When I first started curling, I used equipment provided by my club. One of those pieces of equipment was a slip-on slider, so I could slide when I was delivering my stones. It was a good way to learn how to curl, but it is a sub-optimal method of delivery.
There are several major problems with slip-on sliders. First of all, I have gigantic (size 15!) feet. Most sliders are too short, and I could not get a good delivery as a result. I partially remedied that by purchasing an extra large slider. Second. it doesn't usually stay on your foot well, causing an occasional drift, especially in a curler who is just learning form. Furthermore, they don't really slide all that well - it takes more force to deliver a stone with a slip-on slider than shoes. Finally, it delays the game to sit down, put on a slider, only to have to take it off after delivering a couple of stones.
It's important to note that since I started curling, the step-on slider has gained some momentum in clubs. I am not a fan. There are two reasons that I am not a fan. First of all, it doesn't stay on your foot any better than a slip-on slider, and it has the added caveat of not having anything to hold it to your foot. Second, new curlers quickly get lazy and just slide them down the ice between ends. One curler did that in my club, and another curler stepped on it mid-ice. First game of the season, and it was over for her - her fall caused a concussion.
Curling is a really dangerous sport. That's a topic for another day, though.
After about a year of curling, it was a fellow curler - Kevin Twitchell, my first real skip (although my time with him was done)- who pointed out that my delivery was OK but would be a lot better with a pair of curling shoes. He was right! I was far, FAR more stable in my delivery. Oh sure, I did still fall sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to.
And I could finally hit the broom and throw a weight other than really, really hard. I could actually improve my game - I was worried I had plateaued.
So that's it - I bought shoes? Oh, if only that were the whole story. I bought my shoes in 2003, so they are now eight years old. (That's like 56 to you and me). That's a long life for curling shoes, but it is time to replace them. That's a problem. Why, do you ask?
1. Curling shoes are expensive. A quick look at the Asham online store (where I bought my original pair) show a range of prices from $100 to $250. Those are in Canadian funds. When I bought my original pair, that wasn't quite so bad for me - $1.00 US got me about $1.50 CDN, so, from where I sat, I paid about 30% less (I know it was a false savings, but it was still psychologically helpful). Now it's pretty close to at par - the Canadian dollar is actually a little stronger than the US dollar - and it's a bigger investment. My current pair still cost me about $125.
2. I have a gigantic foot - size 15. Up until now, I haven't discussed the fact that I am tall. I am tall - 6'6", or around about 2m even. When I looked for shoes, I looked at several online sites. Most only had shoes up to size 13. It got to a point where I was willing to part with a pair of my beloved Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes, even though they are canvas shoes and my feet would be cold. Not to mention, it's hard enough to find regular shoes for me, so I didn't want to give a pair of them up.
I did finally settle on a pair of Asham shoes, size 14, with the agreement that I could return them if they did not fit. Asham customer service was very helpful. I was obviously concerned about importing a pair of shoes in the wrong size. Their shoes, as it turn out, run a little big, so they are barely big enough.
I am very happy with my slider choice. The red brick allows me to slide halfway down the ice, so I get plenty of slide. It also allows me to have a flexible sliding foot - it is comfortable. However, I am considering, given that my skill level is increasing, going with a slider that is more adjustable, and does not cover the whole foot. It is possible to buy shoes with sliders just around the perimeter of the sole. I don't really want that either - I'm too flat-footed to trust the effectiveness of that - so I will probably go with disk sliders on the toe/ball area and the heel. Some of these even allow you to hot-swap the slider, which I think is a really cool feature. I am also debating whether it is time for me to go to steel. I probably won't - I'm still not that great - but I might. Any thoughts you have on the subject are welcome.
I am going to have sliders put on both feet. Right now, I only have a left-foot slider. That's because I primarily deliver right-handed. However, when I used a slip-on slider, I routinely switched hands late in the game. I am capable of delivering from either side - ambidextrous AND tall - and I want to try it. This, of course, means I'll always have a gripper cover to worry about on one foot, but I think it'll be worth it.
Oh. Right. I haven't really discussed gripper covers. At my club (not at the truly competitive level), we cover our sliders when we are not delivering. It's safer, especially for new curlers. I find myself putting my gripper cover back on less and less as I get more experienced, but I do still use one. If someone wears sneakers, like I used to when I started, my club requires grippers on both shoes. They do help with traction on the (pebbled) ice, truly.
If you are a curler who is going to stick with the sport, make shoes your first investment. And if anyone wants to buy me a new pair, I'm OK with that, too.