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Shoe Trees: Do I REALLY need them?

By Vanessa Neo
29 May 2017

Many are unconvinced of their use, thinking they are just fanciful accessories for your dress(y) shoes. I understand, it's painful to get a pair of shoe trees with a wallet that is already empty from investing in a pair of dress shoes. Besides, there are cheaper alternatives out there that can help perform the same functions (I have friends that stuff crumpled newspaper into their shoes)! Surely, shoe trees are all part of a marketing gimmick to make us spend more money, right?
In this article, we ask the question: do I REALLY need a pair of shoe trees? To be fair, we have to understand what they are and how they work. Of course, for the friends who are always looking for a cheaper alternative, we will also be assessing how well newspapers fare in their shoe care role. The goal here is to know if a pair of shoe trees are even worth the price tag.
Shoe trees are one of few shoe care items, brush and wax aside, but what do they do?
1. Maintaining shoe shape
By providing a shape for your shoe when unworn, the leather is less likely to shrink. It also straightens out those unwanted creases and wrinkles (which, if left unchecked, can lead to the cracking of leather).
2. Absorbing moisture
Just take a moment to think about all that sweat from your feet in hot and humid Singapore. Now, consider also the amount of rain we get all year round. Moisture from rain and sweat is absorbed by your leather shoes, making them more prone to decay than you think. If left to accumulate, the moisture wears away at the inner lining, also cracking the leather as the leather dries up.
Needless to say, any pair of shoes with moisture is unhygienic, and likely to cause nasty feet infections (think: Athlete’s foot). I’m pretty sure we don’t want that, do we?
At this point, I think we can all agree that by removing the moisture in your shoes, they are kept in good shape, with its lifespan prolonged. Let’s also not forget clean, hygienic feet!
3. Preventing Odour
Sweat in shoes inevitably causes an unwanted, pungent odour. A pair of cedar shoe trees, with its natural aroma, can keep your shoes smelling fresh!
4. Shoe Care Aid
When shining your shoes, it is always convenient to have some extra help – and your shoe trees are there to do that. With them inside your shoes, the shape is held in place and you need not fumble while polishing.
Types of Shoe Trees
Shoe trees come in various materials (different woods or sometimes plastic) and shapes, and of course, different price points. Below, I’ve ranked the shoe trees according to its cost, starting with the cheapest.
1. Cheap Shoe Trees

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Costing the least, these shoes trees do not have heels, but a knob instead to stretch the shoe. They are minimal and lightweight, making them suitable for travel (or if you are just looking for a cheap option). However, what you will be short-changing here is the maintenance of the shape of the shoe because of its lack of a heel.
2. Split-toe Shoe Trees

(Purchase a pair
The split-toes allow for a more accurate fit, which can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the screws found along the side. With a heel, the whole shoe is filled up, which allows it to better perform its functions. Positioned in the middle for price point, these shoe trees are considered the most practical in terms of cost and function.
The only shortcoming for this is that it does not fit the shoe as perfectly as the next pair – lasted shoe trees.
3. Lasted Shoe Trees

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Lasted shoe trees are the exact copy of the lasts of your shoes. Born of the same shoe mould, these shoe trees will give you a perfect fit to your shoes. Many high-end retailers provide a free pair of lasted shoe trees when you purchase their dress shoes. But as you can guess, lasted shoe trees probably can only fit THAT pair of shoes that has the same last.
It’s really not that difficult to know why they are priced at the hundreds; bespoke and customised for a particular shoe, it is impossible to find other shoe trees that can fit more snugly than they can.
The Alternative – Newspaper
Up in the running with the three types of shoe trees, newspapers are still popular as a cheap alternative. What’s more, they are abundant, recyclable, and conform to just about any shoe size and shape! Isn’t that great?
Or so I’ve heard. Sure, newspapers can remove the moisture, but that is just as much as it can do. Contrary to popular belief, its shape-conforming property does not maintain the shape of the shoe at all. If your shoes crinkle and shrink while the moisture dries up from within, so does the newspaper in it.
The purpose of a shoe tree is not only to remove moisture, but to also maintain the last by providing a structure for your shoes when left unworn. You get what you pay for, and to compare newspapers with a shoe tree is grossly underestimating the latter’s functions.
So… Do I REALLY need a shoe tree?
That is entirely up to you to decide. Everyone values their shoes differently; some are avid shoe collectors, while others change their shoe as often as the weather changes. Some only wear their dress shoes out in events of high formality – which doesn't happen too often. It would be imposing of me to say that you NEED shoe trees, but here are some points of considerations to help you answer the question.
1. How often do you wear your shoes?
If your answer to that is very often, you should probably invest in one. The more you wear them out, the more moisture they accumulate and the faster the leather loses its shape. Conversely, if you feel that your shoes are underused, a further investment in shoe trees may be uncalled for.
2. Are your shoes expensive?
Needless to say, most of us would wish to prolong the lifespan of our expensive shoes – the longer the better. If, upon reading this, you instantly think of a particular pair of shoes, you should probably get a pair of shoe trees for those precious shoes.
3. For how long do you plan to wear your shoes?
If your shoes are an investment pair expected to serve you for a long time to come, then another investment in shoe trees would make sense. You wouldn’t want to have it turn crinkly and weathered one year on. But if you are one that doesn’t mind changing their shoes as soon as your existing pair is worn out, you can choose to skip the shoe trees.
All in all, shoe trees aren’t fanciful accessories to pair with your shoes. They are purposeful, and just like what hangers are to clothes, shoe trees can be considered indispensable for shoe care. However, unlike hangers, you won’t need shoe trees for every pair you own. It is possible to rotate them among different shoes, and they typically last you a lifetime, at only a fraction of the cost of your shoes. If you ask me, shoe trees are a worthy investment. But ultimately whether or not it is a need is something you have to decide for yourself. 
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