What Are Shoe Trees & Should You Use Them?

What Are Shoe Trees?

Shoe trees are foot-shaped devices that are inserted into shoes to reduce moisture and help hold their shape when they're not being worn. Shoe trees are most commonly made of wood or plastic.

Shoe trees typically have a two or three piece design, consisting of a front half resembling the forefoot and a back piece resembling the heel. These two pieces will be spring-loaded to accommodate shoes of varying sizes, and to provide a customized fit.

With some models of shoe trees, the forefoot section will be a two piece design with a split down the center. The two halves (left and right) will also be spring loaded to provide a more customized fit to the front of the shoe.

How To Use Shoe Trees

Install shoe trees shortly after wearing your shoes, and leave them in place whenever they’re not being worn. This will allow the shoe trees to absorb moisture and continue to hold the shoe’s shape. If your shoes are soaking wet, give them some time to dry (20-40 minutes) before installing the shoe trees.

First, insert the front of the shoe tree into the shoe and slide it as far forward as possible. If the shoe tree has a split toe, pinch the outside of the shoe to push the two halves together and continue sliding the tree into the shoe until it bottoms out on the toe. This doesn’t require much force, and if the tree doesn’t easily slide into the shoe, you’re likely using the wrong size.

Next, compress the shoe tree lengthwise and slide the back half into the heel of the shoe. When the spring decompresses, it should adequately fill the shoe with no room for movement. If the shoe tree still doesn’t fit after compressing the spring, it’s likely too big for the shoe.

What Size Shoe Trees Do I Need?

Shoe trees typically come in sizes that will fit a range of up to 2 different shoe sizes. The following ranges are examples of shoe tree sizing: 6-7.5, 8-9.5, 10-11, 11.5-13, etc.

If you’re between sizes, it’s best to try out both and see which fits. Each brand of shoe tree will fit differently and it’s important to get the right size. Too small and the shoe tree will move around too much. Too large and it will stretch the shoe out. 

How Much Do Shoe Trees Cost?

A quality pair of cedar shoe trees will cost $15-25, which is inexpensive enough to buy a pair for each pair of nice shoes that you own.

How Long Do Shoe Trees Last?

A good pair of cedar shoe trees will last a lifetime with very little maintenance or attention. Once a year it’s a good idea to give the cedar a light sanding in order to open up the grain.

Shoe Tree Designs & Materials

The best quality shoe trees will have a three piece design that includes a split forefoot and a rounded heel section that resembles an actual human foot. Lower cost shoe trees (or travel shoe trees) often omit the heel section in favor of a simple rounded end. The rounded end isn’t ideal as it can place extra pressure on one part of the heel, leading to stretching or deformation.

Wood vs. Plastic

Wood is the preferred material for shoe trees because it helps remove moisture in addition to holding the shoe’s shape. Cedar is the most common type of wood because it does a better job of removing moisture than other wood species, and it has a pleasant smell.

Plastic is sometimes used for shoe trees because it’s less expensive, and also lighter. Travel shoe trees are often made of plastic because plastic weighs less. These shoe trees aren’t intended for long term use, so they make compromises to save weight.

Cedar vs. Other Woods

Most shoe trees are made of cedar because of its ability to remove moisture, but they do come in other types of wood too (like beechwood). Whenever possible, stick to cedar. Make sure to avoid varnished shoe trees, because the lacquer coating prevents the wood from absorbing moisture.

Will Shoe Trees Stretch Shoes?

While they may look similar, shoe trees are not shoe stretchers, and when used correctly, shoe trees will not stretch shoes.

Will Shoe Trees Prevent Or Remove Creasing?

Yes, the main purpose of shoe trees is to prevent shoes from creasing, and using them regularly will help prevent creases from developing. If your shoes are already creased, shoe trees may reduce the appearance of creasing, but won’t eliminate it entirely. With that being said, shoe creasing is a normal part of wearing shoes (learn more about how to fix shoe creasing).

Shoe Trees For Boots

Shoe trees are available for ankle boots too, with a heel that’s taller than on a typical shoe tree. For taller boots, there are inserts that can be used to help them hold their shape, usually made from plastic or other synthetic materials.

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Samuel Hubbard has an extensive collection of premium leather shoes for men and women. Shop the collection today!

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