Best Bowling Shoes For Women & Men Reviewed
The following buying guide looks at the ten best shoes for bowlers available for purchase online, helping you make the right choice before you spend your hard earned money on a piece of equipment. We’ve researched each and every one of the models on this list, and have put together a handy Criteria for Evaluation and FAQ section so that you can have all the necessary information when choosing the best possible pair of bowling shoes for you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 105 hrs of research
Padded Tongue and Collar
Soft Fabric Lining
Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
- Dexter Jack
- Dexter Vicky
- Dexter Turbo II
- Storm Istas Multicolor
- KR Flyer
- BSI Basic #521
- Dexter Pro-AM II
- Brunswick Vapor
- Dexter Kerrie
- Brunswick Karma
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Dexter Jack
Padded Tongue and Collar
Soft Fabric Lining
Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
Lacks in Sliding
Wide Sizes Unavailable
If bowling is your passion, then the Dexter Jack is a shoe you must own. These have a lenient and resilient man-made upper with a lace to toe closure that will allow for a fully customized fit you’ll be able to easily adjust. Additionally, they feature a non-marking outsole with a defined horseshoe heel and are a pair of universal shoes which makes them great for anyone.Read more
The left and right shoes both have Slide-Rite soles, which are designed to promote sliding. As such, the Dexter Jack will be a good choice for a large number of people, seeing that it will suit any player’s slide preferences. The Jack has a comfortable padded tongue and collar. These padded areas reduce painful rubbing, absorb shock, and protect the top of your foot from pressure originating from the laces.
The Dexter Jack can be bought at an excellent price which ranks average on this list. That is what makes it a great investment for bowlers of any experience level. Additionally, they are comfy, padded and have a classic style that will look just as well as it will perform.
2. Dexter Vicky
Padded Tongue and Collar
Soft Fabric Lining
Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
Sizing Runs Small
Unavailable in Wide
If you want a pair of high quality shoes to use at the alley, but also value lightweightedness, breathability and durability, then the Dexter Vicky is an excellent choice. The fact that they’re made by a reputable brand makes them a good choice, and you can rely on them being soft and comfortable throughout the entire foot. These universal bowlers come with some great cushioning properties to provide you with ample comfort while you play.Read more
The Vicky comes with an EVA foam midsole unit which was added to improve the amount of cushioning and shock absorption you get from this model. It’s a durable material that will give you a great amount of comfort no matter how long you wear these shoes.
The padded tongue and collar on the Dexter Vicky provide the wearer with extra protection from painful rubbing, abrasions, and small impacts. The tongue also reduces pressure from the laces. As most Dexter shoes, the Vicky comes at a reasonable price that will be affordable to most. These shoes are a great investment, and you’ll definitely appreciate the arch support and cushioning they provide.
3. Dexter Turbo II
Wide Width Availability
Raised Rubber Heel
Universal Bowling Shoes
Soft Fabric Lining
Padded Tongue and Collar
These are super durable and well-manufactured shoes that will last a long time. They have a classic and elegant look that matches your favorite attire. The Dexter Turbo II is certainly a game-changer. They come packed with features that provide ample comfort such as a microfiber sliding leather pad and a padded collar. They are also available in wide sizes!Read more
The leather upper of this shoe is synthetic, so no animals were harmed to make it! The synthetic upper is soft and durable so it’s guaranteed to provide long-lasting comfort. These shoes come in wide sizes so people with wide feet can bowl comfortably, too! This means you’ll have a roomier toe box and the upper won’t squish your feet!
You’ll find them at an affordable price and you will love how comfortable they feel the very first time that you wear them. Their size and fit are extremely accurate.
4. Storm Istas Multicolor
True To Size
Colorful, Stylish Upper
Limited Size Options
Who says bowling shoes have to look plain? These shoes from Storm sport a bright and colorful design, along with lightweight construction and blown EVA footbed. All of these together ensure that you'll have full freedom of movement, strong support, and a design that looks as great as it performs.Read more
While bowling may not involve a lot of quick foot movements as basketball does, for example, it is still important to have a shoe that is lightweight and offers a secure fit. These factors will allow you to flow smoothly in your movements, improving your performance. The Storm Istas Multicolor shoes are made with a no-frills lightweight build, allowing you the freedom of movement you need when bowling.
