Can You Bowl Without Bowling Shoes?

Bowling fun can be had by all types of people with many different levels of experience and skill. Whether you’re playing for fun or participating in a tournament, scoring well usually makes the experience more enjoyable. From the right bowling ball to some bowling shoes, good equipment can help you when you bowl; but can you skip the bowling shoes completely?

You can’t bowl without bowling shoes. Other types of shoes will stick to the lane surface, and going barefoot puts the bowlers at risk of foot and toe injuries. Bowling shoes have a slick sole to help bowlers slide, which improves control and prevents injuries. Bowling shoes also prevent damage to the bowling lane, which is why they are required.

Whether you’re new to bowling or have years of experience, you need to use the right equipment. Bowling without bowling shoes can put you at risk, and it can damage the bowling floor. Read on to learn more about the reasons why you should wear bowling shoes and if they make a difference in your performance. 

Why You Should Wear Bowling Shoes

Wearing bowling shoes can seem annoying. You may have perfectly good tennis shoes or other closed-toed shoes that you want to use to bowl. However, multiple factors make using other shoes a bad idea.

But what about bowling without shoes of any kind? That’s also not a good idea in case you or someone else drops a bowling ball. If it lands on your foot, you could suffer from a severe injury.

Here are a few benefits of wearing bowling shoes and why alleys require you to change shoes.

Have Better Control

When it comes to other sports that involve running, jumping or turning, you have more control when you wear shoes with good traction. But at the bowling alley, the opposite is true. As you bowl, you want to be more flexible with how you move and approach the lane.

If you wore shoes with traction, this will stop your feet from moving properly. You could end up falling or twisting your ankle if you don’t move your feet in just the right way.

Most bowling shoes have a slick sole that can move with you. Your initially steps are used to build up a little speed for power. As you approach your ball release point, you want a controlled slide of your last step to allow for control over the ball direction and spin.

Once you release the ball, the heel of most bowling shoes can help stop if needed. It’s not as slick as the rest of the shoe, so that it can give you a bit of traction. That way, you won’t completely slip as your feet move toward the lane.

Improve Your Game

Wearing bowling shoes only when you bowl can help your game over time. If you wore the same shoes you wear outside, the sole of those could change. As you wear your favorite shoes each day, you can wear down the sole and affect its traction.

While that might make the shoes more suitable for bowling, you can’t control how your shoes change. By wearing bowling shoes, you can make sure the shoes don’t change a ton between trips to the bowling alley.

Even if you bowl at different alleys, using bowling shoes can reduce the different factors. The more you can keep your game the same, the more you can improve your bowling average. After a while, you may get much better.

And if you just like bowling for fun, wearing bowling shoes can still help each time. You don’t have to be an expert bowler to benefit from the slickness of most bowling shoes.

Performance Consistency

If you buy a pair of bowling shoes or manage to rent the same ones each time, that can also help your practice. The same pair will perform the same when you wear them. While bowling shoes can be more or less slick at times, it’s easier to control that.

You won’t have to spend your first rounds bowling figuring out how the shoes are. That way, you can start getting a high score immediately. Using the same bowling shoes is especially important if you bowl in a tournament.

But if you bowl primarily for fun, consistency is useful. You may not need to get a high score, but scoring well can make bowling more enjoyable. Many bowling shoes may perform similarly.

However, there could be some small differences that affect your game. Whether you want to buy bowling shoes or rent them, wearing the same or similar style each time reduces changes in how you have to approach the lane better than wearing other shoes or no shoes at all.

Maintain a Clean Environment

Another reason why bowling alleys make you wear bowling shoes is the environment. If everyone wore their day-to-day shoes, they could track in dirt, salt, and other debris. When those things get on the bowling lanes, it can make it harder for everyone.

To bowl well, you want the cleanest floor possible, and outside shoes are a big issue. Even if you wear slick shoes outside of the bowling alley, wearing them to bowl isn’t safe for you or other bowlers.

Perhaps you wear your shoes and walk over a sticky spot on the ground. That could make that shoe stickier and harder for you to control your movements. A bowling alley wants to maintain a safe, clean environment for all bowlers, and that means controlling what shoes people wear.

For that reason, you should only wear your bowling shoes near the lanes. If you decide to get food or go to the restroom, take off your bowling shoes. That way, you won’t accidentally step in anything that could affect you and your shoes. And don’t wear your bowling shoes outside at all.

For Your Safety

The last big reason why you can’t bowl without bowling shoes is your safety. Of course, you face safety risks when wearing shoes from outside. But you also have safety risks if you don’t wear any shoes to bowl.

Bowling barefoot can seem fun, and it can be a good way to save money on renting shoes. You can wear socks to get the same slick feeling you would get with bowling shoes. But wearing bowling shoes can protect your feet while you and others bowl.

If you go barefoot or in socks, your feet are vulnerable. Perhaps you or a nearby bowler drops a bowling ball. If that ball lands on your foot or toes, it could hurt and even cause an injury.

That affects you and your ability to walk. But most bowling alleys won’t want to take that risk with their customers. If you bowl without any shoes, you could sue if something happens at the bowling alley, and the alley wants to avoid injuries as much as possible.

Check out my list of bowling shoes with adjustable soles

Do Bowling Shoes Make a Difference?

Bowling shoes can make a huge difference whether you bowl for fun or play in tournaments. But if you want to make sure the bowling shoes are the most advantageous, you should choose the right pair.

It doesn’t matter if you want to buy bowling shoes or rent them. Your comfort is essential because you can bowl without thinking about how your shoes feel.

As long as you have the best bowling shoes, you can focus on other parts of bowling. Here are a few things to consider when getting bowling shoes.


