Shoe trees have been used for centuries by men (and women) looking to keep their shoes in good order. Today, shoe trees come in so many shapes, sizes and materials that it would be impossible to discuss all without making this guide unpalatable.
Therefore, this guide has been written to provide you with some useful information about shoe trees. If you're looking to purchase, it will provide you with greater insight to make a more informed purchase. If you've simply stumbled upon this page, don't click the close button just yet, you're about to learn something pretty cool.
|What are shoe trees?||Types of shoe trees|
|Using your shoe trees||Maintaining your shoe trees|
|Selecting a size||Final thoughts|
A shoe tree is a device in the approximate shape of a foot that is placed inside of a shoe to preserve its shape.
Shoe trees undertake 3 primary tasks:
1. Preserve the shoe’s natural shape: After a day of wear, the shoe is stretched due to pressure, moisture and heat. By inserting shoe trees, the leather will reform back to its natural shape.
2. Prevent the onset of creasing: Many shoe trees today work in a spring system that gently stretches the shoe flat. This prevents the shoe from bowing up at the toe, where creases will naturally form across the vamp of the shoe. In addition, many shoe trees have a spreader or spring toe system at the fore part of the shoe trees, which will expand into the shoe and also stretch out the vamp.
3. Wick away damaging moisture: Nine times out of ten why the lining of shoes falls apart is due to moisture caused by sweat. The absorption rate of cedar, maple and birch is much faster than dispensation through airing. Therefore, wooden shoe trees play an important part in wicking away moisture and preserving the construction of the shoe over time.
Shoe trees made from Cedar Wood also benefit from cedars natural oils. The oil of cedar has a fresh, pleasant aroma, leaving a fresh, clean scent. A great ballast against foot odour.
Plastic shoe trees are cheap as they are abundant. Their utility is questionable and their effectiveness is mediocre at best. Still, they are often lighter than their wooden cousins and are preferable when travelling.
Wood is the industry standard for shoe trees. It's easy to work with, it absorbs moisture and it's still used extensively within the shoe industry. Better quality shoe trees tend to use cedar, beech, maple or birch woods. Cheaper wood, such as pine, is also commonly used. There is also different quality woods within the same variation. The heartwood from cedar, for example, is of better quality than the sapwood. Cheaper wooden shoe trees found on eBay tend to use lower quality materials.
The Lasted Shoe Tree
There are shoe trees and there are lasted shoe trees. A Lasted shoe tree is the wooden mould - or last - used in the production of a shoe. Only a lasted shoe tree will fit a shoe with absolute precision. Many bespoke shoes will come with a lasted shoe tree, or if you're lucky, some ready-to-wear shoes too.
The Generic Lasted Shoe Tree
For those of us without the pleasure of a lasted shoe tree, we can have the next best thing: a shoe tree cut from a generic last. The American Red Cedar Shoe Tree pictured above is the most common style. They come in either double or single sizes and commonly use a spring toe to expand into the shoe when inserted. Better quality versions will allow one to adjust the width of the toe, accommodating wider and narrower shoe fits. It is the shoe tree of choice in many parts of Europe, hence commonly known as the 'European Style'.
The Boot Tree
Boot trees are shoe trees for boots. Boot trees are often used on ankle-high boots and are similar to the generic lasted shoe trees but have a higher ankle area. Their main function is to support the heel counter, which helps preserve the integrity of the higher heel and prevent it from creasing or folding over. The fore part of the boot tree acts like a standard shoe tree and works to gently stretch out the vamp and prevent creasing.
General Purpose Shoe Trees
This type of shoe tree is not cut from any last but designed to work in the same way. Often the shoe tree will operate on a spring and spreader system. The fore part of the tree will either be a split toe or full toe design. A split toe will spread apart as the shoe tree is inserted into the fore part of the shoe and is more efficient in stretching the vamp of the shoe. The full toe stretches the vamp to a lesser extent and is preference for more delicate leathers. The heel can come in different styles, such as the overhang grip pictured above.
Inserting your shoe trees should not be a difficult process. Some people turn the shoe tree on an angle when inserting, others do not. It really depends on what you find most convenient. Different shoes may require slightly different methods.
Removing your shoe trees should likewise not be very difficult. Each shoe tree usually has a feature that assists you with their remove, e.g. a drilled hole, a brass knob or wooden overhang. All one should have to do is pull up and out in a singular motion.
If you've bought a quality shoe tree it will most certainly out last several pairs of shoes. Shoe trees require little maintenance but the following advice will ensure your trees are performing at their best:
Cheaper shoe trees will often be made from materials that do not weather well over time. The type of wood used may be prone to decay or attract insects and other pests. Cheaper metal-wear may be prone to rust or tarnishing. Just like shoes, you get what you pay for at the end of the day. Invest in quality and you will not be disappointed.
When I started Trimly one could still find shoe trees on places like eBay. The problem was, they just weren't very good. I've learnt through bitter experience that the differences between similar looking shoe tree products can be stark. Having visited numerous shoe tree manufacturers, I can name less than a handful that make them very well, and a long tail of businesses whose products range from average to bad to downright dodgy. There is a reason why the top handful of producers, like ours, are used exclusively by the top shoemakers and will not be found, en mass, on marketplaces.
So what makes a quality shoe tree?
If you purchase your shoe trees on marketplaces like eBay, from a sellers who are offering everything bar the kitchen sink, there is a good chance you won't be investing in a quality pair of trees. If you do, do check out what the seller's guarantee and return policy; and where infact the product is coming from (e.g. local or via dropshipping - which can make returning them complicated).
Most shoe trees today are manufactured to European sizes. Most retailers will do their best to translate these sizes into US, UK or whatever sizing system they use. But it's often messy as no two sizing systems ever neatly correspond. What compounds this problem is that no two shoe sizes are ever the same.
Fit, or the width of the shoes one wears can also affect the selection of shoe trees. For instance, a very wide size 10 would probably not select the corresponding size 44 shoe tree, but may go up one, even two sizes - generally a single-sized shoe tree can extend and retract about two sizes.
We recommend consulting with our size charts located on the product pages in the first instance. If you're confident you know your European size, then that's the one you should select. if you're not overly confident, do check the shoe manufacturer's website.
Shoe trees are a must-have product for any person who is serious about looking after his or her shoes. If you've paid good money for a pair of leather kicks, I'm pretty sure you want them to last and look new for as long as possible. Well, that's good enough for me. But shoe trees will also absorb damaging moisture and is great ballast against shoe odour. There are many styles and models to choose from. I've presented three non-lasted versions that are widely used and work very well. Just like shoes, quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. And just like shoes, invest in quality and reap the rewards.