Comfort and support go hand it hand when it comes to shoes. The proper support will make a shoe far more comfortable, and will allow you to stay on your feet for longer without the risk of pain or fatigue. EVA foam is very popular in support systems for shoes, and it is used in the footbed of the Storm Istas. EVA is a foam polymer that has a low long-term compression rate, increasing the overall durability of the shoe.
5. KR Flyer
Padded Tongue and Collar
Universal Bowling Shoes
Too Much Traction
The KR Flyer is a great choice for a number of reasons. It’s made with a soft and comfortable upper that uses synthetic materials and a Komfort-Fit™ construction. Furthermore, these shoes look amazing, and will make you feel as if you were wearing your most comfortable sneakers. They have a non-marking rubber outsole with FlexSlide technology which makes them a great choice for any bowler.Read more
The Flyer by KR Strikeforce uses a new method of construction that has absolute comfort in mind. These shoes have been made so as to mold to the shape of your foot in all aspect, bringing you an easy to wear piece of bowling equipment.
A non-marking outsole can be a great addition to your shoes, seeing that this type of outsole benefits both you and the other players in the alley. It will keep the lanes clean, plus, it won’t hold on to as much dirt and grime, making it much easier for you to slide. Ranking low on this list when it comes to price, the KR Flyer is an excellent choice for any athletic bowler looking for a universal shoe that will feel good on the foot, and that will allow for maximum performance on the lane.
6. BSI Basic #521
Extra Plush Insole
Action Leather Upper
Microfiber Sliding Soles
Padded Tongue and Collar
Tongue May Slide Down
The BSI Basic #521 comes with a number of great cushioning features that reduce foot and leg fatigue without compromising on features that improve your game. The action leather used in the upper of the shoe is firm and supportive, but allows for a large level of comfort. The microfiber sliding sole helps you slide and brake effectively while the all-black look is easy to pair with any outfit and won’t steal the show away from your amazing skills on the lanes.Read more
The rubber outsole on this shoe provides traction where you need it without compromising on the slide offered by the forefoot sliding soles. This lightweight outsole provides shock-absorbing cushioning, too. To give you even more comfort, BSI’s 521 model has an extra plush insole unit. This insole is extra soft and it absorbs shock well, which helps protect your feet, joints and muscles.
The BSI Basic #521 ranks average on this list when it comes to price, which means that it’s an affordable option. These are universal shoes, meaning that they’ll work regardless of foot preference, while the cushioning, traction and slide these provide are all excellent reasons to consider them as your next bowling equipment investment.
7. Dexter Pro-AM II
Blucher Upper Pattern
S8 Microfiber Slide Sole
Soft Fabric Lining
Padded Tongue and Collar
Raised Horseshoe Heel
Stitching May Rip
Soles Wear Quickly
This Pro-AM II by Dexter is a professional shoe and is one of the few items on this list that was designed with professional right-handed bowlers in mind. As such, it comes with two different soles for each shoe: one for sliding and one for braking. These unique features give you more control over your bowling approach.Read more
The Dexter Pro-AM II feature a Blucher upper pattern that has a customizable lacing system which can be made to fit you perfectly. This means that you can get a tighter grip where you need it, without sacrificing comfort in other places. Furthermore, you’ll be happy to hear that the eyelets have been reinforced so as to prevent any tearing.
The right shoe of the Dexter Pro-AM II features a rubber outsole that provides great traction and makes braking easy, while the left shoe is made for sliding. It features an S8 Microfiber Slide Sole which is one of the best soles you can get in the market.
