Complete Shoe Tree Guide

A shoe tree is an object that is either wooden, plastic, or metallic that you can insert into your shoes to keep them in the right shape as they age. Since they are shaped like shoes, shoes trees help to prevent the shoes into which they’re inserted from folding or creasing.

You might be trying to achieve the same aim when you stuff old papers into your shoes. Nevertheless, using a shoe tree is more efficient and it wouldn’t be a hiding place for roaches.

Types of shoe tree

1. Spring Shoe Tree

Types os shoe tree

Unlike the rest, this type of shoe tree does not come with a full heel. It has a full head and a long narrow tail.

It is used by inserting the head into the shoe front, while you bend the tail (which ends with a knob) into the heel of the shoe.

We do not recommend using this type, especially for a long period of time.

This is because the narrow tail creates a lot of pressure on the heel and in the long run, your shoe is stretched beyond its original shape.

2. Full-toe Shoe Tree

Full-toe shoe tree - What is a Shoe Tree?

The full-toe shoe tree has a solid blockhead and a spring mechanism which helps you to adjust its length.

Its solid generic head makes it impossible for the device to hug your shoe lining properly. So, for stretching your shoe and preventing crease, yes.

But if you have smelly or wet feet, and need a shoe tree that will help keep your shoe dried, this one is not an ideal choice.

However, it is pocket-friendly as its price ranges from $15 – $25 on Amazon.

3. Split-toe Shoe Tree

Split-toe shoe tree - What is a Shoe Tree?

Also known as the Epic shoe tree, the Split-toe is specially designed to mimic the shape of your feet.

Unlike the rest, it is a 3-part shoe tree that employs a two-spring mechanism.

With this, you can independently adjust the parts of the device along the shoe length and across the shoe’s toe box to hug the respective parts of the shoe.

With such a dynamic head and a full heel, the Split-toe will keep your shoe stretched (with the right pressure) and dry at the same time.

This unique feature of adjustability makes it appropriate for a wide range of shoes. So, you can call it a general-purpose one.

4. Combination Shoe Tree

Combination shoe tree - What is a Shoe tree

As the name implies, the Combination shoe tree combines the features of Full-toe and Split-toe shoe trees into a thrilling cheaper model.

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And just like the full-toe, it has a generic head, but like the split-toe, the head can be adjusted sideways to fill the toe-box.

When using this, you will have to pay good attention to its effect on the shoe shape. Sometimes, prolonged expansion may distort the original shape of your shoe.

5. Lasted Shoe Tree

Lasted shoe tree - What is a Shoe tree

If there is any perfect shoe tree, it is this one. It perfectly takes the shape of the shoe for which is made.

This is because the Lasted shoe tree is copied from the shoe last. By shoe last, we mean the mould on which a shoe is constructed. Therefore, this type of shoe tree is peculiar to the one shoe.

Some shoes come with theirs, but most times, you will need to meet your shoemaker for a pair.

Obviously, this one is the most expensive among all the types we have because it is particularly customised.

Comparison of different shoe tree materials

A shoe tree is either made from wood or with plastic. A wide variety of woods are also used in making it, especially Cedar, Beech, Lime and Alderwood.

What differs these materials? Or, are they the same?

Plastic shoe tree VS Wooden shoe tree

Plastic shoe tree - What is a Shoe Tree?
Plastic shoe tree

Simply, a plastic shoe tree is made with plastic while a wooden one is carved from a specific wood.

Most times, the plastic one comes as a spring shoe tree while the wooden can come in any type discussed here.

With regard to efficiency, the wooden is preferred over the plastic because while it absorbs moisture, the plastic does not.

However, you can get plastic if you’re looking for a lightweight one with which you can travel.

Varnished wood shoe tree VS Unvarnished wood shoe tree

A wooden shoe tree can come in two variations: varnished and unvarnished.

The former is coated with varnish to give it a shiny look. It appears more beautiful, heavier and of course, it is more expensive.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t absorb moisture; it’s only the aesthetics.

But if you are just concerned about keeping your shoes in shape, or you are a stylish person or a fashion freak, why not go for it.

On the other hand, the unvarnished wooden shoe tree is raw and less expensive. It comes clean too, but not as shiny as the varnished one.

While the varnished shoe tree can only stretch your shoes, the unvarnished type will stretch, dry and help to deodorize them.

Now view it from this angle: a varnished shoe tree can be made from any good wood since it will be coated.

To make an unvarnished shoe tree, you need special kinds of wood like Cedar, Beech and Alderwood. These woods are highly absorbing and cedar has a unique fragrance that helps to keep your shoe from smelling.

Cedar wood shoe tree VS Beech VS Alderwood shoe tree VS Lime shoe tree

All wooden trees aren’t the same. They could be carved from different woods.

While there is not much difference between shoe trees made from Beech, Alderwood and Lime, the ones from Cedar have a natural scent that scares shoe odour away.

Aside from this feature, no other significant difference exists among these trees.

How do I know the right shoe tree for me?

