There is a major difference between sizes for men’s and ladies shoes and getting the wrong size shoe in bowling can be detrimental not only to your feet but your game. Ladies and men’s bowling shoes are essentially the same in many aspects besides sizing and style.

What is the Difference Between Regular Shoes and Bowling Shoes?

There is a major difference between regular shoes and bowling shoes, apart from the fact that bowling shoes are designed specifically for the bowling alley and nowhere else. Bowling shoes are flat with no heel and are have smooth surfaces. Bowling shoes have leather soles that are designed to be very slippery to ensure you get your slide, whereas normal sneakers have heavy traction rubberized soles.

These types of soles have a penchant for picking up debris and can carry that into the approach area and make bowling difficult. One of the differences between normal shoes and bowling shoes is the fact that sole on the left and right shoes of a bowling shoe will differ. The reason for this is you have a “sliding foot” and a “braking foot” when bowling. Sound odd? Well, it is quite simple.

In order for you to be able to release the bowling ball smoothly towards the pins down the lane, you need to be able to slide into your release. If you are right footed then you will have a sliding sole on your left shoe. The sliding shoe has a smooth, leather sole that is incredibly slippery to enable you to attain this smooth slide into your release. The traction sole is rubberized, but still quite smooth, and this allows you to stop your slide before you cross the release or foul line.

Most of the rented shoes you will get in the bowling alley will be smooth on both sides. The reason for this is that dozens, if not hundreds of different people will be wearing these shoes. Each of these people will be different and it is impossible to keep the number of pairs you would need, to ensure both left and right footers are catered for.

Bowling shoes are not meant to be worn outside of the bowling alley, and specifically outside of the approach or bowling area, and there are special shoe protectors that you need to wear should you wish to leave the area, even if you are just going to the toilet. This may seem a little extreme, however keeping the approach area clean and smooth is vital to everybody’s enjoyment.

Are Bowling Shoes true to Size?

Bowling shoes, like all other shoes, differ in sizing systems from one country to another. As in all sports, it is essential that you get the best shoes you can get in order to ensure that you bowl at your best. Getting the best fitting shoe will ensure that you play at your best and avoid unnecessary injuries both to your feet and legs. It is also important to recognize that there is a difference in sizing between men’s and women’s shoes.

More and more people around the world are bowling as a pastime or a serious sport. Therefore, more countries are manufacturing these shoes and being sure that you get the right size when purchasing your shoes online, as most people do, you need to understand the sizing. In effect, a size 7 in the USA will not be a 7 in Britain.

If you are going to be purchasing your shoes online and perhaps from international sites, you need to understand the sizing differences for the different countries. So a size 7 in the USA is a size 4.5 in Britain. There are many online sites that can give you a breakdown of the different sizes in various countries. Sizes are measured from heel to toe.

Although the correct fitting and sized shoe will not guarantee you will bowl better, it does give you the edge and keep your feet comfortable as you play, and ensure you get the right amount of slide and traction combination to let you play at your best.

Why do you have to wear special Bowling Shoes?

Are Bowling Shoes true to Size?Yes, it is vital that you wear special bowling shoes when bowling, not only for your game but also for safety purposes and to protect the approach area just before the lanes. Normal shoes will scuff and damage this highly polished wooden floor, as well as introduce debris from the outside, and this can be not only a safety risk for all bowlers but will affect their games adversely.

All bowling alleys will insist that you wear bowling shoes, if not your own, then you will have to rent a pair from them before you start bowling.  The major differences between normal and bowling shoes are that bowling shoes have a flat and smooth sole, they are designed to be used on the smooth, polished surfaces of the approach area of a bowling lane and nowhere else.

If you do not wear these types of shoes, you will not be able to attain the slide you need in order to release the bowling ball smoothly down the lane.  This is an essential part of bowling as if you cannot release the ball correctly you will never bowl a “strike”.

The glide up to the release also allows you to put some spin on your ball with the smooth, seamless and fast release that you get. So being able to make that “spare” depends a lot on how you are able to release the ball.


Having the perfect pair of bowling shoes will not ensure the win, but it will ensure that you get the best chance of bowling that perfect 300 score. Choosing the right size and style for you is imperative for you to achieve your goals in this great sport.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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