The 10 Best Bowling Shoes In 2020

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Every single bowler should have their own pair of bowling shoes. Sure, you can rent them at the alley, but that’s a losing proposition. Not only do you have to pay to rent every time, but you also have to wear the same shoe that hundreds of bowlers have worn before you. Whether you’re a professional bowler or someone who only heads to the alley a few times a year, there is a bowling shoe that fits your game and your budget. Keep reading to see our top picks for male, female, and youth bowlers.

Features to consider in Good Bowling Shoes

Demystifying the Bowling Shoe

We’ve met lots of bowlers who hadn’t bought their own bowling shoes just because they didn’t know how easy and inexpensive it is to simply order a pair online. Because most bowlers have only been exposed to the massively inflated prices at the pro shops in their local alleys, you may be surprised to find out how little a good pair of bowling shoes costs.

Buying Your Own Bowling Shoes Saves Money

Let’s do the math: the average bowling alley can charge over $5 for a one-time bowling shoe rental. That means that for only about the cost of renting shoes 6 times, you can own your own pair. Maintained correctly, a bowling shoe will last you many years. This results in hundreds of dollars in savings, even for casual bowlers who only go out to the lanes every month or two.

What To Look For in A Bowling Shoe

A bowling shoe is not much different from any other athletic shoe. The main difference is that bowling shoes have a slide sole on the bottom one or both feet. The purpose of this slide sole is to allow a bowler to slide their front foot while delivering the ball. This slide allows a bowler to throw the ball with more force and control than they could if standing still. When reviewing bowling shoes, we examined the following criteria:

  • Left/Right Handed: While most bowling shoes can be used by bowlers who use either hand, certain shoes are only configured with slide pads on one foot. This only applies to higher-priced, high-performance bowling shoes
  • Comfort: Aside from the cost, comfort is the biggest benefit of buying your own pair of bowling shoes. While we will compare the comfort of each shoe on our lists relative to each other, any shoe on the list will be far more comfortable than any shoe you can rent at a bowling alley and will be far less likely to cause blisters.
  • Performance: When it comes to your approach in bowling, the name of the game is consistency. A good bowling shoe should provide a nice long slide without being so slippery that you lose control.
  • Style: With lots of styles to choose from, every bowler deserves a great looking pair of bowling shoes.
  • Sizing: Some shoes tend to run a little bit larger or smaller than others. We’ll let you know what adjustments you should make in order to make sure you have the right fit for you.

The Best Bowling Shoes 2020

1. Best Overall Men’s Bowling Shoes: Brunswick Vapor

Why we like it: Offering excellent performance and comfort at a reasonable price, The Brunswick Vapor bowling shoes is our top overall pick for male bowlers.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

7 to 14, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

True to size

Brunswick has been a top brand in bowling equipment for over a century, and their Vapor bowling shoe is a great example of why. Featuring a performance synthetic shell with foam padding on the collar and tongue, the Vapor is suitable for bowlers of all levels. Available in two classic styles, trying a pair of Vapor bowling shoes might make you wonder why anyone ever rents bowling shoes.

The slide pads of the Brunswick Vapor shoes are made of soft felt and offer an authentically smooth and consistent slide when finishing your delivery. These pads are not as slick as some other slide pads, so bowlers who want a longer slide will want to apply some Ultra Slide powder to their slide foot. This is ideal because it’s much easier to add glide to a shoe than remove it.

Performance

Brunswick Vapor bowling shoes offer a remarkably consistent experience on the lanes. The felt slide pads have just the right mix of glide and control for most bowlers.

Style

With the iconic Brunswick crown on the collar, the Vapor has an excellent retro look. The Vapor comes in two color schemes, so you can choose between black and white or black and silver.

Comfort

Bowlers will love the cushy support provided by the extra-light sole and foam-padded collars and tongues. The Brunswick Vapor is not as well ventilated as some of the other bowling shoes we looked at, and may get a little stuffy after several strings of bowling.

