Best Bowling Shoes

If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best bowling shoes are, then I recommend the Brunswick Vapor Mens Bowling Shoe as the best pair for men and the BSI Women’s Classic Bowling Shoe as the best pair for women.

Bowling shoes stacked up

To avoid the sub-par bowling shoes that the alleys provide, you should look to invest in your own pair. This will avoid you having to wear a pair that doesn’t fit, has been worn hundreds of times by others and that doesn’t help your performance.

Not sure where to start on the hunt for your own pair? I’ve done a deep dive to find the best bowling shoes for you to utilize.

Here are the best bowling shoes of 2020:

Why Not Just Rent Bowling Shoes?

There are two reasons you might prefer to have your own shoes: comfort and cost.

Comfort

Rented shoes have been worn countless times. They might be bent and warped to the shape of other peoples’ feet, which can cause you discomfort. This can further throw your game so you don’t end up playing your best.

Plus, rented shoes often lack padding. Unless the alleys are high-end, the shoes will likely be stiff and hard on the feet—at least in my experience.

Cost

Renting bowling shoes is usually inexpensive, varying based on the alley, but it adds up. Imagine that renting shoes costs $5 and buying a pair of shoes costs $50. That’s only 10 instances of bowling with your own shoes and you’ve saved the cost. If you bowl weekly, that’s a huge saving!

What Makes Bowling Shoes Special?

This is a question casual players ask a lot. You think your regular shoes will work fine when bowling, but this is simply not true.

Traction is important in any shoe. Having a solid grip on the ground helps us stray from tripping, slipping and other unpleasant accidents.

It seems contradictory to announce that traction is an enemy when you’re bowling, though.

The ball rolling smoothly down the alley is vital. So when you’re bowling, your technique shouldn’t be just standing there, throwing it and hoping for the best. I’ve seen balls bounce into the next lane with incorrect playing form!

Instead, pro players often like to slide into their release. Think of socks on a hardwood floor. This is what bowling shoes mimic, letting you slide as you release the ball.

If you wear your regular shoes, sliding becomes unlikely. You may fall or damage the floor if you try. Bowling alleys usually keep the approach area of the lane highly polished, so they won’t appreciate scuff marks or debris.

What to Look for in a Bowling Shoe

Like with any shoe, some elements make some bowling shoes better than others:

Type

You may be surprised to learn bowling shoes aren’t a one-size-fits-all shoe. There are two types to consider when buying: athletic and performance.

Athletic Bowling Shoes

Athletic bowling shoes are excellent for beginners. They’re usually reasonably priced, so it’s not a huge upfront investment. 

The soles of both shoes are equipped for sliding, so they’re great for left-handed and right-handed players. No matter what side you slide on, you’re covered.

Performance Bowling Shoes

These shoes tend to be more expensive, and their soles aren’t ready for all sliders. There are left and right-handed versions, with only one sole ready to slide on. 

This is great for playing aggressively in a tournament. You run forward, slide, but don’t go flying. One shoe has traction to keep you where you are. This works well for helping you stay behind the foul line, too.

Often, performance shoes are customizable for your play style and the surface you play on. But let’s leave that customization to the pros for now.

Comfort and Fit

Since you’re on your feet a lot, bowling shoes should be comfortable—soft and padded to cradle and support your busy feet. But they also need to be flexible, so you can move, dash, bend and slide freely.

The shoes need to support your heels, but the rest of the shoe should allow free movement. How you approach the lane is important in bowling, so shoes that restrict movement are a no-go.

Yet, you could be on your feet for extended periods during a tournament. You don’t want your feet getting tired or painful. So the shoes should fit you, have plenty of room in the toe box and be padded inside.

Behind the counter at the bowling alley

The Five Best Bowling Shoes

We don’t all have time to spend researching what shoes are best for us. Wouldn’t you rather be practicing your slide? Me too, but I already have bowling shoes to help. So I’ve decided to share my research on the best bowling shoes.

1. Brunswick Vapor Mens Bowling Shoe

Brunswick has created a tasteful sneaker-like bowling shoe. This pair looks different to those hard, shiny multi-colored things the alley provides.

These shoes are padded heel to toe, including on the tongue and collar. I can’t tell you how many bowling shoes I’ve worn that felt like the reality of Cinderella’s glass slippers. Nothing soft about them, so these are a relief.

Also, they should provide you plenty of comfort by the lane and only provide you with the necessary traction. The soles are both ready for you to slide, so no matter what your strong hand is, they’ll suit you.

Brunswick shoes fit true to size, which is a bonus. I can’t tell you how many shoes have been too big, even bought in the right size. These will cradle your feet accordingly, and you won’t feel the pinch or slide around inside.

Though I think my favorite element, other than the fit, is the appearance. These shoes look just like regular sneakers, and they suit men’s and women’s tastes. So although they’re labeled for men, anyone can use them.

Brunswick’s lightweight bowling shoes come in black and white in sizes 7–14.

