Do You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes?

Do You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes? Why They’re Required

Have you ever thought about wearing your street shoes to bowl? You’ve probably also wondered, do you have to wear bowling shoes?

In most bowling lanes you do have to wear bowling shoes. Bowling shoes have many functions over regular shoes, such as better protection for your feet if the bowling ball drops, and grip. They can also help with performance.

Read on to learn why bowling alleys require shoes and how you can choose the right pair.

Why You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes

Why You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes

Knowing why you have to wear bowling shoes can help you prepare for your next game. Then, you can choose the best shoes to keep you and other bowlers safe.

Whether you buy or rent, the right bowling shoes are essential. Here are a couple of the main reasons bowling alleys have you wear bowling shoes.

They Keep the Floors Clean

The bowling lanes and the floor leading to them are much smoother and slicker than other floors. This slickness makes it easy to slide to help you get the ball rolling. You can use the smooth soles of bowling shoes to help position yourself.

If you wear your street shoes to bowl, you could track dirt and dust to the lanes. This would keep the floor from being as smooth, so you and others may not bowl as easily. Even a bit of dirt on the floor can significantly impact your game.

Most bowling lanes don’t have time to clean every lane between bowlers. Also, if you’re sharing a lane, that would affect the people you’re bowling with. Clean floors help give every bowler a fair chance at getting a good score.

Prevents Sticking

Another problem with wearing street shoes to bowl is that they can stick. While having a lot of traction is great outside, it’s not as helpful when bowling. Sometimes, you need to slide to get a smoother motion.

Many pairs of bowling shoes will have one shoe that keeps you from sliding too much. That way, you don’t slip and fall or slide past the line when throwing the ball.

However, the second shoe will have less traction so that you can slide if necessary. When both of the shoes you wear have too much traction, you won’t be able to slide as easily. That can keep you from doing well.

Bowling Shoes vs. Street Shoes

Bowling Shoes vs. Street Shoes

If you know why you should wear bowling shoes, you might understand the fundamental problems with street shoes. However, some differences aren’t as easy to spot.

These things can make wearing street shoes a more dangerous option. So consider what makes bowling shoes a safer, smoother choice for your need bowling game.


Bowling shoes have smooth soles that allow you to slide. If you wore the shoes outside, you would probably slip and fall. However, a bit of slip is helpful, especially to skilled bowlers who can make the most of that movement.

Street shoes have soles that aren’t as smooth. Even rubber shoes, like Crocs, may not work as well on bowling lanes. The bit of traction that your outside shoes have can keep you from sliding if you want.

Keeping bowling and street shoes separate also allows bowling shoe soles to stay clean. So if you happen to buy your own bowling shoes, don’t wear them outside. If you need to wear your shoes outside, clean them as thoroughly as possible before you bowl in them.


Regardless of the sole, the materials of the shoes are also different. Most street shoes use the same materials for both shoes in a pair. However, bowling shoes may use different materials to help you with your game.

One bowling shoe may use leather, while the other will have rubber. That helps you use one shoe to slide, while the other is useful for breaking. If both shoes were the same materials, you wouldn’t have the flexibility you need when bowling.

You probably can’t find street shoes that don’t use the same material on both shoes. The combination of textiles is crucial for improving your bowling skills. While you won’t have control over materials when renting, you do with buying, so be careful.


When you shop for street shoes, you may be able to buy shoes in whatever color you want. While some bowling shoes come in different colors, those colors have a purpose. If you look at a pair of bowling shoes, you may find the colors vary between each shoe.

These colors help you figure out which shoe to use for breaking and which to use for sliding. If you choose to buy your bowling shoes, you can look for a pair where each shoe does what you want, and the colors may help determine those roles.

Depending on the brand and style, some mens’ and womens’ shoes are different colors. This can help you search for shoes that will fit you well. Plus, you can look for bowling shoes that match your uniform if you have one.

How to Choose Bowling Shoes

How to Choose Bowling Shoes

Whether you decide to buy or rent your bowling shoes, you should consider a few factors. That way, you can get a pair of shoes that will be comfortable.

But you can also wear shoes that will help you slide to improve your game. Here are a few things to think about before you choose bowling shoes.


Do you have to wear bowling shoes that are the same size as you would typically wear? Often, bowling shoes run large, so you may need to go down a size from your street shoe size. However, some brands run true to size, so you don’t have to size down.

If you’re renting, ask the alley if their shoes are bigger.

When buying shoes, be sure to try them on to make sure they’re comfortable. Practice some of the motions you’d use when bowling to ensure your feet don’t slide within the shoes too much.

The size can have a considerable effect on how you bowl. You might need to compensate too much if your shoes are smaller or larger than they should be. Don’t be afraid to try on a few sizes to see which works for you.


If you decide to buy bowling shoes, you have to choose between athletic bowling shoes or performance bowling shoes. The athletic style is suitable for casual bowlers who don’t need to wear the shoes often.

Professional bowlers and anyone who plays often may want performance shoes. These shoes will have one sole for sliding and another for gripping. Since you’re buying the shoes, you can decide which foot to use for each thing.

That can help you select the right pair of bowling shoes for you. Then, you may have an easier time bowling than if you had to rent shoes.