Pros
  • The light sole and padded upper make the Brunswick Vapor light, comfortable and sturdy
  • Soft felt slide pads provide for smooth, consistent slide
  • The retro-inspired style looks great
Cons
  • The Brunswick Vapor does not breathe as well as other bowling shoes we reviewed

2. Best Overall Women’s Bowling Shoe: Brunswick Karma

Why we like it: The Brunswick Karma bowling shoe offers the perfect mix of comfort performance and style for most lady bowlers.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

6 to 11, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

Order half a size smaller than normal

Designed for comfort and style, the Brunswick Karma women’s bowling shoe is a great choice for lady bowlers of any skill level. Looking like no other bowling shoe we’ve ever seen, the Karma bowling shoes offer comfort and control for a very reasonable price. The adjustable laces do not need to be tied when you slip this shoe on, but they keep your feet firmly in place while bowling. They can also be tied just like you would tie a normal shoe.

On the lanes, the Brunswick Karma shoes feel as good as they look. These shoes run about half a size large and have a lot of room around the toes. The performance mesh breathes very well, and the lightweight rubber outsole is flexible. The slide soles are made from high-quality microfiber and allow smooth, long slides.

Performance

After a short breaking-in period, the Brunswick Karma offers one of the longest and most consistent approach slides of any pair of bowling shoes.

Style

We love all three of the style options offered by the Karma bowling shoe. Your options include grey canvas, denim, and our favorite, chameleon.

Comfort

Featuring a foam padded collar and tongue, the Brunswick Karma bowling shoes are lightweight and comfortable enough for all-day wear.

Pros
  • Our top overall pick for best woman’s bowling shoe
  • Flexible rubber outsole keeps feet from getting tired
  • Incredibly stylish for a bowling shoe
  • Excellent price-to-quality ratio
Cons
  • Some customers report the shoe feeling a little too loose in the ankle area because of how the laces are configured

3. Best Value Men’s Bowling Shoes: Pyramid Ram

Why we like it: Sporting a clean and stylish look, the Pyramid Ram men’s bowling shoe offers high performance at a low price.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

7 to 14, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

True to size

Pyramid is one of our favorite manufacturers of bowling equipment because of how they take features and technology normally only found in higher-end bowling equipment and include them in less costly options. Featuring metal lace eyelets and heavy-duty stitching in the upper topline, the Pyramid Ram bowling shoe for men is our favorite bowling shoe for male bowlers looking for the best value.

We were impressed with how quickly the soles of the Pyramid Ram get broken in and how comfortable they are to bowl in. The hard shell around the toes leaves lots of room, providing a great mix of security and comfort. The standout feature of the Pyramid Ram shoes, however, is the microfiber slide soles that provide a long and consistent slide when finishing your release. This pair of shoes is a treat to bowl in. Most customers we spoke to found these shoes came true to size, though a few say they believe their shoes ran slightly larger.

Performance

With a microfiber slide pad usually only found in higher price bowling shoes, the Pyramid Ram bowling shoes offer great performance at a bargain price.

Style

The Pyramid Ram only comes in black and white. We liked the retro-inspired design on the side.

Comfort

The Pyramid Ram bowling shoes break in very quickly. After only a few rounds of bowling, they will feel like a comfortable pair of sneakers while bowling.

Pros
  • Microfiber slide pads provide great length and consistency while sliding
  • Best value of all men’s bowling shoes we reviewed
  • Excellent durability thanks to the secure stitching and metal eyelets
Cons
  • Only available in black and white

4. Best Value Women’s Bowling Shoe: BSI Women’s Classic

Why we like it: Bold colors and excellent performance make the BSI Women’s Classic shoe ideal for lady bowlers looking for the best value.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

5-11, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

Order a full size smaller than normal

No beginning bowler ever says that renting someone else’s shoes is their favorite part of going to the alley. If you’re skeeved out by the idea of wearing the same shoes as hundreds of other people every time you go bowling, it’s time to get your own shoes ASAP. Thankfully, for the cost of just a few rentals, you can pick up a pair of BSI Women’s Classic bowling shoes and never have to share your bowling footwear ever again.

