these. That’s the only major design flaw that these shoes have, though.
They’re even lightweight at 10.8 oz, so you won’t be killing your feet lugging these around.
|Material:||Leather upper, synthetic|
|Available Sizes:||5 W US – 11 W US|
Karma Ladies Bowling Shoes
Even on our best bowling shoes review list, somebody has to come in last in the race.
Karma is a line of shoes by Brunswick, which is 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 fair range.
The problem here is that the laces don’t really do too much for you.
Even when you tighten them, it doesn’t provide enough extra support since there are a total of 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 to notice a bit of 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 going to 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.
There’s a decent amount of sizes available, and the price point is worth it for what you get.
They’re lightweight, comfortable, just not the last pair of bowling shoes that you’re going to 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 absolutely any best bowling shoe brand, you’re going to 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 they’re also going to 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, then you’re going to stop short, and there will be a hiccup, so to speak, in the way 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.
In theory, you could add felt pads to the bottom of normal shoes 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?
Bowling style shoes don’t just exist for bowling alleys to profit. They’re actually vastly different from ordinary dress shoes or sneakers (even though they look like the hybrid product of the two).
These are the main differences between bowling shoes and standard 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 kickback.
They’re designed for athleticism, so they only provide enough comfort to not 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 standard shoes.
That’s okay, though, because these are just designed to be worn in the alleys, nothing more. It’s just 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 is going to tear into your insoles and any cushioning on the inside of 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 really comes down to it—get the top bowling shoes on your list, or end up renting the ones 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 that 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 you go upwards of a dozen times a year (once a month bowling nights), then you’re saving money by purchasing your own 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’re someone who suffers from pronation issues or flat feet, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For some people, they’re just comfortable in any shoe, and we envy those people.
If you’re particular about your comfort, especially if you’re planning two or more hours at the alley, then you’re going to 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 real for a minute: nobody wants to share shoes with someone else.
I wouldn’t even want to share shoes with my own 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 really 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, hands down.
You don’t have to worry about availability when you buy your own shoes—they’re yours, don’t lose them.
While most bowling alleys try to have a good amount of different stock sizes, it’s impossible to meet the general public’s requirements.
By pure coincidence, a bunch of men who use a size 11 could be bowling at the same time, and you’re left with a size 12 instead.
That means less traction and stability while bowling.
If you buy your own shoes, you can place your own 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. It’s more expensive to add new support to purchased bowling shoes, 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 very many features, it’s important to stop paying absurd rental fees to the desk at your local bowling alley.
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.
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