Some people opine that the type of shoe tree you get is determined by the price of your footwear.

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But come to think of it, isn’t that too generic to be true?

We suggest that the best shoe tree for you is the one which perfectly serves the purposes – stretching and drying the shoes effectively.

It should not be a matter of ‘how much’.

From the description given above on the types, the perfect ones are Landed and Split-toe shoe trees made of unfinished wood.

Others will serve the purpose but they can deform your shoes or be ineffective in absorbing moisture.

Therefore, if you must use them, it should not be for a long period of time.

What are the benefits of using a shoe tree?

You might be asking now, “do I really need a Shoe tree?”

Well, the truth is that we cannot decide whether or not you do. The material your shoe is made of should be a better signal.

If your shoe is made with real leather, then it is important you get one. But if the shoe stuff is not real leather, you might not need it. Although, it will be necessary for stretching the shoes.

Before you use a shoe tree on non-leather shoes, find out if the shoe material is stable under stress.

With that said, we can give reasons why having a pair is a wise decision to make, especially for leather shoes:

1. It prevents your shoes from creasing and cracking

When water or sweat from your feet penetrates into your leather shoe, in no time it will become brittle and then crack. That is the end, unfortunately!

Leather is treated-animal-skin. This means it is a heavy mass of protein. However, the protein molecules of the leather are bonded together by fat and oil molecules, more like a web.

When water seeps into the leather, it goes further to form a temporary bond with the fat and oil molecules. The newly formed substance is floated and exposed to evaporation.

Since the protein molecules of the leather have lost its bonding, the leather cracks easily.

A good shoe tree, therefore, serves as a water-absorbent. When you insert it into the shoe, it absorbs the water before it penetrates into the leather.

It also helps to straighten and unfurl the leather surface, ensuring it does not crease.

2. It prevents the shoe from rotting

Shoe trees like the ones made from cedarwood have high absorption strength. Therefore, they prevent moisture from building up in the shoes.

Your shoes can easily get wet through sweat from your feet, or from other sources. The moisture then makes the shoes a breeding zone for bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.

This causes the shoe to develop foul smell and cause the lining to rot.

3. A shoe tree is an extra hand

When performing some shoe care routine, like polishing and buffing, you would want all the parts of the shoe to be revealed. Right?

When you insert a shoe tree, it will help to push up the shoe sides and help you work efficiently.

4. It helps you save money

You can find a durable and effective shoe tree on Amazon at $20 – $40. But you will barely get a quality shoe below $80.

The function of a shoe tree is to preserve the shoes you have so that they last longer. And often, you can use one for as long as the shoe’s lifetime, depending on how you handle it.

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Without it, your shoes might crease, crack, be attacked by insects or, it can rot. These increase your chances of spending more money on shoes.

When should I use a shoe tree?

1. When you get your shoes off

A good time to insert shoe trees is immediately when you take your shoes off.

After the day’s work, your leather shoes will probably get wet due to sweat. The shoe trees help to absorb the moisture and let it dry under an optimum stretch. This way, the leather will not crease nor smell.

2. When your shoes get wet

Perhaps you got yourself beaten by rain, or you got your shoes wet by mistake, your next line of action is to stuff a shoe tree into them.

But first, clean the shoe with a dry piece of cloth or an old paper. Then, insert a wooden shoe tree.

The wooden shoe tree will not only help absorb the moisture; it will also help the shoe to dry in its original shape and prevent further creasing.

How to use a shoe tree

Using a shoe tree is simple.

  • Get the shoe tree and fit the head into the shoe, towards the toe box. If it is a split-toe, ensure you compress it from the spring-mechanism before inserting.
  • Gently push the head into the shoe holding the shoe tree knob.
  • Adjust until the heel laps properly.

How to maintain a shoe tre

  • Lightly sand your wooden shoe tree once in a month to increase its absorptive strength, and to revive its fragrance (for cedar).
  • Before you insert a shoe tree into a very wet shoe, allow the shoe to dry a bit.
  • Ensure you dry them for at least 48 hours when you remove them from a wet shoe.
  • Do not keep them inside a shoe for too long. Bring them out after a month and clean them up. Allow them to rest before inserting back.


How long should I allow shoe trees in?

How long you leave it in depends on what you want to achieve. However, we recommend you live it for 24 hours upwards.

Does it ruin shoes?

Well, a shoe tree can only ruin your shoes if you use the wrong one. With this guide, you should be able to make the best choice.

What can I use instead of a shoe tree?

You can stuff a bunch of old papers or cloth into your shoes to maintain the shape.

Do I need them for sneakers?

It is ideal that you get a shoe tree for any nice pair of shoes, including sneakers and boots.

Which is the best shoe tree for boots abs sneakers?

Shoe trees for boots and and sneakers as well as dress shoes are not different from the ones we discussed above.

The only difference lies on how they are carved or molded. Those for boots designed to accommodate the extra height of its legs.

Those for sneakers are not different from those you can use for dress or casual shoes.

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