With two fun color options, these shoes may not be your first choice for a night on the town, but they fit right in at a bowling alley and add a fun splash of color. The BSI Women’s Classic shoes run about a size large, so you should order one size smaller than normal. This pair of shoes is very comfortable to wear for a night of bowling, but there are more comfortable options for tournament bowlers who will be wearing bowling shoes all day. In addition, a limited slide means this shoe is definitely better suited to the casual bowler.

Performance

The BSI Women’s Classic performs great for casual and beginner bowlers. Advanced bowlers may want a sole with a longer slide.

Style

The most stereotypical looking of all the women’s bowling shoes on our list, the BSI Women’s Classic bowling shoe adds a fun splash of color and reminds everyone you are not wearing gross rental shoes.

Comfort

The padded sport leather uppers make the BSI Women’s Classic bowling shoe very comfortable for a few rounds with friends or a league night, but too hot for all-day wear at a tournament.

Pros
  • The BSI Women’s Classic is a very good bowling shoe at a great price
  • Sport leather provides good protection against dropped bowling balls
  • Fun color choices
Cons
  • Leather upper provides limited ventilation when worn for long periods at a time
  • Limited slide length compared to other shoes we reviewed

5. Best Overall Boy’s Bowling Shoe: BSI Boy’s Basic #533

Why we like it: The BSI #533 boy’s bowling shoe will keep your little guy comfortable and safe on the lane without breaking the bank.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

Toddler sizes 12 to 13, youth sizes 1 to 5

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

Order a full size smaller than normal

When it comes to kids and bowling shoes, basic is best. You want to make sure that the shoe is comfortable and performs well enough to help them develop their bowling game, but there’s no reason for some of the advanced features found on adult bowling shoes. The BSI Boy’s Basic #533 Bowling Shoes fit the bill and are inexpensive enough that you won’t mind buying them in a few sizes as your kid gets older.

Performance

With a high-quality sliding sole on both feet, the BSI Boy’s Basic #533 performs well enough to get your little guy’s bowling career off on the right foot.

Style

The word basic is right there in the name. These shoes are simple, but they still look good. The only color option offered is black with a red logo.

Comfort

With a plush-lined inside, this shoe is far more comfortable than anything that you can rent at a bowling alley.

Pros
  • Runs true to size
  • Great value
  • Plush lined insole for additional comfort
Cons
  • Comes with low-quality shoelaces that can easily fray

6. Best Overall Girls’ Bowling Shoe: BSI Girl’s Basic #432

Why we like it:

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

Youth sizes 1-4

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

True to size

If your little girl is going to be joining you in a bowling league or coming along to the alley, you’ll want to get her a good pair of shoes. With the BSI Girl’s Basic #432 Bowling Shoes, not only will you avoid the gross bowling alley rental shoes, but you will also save money even if she grows out of them fairly quickly. Just like their model #533 for boys, BSI has included everything that a girl needs from her first pair of bowling shoes at a very appealing price.

Performance

The BSI Girl’s Basic #432 Bowling Shoe is well-crafted and provides stability and control on the lane.

Style

Only available in white with pink embroidery, the design of these shoes is simple but cute.

Comfort

The plush-lined interior of this shoe is very comfortable.

Pros
  • Best youth bowling shoe for girls
  • Accurate sizing
  • Also good for adult women with smaller feet
Cons
  • Only comes in one style

7. Best Premium Men’s Bowling Shoe: Pyramid HPX

Why we like it: Featuring more options than any other bowling shoe we reviewed, the Pyramid HPX is a great shoe for an advanced bowler who knows exactly what they are looking for.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

8 to 13, with select half sizes and wide widths available

Left/Right Handed:

Right-handed bowlers only

Sizing:

True to size

If you’re familiar with Pyramid bowling balls, you know they have a reputation for pushing the boundaries of bowling technology. The same attitude can be found in the HPX, Pyramid’s top-of-the-line bowling shoe. Featuring a sleek design and a thermal polyurethane, the Pyramid HPX features interchangeable soles and heels so that bowlers can customize their shoes to match their bowling style.