One of the most important things to think about is your shoe size. Bowling shoe sizes can vary between shoe manufacturers, but they usually are similar to your standard shoe size. For that reason, it’s important to try on a few pairs of bowling shoes before you buy them.

And even if you just want to rent for the day, you don’t have to settle on the first pair the alley gives you. Don’t be afraid to test out a few different sizes and styles to find shoes that are comfortable and fit well.

Too tight bowling shoes will make it hard for your feet to move, and too loose shoes will be harder to control. You can consult a bowling shoe size chart to get an idea of your size. But don’t worry if your size doesn’t quite match.

Go with the pair of shoes that are comfortable rather than the shoes that match your size. The right shoes can make a huge difference in how you bowl, so don’t rush the process.

Tie or Velcro

Another thing you may want to consider is if your bowling shoes use laces or velcro. Some people will prefer being able to tie laces tighter. But other people may want the ease of putting on velcro bowling shoes.

You should think about what you want for your bowling shoes. Tying laces can take time, but you can make sure the shoes fit well. Using velcro can be quicker and easier, but you may not be able to get as custom of a fit with the shoes.

Both types of shoes can work well, and the style doesn’t matter as much as the slickness of the sole. Still, it’s something to consider to find a comfortable pair of bowling shoes.


You may also want to consider your budget for bowling shoes. If you have a small budget, you may want to rent shoes for now. Some bowling alleys make rentals cheap or even free, depending on when you go.

If you want to buy bowling shoes, you’ll need to pay more upfront. But you can save on the cost over time if you bowl often. That way, you won’t have to pay to rent shoes when you go bowling. And you’ll have even more control over the bowling shoes since you own them.

Consider how much you want to spend on bowling shoes and how often you bowl. Then, you can determine what shoes are worth it to you.

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Should You Buy or Rent Bowling Shoes?

Another thing you need to think about is if you want to buy or rent bowling shoes. While your budget can help you determine the better choice, other factors go into it. You should also consider how often you bowl and where you go bowling.

If you aren’t sure which is right for you now, you can always buy shoes later. As you get into bowling, renting is a good way to test things out.

Here are the details on why you may want to buy bowling shoes and a few reasons for renting.

Why Buy Bowling Shoes

If you bowl every week or even a couple of times a month, buying bowling shoes can be a good option. You’ll be able to use the same pair each time you go bowling, so you can maintain consistency when you practice.

Another reason to buy bowling shoes is if you go to different bowling alleys. Even if you don’t bowl that frequently, different alleys may not have the same types of bowling shoes. You can bring your own to make sure you have a comfortable option.

And if you only go to one alley, perhaps you go when it’s busy. Or maybe your feet are smaller or larger than average, so your shoe size is hard to find. When you bring your own shoes, you won’t have to worry about finding the right size at any bowling alley.

Another benefit of owning bowling shoes is that you can maintain them. You can get shoes with different soles so that one shoe is slicker than the other. The slicker shoe should be opposite your dominant/bowling hand, and the other can keep you stable as you bowl.

You can also get shoes with removable soles that you can change out. That way, you can compensate when bowling lanes are slicker.

Why Rent Bowling Shoes

Owning bowling shoes can be a great option, but so can renting shoes. If you don’t bowl that often or can’t justify the expense, continue renting for now. You can still get a good pair of bowling shoes at the alley, and you won’t have to worry about maintaining them.

If you go to the same bowling alley, that can be another reason to rent. Odds are the bowling alley has one or two main styles of shoes to rent out. So you can get similar shoes each time you go.

And if you don’t go bowling when it’s super busy, you may be able to get the same pair. If you prefer to bowl during the middle of the week, the alley may have all of their shoes available to rent. So you could ask for a specific size and style and get it.

Renting shoes is also nice if you have a common shoe size. If your feet aren’t too big or small, a bowling alley will probably have a large enough stock of your size. So even if you do bowl when it’s busy, you will probably be able to get comfortable shoes.

Another benefit of renting is that you can experiment with different shoes. You can test different styles, sizes, and manufacturers. Bowling in a pair can give you a better idea of how they work than just wearing them and walking around.

How to Make Bowling Shoes Slide More

Whether you own or rent bowling shoes, you can slightly change them to fit the bowling lane. If you find that your shoes don’t slide as much as you like, you can do a couple of things.

Bowling shoe owners can change out the soles to be more or less slick. So if the bowling alley floor has a little too much traction, you can use slicker soles to compensate. Granted, you’ll need to bring your various soles to go bowling.

But if you know a particular alley always has a slicker or less slick floor, you can bring the right gear. You can bring all of your soles the first time to see which work best at a particular alley.

Owners and renters can also get sliding powder to make bowling shoes slicker. You can apply the powder to the shoe opposite of your bowling hand. That way, it can move more as you release the bowling ball.

You can also add some powder around the edge of the bowling lane. The powder can stick to your shoe and give you extra slickness when you need it.

How to Make Bowling Shoes Slide Less

If your shoes slide too much, you can also change them, whether you own or rent your shoes. Owners can change their shoes by swapping out the soles. This is similar to changing them to make your shoes slicker.

But you can get some soles that have a bit more traction. That way, when you visit a bowling alley with a very slick floor, you can make your shoes less slick. If you visit a lot of bowling alleys, having different soles can help you have a pair that works almost anywhere.

Owners and renters can also use a sole brush through the frames of the sole. You shouldn’t use the brush to remove debris, but the brush can reduce the shoe slickness. If you use a wire or nylon brush, it can add more traction to your bowling shoes.

Final Thoughts

Bowling without bowling shoes may not seem like a big deal. But wearing outside shoes can make the alley floor dirty and less slick. Going barefoot can put your feet at risk of an injury, and it’s not worth it. Whether you choose to own or rent bowling shoes, make sure you get a good pair before you start your next bowling game.


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