8. Brunswick Vapor
Padded Collar And Tongue
Wide Range Of Sizes
Outsole Can Leave Marks On Flooring
Brunswick is dedicated to providing high-quality shoes at an affordable price, and the Vapor is a great example of these dedications in action. The Vapor features a padded collar and tongue for comfort, along with a lightweight molded EVA outsole, making these some of the best bowling shoes you can find under $50.Read more
EVA is most commonly used in midsoles, so we were somewhat surprised to find that the Vapor uses this material for the outsole. EVA foam is lighter than rubber and provides a little less traction, allowing your feet to glide smoothly through your motions as you bowl. Lightweight shoes are important for bowling, as heavier shoes can slow you down and hinder your performance.
Aren't blisters the worst? They're uncomfortable, painful, and can take a while to heal even with the proper care. The Vapor sports additional padding on the collar of the shoe, reducing friction and making blisters a thing of the past. The tongue is also padded as well for extra comfort.
9. Dexter Kerrie
Lightly Padded Collar
The Kerrie by Dexter is a cute and stylish pair of footwear made for bowlers who appreciate both looks and performance. It’s a universal shoe with a Slide-Rite sole on both outsoles, making it a good choice both for right and left-handed athletes, while the light padding it contains offers protection without hindering your movement. What makes the Kerrie different from other items on the list is the textile upper which is lightweight and breathable.Read more
With a textile upper, the Kerrie is more flexible than most other leather shoes on this list, which makes it more comfortable, especially for those who have sensitive feet. Furthermore, it gives a better level of air flow to the user, preventing overheating and the buildup of sweat.
The non-marking outsole won’t leave spots or marks behind while you bowl and it also helps to keep the alley clean! This outsole is rubber, so it’s also great at shock-absorption. Ranking average on this list when it comes to price, the Dexter Kerrie is a great choice for those looking for a combination of performance and comfort without breaking the bank. With the textile upper and the universal soles, this is a shoe that will work for most users.
10. Brunswick Karma
Converts to Slip-On
Microfiber Slide Soles
Sticky Rubber Heel
The Brunswick Karma is a stylish and comfortable option for both right and left-handed bowlers. Its Pure Slide microfiber soles are the same on both shoes, which makes it a universal shoe that will perform well regardless of foot preference. Its rubber outsole provides excellent cushioning and grip while still remaining lightweight so as not to hinder your performance.Read more
The lightweight denim upper on the Brunswick Karma is flexible and comfortable to wear. However, it is also breathable, so your feet will stay cool and dry while you play. This shoe is customizable because you can convert it from a lace-up shoe to a slip-on with ease. If you need a more secure fit, you can tighten the laces, but you’ll also greatly benefit from the fact that it will be easy to put on and off, whenever you need it.
Ranking average on this list when it comes to price, the Brunswick Karma is a great deal for anyone looking for a unique and stylish pair of shoes. The denim upper has excellent performance properties and it provides plenty of comfort for a wide range of foot shapes.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is a very important consideration when it comes to advanced-level performance and execution. Once you’ve obtained an idea of regular shoes intended for bowling, as well as the basic form and technique, you should opt for more customized shoes. It’s important to remember that once you decide to advance to professional levels, you'll need equipment to match that level of performance.
Although some bowlers may have similar preferences, they all have a individual style and method of execution. Thus, everyone has varying preferences when it comes to professional equipment. These preferences involve the comfort side as well as the performance side.
For comfort, it’s a matter of how you overall feel in your shoes. Some players prefer an insole for more cushioning. Others prefer a flat shoe with a thin sole to feel close to the ground as they possibly can for better balance. While this looks unnecessary, and even silly at first sight, customized comfort is something that can, and will, affect your performance.
If you think about for a moment, the greatest athletes in all types of disciplines had their equipment custom made. Manufacturers would make shoes according to their exact feet size, their material preferences, and their performance. There is a reason why Muhammed Ali had his boxing shoes designed for him, and why elite football players do the same. It’s because it makes a huge difference.
You may not be looking for shoes with your exact foot length and width, and that’s fine. Our previous example is just to highlight the importance of individual comfort and preference. You can, however, customize your game for performance, by using gear that suits your performance style. One very common example of customization is the foot-dominant design. Most brands will offer options suited for both lefties and right-handed players. Most professional bowlers utilize equipment based on their dominance.