Unfortunately for left-handed bowlers, the included soles and heels are for a right-handed delivery only. While they can be swapped out, the additional cost means lefties should look at other options instead. Customers report the Pyramid HPX shoes run true to size. We really liked the graduated rubber heel that allows bowlers to control the length of their slide better than any other shoe we reviewed. This extra control is particularly useful for aggressive two-handed bowlers who need to stop on a dime at the foul line without losing balance.

Performance

Featuring a FlexSide Technology S8 sole, the Pyramid HPX offers the best control of any men’s bowling shoe we reviewed. Interchangeable parts mean serious bowlers can further customize these shoes to their own game.

Style

While the basic black styling of the Pyramid HPX is clean and classic, we recommend lacing these up with the included green shoelaces for an extra pop of color.

Comfort

These shoes feel great from the moment you put them on. You’ll have no problem wearing them all day at a bowling tournament.

Pros
  • Interchangeable heel and sole inserts allow advanced bowlers total customization
  • Best high-performance men’s bowling shoe we reviewed
  • Best men’s bowling shoe for two-handed bowlers
Cons
  • For right-handed bowlers only
  • Most expensive men’s bowling shoe we reviewed

8. Best Premium Women’s Bowling Shoe: Dexter T.H.E 9

Why we like it: A state-of-the-art bowling shoe for serious bowlers, the Dexter T.H.E. 9 is our top pick for premium bowling shoes for women.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

5 to 11, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

True to size

Dexter’s T.H.E 9 bowling shoe for women is nothing short of a revolution in bowling technology. Thanks to Dexter’s patented Toehold Hyperflex Engineering, bowlers wearing a pair of T.H.E 9’s will have total flexibility to swap out their heels and slide pads to suit any approach and lane conditions. Left-handed bowlers will be happy to hear that the slide pads on the T.H.E 9 shoes are totally reversible.

Bowlers we talked to said that the Dexter T.H.E 9 runs true to size. The slide pad included with this pair of shoes gives an average amount of slide for an advanced shoe. Owners of T.H.E 9’s can get a wide variety of replacement pads and heels to adjust the behavior of the shoe to their liking. Buyers should note that in addition to the fairly steep price tag on the shoes, the replacement pads and heels are also slightly more expensive than other interchangeable bowling shoe parts.

Performance

Allowing bowlers to customize every aspect of this shoe, the T.H.E 9 is at the forefront of bowing technology.

Style

Dexter T.H.E 9’s for women only come in one style, so there are no color options. The feminine styling is nice, but the emphasis here is clearly on performance.

Comfort

Thanks to the innovative Hyperflex channels, bowlers get extra flexibility without causing damage to the shoe. This shoe is very comfortable to walk and bowl in, but the ventilation is not particularly good.

Pros
  • Most advanced bowling shoe we recommended
  • Huge selection of replacement heels and slide soles
  • Toehold system provides stability and reduces wear on the shoe, especially for bowlers who drag their toe when sliding
Cons
  • The additional cost of all the included technology may be too much for most bowlers.
  • Below-average ventilation can lead to warm feet

9. Most Comfortable Women’s Bowling Shoes: Dexter Kerrie

Why we like it: Looking more like a canvas street sneaker than a bowling shoe, the Kerrie by Dexter is the most comfortable ladies bowling shoe we reviewed.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

6 to 11, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

Order a half size larger than normal

Originally founded in 1957, Dexter is the top-selling manufacturer of bowling shoes in the world. Known for taking modern trends in footwear and bringing them to the world of bowling, Dexter has reinvented the bowling shoe once again with their Comfort Canvas collection. The Kerrie is a great-performing women’s bowling shoe with a sporty, casual look. Because of the combination of the cotton canvas upper and the S8 microfiber slide soles, the Dexter Kerrie keeps feet cool and provides great footing on the lane.

