Sochi mysteries: How do they slide on the ice in curling? Is it the shoes?

In curling, the participants are able to slide around the ice on their shoes without slipping. But they're not wearing skates or regular sneakers. What sort of shoe lets them keep their balance?

In the past few years, curling has transitioned from perhaps the biggest oddity of the Winter Olympics to ... well, still that, but also a more widely appreciated curiosity. Nevertheless, the sport does maintain many mysteries. It's the only ice-bound sport in which the athletes do not wear skates, and yet everyone is able to slide around the field of play — call it a "curling sheet" to impress your friends! — without falling down like buffoons. Clearly, they're not wearing normal sneakers. So what's the deal?

[Related: Curling is super intense, and here are the photos to prove it]

The answer is somewhat simple — they wear shoes with special curling soles. The key is that the two soles are very different. The sliding sole is made of Teflon and allows the various curlers to slide — most notably as they throw the stone, though also while sweeping. The other shoe is essentially a normal athletic shoe, just with a sole of equal thickness to the sliding sole in order to keep the curler level.

But this explanation is really just the tip of the iceberg. The slider can be worn as a simple slip-on addition to a standard athletic shoe (in which case the curler would need some kind of addition to the non-slide shoe for balance), or as a full-on curling-specific shoe.

Cost may be a determining factor in finding the right shoe for the curler in your life. A slip-on can run as low as $17 at the introductory level and up to $27.95 for a more advanced model. The full curling shoe, however, is a major investment. While some pairs run only $79, a top-of-the-line Goldline Podium Gold model retails at $269. This is not a shoe for people who wake up in the middle of the night, accidentally catch a few ends of a random match on NBC Sports Network, and decide they want to slide those funny stones (which cost $450 each for Olympic quality, by the way).

So, you know, keep all this in mind before you become the curling version of a collector of rare Air Jordans. It's a seller's market.

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Eric Freeman

is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!