Whether you’re a beginner, or a seasoned competitive curler, curling shoes are an extremely important part of the game. The curling shoes you wear will have a huge impact on your delivery and ultimately on your success and enjoyment of the sport. Curling shoes are an investment in your game.
The decision can be a little overwhelming. There are at least six different suppliers of curling shoes who have three to five different models each. This can result in as many as thirty different products! It is not possible for us to carry this entire selection at The Curling Store, so we try to stock a good cross section of what is available.
Let’s start at the top, or the uppers-the part you put your foot into. The first priority is comfort and fit. Every style of shoe fits differently. It is to your advantage to try on several different shoes to ensure the best comfort and fit.
Next is warmth. The game is played on ice and a pair of cold feet will result in a long couple of hours of kicking your feet together to keep the blood flowing. Curling shoes are insulated, one of the best and most comfortable insulators is Thinsulate. The material used to produce the shoe will also make a difference. We are great believers in leather uppers both for comfort and warmth.
Another critical function of an upper is durability. As mentioned before, curling shoes are an investment in your game, so you want the quality of the upper to reflect this. The slider or gripper may wear out, but these can be easily replaced, so take your time to investigate the quality of the shoe.
Now to what makes a curling shoe a curling shoe: the slider. Remember those thirty shoes produced by the six different suppliers? Well, by our count, there are at least twenty-one various slider options, all of which can produce a different performance. By far the majority of sliders are made of Teflon and that is what we carry the most of at The Curling Store.
The first consideration when choosing a slider is thickness. Sliders range from 1/32” to 1/4” thick. The thicker the slider the “faster” and the more slippery the shoe will be. A shoe with a 5/32” slider will result in more distance travelled than a 1/32” slider with the same amount of leg drive. This means that it takes less effort to deliver the rock the same distance resulting in less wear and tear and better control.
When a customer comes into our store looking for a pair of shoes we start off with several questions, the first of which is, how much do you curl?
At one time a 1/32” slider was suggested for the beginner. This is not what is recommended today. This slider is very slow and not durable.
In the past a 3/32” slider was “average”, now it would be considered a starter slider for some one just taking up the sport .The advantage of a 3/32” slider for beginners is that, although you may find it a little tricky the first time you step on the ice, we have learned that it will make the game easier and more enjoyable for you in the long run. A 5/32” slider at one time was thought to be a fast slider; we now consider it basically average. There are coaches who insist that all of their players use a 5/32” slider minimum. We are finding more and more curlers are moving to either a 3/16” or even 1/4”.
Now we’ll look at the configuration of the slider. This is probably the most confusing part of your buying decision. Originally a piece of flat Teflon was attached to the bottom of the shoe and off we went. Then someone recognized that when we walk our weight is concentrated under the ball and heel of our feet, which is why the soles of our shoes tend to wear out in those two areas first. What this means for curlers is that the flat slider tends to “dish out” on these two spots resulting in a potential for rocking side to side, or as one curler describes it, “the wobblies.” To solve this problem one manufacturer decided to indent a round portion of the slider right under the ball of the foot and also offered an option to do the same under the heel. Today there are shoes available with perimeter sliders and weight distribution system which address this issue in different ways.
Now, what about the other shoe? The drag or trailing shoe comes with a rubber gripper built into the sole. Some of these shoes tend to be “grippier” than others. The grippiness is achieved by utilizing a soft rubber which does tend to wear out. It is the same concept as summer and winter tires for your automobile
Toe-coating is an option that can reduce some of the drag caused by the gripper foot on delivery. Some curlers find that this can result in a more efficient, straighter slide. Toe-coating can also reduce wear-and-tear on the toe of the shoe.
Anti-Slider (slip-on gripper)
Finally, you should have a slip-on gripper to cover your slider. Even if you slide when you sweep, the gripper will help to protect this expensive part of the shoe when you are walking around the rink. For those of us who walk and sweep, this slip on gripper goes on immediately after you have delivered your stones. This is a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment, and should be replaced when you see some wear on the bottom. Manufacturers try to balance the grip with durability.
In our first issue of this newsletter we dealt with the decision process in selecting a curling shoe. That was 4 years ago and although some things remain the same there have definitely been some dramatic changes. Whether you’re a beginner, or a seasoned competitive curler, curling shoes are an extremely important part of the game. The curling shoes you wear will have a huge impact on your delivery and ultimately on your success and enjoyment of the sport. Curling shoes are an investment in your game.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback. If you are replacing an existing shoe and visiting the store, please bring your old pair of shoes. This will assist us in selecting an appropriate shoe. We look forward to you visiting us. If you feel that this information has been of some help, please pass it onto your curling friends.