September 3 marks U.S. Bowling League Day, a time to celebrate the popular pastime with a trip to your local alley in a new pair of bowling shoes.
Bowling was a part of my life early on. Growing up in the ’60s, I remember by uncle Nat heading to the bowling alley on Wednesday nights his own ball and shoes in hand to play on his league. According to his daughter Maralyn, even she owned her own ball and shoes.
More recently, our family got together and threw my cousin Micki a surpass 60th birthday bowling party. The guests included bowlers as young as 7 to one who recalled her early bowling days when pins were manually set by pin boys.
According to Gianmarc Manzione, editor of Bowlers Journal International, while league bowling has been on the decline, recreational bowling is on the upswing. While the game itself hasn’t changed over the years, the venues have. Once an everyman sport due to its accessibility and reasonable pricing, today the experience has been elevated with bowling centers that feature lounges and dancing. A single game after 5 p.m. at tony Frames in New York can run $12, with shoe rental at $7.
Bowling alleys may be luring a new generation of bowler with music and martinis, however some things don’t change such as the risk one takes when stepping into a pair of bowling shoes worn by countless other bowlers.
While bowling shoes for the serious bowler can run up to $159 for a pair by Brunswick, according to Mike Stout, president of KR Strike Force Bowling in Chicago, which produces bowling shoes under the Brunswick label, the recreational bowler can snag a pair of basic looks for just $45. Add up the cost of seven shoe rentals and you can own your own shoes.
Today’s performance bowling shoes are extremely technical, according to Manzione, include styles with up to a dozen detachable soles that allow the wearer to adjust their slide depending on the condition of the approach to the lane.
Fashion figures into the equation when it comes to bowling shoes these days, even those at opening price points. While there are still the classic bi-color versions popular at alleys, there are now athletic-inspired styles and versions featuring novelty prints on the uppers.
For those considering investing in a pair of bowling shoes, there are lots of options available online in addition to pro shops located at bowling alleys around the country.