MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Do You Have To Wear Special Shoes To Bowl?

Have you ever wondered why you have to wear special bowling shoes? You know how it is…you get to the bowling alley, wanting to roll a few frames, and then you’re required to swap out your own kicks for a pair of stiff, not quite comfortable (and usually less-than-pleasantly-fragrant) footwear that ultimately make you feel twice as socially awkward as you normally would. Why do you have to wear those special shoes if you want to bowl? Why not your brand new Nike sneakers, instead? What’s the big deal?

There’s a long-running urban legend that bowling shoes enable you to keep traction on the slick bowling lane floors. The problem is that, as with most urban legends, it’s not true. Bowling shoes actually do the opposite: they have slick soles that help you glide across the lane’s surface, giving your body a wider range of motion in the process.

So why wear bowling shoes rather than your own regular shoes? Well, you see…when you wear treaded sneakers & attempt to swing the ball while you’re set in one place, that actually adds more stress to your joints (ankles, knees, wrist, etc.). You really don’t want to stop like that while bowling. Instead, you actually want to slide, and that’s what bowling shoes do (better than regular shoes). They’re not as slippery as some might think, though. Because, while bowling shoes are mostly made out of leather, they do have heels comprised of rubber so that you’ll have some braking power. So, yeah…sliding is big part of wearing bowling shoes, but not as much as it would be with, say, ice skates (or just wearing your socks).

Safety is the main reason you’re required to lace up those beautifully bland bowling shoes. But protection is also high on the list: the bowling shoe system helps protect bowling alley floors in the long run. If everyone were to wear their regular shoes, those polished & varnished bowling floors would, fairly easity & quickly, end up scuffed & dirty. And if/when that happened, everyone’s bowling balls would regularly veer off-course because of the buildup of dirt, as well as small chewing gum pieces & other nastiness that would accumulate. Only allowing folks to wear dedicated bowling shoes while on the lanes within the alley, itself, helps protect the floors from not only grimy buildup, but also from moisture because of rain or snow. Think of it as an anti-contamination system…kind of like a “plastic bubble” situation, only less see-through (and, strangely, less fashionable as well).

So, the next time you have to slip on a pair of bowling shoes, you’ll at least know why & be thankful for what those shoes are & do (or at least not be too perturbed at having to wear them). As a matter of fact, think of it like this: bowling shoes are the great equalizer at bowling alleys. Because we ALL look & feel goofy wearing them. It’s a communal experience, and one that we’re all lucky to have.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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