Elementary shoe care: The Shoe Tree

Something that should occur in your life shortly after buying a pair of nice shoes is to start wondering how you’ll best take care of them. Given how nice shoes usually cost a fairly decent lump of cash, you’ll most likely wish for them to stay in service for a while as well. So how do you go about doing so? I’ll revisit the topic at a later date, but I wanted to get one point off my chest right now: Shoe trees.

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Stern Corgi says: Take care of your shoes and they will serve you well.

If you’re a little in the dark, or new to the maintenance side of life, a shoe tree is not something you hang your shoes on, though I’d consider it a pretty logical guess. What it is is a replica foot, made of wood, that is designed to be inserted into your shoes when their not in use. The idea is that it will help the shoe keep it’s shape, reduce the development of creases, reduce foot odour and extend the life of the shoe.

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3 pairs of shoes, from the rear, with shoe trees inserted. Were you expecting a really good caption?

It’s not all that long since I started buying shoes of a better quality then before, but having observed my obsessive father over the years, I knew shoe trees would be in order. My first issue was trying to work out what they were called, but you’re luck here, I’ve done the hard work for you: Shoe trees.

They come in many forms, some of them totally without wood at all. You’ll often find plastic types with a crummy coiled steel spring for almost no money. Take my advice and steer well clear of these. I’ve tried a few different ones, and the spring hardly strong enough to keep the device in the shoe if it’s turned upside down, let alone strong enough to actually help the shoe keep it’s shape.

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Shoe trees ensuring my shoes are keeping their shape when not in use.

The proper ones are made of solid wood, and if they’re made of cedar it’s an added bonus. The cedar wood helps absorb odour and moisture, both helpful properties. There are various ways in which they are constructed, but it’s usually a good sign if they’re made of brass and have a knob on the heel to make it easier to extract from the shoe when you’re going out. Without a proper knob it’s going to be a real job to pull the tree out of the shoe.

Now, I’ll go out on a limb here and let you know the type I favour (pedantic reader: this is one of the pair):

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Shoe tree from Cedarville in the US.

Edit: I did have a link to Cedarville in the US here, with a discount code, but they have now closed up shop. I am hoping to find a replacement supplier. (May 2nd 2013)

To illustrate the stretching effect of the shoe trees, take a look at my Dr Martens. With and without shoe tree.

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Shoe tree inserted, shoe is tricked into holding a nicer shape than when on my actual foot.

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After use, without shoe tree, shoe is suffering from toe turn-up and we can clearly see stress fractures. Not much to be done about them, I fear.

7 Responses to “Elementary shoe care: The Shoe Tree”

  1. Daniël

    I’m kind of confused… I also have Dr martens 1461 shoes like the one you have. When you talk about your Dr martens and using a shoe tree with it, are you saying that the shoe tree stretched it more than your foot does, stretching it so far that it damaged your shoe causing stress fractures? I just bought my first pair of decent leather shoes (dr martens 1461) and I want to take care of them, but now I am unsure whether it is a good or bad idea to use shoe trees for my Dr martens. Could you please clarify this for me?

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad

      Hi Daniel, no, not stretching as such, but straightening out the toe box. Having shoe trees in them lets the leather straighten out after being crumpled up a bit during wear. The DM 1461s I had very quickly developed crinkles in the leather from wear, these crinkles fractured the leather and very much made me question the quality of Doc Martens produced in low-cost countries. But, to clarify: Yes, use shoe trees! 🙂

      Reply
      • Daniël

        Thanks for clearing this up. I already found a pair of shoe trees that are not too expensive and they look almost identical to the ones you got. Hopefully my 1461s will hold up better than yours sid (even though it’s my first week wearing them and I see some crinkles already, but it’s my first pair of leather shoes, so I have a poor frame of reference quality wise).

        Thanks again!

      • Well Dressed Dad

        Keep them well polished and wear them lots. They will get more wearable over time! Did you get the Made in England version, or the cheaper ones?

      • Daniël

        I got these ones: http://www.drmartens.com/us/Mens/1461-MONO/p/14345001
        It says they’re made in Thailand.
        I will keep them well polished, but this is also a thing I’m confused about.
        The shoe polish I use says that it nurtures the leather, but online I read that some people say that polish can’t replace leather conditioner and that they should both be used. I even read that the beeswax in shoe polish can eventually start drying out the leather.
        What are your thoughts on this?

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