A Very Important Accessory
In today’s article I decide to compile a comprehensive Guide about Shoe Trees.
If you ask most people what is the most important accessory of a shoe, they will either say shoe trees or a shoe brush.
This is bang on, since both are very important for preserving the shape and looks of your shoes.
Today I will help you understand why you need shoe trees and what are the different types of shoe trees out there.
Grab some cold drink and let’s get going!
What Are Shoe Trees?
Quite interestingly we begin with the etymology. I met quite a few people that didn’t know what shoe trees are.
Shoe Trees are a form of inserts that go into your shoes when you do not wear them. They come in different materials and shapes, sizes and have a few functions.
The most important function is to preserve the shape of your shoes after wear. Other benefits include absorbing odor, moisture and even looking aesthetically pleasing.
As a bit of extra trivia, in my native Greek the word for shoe tree is “Καλαπόδι” (kalapodi) which is quite hilarious to say.
It comes from the words “kalon” (proto-European-Indian origin) which means wood and podi which means foot. In other words, a foot of wood.
Lasted & Non-Lasted Shoe Trees
Before we delve into the different types of shoe trees, let’s very quickly discuss the two main categories.
There are lasted and non-lasted shoe trees.
A Lasted shoe tree will fit exactly the shoe it was made for. It has the same shape as the form used to make the shoes in the first place. It fits that shoe perfectly.
A Non-Lasted shoe tree on the other hand has a generic shape with the intention to fit as many shoes as possible.
Most shoemakers will offer non-lasted shoe trees, however as you buy more expensive shoes then lasted shoe trees begin to emerge.
In essence there is no reason for you not to spend $10 more for a split-toe version.
2.3 Split-Toe Shoe Trees
Split-Toe Shoe Trees are a great affordable every day option.
They share the same type of main spring mechanism with the full toe, however they have 3 pieces.
The idea is that they resemble the form of your foot more but even those have variations.
For example, the front of the shoe tree maybe be divided into two equal parts or a smaller outer part.
Both have certain disadvantages such as not going deep enough depending on the shoe, or applying too much pressure on the uppers.
It’s critical not too choose a shoe tree size that is too tight.
Usually, these have a Brass knob or overhang grip for ease of use.
Typically these should not cost you more than $35 USD.
2.4 Boot Trees
Boot trees are really any of the previous 2 subcategories but with a raised large back piece.
They serve no real purpose other than to look good, especially on bespoke models.
The area of interest is the lower part of the shoe, not the ankle after all.
If someone tries to sell you boot trees for function, they are probably lying.
In other words, unless you are buying Bespoke or super high end boots, don’t invest in boot trees.
2.5 Hollowed Shoe Trees
A more recent trend is hollowed shoe trees.
Essentially they are once more just like the previous versions but with large holes throughout them.
The only real difference is that they are extremely lightweight and perfect for travel.
They also require much more work (see the Saint Crispin’s Video) and usually high end shoemakers offer them.
Phenomenal craftsmanship and more often than not they will be lasted.
2.6 Lasted Shoe Trees
Lasted shoe trees have a very simplistic explanation if you missed the section above.
You essentially make a copy of the form of a shoe, that will fit perfectly inside.
It will have a full toe and there are differences here and there on the spring mechanism.
In my opinion the hinged ones is the most elegant looking.
Probably the most affordable version is from Vass Budapest (Review Here) and generally an option for higher end shoes.
I would say that if you are climbing over the $500-700 mark and you have the option, take lasted shoe trees.
Bear in mind that good lasted shoe trees will cost you $100-200 but is that a problem when you might spend $1500 for the shoes?
Budget them in, otherwise regular ones should work well.
2.7 Bespoke Shoe Trees
Should I call them Three-Piece Shoe Trees? I don’t know but these are the big daddies.
I have serious trouble finding more picture of these on Google, but they have a triple wood design mechanism that looks extremely elegant.
Only Lasted with possibly the best fitting of them all, filling the entire shoe space.
Should I Really Use Shoe Trees?
Not sure if I should be leading the article with this question. Maybe.
Unless your shoes are disposable cheap trash that you don’t care about and probably use fake leather, you should always use shoe trees.
The difference between using and not using shoe trees is apocalyptic.
Don’t think about saving cost, because in the end you are doing the opposite.
The creasing your shoes will develop is shocking. I vividly remember when I was working at Suitsupply and this guy came in.
He said he needs new shoes pronto because he had a meeting in half an hour.
Then he proceeded to take off his Meermins and I genuinely asked him what he did to them. They looked like they went through a nuclear reactor and the digestive system of a cow.
Never polished, never brushed, never used shoe trees.
For the love of whatever you believe in, at least shove some paper or socks in the toe and go buy some trees.
How To Use Shoe Trees
This is a very straight forward one, but people are daft these days and search for “How to shower”.
Usually, the back bends due to the mechanism and that helps during insertion. That sounded awfully sexual I apologize.
Slide in the front inside the shoe and be careful with the back. Sometimes you need to jiggle it around as it can fold the top walls of the opening if you are not careful.
Push the heel back firmly but not with too much force. You can feel the shoe tree against the walls.
If it is too tight, you can usually tell and you should stop immediately. You want a snug fit and not too tight.
Every time you come home, make sure you take off your shoes and put the shoe trees in.
Some people like to let them rest for 20-30 minutes, but I put mine immediately in.
Afterwards, it would be best if you can leave them for at least 24 hours before the next wear.
However, this is not a rule set in stone but a general guideline. Nobody said you cannot wear them back to back.
It just gives the shoe some time to recover, regain shape and absorb any excess moisture or odor.
Oh and as always, if your shoes are wet wipe them gently with a smooth cloth and let them dry naturally. And away from any heat sources such as radiators or the sun.
I think that should wrap up the Guide for Shoe Trees.
We discussed, usage, reasoning behind it and the different materials and types. If you know any that I missed, please let me know in the comments below.
I am not an expert, but I do have a certain degree of knowledge now.
Expect more findings when I study at the Stefano Bemer School!
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Thank you for reading,