Complete Guide for Shoe Tree

A shoe tree is the most important tool for keeping wearing leather shoes for a long time without doubt.

The shape of shoes can be beautifully kept as you put the shoe trees in your shoes, and it prevents them from cracking and creasing.

However, there are many types of shoe trees and you want to know which one is the most suitable for your shoes.

In this post, I go through a lot about the shoe tree and give you some idea about how to pick the best one for you.

Why the Shoe Trees is important

The main purpose of using the shoe tree is for keeping your leather shoes in shape.

The shoe bends with foot move as you walk, and the outsole warps which makes your shoes look poor and messy. The wrinkles on the upper lead to some problems such as cracking or creasing.

By putting shoe trees, you can correct the warping of the outsole and stretch the wrinkles on the upper, so you can keep the shape of shoes.

By the way, it is not recommended to put some crushes paper instead because it is too soft to keep the shape as the shoe tree can do! (it is a good idea to put papers when you want to absorb the moisture)

Besides, the shoe trees are useful for when you care for your shoes since the wrinkles are stretched and you can apply the cream properly to moisturize the leather.

How to choose the BEST Shoe Trees for you

There are various types of shoe trees, and the function and usability are slightly different depending on the types. I will go through many variations of shoe trees with detailed information in this article, so you can find the BEST Shoe Trees for you.

For choosing the BEST one, you want to know followings;

  • Size
  • Material
  • Shape
  • Structure

I will introduce each topic with a tip on how to choose.

Tip 1: Size

The most important thing is to choose the right size, of course.

It is the BEST if you can purchase a shoe tree made by the same manufacturer or shoemaker with your shoes because it should be made in the same shape and fit perfectly.

However, it is rarely sold unless these luxury shoes and therefore, you are often found out commercially available shoe trees which have variation in sizes, so pick one which matches your shoe size.

Tip 2: Material

The next topic is the material of the shoe trees. The materials are roughly divided into wood or plastic.


Wood is the BEST material for shoe trees since it absorbs moisture inside of the shoes.

There are several types of woods and the features of each wood type are summarized in a table below. In my opinion, you can choose by focusing on the price because I have never bothered with the type of wood.

Types of wood Advantages Disadvantages
Cider Good smell and have antifungal effects. Relatively low durability.
Beechwood It absorbs less moisture but is durable. Heavy, and expensive.
Hippo Relatively cheap. It may become dark due to aging.
Maple Smooth texture and durable. Relatively expensive.

If possible, choose the one that is not coated with varnish because it absorbs less moisture.


Besides wood, there are also shoe trees made of plastic.

It is cheap compared to the wooden shoe tree and is characterized by being very light, but it does not have the effect of absorbing moisture.

It is only suitable for carrying around, such as during a business trip or travel.

Tip 3: Shape

The shoe trees are can be divided into two parts, “Toe Part” and “Heel Part”, and you need to look into the detail before buying the one.

Toe Part

There are 3 types of toe part as shown below;

  • Split Toe
  • Half-Spilt Toe
  • Plain Toe

Spilt Toe” is one shown in the photo below, and can be purchased relatively cheap so I recommend you to get this type for those who are looking for a cheap shoe tree.

However, I personally do not recommend to use the “Split Toe” type when applying a cream, because the split area is dented as shown below and difficult to care.

Half-Spilt Toe is one shown in the photo below. This is a relatively heavy and expensive compared to Split Toe, but I recommend this type the most because the tension of springs inside of the shoe tree is higher, and the instep part is supported a lot so it maintains shoe shape more firmly.

Plain Toe is one shown below, which I do not recommend really unless it is sold by the same shoemaker or manufacturer with your shoes because there is no spring to stretch wrinkles does not work well if it is not fit to your shoes properly.

Heel Part

The shape of the heel is important as same as the toe part.

I do recommend to choose the shoe trees with a small heel because if the heel is too large, it will be pampering the heel and the fitting may change.

The size of the heel is different depending on the manufacturer, and it is difficult to classify them clearly, but I try not to use a shoe tree with a large round heel.

Tip 4: Structure

The structure means basically how the Toe Part and Heel Part are connected, and it is an important point because tension from the heel to the toe depends on the structure.

There are roughly divided into 4 types and will go through in detail.

  • Simple Spring type
  • Spring type
  • Screw type
  • Hinge type

Simple Spring type

“Simple Spring type” is one which the toe and heel parts are connected by simple spring, and I do not recommend to use it since there is not much tension so the wrinkles on the upper cannot be stretched enough.

Spring type

“Spring type” is the most common type in which the toe and heel parts are connected by a metal tube. The tension is applied firmly in the toe direction and this is the most recommended type.

Among the spring type, there are single tube and double tubes that connect the toe part and the heel part, and the double tube will be more firmly tensioned.

Screw type

“Screw type” is one in which you can adjust the tension flexibly, but compared to the spring type, tension in the toe direction is less likely to be applied.

Conversely speaking, it is suitable for shoes that you do not want to apply much tension. For example, shoes with soft leather, casual shoes made with McKay construction. It can keep its shape soft without applying tension.

Hinge type

“Hinge type” is that the toe and the heel parts are connected with a hinge.

As you can not adjust the length, it is better to avoid this type unless it is manufactured by the same brand with your shoes.

Summary for How to choose Shoe Tree

I introduced points one by one to choose Shoe Tree, so quickly summarize here;

Points How to choose
Size Choose the one that suits the size of your shoes.
Material Choose wooden Shoe Tree.
Shape Choose Half-Split toe, and heel should be small.
Structure Choose Spring type.

How to use Shoe Tree

For lace-up shoes, loosen the lace lightly, and put the shoe trees.

At this time, the heel part of the shoe tree may get caught in the top line. The stiffer inside of the heel might get damaged so be careful.

Push the Shoe Tree inwards so that it is tensioned.

Fit your heels and tie your laces to complete!

When to use Shoe Tree

Sometimes it is said that the best to put the shoe trees after drying shoes overnight, but I recommend to put shoe trees when you take off shoes.

The leather deforms in the process of becoming dry from the wet condition, In other words, the process of drying is the most likely to lose its shape. Therefore, in my opinion, that it is better to put in the shoe trees immediately after taking off them so you can prevent a possible shape loss in the process of drying the sweat.

Furthermore, you want to keep the shoe trees in your shoes when they are being not wearing to correct the warping of the outsole and to stretch the wrinkles on the upper.

Wrap it up

There are a lot of points and you may think that it’s hard to choose the BEST one.

However, once you choose shoe trees that suit your shoes properly, you will be able to maintain a beautiful shape all the time, and it will extend the life of your shoes.

The shoe tree does not have to be purchased for each shoe, but it can be used for shoes of the same size so useful to have one.

If you have trouble choosing shoe trees, I hope this article will help.

About the author

Ken Kataoka

Hi, I’m Ken Kataoka, based in Tokyo Japan. I’m fascinated by leather shoes and shoe care. Also, I make bespoke shoes. I write articles on shoe care & tools, shoe brands and more from my experience.

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