When you go to the bowling alley, there are two things that are of vital importance: the ball and the shoes. If you rent your bowling shoes, then there may seem to be no difference from shoe to shoe. If you are opting to purchase a pair of bowling shoes, then you will see a big difference in the soles. The three major types of bowling shoe sole material are rubber, leather and felt. Each of these have their own benefits and your pair of shoes may contain a combination of all three.
Rental shoes at the bowling alley provide a multi-purpose shoe, both with a moderate slide. Normally rental shoes will have a full leather sole and heel on both shoes.
When purchasing professional bowling shoes, there are two types of shoe to each pair. One shoe is for sliding and the other is for braking. The material on the sole of the shoe depends on the purpose that it serves.
The sole and the heel of one bowling shoe can be made with different materials depending on the preference of the bowler. More recent models of bowling shoes allow the ability to change your soles depending on the lane conditions.
Right handed bowlers use a left sliding shoe, while left handed bowlers use a right sliding shoe. The sliding foot will support the bowler as they release the ball. The opposite foot will normally kick out to the back to both balance and control the slide.
The most slide is given from felt soles and heels and is recommended for stickier conditions. A more moderate slide is given by leather soles and heels and is recommended for slicker conditions.
Rubber is used for braking soles and heels. The degree of braking power in the shoe depends on the amount of texture on the surface of the rubber. Smooth rubber soles provide the least "stick" while deep ridges provide powerful stopping power.