Which Shoes Do I Need To Wear For Bowling (Fully Explained)

When you arrive at the bowling alley, you notice that the bowlers wear special shoes. Wearing these shoes is mandatory for everyone who plays.

This applies to people who play tournaments and those who play with friends or family in their spare time.

In this blog, I will explain which shoes you should wear and why you should do this.

Which Shoes do I Need to Wear For Bowling?

Everyone who enters the bowling alley must wear specially made bowling shoes. The shoe’s sole has a smooth front and a low heel at the back, which has a little more grip.

This ensures that you can play the game well, you are less likely to get injured, and the lanes don’t get damaged.

Most of the time, people who play tournaments have their own pair of bowling shoes.

Casual players who play in their spare time usually rent bowling shoes at the bowling center, which is free of charge in most cases.

Please keep reading for more information about why you should wear bowling shoes, how it reduces the risk of injury and why they prevent damage to the lanes.

On top of this, I will explain which shoes are best to buy when you have wide feet and whether or not you can bowl with your own shoes.

Do You Actually Need Bowling Shoes?

Yes, you have to wear bowling shoes for bowling. A bowling center owner will not allow you to enter the lane without wearing bowling shoes.

You need to wear bowling shoes for the following reasons:

They allow you to play the game better

You can’t bowl well without bowling shoes. This is because the front part of the sole of bowling shoes is smooth.

To be able to throw a ball well and to throw it with enough speed, you’ll have to take a run-up. When you throw the ball, you have to slide across the floor a bit, which is what the smoothness of the bowling shoes allows you to do.

The shoe’s heel has a bit more structure to it so that you don’t keep sliding for too long.

You are much less likely to get injured

As we’ve mentioned before, you need to take a run-up to be able to throw the ball well. The bowling shoes ensure that you slide a bit.

If you do this while wearing any other type of shoes, you’d suddenly come to a standstill. As a result, you could sprain your ankle, twist your knee or injure your foot.

You could even fall with the ball still in your hands, which can lead to some nasty injuries.

You won’t damage the bowling lane

When you wear your everyday shoes, there is a very good chance of having some dirt underneath them.

Think of grass, sand, mud, or even small stones within the profile of the sole.

If you walk on the bowling lane with this, it gets dirty and can even scratch the lane. If a lane becomes dirty or scratched, it will not work that well.

A clean lane will also allow you to slide a bit while throwing. Bowling shoes are clean and smooth on the bottom and ensure that the lane is not damaged.

Should I Buy my Own Bowling Shoes?

Yes, if you play tournaments, it is best to buy your own bowling shoes. The type of shoe you buy affects your game and your playstyle.

The shoe also molds to your feet, making them more comfortable to wear.

Also, it’s simply very inconvenient if you have to rent shoes for each tournament. In the long term, this will cost you a lot more.

If you are more of a casual player, you don’t really have to buy your own bowling shoes. You can simply rent the bowling shoes at the bowling center, which is free of charge in most cases.

However, if you intend to play several times a month, it might be worth considering buying your own bowling shoes. For $35, you can have good bowling shoes suitable for regular use.

Which Size Bowling Shoes do I Need?

Choosing the right size for bowling shoes is luckily not very difficult. If you try the shoe on, you must ensure that you have some space left at the back of the shoe.

About half an inch is the correct measure for this.

Just like normal shoes, bowling shoes should be neither too tight nor too loose. If the shoes are too tight, your toes will touch the front of the shoe, which can hurt after a while.

If the shoes are too loose, your feet will not have enough grip when throwing the ball.

When you buy the shoes in the store, you can ask for advice from the sales staff. They know exactly which size is right for you.

We, therefore, recommend that you buy your first pair of bowling shoes in the store, not online.

Which Bowling Shoes do I Need With Wide Feet?

In addition to normal-sized shoes, most bowling centers also rent out shoes for people with wide feet.

Here are a few tips in the unfortunate case that your bowling center does not have bowling shoes for wide feet:

  • Try on one or two sizes up
  • Don’t wear socks that are too thick
  • Loosen the laces a bit, and don’t pull the Velcro strap too tight
  • Take a cold foot bath before you go bowling. If you have very warm feet, they may swell
  • A combination of the above
  • Consider buying your own bowling shoes (especially if you plan to play a little more often)

When you play tournaments and buy your own shoes, it is advisable to try on the shoes in the store. You can then be advised which shoes are most suitable for you.

Some examples of bowling shoes that are wider than others are:

  • 3G Kicks Black (Unisex)
  • Dexter The 9 HT BOA Black / Colorshift (Unisex)
  • Linda Classics Black or White (Men & Woman)
  • Dexter SST 8 Power Frame Boa Black (Men)
  • KR Strikeforce Maui Grey (Woman)

Can I Wear my Own Shoes For Bowling?

No, you can’t wear your own shoes. Your regular shoes are not made for bowling. The soles have a specific structure so that you have grip while walking.

The structure under these shoes doesn’t enable you to slide across the floor while bowling. If you can’t slide as you throw the ball, you risk getting all kinds of injuries, such as a sprained ankle or a twisted knee.

Another key thing is that your regular shoes are likely also worn outside, so there is a good chance that the bottom of the shoes is dirty.

Walking on the bowling lane with these shoes makes it less slippery, and the lane could even get damaged.

Sand and pebbles under your shoes cause scratches on the lane. For these reasons, the bowling center owner will not allow you to wear your own shoes.

Can I Wear Basketball Shoes For Bowling?

No, you can’t wear basketball shoes to bowl.

Basketball shoes provide good ankle support. The shoes are made so that you can jump easily and safely. The soles of the shoes have a good grip.

As opposed to the smoothness of bowling shoes, this grip means that you cannot use basketball shoes well for bowling.

Can I Wear Tennis Shoes For Bowling?

No, you are not allowed to wear your tennis shoes to bowl. Tennis shoes that you wear outside are dirty and can make the lane dirty and damaged. You also can’t use indoor tennis shoes for bowling.

The grip that these shoes provide is great for tennis but of no use at the bowling alley.

Can I Play Bowling on my Socks?

Socks are smooth on the bottom, and you may think that you can bowl well with them because of that. The disadvantage, however, is that the entire sock is slippery, and you cannot slow down when you throw.

In addition, socks are sometimes too slippery, which means you could fall with the ball still in your hands.

Bowling shoes also provide safety for the top of your feet. If you only wear socks and drop the ball on your foot, you have no protection at all, and you can sustain serious injuries.

Do You Need to Wear Special Socks in Bowling Shoes?

You don’t need to wear special socks in the bowling shoes. Personal preference plays an important role here.

If you have your own bowling shoes and you don’t want to wear socks at all, that’s totally fine.

If you are a casual bowling player and you rent the shoes from the bowling center, you are expected to wear (clean) socks.

This has everything to do with hygiene, as wearing clean socks prevents the shoes from getting dirty on the inside.

For the same reason, rented bowling shoes are always disinfected after play with a specially made spray.


It’s mandatory and very important that you wear bowling shoes while bowling. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to play the game as well, and there is a good chance that your opponents will beat you.

In addition, it prevents sustaining injuries and keeps the track dirt-free and undamaged.

Ian Miles

I was only 4 years old when I started bowling, my dad took me to the bowling alley and I'm hooked ever since! Now almost 40 years later I bring my own two kids to the bowling alley and they love it as well. You can say bowling is in our blood! I also love to write about everything that has to do with bowling. Hopefully, you also fall in love with this sport after reading my blogs.
March 4, 2022
Published: March 4, 2022