This shoe tends to run about half a size smaller than the rental shoes at bowling alleys, so you should factor that in when choosing your size. Several buyers also report being surprised at how light the Dexter Kerrie feels while wearing it, many saying they kept forgetting they were wearing bowling shoes at all!

Performance

The Dexter Kerrie has a longer breaking-in period than the other shoes we reviewed, but after 5 or 10 games they felt great and offered a consistent slide.

Style

Feminine without being overly girly, we think the grey twill canvas upper and the lavender accents go great together.

Comfort

Bowling with these shoes feels just like wearing your favorite pair of canvas sneakers.

Pros
  • Most comfortable ladies bowling shoes we reviewed
  • S8 microfiber slide soles on both feet for a smooth slide
  • Understated design with a lavender accent is both feminine and unique
Cons
  • The slide soles on the Dexter Kerrie bowling shoes take longer than average to break-in
  • The cotton canvas upper provides no protection against balls landing on your feet

10. Best Slip-on Bowling Shoe for Men: Dexter Kam

Why we like it: Easy to slip on and off, the Dexter Kam is our top pick for male bowlers who can’t be bothered with shoelaces.

Editor’s Rating:

Available sizes:

7 to 14, with select half sizes

Left/Right Handed:

Both

Sizing:

True to size

Shoelaces can be a pain. That’s why the Dexter Kam caught our eye. Part of Dexter’s Comfort Canvas collection, the Kam is a comfortable slip-on bowling shoe that looks and performs great. Even though the Kam slides on your foot as easily as a slipper, it feels remarkably snug and stable while bowling. We also like how breathable and lightweight the cotton canvas fabric is.

Customers report that the Dexter Kam is true to size and a little bit wider than the average bowling shoe. There are also side vents that make the shoe breathe better. One drawback to the lace-less design of the Kam is that the material in the heel of the shoe creates more friction on the lane. While this friction is not enough to make a bowler skid during their approach, it can throw off the balance of bowlers who have longer slides during release.

Performance

While the Dexter Kam grips the lane very well, bowlers who like to slide during delivery may be frustrated by the extra grip in the heel.

Style

The look of the lightweight canvas upper and charcoal gray color make the Kam an appealing combination of casual and trendy.

Comfort

If comfort is what you are after, the Dexter Kam is your bowling shoe. The most comfortable men’s bowling shoe we reviewed, wearing these is the closest you can get to bowling in your slippers.

Pros
  • The Dexter Kam is the most comfortable bowling shoe for men
  • Lace-free design is ideal for older bowlers and those with disabilities
  • Perfect pair of bowling shoes for alley employees who are constantly changing shoes
Cons
  • The Dexter Kam is geared towards casual bowlers.
  • The additional traction in the heel can cause problems for bowlers with long slides as part of their approach

Guide to Buying the Best Bowling Shoes

Maintaining Your New Bowling Shoes

Bowling can be a rough game on your shoes because they absorb all the friction between your feet and the lane. When you slide, the material in your slide sole is pushed against the lane with the full weight of your body. Over time, this can lead to the microfiber material in the sole getting too compressed and having a difficult time gliding across the lane, causing it to stick instead. A sticky sole when you are trying to slide can cause a bowler to trip and land flat on their face. Here are some precautions you can take so that this does not happen to you:

  • When you are not using your bowling shoes, make sure they are stored in a cool and dry place with the laces untied.
  • Never store your bowling shoes underneath your bowling ball, or the weight will cause them to lose their shape.
  • Clean the soles of your bowling shoes regularly using a wire or bristle brush. This will both eliminate foreign objects that could cause problems, and will keep the material in the sole from getting too squished.
  • Most importantly, never get your bowling shoes wet! Water on the bottom of the soles is not good for the sliding surface of your shoe. If your bowling shoe does get wet, then you should make sure to dry it immediately and use a bristle brush to help the affected area recover. Bowlers who don’t want to have to change shoes every time they go to the bathroom should invest in a low-cost pair of shoe protectors.