You also get to decide if you want interchangeable soles at the performance level. Switching out your soles allows you to maintain consistency across bowling lanes. Some lanes are smoother than others, so you might need different soles.

If you use the same soles, no matter where you bowl, it can be hard to get started with a game. You would need to use a few turns to get a feel for things. If you bowl at different alleys, consider getting shoes with interchangeable soles.

Then, you can switch out the soles as necessary to make the response more predictable. As you bowl more, you can learn when to use which soles. You can also get soles so that you can switch out the one with more or less grip.

Alternatives to Bowling Shoes

Alternatives to Bowling Shoes

Do you have to wear bowling shoes if you prefer not to? You may want or need to wear something other than bowling shoes. For example, maybe the alley doesn’t have any pairs in your size. Or perhaps you don’t have enough money to pay the rental fee.

Sometimes, you might not want to have to deal with bowling shoes. While many alleys require bowling shoes, others may let you get away with an alternative option. Then, you can still bowl even if you don’t have a good pair of shoes for the sport.

Here are a few alternatives you can try when you don’t have good bowling shoes.

Bowling Shoe Covers

You can find bowling shoe covers that you slip over your street shoes. These covers are thin pieces of fabric that make your regular shoes work like bowling shoes. You can get the same smoothness to enable you to walk on the bowling lane floor.

Of course, covers also keep the dirt and dust on your shoes from getting all over the lane. You will need to put the covers over the bottoms of your shoes. Then, you can bowl like you would if you bought or rented specialty gear.

You can find a pair of shoe covers to bring to the alley. While they aren’t the best alternative, they’re worth trying. Plus, you can have them on hand if you can’t wear your bowling shoes for some reason.

Socks Without Shoes

Another alternative is to wear a good pair of socks under your outside shoes. Take the shoes off and bowl in just your socks. Most socks give you plenty of slide, which can help you when you bowl.

Now, you won’t get the same traction that a bowling shoe offers. That means you’ll have to be much more careful so that you don’t slip and fall. Still, bowling only in your socks is an excellent option if you don’t have bowling shoes to use.

Wearing socks without shoes is smart when you’re bowling in large groups. For example, if you’re taking students on a field trip, the rental fee can add up quickly. Not borrowing bowling shoes is an easy way to save money, assuming the alley will let you wear just your socks.

Dress Shoes

Perhaps you have a new pair of dress shoes that you have yet to wear outside. Most dress shoes have smooth soles like bowling shoes, so you can wear them to bowl. Another benefit is that these shoes tend to run in standard sizing.

If you don’t want to have to convert your size, look for some loafers or something similar. You can reserve that pair for bowling. Many dress shoes are also going to be more affordable than some bowling shoes, so they’re great if you’re on a budget.

However, you should avoid wearing those dress shoes outside of bowling. Like any other shoe, they can attract dust and dirt. If you want to wear them to bowl later, you’ll need to clean them well to get the shoes to work well.

Should You Buy or Rent Bowling Shoes?

Should You Buy or Rent Bowling Shoes

If you know an alley will require you to wear bowling shoes, you have options. A lot of people will rent shoes for the duration of the game. However, serious players might choose to buy a pair of bowling shoes.

Before you decide which option is best, consider a few factors. You may realize that you’d be better off renting, or buying could be a smarter decision.


If you bowl often, the cost of bowling shoes is easy to justify. Even if you go for performance shoes, which are more expensive, you can get your money’s worth quickly. For example, a bowling alley may charge about $5 per rental.

After ten trips to that alley, you’d spend $50 on shoes. If you bought a pair of shoes for $50, you would get your money’s worth at that point. Then, you’d save money for any future games, as long as your shoes stay in good condition.

On the other hand, renting may save you money if you only bowl occasionally. You won’t wear the shoes enough to make buying worth the cost.


When you bowl more regularly, the fit can be crucial. If you rent every time, you might get a different pair of shoes each time. The fit can vary, so you might not be able to learn how to move your feet well.

Serious bowlers should buy a pair of shoes so that they can get a better, more consistent fit. You won’t have to risk getting a pair that’s the wrong size. And if you tend to bowl when it’s busy, you’ll know that a pair of shoes will be available.

Plus, you can choose if you want shoes that lace up or have a velcro closure. Both options are great, and neither is better for everyone. Either way, you’ll have more control over the fit when you buy your own bowling shoes.


If you have really small or really large feet, buying is an excellent option. When your shoe size is uncommon, alleys may not have a selection of shoes that will fit your feet.

Depending on when you go bowling, the alley may be busy. That means others may take all of the shoes in your size before you arrive. You could wait around, but that may not be an option if you don’t want to stay out late.

Buying a pair of bowling shoes means you don’t have to wait for shoes. You can start bowling as soon as a lane is available.

Do You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes? Closing Thoughts

Do You Have to Wear Bowling Shoes - Closing Thoughts

Whether you’re a beginner or have bowled for years, you may wonder, do you have to wear bowling shoes? In many cases, you have to wear specialty shoes to keep yourself and others safe.

Specific shoes also help you bowl better, especially if you buy your own pair. That way, you can improve your skills and keep your performance consistent across lanes.

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