Wondering how do curling shoes work?
Curling shoes work due to their soles that have a soft grippy rubber that helps a player get good traction on the ice. Curling shoes are specially designed for modern sweeping and sliding techniques. The stretch sole helps a smooth transition of your weight from the back foot to the front foot. Moreover, it is flexible enough so you can adjust the angle of the shoe to match the angle of your sweeping arm.
The upper of curling shoes is generally all leather or an engineered mesh with synthetic overlays. The leather is usually made of cow skin. This gets good stability for you while curling, which can help to improve the accuracy of shots.
Furthermore, there’s a special rubber coating on the toe area of the curling shoes to prevent wear and tear as you sweep over the ice.
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Sole Structure of Curling Shoes
Curling shoes work with a combination of sliding and grippy sole. It is the sole of curling shoes that differentiates them from other sporting shoes. The soles of two curling shoes of a pair are made of the following two different materials with different designs.
Grip Sole of Curling Shoes
Gripper is made of soft rubber with different designs to provide traction over the smooth icy surface. It should be comfortable and feature a low-profile look from all angles. A curling shoe with a gripper is used to gain some traction to slide over the icy surface and carry the stone to your goal. It offers an increased accuracy in turning and throwing the stone due to a better balance that allows you to apply more force to your sweeping motion, thus increasing the velocity of the stone off your foot.
There are different textures of rubber grip soles for curling shoes. One of them is a slip-on rubber gripper with an abrasive pattern. It is easily detachable. You don’t need to glue or sew it to your curling shoes bottom. It is pretty much impervious to water and provides excellent traction and grip when you’re wearing it.
This is how a player wears a slip-on rubber gripper.
Other type is gripper disc pods which need to be glued to the curling shoes bottom. They’re made of a high traction rubber. Gripper disc pods are also great for helping add some extra friction to curling shoes. They don’t extend across the whole bottom. These grip pods are placed strategically in different ways over the bottom.
Different brands in different styles make gripper pods for the sake of improving the traction and stability.
First one is BalancePlus Gripper Pod. These are Velcro-attached two grip pods placed in the rearfoot and forefoot region of the curling shoes.
Here’s an example of BlancePlus gripper pods.
The other type is the Quantum gripper pod. It is a set of seven disc-shaped grip pods that are strategically placed along the curvature of the curling shoe’s bottom. They provide a more stable stride as compared to the BalancePlus grip pods. These grip pods have a limitation as you can only place them on Goldline’s Quantum series shoes due to their specific design.
Check out this video to view the Quantum gripper pods.
There’s another style of grip pods made by the Asham brand. These are also velcro-attached like BalancePlus grip pods. So, you can easily peel them off and replace them with new ones. They are disk-shaped and placed in the forefoot and rearfoot region to provide traction. They have treads like the tire to improve your curling footwork and give you excellent balance.
Here’s how the Asham gripper pod looks like.
If you don’t have dedicated curling shoes with the grip mentioned above, you can also wear your normal flat-soled athletic shoes with aggressive treads pattern for better grip. You can customize the sole of another shoe of your athletic shoe pair for sliding, which I’ve covered in the next section.
Sliders in Curling Shoes
Sliders remove friction between your shoes and ice and allow you to smoothly sweep over the surface to take the stone towards the goal. The slider of curling shoes is made of different materials. The most common is Teflon. Teflon is a synthetic material that is slippery and non-stick.
There is so much confusion about whether the slider should be on the left foot or right foot. Don’t worry; it’s easy to understand by looking at the picture below:
As you can see from the picture, you’ll slide on your left foot if you’re left-handed.
The thickness of a slider affects your curling performance. It generally ranges between 1/32 to 1/4 inches. The speed of your curling increases with the thickness of the slider.
This is because the thicker Teflon is less flexible and offers less friction with the ice surface. It distributes your body weight more evenly, due to which you get a faster pace in your curling game. As far as stability is concerned, thicker Teflon sliders make the ride unstable as your foot moves away from the ground. So, if you’re an experienced curler and are well accustomed to the ice for an optimal ride, you should go for a thick slider.
It’d be better to wear curling shoes with a thin slider if you’re just starting out. It is considered safer as it’s a little bit slower as it bends more and creates friction. Moreover, due to lesser thickness, you’re closer to the surface. So, you’re a bit more stable on your feet.
It is recommended to use a slider of 3/32’’ thickness as a starter. You’ll find it a bit tricky in the beginning. But, as you proceed and continue to practice, you’ll feel it enjoyable in the long run. I’m not recommending you slider of 1/32’’ because you’d have a low leg thrust as a beginner. So, if you’re equipped with an excessively slow slider, the results will be unsatisfactory for you.
Configurations of a Slider in Curling Shoes
The top brands of curling shoes are BalancePlus, Goldline and Asham. Each brand has a different configuration of a slider. Your curling experience and stability of your stride on the ice surface decide which slider configuration you should select for curling.
First configuration is a full-length slider. It was used to be on BalancePlus 300 series curling shoes. But they’re not available now because a full-length slider adds weight to the shoes and doesn’t ensure good mobility. But still, this type of slider is being used in Asham Force Curling Shoes.
The second configuration is Disc sliders. These are the same like disc grips as explained above. They’re placed in the forefoot and rearfoot part. These are present in Asham Club Ultra Lightweight Curling Shoes. The advantage of disc sliders is that they don’t make curling shoes heavy as they’re only placed in certain regions of the bottom of the shoes. These disc sliders are useful while performing a tuck slide in curling as your forefoot is the only part in contact with the ice as the heel is raised while sliding.
You can check out this video for a better understanding of tuck delivery in curling.
The third configuration is similar to the disc slider. But there are some dimples on the disc slider that are becoming more common for weight distribution that force your weight to the outside of the Teflon and allow you to slide with a little more stability. This type of slider configuration is also used for tuck delivery in curling. In tuck delivery, your sliding leg bends to a more extreme angle that creates space in your hips. This results in increasing stability as the center of gravity of your body gets lowered.
But in tuck delivery, your all body weight is exerted on the forefoot, due to which disc slider with dimples is a better option as it helps evenly distributing your body weight.
The configuration is similar to the disc slider with dimples. The only difference is that it is hinged on the bottom of the curling shoes. It’s only glued halfway in the front that allows the shoe to bend more naturally when you’re walking up and down the ice and should offer superior comfort. As it allows more flexibility, expert curlers prefer to use hinged sliders when sliding up on their toe. You can observe this type of sliders in several curling shoes like:
Does Nike Make Curling Shoes?
As curling shoes top brands are pretty expensive, people often find the tricks to convert their favorite shoes into curling shoes. Fortunately, you can do that. But keep in mind your shoes should be low profile and flat, which is the requirement of curling shoes to work correctly.
You can check out this video of how this guy customized his Nike shoes for curling.
Final Verdict about Curling Shoes
I hope you’ve got everything clear regarding the working of curling shoes and their sole structure. I’ve tried my best to present this article with relevant images and videos for the better understanding of the curling shoes working. There are different types of grippers and sliders, designed by the different curling shoes brands for specific applications as discussed above.
Curling shoes are expensive as well. So, if you’re out of budget, I’ve shared a video with you on how to customize your favorite shoes for curling. You should consider that the bottom of curling shoes should be flat and upper is strong enough to stabilize your body while sweeping through the ice surface.