Many players have multiple techniques – they play differently depending on the circumstances. Thus, being tied down with one pair of shoes for all scenarios isn’t practical for them, and buying multiple pairs of customized shoes isn’t cheap. Instead, they use shoes with removable outsoles. Basically, they consist of outsoles that can be removed and replaced with another. This also serves the purpose of exchanging the left shoe outsole with the right shoe outsole.
Although this technology is considerably costlier than the average bowling shoe, it improves your performance considerably. Removable outsoles allow you to optimize your strategy and practice for pretty much any scenario. It also makes the shoes much more durable, as the outsole is the element that degrades that fastest. This allows you to replace parts of the shoe that are worn, instead of replacing the entire shoe.
The outsole is the key element in a pair of footwear made with bowling in mind and is what distinguishes a professional and amateur pair of shoes. Usually, bowling outsoles are completely flat, however, some designs may feature a heel that’s slightly raised. The outsole surface varies from model to model, and in professional performance, they’re often different from one another (right outsole and left outsole).
This is because the outsole surface of your dominant foot features a different build than your opposing foot. Your dominant foot’s shoe aims at sliding, and the opposite one aims at braking. We’ll enter into further detail about sliding and braking later into the guide. Keep in mind that regardless of what your dominant foot is, the sliding and braking ability depends on the outsole design.
For instance, outsoles equipped with a raised heel provide slightly more sliding than that of flat outsoles. This is because the heel provides inclination to the outsole, making momentum and impulse help you slide forward. Keep in mind that going for too much slide is not the ideal thing to do either – you want to maintain control of your motion as much as possible.
Your foot dominance is also something to take into consideration while looking for the best shoes. If you’re a dedicated player, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes support your performance. This means that your shoes should have opposing outsoles like we explained previously. One foot will slide, while the other outsole will be responsible for stopping the slide.
Opposing outsoles are considerably costlier and are usually only used on professional level equipment. Hence, you might reconsider this feature if you’re just looking for a casual kind of thing. In this case, you can get a universal shoe which has matching outsoles, and depending on the manufacturer they may feature a brake on the back of the heel of both shoes.
If you’re getting started in bowling, but eventually want to take the leap to professional shoes, we recommend getting used to universal designs first. Once you’ve learned proper practice of the approach, the slide, the brake, and the throw, you’ll be ready for advanced performance shoes. Making the switch too soon may make it harder for you to learn the proper technique.
The outsole materials in most cases consist of materials such as rubber, synthetic rubbers, and certain types of fiber. The materials that cover the outsole surface prevent you from moving any more than you actually want to. They are specially engineered to deliver accurate and firm steps, preventing any form of slippage or drag while building the approach. This type of materials delivers unique traction.
A bowling shoe is mostly judged by the quality of its outsole. However, there’s a lot of controversy regarding the “ideal” outsole design. This is because the topic is very varied due to personal preferences and the many different styles of bowlers.
Aside from the ability to exchange soles, it’s important to know which sole to use during specific occasions. For this, you’ll need to learn what the different types of soles are, how they’re different from each other, and how each one works. Exchangeable outsoles are of very little use if you don’t make good use out of them. Having the right sole at the right time will boost your performance. Wear a wrong one, however, and you’ll watch your performance decrease.
The soles are categorized based on their ability to slide. They are graded from 1 to 10 based on this; where 1 is the lowest value, and 10 is the highest. Depending on the type of lane, the game mode, and the weather, you should adjust your shoes for more or less sliding. In most cases, it is the lane condition which determines the amount of slide you should use.
For instance, in circumstances where the weather is warm, you should be opting for more slide. Typically, warm weather makes the surface of the lane drier, and thus less susceptible to sliding. Hence, under this circumstance, it’d be wise to increase slide considerably, perhaps up to 10.