The Approach is the Foundation for Your Bowling Game

Before you throw any ball in bowling, you must first approach the lane. With a proper approach, you are laying down the foundation for a consistent bowling game. There is only enough room for just a few steps before releasing the ball, so bowlers who want to create enough momentum before the foul line must learn the correct approach footwork and practice until they can execute consistently.

4-Step Approach vs 5-Step Approach

The main factor you should consider when deciding which approach to use is which foot you are most comfortable beginning your approach with. In a 5-step approach, your first step is made by the foot on the same side as your throwing hand and a 4-step approach begins with the foot opposite the hand holding the bowling ball. In addition, the timing of your arm movement changes depending on which approach you are using.

Tips for Your Approach

The goal of your approach should be to create momentum in a smooth and controlled manner. Remember, you’re not trying to throw the ball as hard as possible, you’re just generating momentum so you can throw the ball with a little extra force without exerting your arm. The less work your arm has to do, the more control you will have. This is why keeping your arm relaxed throughout the entire approach is the key to consistency.

There are four stages to a bowling approach, here is what your feet and arms should be doing at each step along the way.

Stage 1: Push Off

While making your first 1-2 steps, you extend the arm with the bowling ball until you are almost using it to point directly at the pins. It’s important to focus on keeping your arm straight, as any small deviation to the left or right will be amplified as the shot continues.

Stage 2: Downswing

Now that you and the bowling ball are in motion, you need to work together in order to create the most momentum at release. This means using the ball in your hand like a pendulum and timing your final swing to happen at the same time as your final push and slide. During your downswing, you should bring the ball back as straight as possible.

Stage 3: Backswing

By now, depending on which approach you are using, you have either taken 2 or 3 steps, and your throwing arm should be pointing at the floor. As you take your next-to-last step, you will bring your arm straight back on the same line that you had it pointing forward. Again, picture your arm as a pendulum swinging freely in a straight line.

Stage 4: Slide

As you take your final step, your arm should have reached its highest point behind you and will next begin coming back down. If done correctly, you will feel the momentum of the slide and the forward motion of the ball working together. This is what gives you extra power. Remember to focus on keeping your arm straight as you release the ball and follow through.

Mastering the approach can take some time, but thankfully there are lots of great resources online to help

Bowling Shoe FAQ

What are the rules for bowling shoes?

The only rule regarding bowling shoes in the USBC rulebook states that players must not do anything to deface the approach. This means players who use slide powder for a longer glide must be careful to not apply an excessive amount and leave residue on the lanes.

Can buying my own bowling shoes save me money?

Yes, bowlers often underestimate how much money they waste by renting shoes at the alley. For just the cost of a handful of rental fees, you can own a quality pair of bowling shoes that will last for years.

Should I buy bowling shoes instead of renting them?

You should! We think bowling shoe rental is a total rip-off even for casual bowlers. Not only will you save money after just a few visits, wearing your own shoes is more comfortable and safer.

Where is the best place to buy bowling shoes?

Bowlers should generally try and avoid buying their equipment from the pro shop at their local alley. These stores generally have a limited selection and large markups. Thanks to fast shipping and easy returns, major online retailers are the best place to buy bowling shoes.

Why are bowling shoes so slippery?

Bowling shoes have a slide pad on the soles of one or both feet. Bowlers use this slide to maintain forward momentum when throwing their balls.

Can renting bowling shoes make you sick?

Yes! Aside from being gross and smelly, rental bowling shoes can be a perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria that can cause warts, athlete foot, and nail infections. This is especially true when bowling alley employees are not careful about sanitizing shoes after they are returned.

While you’re in the market for a pair of money-saving and performance-boosting bowling shoes, you might want to check out some of our recommendations for the best bowling balls on the market. Along with a few other accessories like a strain-reducing wrist support, a good personal ball and a nice pair of shoes will go a long way towards making your bowling games more entertaining and affordable.