A Bit of Sole Searching

by John Williams
(BTBA National Coach)

I AM writing this whilst in the United States and, as usual, I have been visiting a lot of bowling centres and have been impressed to see such a large variety of bowling shoes on the market.

Of course, many of you will be using the rental shoes supplied by your local centre but, as you become more interested in ten pin bowling, you may well decide to invest in a pair of purpose made shoes.

Looking at the displays in the pro shops here and at the huge sports' emporiums, my first impression was how much more stylish many brands of shoes have become. All are intended to give you good support, a good fit and to assist you in maintaining good balance.

There are moccasin models, with leather uppers, whilst others have synthetic uppers in dif- ferent shades. Then there are those available in the U.K. which are made of leather and have a set of Velcro attaching soles, which allow you to have a choice of four different slide surfaces to adapt to the type and condition of the approach.

Other makes of shoes have customised round slide insert pads in the soles which are instantly interchangeable to meet the demands of the condi- tion of the approach. This type of shoe has four dif- fering slide friction attachments.

It has been found that the casual bowler is more likely to purchase shoes which are stylish, so manufacturers are catering for that demand.

Your shoes are a vital part of your successful bowling equipment and you should really pay attention to their condition. I suspect that many of you do anything more than chuck your shoes into your bag or locker after bowling and they remain there until your next bowling session. Come on - admit you're guilty!

Many problems bowlers have in their game can be traced back to bowling shoes, and this does not apply just to your sliding shoe only A slick sole on your push away foot can cause you to lose traction, which means you will be losing consistency in your approach, therefore you will not be getting consistent leverage when you release the ball.

Shoe soles do wear out - nothing lasts forever Also, the nap on the sole gets matted and caked with dirt, which will considerably affect the slide and traction.

You should always be looking after your shoes. As I have mentioned in previous articles, you can purchase small wire brushes from your local pro shop which can be used to break up the caking formed on the soles and to rough up the nap on the sole of your sliding foot shoe. However, be careful to only use a wire brush in moderation, if you do it too much you could destroy the nap and cause the soles to wear out faster than they should. A mild abrasive pad such as ScotchBrite can do a similar job, but cause less wear.

It is possible to clean the soles with a little warm water and mild detergent. This will help remove some of the dirt and restore the nap, but it is essential that you allow plenty of time for the shoes to dry before you bowl again.

Most importantly, the British Tenpin Bowling Association rules state that: "the application of any foreign substance on any part of the approach that detracts from the possibility of other players hav- ing normal conditions is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, such substances as talcum powder, pumice and resin on shoes (including pro- prietary products such as Easy Slide); also soft rub- ber soles or heels that rub off onto the approach are prohibited. Powder should not be taken into the players' area."

Some bowlers carry two pairs of shoes with them, one pair for slick approaches and one pair for when the surface is dry or tacky.


Well, I hope that the foregoing has awakened you to the importance of shoe care.

I would like to mention other accessories which can enhance your game.

A strong release requires a certain amount of strength in your wrist and fingers to get consistent lift during the release of your bowling ball. Maybe, because of age, old or young, or your physical build, you may be lacking in that strength.

Then you need some piece of equipment which can help to give you the ability to produce the nec- essary strength. There are available through your pro shop various wrist and arm supports which can help you to keep your wrist straight and firm, enabling you to get support and confidence in lift- ing through the ball during release.

If your wrist and fingers collapse backwards when you release the ball, you will not be able to produce torque to make the ball hook and drive through the pins. Using a good wrist support usu- ally gives an immediate improvement in pun fall because of the added confidence it gives you. However, if you can let the swing of the ball and a free armswing govern your release, you should not be needing to invest in a wrist support.

In an earlier article, I have written about the use of bowlers' tape in the thumb hole and the use of a white cotton handkerchief to reduce the swelling of your thumb when you get hot or ner- vous. As a general observation, most bowlers find that thumbs in particular sometimes fingers, swell or shrink, depending upon the heat, humidity and number of games being bowled. Maintaining an ideal fit of your hand to your bowling ball is vital, you need that comfortable 'feel' to maintain your confidence in knowing that you can roll your ball where you want. This means that you may have to make minor adjustments whilst bowling, which involves adding or removing small strips of tape to fill the thumb or finger holes if your hand changes. You need a pair of scissors and preferably a small pair of tweezers to insert or remove the tape. The types of tape available include vinyl electrical tape, medical adhesive tape through to the commercial tape designed specifically for bowlers' use. But beware, some types of tape will leave a sticky residue when removed.

Use smooth surfaced tape in the back of the thumb hole to adjust the fit of the thumb but still maintain a clean release. Quite a large number of bowlers like to insert a textured tape in the front of the thumb hole for a more secure 'feel'. The scis- sors are useful not only for cutting lengths of tape but also to trim the square edges off the tape so that it will not roll up. In addition, they can be used for removing and replacing the tape. Be careful that you do not have any part of the tape protrud- ing above the thumb or finger holes.

Next is the question of towels, so vital in enabling you to keep everything dry and clean. Always start your bowling with at least two clean towels, a must to wipe perspiration from your hands and face and the second towel to wipe the oil residue from the bowling ball, because dirt and oil on the ball surface can affect how the ball will hook so you will not be getting a consistent pattern.

A rosin bag can be of help to control perspira- tion and to give a better grip.There is a snag, how- ever as rosin gives you a somewhat tacky feel and this can cause unwanted residue building up in the thumb or finger holes and affect your release. Also, you must not use rosin/powder/cigarette ash, etc. or any other such aid which can spill on the approach or lane. Note the ruling stated earlier.

Extract taken from World Of Tenpin October 1995