Cold weather, on the other hand, make the lanes much more slippery. The colder the environment, the less slide your shoes should have. Always keep in mind the amount of slide you as a bowler are comfortable with. For example: in neutral circumstances where no factors affect your sliding, you would set your sliding to 3. If the environment is mildly cold, you might switch it down to 1, as the weather will provide you with the other 2-3 grades of sliding.
The physical state of the approach lane has a big impact on sliding. The smoother the lane, the better the sliding. While competitive bowling alleys properly prepare their lines prior to a competition, regular alleys may not. Deterioration and degrading of the lane will interfere with sliding.
The approach is the process of walking up to the foul line before releasing the ball. Walking up to the line is also known as building the approach. Some bowlers argue that the approach is the most important technique in the whole bowling process. While a good approach alone won’t make you a decent bowler, it is very important considering it’s the first step. If you get the approach wrong, things will most likely just get worse from there.
Building an appropriate approach indeed requires practice. However, a good pair of shoes makes a huge difference. And likewise, a low-quality pair of footwear will mess up your approach. Multiple elements in a pair of shoes have an impact on the quality of the approach. For instance, the outsole quality and materials are crucial to an efficient approach, as this is what mainly differentiates a bowling shoe from a regular one.
You’ll require shoes which give you more motion control. The best models have stability features built into them with firm, supportive outsoles, and supportive uppers. The more stable you are, the more precise your approach will be.
Cushioning is one of the elements that can provide you with the added stability you need. You may be thinking that bowling is not the kind of sport that needs cushioning on its performance shoes. However, when you’re seeking the most optimal performance, some cushioning can prevent those slight tilts that may put your aim off.
The best shoes will come with a cushioned midsole. However, the cushioning in this type of shoe is not the same as what you’ll find within a running sneaker. The footwear you use for bowling has midsoles which are much thinner in comparison to most other sports, and they don’t deliver as much absorption. Instead, they aim to stabilize each step by acting as a platform.
If you can’t find the right cushioning in a shoe, or you suffer from foot irregularities (high arch, flat foot, etc.), you can always resort to custom insoles. Personalized insoles are an ideal solution that provides what you can’t find in a shoe. For instance, if you feel your shoe lacks some heel cushioning, a custom insole can make it happen without having to acquire a new pair.
Lastly, stiffness is a key point for stability when it comes to bowling. If you’ve ever owned a pair – or tried rental shoes at the alley – you noticed they are stiffer than your average pair of shoes. The upper build features a hard material that isn’t too flexible; this is to provide a more solid structure. Because of this, it’s harder for your feet to swing laterally while building the approach.
We previously mentioned these two terms in the approach section of our criteria. The sliding and braking motions are heavily accomplished by the outsole. Although these two features are separated in professionally designed shoes, most designs make soles without separation. This latter is used by beginners most times, and is less optimal than the professionally crafted bowling shoe.
Sliding when bowling happens right after the foul line has been approached. Once bowlers have their approach, then lean to release the ball, they slide. Each player uses a different distance of slide as they perform the release. Sliding allows you to keep your fluidity to release the ball as accurately as you can.
For instance, after approaching, some bowlers like to slide to the foul line prior to release, as close as they can possibly get. Professional shoes allow users to implement the brake to affect their sliding. Sliding isn't an easy thing to master, but one key thing to remember is that it’s important to remain in control.
Not everyone goes for the same amount of slide – or the same style. It’s important that you look for a shoe that’s comfortable for you to slide with. Although they may all look the same, the design of outsoles can vary greatly. Depending on the brand (and model) you’ll be looking at more slide, less slide, or no slide at all.
On the other hand, if you’re a planter you should be looking for a flat outsole. The best shoes include a planting feature, which usually consists of small slugs on certain zones of the outsole. When applying pressure to this zone, you’ll instantly stop the current motion with no sliding at all. Keep in mind that the shoes will do the functional part for you; however, maintaining proper balance and technique is a matter of practice.
