Bowling shoes are the base of the game. When someone goes to the counter to rent shoes, they are not asked if they are right-handed or left-handed.
They are just given a pair of shoes. This is because both shoes have the same sole so that either-handed people may use them. To be effective, you must have your own shoes. That means none of those $50 rental shoes you can buy…
Real bowling shoes have different soles on each - one sole that slides and one that doesn't. For right-handers, the left shoe should have a sliding sole and the right shoe a traction sole.
You know from your experience that the next-to-last step is the power step. There must be a sole on this shoe which allows for traction so that you can really push off on that power step and drive into the slide.
Shoes are so important in fact, that if you had to decide between buying real bowling shoes and buying a bowling ball, the choice would be shoes. (Put this in mind if you are considering shoes for a younger player: if she is still growing and purchasing bowling shoes would require replacing them frequently because of that growth, a ball might be the better answer. A ball can always be plugged to accommodate that growth, but you can't add on to the shoes!)
However, you can't wait until a young bowler stops growing to get bowling shoes. The importance of having her own shoes is in the traction sole.
Don't hesitate to put that foot in a tennis shoe. It is not illegal and will provide her with the stability to drive into the shot.
She'll also be able to get used to the feel of a shoe that does not slip out from under her as rental shoes or shoes without a traction sole will.
You can also take the sliding shoe of a pair of basic canvas tennis shoes to a cobbler and have buckskin put on it. That will provide her with a sliding sole while not being as expensive as bowling shoes.
You must check your shoes and the approaches every time you prepare to bowl - practice or competition. If the sliding sole is not kept free of any wetness or dirt, a smooth slide cannot be achieved. Indeed, serious injury may occur.
If someone has 'burned rubber' or left any residue from their shoe on the approach, you need to know that. You can never assume the approaches are okay.
You'll see folks checking approaches in some interesting ways. Some tentatively put the foot on the end of the approach and move it forward and back a couple of times.
That's a great place to check the bottom of the shoe to see if anything might have gotten on it but since sliding doesn't occur there, is a pretty ineffective way to check approaches. After all, you check an approach to test both your shoes and the approach surface.
Some start at the end of the approach and run toward the foul line to see if they'll be able to slide. Duh! What if they can't? They'll realize the error as soon as they regain consciousness out by the arrows.
If you have ever arrived at a professional tournament before the competition begins, you will always see the pros checking approaches. They do not want to be surprised by how approaches are behaving nor do they want to chance an injury.
Here's how to quickly and effectively check approaches:
1. Stand in the middle of the approach about 3' - 4' behind the foul line. You are assuming you'll be sliding somewhere around the middle of the lane. WITH YOUR RIGHT FOOT ALWAYS ON THE FLOOR, bend your right knee and slide the left foot toward the foul line. There are several important points here.
When you slide for real, your whole body is over your sliding foot. Therefore, to test approaches you cannot just stand upright and delicately slide your foot forward and back a few inches with no pressure on the foot. That is not how you slide and it should not be how you test approaches.
Slide your whole body forward on the ball of your foot and then apply pressure to the heel to brake like you really do. Anything less encourages bad information and won't give you a true read of how the approaches feel. "
2. Move to the left and slide at a slight angle toward the right corner of the deck with the foot between 25 and 35. This is approximately where you'll be sliding for right side spares.
This is especially important on synthetics approaches. If there is a seam, be sure you test the feel of sliding across it." Move to the right and slide at a slight angle toward the left corner of the deck with the foot between 12 and 17.This is approximately where you'll be sliding for left side spare conversions.
Just in case you get to play the ditch, you'll also want to slide around 10 with your foot going in the same direction as the boards while you are out here. "
3. The right foot MUST stay on the floor. Do not take a running start to see if you can slide. If there is something on the approach or on your shoe and the right foot is not in contact with the floor to protect your balance, you could fall. Don't take the chance. Do it right. "
4. Once that approach at the foul line has been checked, you're not through. You want to slide into your starting position as a way to check the sole before each shot.
If you saw the television broadcast of the PWBA event from Omaha a few years ago, you'll probably remember that Michelle Feldman fell due to a piece of tape being on the bottom of her shoe.