When considering the longevity of your footwear, three elements stand out: shoe care, rest, and the focus of this article, shoe trees.

Understanding Shoe Trees

Shoe trees serve two primary purposes. Firstly, they help shoes maintain their shape. Secondly, they aid in the drying process, especially when made of wood. While cedarwood is often touted for its pleasant aroma, it's not the only suitable wood. Birch and maple also serve well for shoe trees, offering decent moisture absorption. Importantly, while wooden shoe trees absorb moisture, they also allow the leather to breathe, ensuring the majority of the moisture is expelled outwardly.

Conversely, plastic shoe trees neither absorb moisture nor allow the leather to breathe, which can be detrimental in the long term. It's crucial, however, that wooden shoe trees aren't coated. A coating can impede absorption, although staining doesn't present this problem. If uncertain, seek advice from the seller.

For best results, insert shoe trees immediately after removing your shoes, as warm, damp leather is most prone to shrinking. Ideally, shoe trees should remain in the shoes for a minimum of 24 hours. Dry leather doesn't distort as easily, so shoe trees can be removed once shoes are thoroughly dry. Even if you own just one pair of shoe trees, rotating them among your shoes can greatly benefit their longevity.

Neglecting shoe trees can lead to unsightly creases, regardless of the shoe's quality.

Types of Shoe Trees

  1. Spiral Wood Trees: While better than nothing, these may distort the shoe due to vertical pressure.
  2. Divided Toe with Small Heel Trees: Lacks heel shape support.
  3. Divided Toe with Large Heel Trees: Cannot conform to the upper shoe towards the tongue's end.
  4. Unequally Divided Toe Trees: Adequately fills the shoe, though the smaller section might distort the back upper part.
  5. Lasted Trees: Mirrors the shoe's last shape, ensuring optimal shape retention.
  6. Non-lasted Full Shoe Trees: Similar to #4 but with an undivided toe. Effective if shaped like the shoe's last.
  7. Hinged Trees: Feature hinges instead of springs. Typically reserved for lasted shoe trees.
  8. Three-piece Trees: The epitome of shoe trees, preferred by bespoke manufacturers, and usually in lasted versions.
  9. Hollow Trees: Craft-intensive and effective for drying due to the thin wood.
  10. Boot Trees: Tailored for boots, but often lacking in ankle support.

The Sole's Role

Shoe trees should effectively iron out creases and ensure the sole remains straight. Over time, shoe soles may curve upward. Shoe trees help stretch the sole, indirectly smoothing out creases, returning the shoe to its original shape. It's crucial to select shoe trees that complement the shoe's shape, especially at the front.

Heel Considerations

The heel's design in shoe trees is vital. A well-fitting heel block is ideal, but if too large, it might deform the shoe's heel.

In conclusion, shoe trees are essential for maintaining the shape, appearance, and overall life of your shoes. Investing in a good pair can make a world of difference for your favourite footwear.