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Coaching Tip of the Week: Bowling shoes for All Levels of Bowlers

You can get away with wearing one pair of shoes to jog, play basketball or wear with a nice pair of jeans, but you have to wear special shoes just to go bowling? The answer is yes, you do, and there are some very good reasons why. In this week's tips, USBC Coaching Specialist Kim Terrell-Kearney will explain why bowling shoes are important and what types of shoes bowlers of different skill levels should be wearing.

Bowling shoes for entry-level bowlers

Sure, if you wanted to, you could probably get away with bowling in your street shoes or just your socks, but trust me when I tell you that's a bad idea! Basically, it's an issue of safety for you and the bowlers around you.

Bowling shoes are specially made for, well, bowling. As such, they are smooth enough to allow you to slide but sticky enough to keep you from flying completely off your feet. No other footwear will provide you with that perfect combination.

Street shoes will be too sticky, which will cause you to stop immediately as you get near the foul line. This puts you at risk of injuries to your foot, ankle, knee, hip, back, elbow and shoulder. You will also be putting other bowlers at risk because your street shoes are sure to leave behind scuff marks, dirt and other debris that can make the approaches dangerous.

So, there you have it. When it comes to bowling, bowling shoes are the only way to go!

Bowling shoes for Intermediate bowlers

Many a league bowler has faced the dilemma of whether to rent house shoes or buy his or her own bowling shoes.
Arguments can be made for both, but I think that anybody who bowls on a regular basis should have his or her own bowling shoes.

In this economy, almost all issues have to be looked at from the financial side of the equation. Most standard league seasons are around 30 weeks long. If you're spending $2 a week on rental shoes, which is likely to be as cheap as you'll find these days, you're going to be in for at least $60 by season's end. For that price or cheaper, you can get a nice pair of shoes to call your own.

The other potential pitfall of house shoes is the fact that you're never quite sure what you're going to get because every pair is slightly different. You might find a clean, comfortable pair one week only to get stuck with a worn-out pair with mangled shoelaces the next. To me, it's not worth the gamble. Visit your local pro shop, and pick up a basic pair of bowling shoes.
Bowling shoes for Advanced bowlers
You've had your own bowling shoes for years, but now that lucky pair is wearing out. You walk into the pro shop to see what they have, and you notice that one pair costs $50 while another costs $200. What's the difference between the two, and which one do you need? The key to answering this question is how many different bowling centers you bowl in.

If you only bowl in one center, your approach conditions aren't likely to change a great deal from week to week. As such, you can get away with a pair of shoes with permanent soles and heels. Some pairs will be geared toward all bowlers while others are designated as right-handed or left-handed. I suggest going with the right-handed/left-handed shoes because they give you a designated push shoe and a designated slide shoe.

You'll also find that feature on shoes with interchangeable soles and heels, which is what you should be wearing if you bowl in several different centers and face the possibility of encountering different approach conditions on a regular basis.

If after reading this you're still not sure what kind shoes are right for you, consult your local pro shop professional.

Bowling shoes for Elite bowlers
You routinely visit different centers to bowl leagues and tournaments, so you already know the value of shoes with interchangeable soles and heels. The only question for you is which pair to buy. This simply comes down to conducting a little bit of research.

Browse the product catalogs of the various manufacturers, and ask the pro shop professional if he or she has heard any feedback, positive or negative, about the shoes you're considering. It's also wise to ask fellow bowlers what they've seen, heard and experienced. You'll find most of them more than willing to tell you what they liked or did not like about a particular pair of shoes.

If you strictly bowl amateur events, you are ready to pull out your money and make your selection; however, if you have designs on bowling in a PBA event, you'll want to take a moment to make sure your shoes are made by a manufacturer that participates in the PBA's product registration program. If you buy a pair of shoes made by a company that is not product registered, you will not be able to wear them during PBA play.

Lastly, once your new shoes arrive, be sure to spend some practice time trying out the different sole-heel combination's at your disposal. Determine your favorite combination, and then try to find one or two that offer you more slide and one or two that offer you less slide. That way, you'll know exactly what you're in store for when it's time to make a change.

Remember, your feet are the foundation for every good delivery. Don't take your shoes lightly. Take your time selecting the right pair, and break them in during practice to make sure you are using them effectively. That will keep you on balance and bowling your best at all times.

By Kim Terrell-Kearney
USBC Coaching Specialist

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