Pros

  • Padded comfort throughout.
  • Trendy, non-bowling-shoe look.
  • Work for left and right-handed people.
  • Suitable for men and women.
  • Fit true to size.

Cons

  • Unsuitable for men with wide feet.

2. Dexter Turbo II Wide Width Bowling Shoes

Dexter boasts that this pair of bowling shoes is the number one in the world.

If you’re looking for a wide fit, these are the shoes to go for. They also provide the same level of comfort as the Brunswick pair, with thick padding inside, including on the tongue. This should eliminate any unwanted irritation the tough exterior may cause.

These shoes are said to be durable, and their thick sole near the heel leads me to believe this. They’re also covered in a leather-like material, which indicates a high level of durability.

When we get down to the sole, the shoes stay tough but go from the leathery black to a smooth cream.

Despite some ambiguity as to whether you can slide on both shoes and to the material used, these are a tasteful pair of shoes. They’re like a cross between a classy loafer and a sneaker.

Dexter’s Turbo II shoes are sold in sizes 7–14 with this sole dark and classy color option.

Pros

  • Durable.
  • Classy.
  • Made for a wide fit.

Cons

  • Fit isn’t true to size—they run half a size larger.

3. Bsi Women’s Classic Bowling Shoe

BSI created a tasteful bowling shoe for women. However, I’ll warn you upfront: order a size smaller.

The exterior of this shoe is made of leather commonly used in sports equipment. You know how tough sports balls are, so you should be confident your shoes will be, too. 

This pair isn’t quite as padded as the others I’ve reviewed, but they’re still optimized for comfort. The padding is subtle and dark but still able to stay snug to your feet in a less obvious way.

Subtle padding adds to the overall look of the shoe, though, and the internal padding is as sleek as the outside padding.

If you want a pair of bowling shoes that mirrors the look of a rental pair, then this is the one. Going for that retro look is important to many, but if you want that but in a more tasteful design, consider this BSI pair.

Both soles are ready for sliding, as traditional rental shoes are. Also, you should be able to wear these shoes worry-free as the thicker heel will support you if you roll back on it to stop your slide.

These classic, yet modern, shoes run in sizes 5–11.

Pros

  • Shoes fit for left and right-handed sliding.
  • Padded tongue and collar.
  • Pleasant retro look.
  • Made of a reliable sporting material.

Cons

  • Sizes run large.
  • Less padding than other shoes.

4. Bsi Men’s Basic #521 Bowling Shoes

BSI’s bowling shoes for men are quite different from the female counterpart. For one, their exterior is rubber as opposed to leather. Rubber is an excellently durable material and is hard to scuff.

Secondly, they have more padding. The insole is extra plush in its dark black, matching the shoe exterior. I don’t know if BSI thinks men have more sensitive feet, but nobody’s saying women can’t wear these shoes, too.

Both soles are made for sliding, so whatever your strong suit is, you’re set. There’s no thicker heel like the female pair, though. So if you want to stop yourself sliding too far, you’ll have to exert some self-control.

Apart from the logo, the entire shoe is covered in tasteful black; the laces included. This is excellent for a subtle look. The shoes also largely resemble sneakers, if you like that image and want to swerve the traditional retro look.

Note that the current sizes available are a 6 to a 16.

Pros

  • Tasteful, subtle design.
  • Lightweight but durable.
  • Extra-plush interior.
  • Fit as expected.

Cons

  • It takes some power to get them to slide freely.

5. Dexter Men’s Kevin Bowling Shoes

These Dexter shoes have a modern, athletic look but with that classic bowling sliding sole. The soles are thick and durable, so you should be gliding with ease for years to come. This is thanks to the DexLite outsole, which is lightweight, aiding for optimum sliding.

The minimal padding running through the whole shoe adds to the lightweight nature. They’re fabric-lined for your comfort, but the padding is mainly in the tongue and collar, which is where bowlers tend to feel the most rubbing from their shoe.

Users particularly mention that the “slidability” of this pair is pretty good right out of the box, so don’t expect to have to break them in. They might feel a little stiff to start with, but that shouldn’t put you off.

These shoes are available in sizes 6–14.

Pros

  • Trendy, athletic look.
  • Padded tongue and collar.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • Some customers report that the shoelaces’ don’t match the rest of the shoe.

The Strike

To me, the best shoes have to be by Brunswick Vapor Men’s Bowling Shoes. They aren’t made for professionals, but they fit like a dream to guide you on your way to bowling stardom.

Along with their ultra-smooth sole, the sliding portion of the shoe looks as stunning as the rest, which is a nice bonus.

Brunswick bowled a strike with this pair of shoes. You should be able to wear them for hours without pain, no matter which is your dominant hand or foot.

For the ladies, nothing’s stopping you from wearing the Brunswick pair if your shoe size is available. If you did want a female-specific pair, then I highly recommend the BSI Women’s Classic.

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