From finding a fun thing to do with the children over the weekend to a professional sport bowling is an activity of skill and accuracy. The feeling of getting to the alley and putting on those famous specialist bowling shoes gives you a sense of happiness which so many enjoy, but do you know the reason why you have to wear bowling shoes?
In this article we will be discussing exactly why you wear those flat soled two toned bowling shoes, what they are made of and who wears them.
But before we start let’s talk about the history of bowling…
The history of bowling
The history of bowling dates back to 3200 BC to the accent Egyptians, in the 1930’s Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects in a child’s grave that looked very familiar. The items he found resembled the modern game of bowling, although many have speculated the validity of Flinders find, it is still amazing to think that the much loved game could have been around over 5000 years ago.
Along with this speculation there was another claim by a German historian which believed that it originated in Germany however one thing that is for certain, the game of bowling was a game played by many during the time of Edward III of England in 1366, where he allegedly banned the game to keep his troops focused on training.
Regardless of where bowling originated, the game is loved by 95 million people worldwide in over 90 countries, the simplicity of the game allows for many to have variations of the game whether they have a dedicated bowling alley to an uneven plain in the middle of a desert.
Bowling finally hit America which varied in popularity and was even made illegal in Connecticut in the 1840’s due to gambling but by this point is was far too late with the game becoming vastly popular around the US. Throughout the different states of America was many different variations of the game as there was no definitive rules suggested by any one representing body, but that all changed in 1895 when Joe Thum pulled together a selection of regional bowling club representatives to create the National Bowling Congress. The NBC was soon to implement a standard for bowling and created national competitions and tournaments, however these were designed specifically for men and women were not allowed to join. In the 1917 the women’s international bowling congress was created allowing for women to have their own competitions and tournaments.
Why do we wear bowling shoes?
For those that do not own bowling shoes you will understand the confusion in going to the bowling alley and renting a pair off the assistant at the counter checking to ensure you have the right size and fit to question why you have to wear them in the first place.
To answer this question we need to take into consideration exactly how the game is played, as bowling requires more skill than simply throwing a ball towards some pins. Bowling is a game of skill and accuracy which means you need to be able to control exactly where you are positioned and how the ball is released. This is where bowling shoes come in, as you approach the lane you need to be able to smoothly slide to be able to release the ball with the greatest accuracy, as most shoes are designed for grip these would decrease your chance of doing just that. Your bowling shoes have a slippery flat surface that allows for that smooth slide but have a rubber heel which allows you to be able to stop when necessary.
The smooth polished finish of the lanes also allows for the ball to have an unaltered journey to the pins which is checked on a daily basis to ensure there isn’t any dirt or debris that could affect the game. This is also part of the reason why you cannot wear normal shoes within the area of the lanes, as many shoes have items like shoes and mud attached to them this could cause the lanes to become damaged.
The history of where bowling shoes came from is unknown but many believe that the leather bowling shoe was introduced to the US in the late 1800’s, whether they intended to keep the area clean or to benefit the player is also unknown but what we do know is that bowling shoes are vital in ensuring the effectiveness of the player.
Who uses bowling shoes?
There is a huge market for bowling shoes with millions around the world using them of a daily basis it’s not just the professionals that use them but people of all ages need them for both sport and leisure. If you visit the bowling alley on the odd occasion it’s unlikely you have your own shoes and like the vast majority you rent your shoes when you get to the alley, you will notice they have many available, bowling shoes for men, for women and for children of all ages.
When it comes to the professionals it’s also mixed, both men and women wear bowling shoes, with notable bowling leagues such as the NBL (national Bowling League) and the PBA Tour(Professional Bowling Association) there is a huge range of professional wearing bowling shoes for men and women.
The most famous bowlers from around the world would be (they all had a great pair of bowling shoes, coincidence? Probably not, but we think they helped):
• Walter Ray Williams, Jr.
• Pete Weber
• Parker Bohn III
• Norm Duke
• Chris Barned
• Mika Koivuniemi
• Tommy Jones
• Jason Couch
• Doug Kent
• And many more
What styles of shoes are available?
The most common style of being the house style that is so iconic, with the blue and red sides with the while strip in the middle, however this is just one style out of many that can be purchased. With other plain colours style or specially designed ones it’s easy to find one that matches your tastes.
Many professionals have there’s specially designed to give them a custom appearance that no other person will have, usually with a logo or moto.
What are bowling shoes made of?
Bowling shoes come in a range of styles and colours but the materials that they are made of are nearly always the same. Since the introduction of bowling shoes into the US the main material of these shoes have been leather, often dyed and stitched together to make a range of different styles.
With the tongue of the shoes also being made of the same leather as the rest of the exterior the material allows for a tight comfortable fit, alongside the traditional lases or more modern no lase Velcro tabs.
The sole of these shoes tend to make a smooth leather which give the user an excellent level of slide whilst the rubber heel has superb grip which allows the user to stop when necessary as they bowl. When purchasing your bowling shoes there will be different level of shoes you can purchase and the high performance shoes tend to have more changeable features such as different soles which can give the bowler the upper edge within a game.
These soles are designed with a specific rating which determines the shortness of the slide to the effectiveness of the break, this rating system goes hand in hand with the heel which is designed to have a variety of grip types. Dexter a popular manufacturer of bowling shoe have a rating system for the sole that ranges from S2 for the shortest slide to S12 allowing for the longest, whilst the heel has ranges from H1 giving you the most short breaking time to H7 the most breaking time.
These more high performance shoes can be specific designed to not along match the length of your foot but also the width giving you the best possible fit to improve your game, manufacturers make bowling shoes for men and women allowing for a great fit for both genders. As high performance bowling shoes are designed for durability and strength they tend to have reliable stitching along the sides and seams of the leather to ensure maximum longevity.
So what’s the difference?
Bowling shoes are designed to give you a perfect level of slide and grip which helps to improve how you run up to the final release of the ball. A plus of wearing these shoes is that you help to keep the lanes and surrounding areas clean of dirt as these are usually flat and do not have area for the sole to pick up and dirt.
So whether you are picking up a pair of shoes for your next competition or renting a pair for a quick game with a friend, now you know what the difference is between wearing normal shoes compared to specifically designed bowling shoes.