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Different types of shoe trees and their use

Investigating an accessory โ€“ available in many different styles โ€“ which has long been used by owners in an attempt to lengthen the life of their treasured footwear.

by Stuart Morgan

Image © Snowdrop |

Approximating the shape of a foot, a ‘shoe tree’ is a device placed inside footwear to try to preserve its shape and prevent creases from developing, thus extending the life of the shoe. In addition, wooden shoe trees are said to play a crucial role in wicking away moisture caused by the foot sweating to avoid degradation of both the lining and a leather upper.

As with most products, the more a shoe tree costs, the higher the quality of material that has been used and the greater the expectation of the service it provides. Many of the more expensive shoe trees are made from cedar or another softwood, which is reportedly selected specifically to aid in odour control and the absorbing of moisture.

Types of shoe tree

There are a number of shoe tree designs, which reflect the product’s quality and the price paid, some of which we will now briefly consider.

Floortje |

Typical plastic spring shoe trees

Travel shoe trees: Often made from plastic, with or without a coiled steel spring stem, these are typically cheap and lightweight, and are well suited to maintain the shape of shoes that have been packed for travelling. Varieties which do not feature a flexing steel spring to exert pressure may use some other mechanical action in order to wedge them in place.

t_kimura |

Wooden generic shoe trees โ€‹

Spring shoe trees: Often made in plastic or wood, the ‘spring’ variety features a full toe attached to a spring which ends in a knob which pushes into the shoe’s heel. While this style will help to preserve the original shape at the front of the footwear, the knob is said to place considerable pressure on the inside of the heel, and it has been claimed that prolonged use may cause a risk of deformation in that region.

Generic shoe trees: Although these are not bespoke for a specific wearer’s foot, generic shoe trees are designed to fit a wide range of footwear styles. These are made in a number of styles, two of the more popular designs being ‘twin-tube’ and ‘single-tube’. The twin-tube variety features a fully articulated and rounded heel, a spring toe and holes to provide ventilation. In contrast, the single-tube shoe tree has a spring-spreader mechanism, which causes a split toe to expand when it is inserted into the shoe.

Lasted shoe trees: The most expensive design of shoe tree – and viewed as the highest quality – is based on the unique last from which the individual shoe was crafted.

Not forgetting boots

Boot trees: Boot trees are – not surprisingly – shoe trees for boots. Often used to support ankle boots, these products are similar to standard shoe trees but have a higher ankle region. Their primary function is to support the heel counter, which can help to preserve the integrity of the higher heel and prevent it from folding over or creasing. The forepart of the boot tree gently stretches out the vamp region.

With consumers wanting to keep their very best footwear lasting as long as possible – perhaps now more than ever before – they may view buying a pair of shoe or boot trees as a wise investment.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 32 of the September 2023 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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