Shoe trees are not just an add-on sale, they are one of the most important purchases you can make to help prolong the life of your shoes and, more importantly, give your soles significantly more wear between re-soles.
As drastic as this sounds, when you think about why your shoes wear out and all the factors that contribute to the uppers creasing and the sole wearing out, then it makes sense – what we are talking about is sweat!
Whether you like it or not, your feet will sweat. Especially wearing quality leather shoes that should fit closely to your foot. Usually it’s minimal and you wouldn’t even notice, this is because your leather soles and leather uppers are soaking up the sweat. Over time the acidity of the sweat has an effect and dries the goodness out of the softer uppers. This creates more creasing and a poorer appearance. If your soles are wet or damp from rain the leather soles will wear down much quicker because leather degrades fast when wet and being abraded by walking. Similarly, the sweat soaked up from your feet will make the soles damp from the inside out and because they are thicker than the upper will hold more moisture. This means they stay damp for longer without you even noticing, but the extra wear will still be happening forcing you to re-sole earlier than you needed to. In extreme cases, a really damp shoe will create bad odours, moulds, and can even accelerate the rotting of the sole stitching. That is why rotating two pairs of shoes and putting shoe trees in them while they rest and dry, will make your shoes last more than two pairs of shoes worn consecutively would.
So how does a shoe tree help this process? In more than one way. Firstly, they help to reshape the shoe and that minimises the creasing. Secondly, a good quality cedar shoe tree will absorb moisture from the shoe as the wood is porous and loves to soak up sweat! Thirdly, the cedar wood smells fantastic so will help to deodorise the shoe. So whenever you buy a pair of shoes make sure you get a pair of trees at the same time – they really are worth the small extra outlay to make your shoes last longer.
When purchasing you will see different woods and solid or expanding trees so which should you go for? The most important feature is the wood. Cedar is best; birch is also very good but doesn’t smell as good. Unfortunately, although polished trees look amazing, they are not absorbent so we wouldn’t recommend them except for display. The other variation is solid vs expanding. There is no real different in their ability to look after the shoes, but expanding can be altered to fit different shapes and tend to be cheaper whereas solid trees are often lasted to an exact shape and these are the best possible tree is they are matching the last shape of your shoe. Any wooden tree is better than no tree so don’t worry too much, just make sure you buy them.