Lastly, regardless of the type of technique and shoe you employ, there’s one huge factor to consider: obstacles. The outsoles used on footwear made for bowling are extremely easy to disrupt, as the materials, as well as surface, can get dirty with almost anything. For both sliding and planting, it’s very important that the outsole is properly polished and totally free of any objects on it. Likewise, the approach has to be adequately treated in order to achieve the most optimal performance.
Shoes intended for bowlers are more delicate than you would normally think. The only place to wear them is the alley. The outsole of these shoes is not made for any other surface, and not only will it degrade on other surfaces, but they will also get dirty. The dirt that obstructs the outsole is not always visible, and any kind of oil or grease absorbed by the outsole will mess up your sliding ability.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you're just starting out with bowling, or perhaps went a few times with friends and found you really enjoyed the sport, there are a few tips you can take starting out for a more enjoyable experience.
Use a ball that is suited to you. Throwing a heavier ball when you're muscles aren't used to it can cause tendon and muscle strain. Start off light, then progress to heavier balls.
Practice your form. Advanced players are able to stride, throw, and spin the ball to get the results they desire, but it takes practice. get comfortable with your stride and throw first, then work on aim and spin.
One of the best parts of bowling is the social aspect of the sport! Bowling has long been an activity for social gatherings, whether it be birthday parties, holiday events, or just a casual friday night on the lanes.
Check with your local bowling venue for information on leagues in the area, and get involved if you're looking for a bit of social fun!
Other Factors to Consider
Picking the right pair of footwear depends on many factors, such as if you’re a professional or an amateur, or how hard you bowl. Another important factor is your bowling style, as well as whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, i.e. which foot you slide on, and which you use to brake. Adequate shoes are bound to help elevate your game, which is especially important if you plan on participating in tournaments and competing.
We’ve reviewed the very best of the best, with the most positive user feedback, tested and tried. Aspects to consider in a great shoe include stability, grip, flexibility and support, and we’ve included every significant metric in finding the top ten. Wearing appropriate equipment for your game is essential to your safety and performance. As such, it’s important to find a good balance between grip and slide, as sliding is an important part of good bowling technique. No one wants to fall in front of the entire bowling alley because their shoes were too slick or too grippy. Naturally, cushioning and support are also important, as these features protect your feet, ankles, legs, and even your lower back from shock-related injury and discomfort. Many of the shoes on this list are made by Dexter, a well-known bowling shoe manufacturer, but it is worth noting that KR, Brunswick, and BSI also create excellent bowling shoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Can I bowl in normal sneakers?
Technically, it’s possible. You could bowl in any shoes for that matter – but it’s nowhere near good for your performance. However, bowling alleys won’t allow you to use normal shoes.
q: What should I look for in bowling shoes?
Depending on your level of practice you may use athletic (universal) shoes or performance ones. You should also consider your personal preferences for cushioning, support, and slide.
q: Why do I have to use special shoes at alleys?
Regular shoes are not only impractical for bowling, but they may also make the lane dirty. Normal sneakers tend to have a considerable amount of dirt on the soles. Dirt which would remain in the lane and obstruct performance shoes.
q: How much does it cost to rent shoes?
Depending on the alley, it may be a fixed price or an hourly one. Most alleys will charge you a fixed price that goes from $3 to $5, regardless of the number of hours played.
q: How do I clean my bowling shoes?
Bowling shoes are not like casual ones – cleaning is not optional. You MUST clean the outsole of your bowling shoes to make them as smooth as possible. Use a soft cloth and an adequate shoe-cleaning product for this. Should the upper of your bowling shoes become dirty, you can clean them using a small brush or soft cloth dipped in a shoe detergent or a mixture of dish or laundry detergent with a little water. Never wash your bowling shoes in the washing machine, even if the upper is made of fabric or denim. Don’t dry them in the dryer, either. Important: If the upper of these shoes are leather, use a leather-cleaning product to clean it and never submerge the shoes in water. This will ruin your shoes.
q: Can I use this type of shoes without socks?
You shouldn’t. The stiffer materials of bowling shoes aren’t made for barefoot performance. Rental shoes may contain a considerable amount of bacteria, and it’s a must to use socks with them.