Bowling shoes are really specialty shoes, they are constructed specifically to perform certain functions, as well as protect the approach surface. For a right-handed bowler, the left foot is your final step toward the foul line; the left shoe is designed to slide to the foul line. The right shoe is designed to provide traction to facilitate the push off that starts your approach. For a left-handed bowler just reverse the above.
Just a few years ago you had very few style choices, your shoes were either black or white and had a leather slide pad on the slide shoe, and no modifications to the push-off shoe.
That has changed; today there are now more manufacturers of these shoes, offering many new styles, and a wide price range. If you are a recreational bowler, you will benefit from having your own shoes just because you will have a consistent fit and feel. You will become used to how they slide and have a more comfortable and natural approach.
If you are bowling in a league or if you are a competitive bowler you will want a bowling shoe that offers more features. These made for competitive bowlers offer such “accessories” as changeable slide pads, and changeable heels on your slide shoe, this allows you to customize your shoe to exactly how you would like it to perform, or to make adjustments for changing approach conditions. The traction shoe is equipped with a positive traction toe or sole, which will promote solid consistent, push off to start your approach. One top company even offers a “shuffle” shoe style for those bowlers who tend too shuffle their approach steps. These are going to cost a bit more, however they will also give you years of performance.
Many bowlers will use a “slide sock” that is designed to slip over the slide pad to allow for more slide on sticky approaches, this device is especially useful on synthetic approaches.
There are also “wet socks” available to slip over your slide shoe when walking outside of the bowling approach area, this protects the slid pad from getting wet. If your shoes are ready to be replaced, or if you are looking to make a first time purchase, check with your pro shop for your choices.