How to Make Custom Bowling Shoes

Bowl with style

Bowling shoes have traditionally been either very ugly or very boring. That shouldn’t be the case. You should love your bowling shoes just as much as you love throwing a strike. Instead of relying on manufacturers to finally come up with something cool, you can make custom bowling shoes with a little creativity and a few simple supplies.

Buy a pair of boring bowling shoes. You can shop at area sports shops, thrift stores or go online (see Resources below). You want the least adorned, least colorful and least exciting pair you can find. You'll add the exciting stuff yourself.

Prepare the shoes. Remove the shoelaces. Thoroughly clean the shoes with a sponge and water, especially if you got them used. Use a leather conditioner to soften up the shoes. Rinse well and allow them to fully dry.

Arrange your patches, trinkets and charms. Put all your fun adornments in front of you, next to the shoes. Start placing them in different areas around the shoes to see where they look best. For example, a small, long patch might to best at the heel of the shoe, running vertically. A tassel trinket works well at the tip of shoelaces, near your toes.

Start sewing. Use a thick leather needle and durable, clear thread to sew your trinkets and patches onto your shoes. Always work from the inside of the shoe and make sure to triple knot every closure. Use one piece of thread for each trinket or patch or you will have a nasty spider web of thread inside your shoe.

Unpack the paint pens. Get permanent paint markers, shake well and begin to paint your shoes. Make swirls, smiley faces, patchwork and other designs in between your patches and trinkets.

Seal your designs. Use a leather protector, sold at sporting goods or shoe stores, to seal your handiwork. Spray mainly on the areas you painted; don’t gob up the trinkets with your sealer.

Finish off your shoes with a funky pair of shoelaces. Find some at area novelty stores or specialty websites (see Resources below.)


For a less busy pair of shoes, use trinkets only, a single patch or paint only. Instead of buying new trinkets and charms, go through your old jewelry to see if any parts can be used. Thrift stores and yard sales are awesome places to find original patches, trinkets and charms—for cheap.


Don’t forget to gussy up the perimeter of the shoe’s sole with the paint markers. Polka dots or small lines make a nice touch.