Everything you need to know about Shoe Trees blog photo. A close up of a pair of Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wood shoe trees on plain background | Brillare Shoe Care - Official Saphir Reseller

Everything you need to know about Shoe Trees

If you're looking to find out more about how to take care of your nice shoes in general, we suggest starting with our beginner's shoe care guide here. It covers things from A-Z and provides a great overview of footwear care.

If you want to know more about shoe trees, you're in the right place. Here we discuss some of the top questions we get about wooden shoe trees. Let's dive in.

What Is A Shoe Tree?

Wikipedia defines a shoe tree as:


"A shoe tree is a device approximating the shape of a foot that is placed inside a shoe to preserve its shape, stop it from developing creases and thereby extend the life of the shoe."




This broad definition gives you an idea but let's dive deeper.

A quality shoe tree is shaped less like a foot, and more like a shoe last or shoe shape. A shoe last is wooden template that a shoe leather is stretched over to give it its shape during the manufacturing process. Think of it as kind of a mould. Different lasts come in different shapes and sizes and can give shoes completely different fits and looks. Some are round and accommodating, some are pointy and aggressive, and there are all types in between.


Crockett & Jones provides a great overview of their last shapes here. (They also make great shoes!)



Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees close up picture to show shape and texture


Good shoe trees are also made out of wood. Most commonly, they are made out of cedar wood. More on this later. One of the important elements is the porous nature of the wood. Therefore, plastic shoe trees will not cut it. They might help your shoe keep its original shape but they do little for moisture.

Some people confuse shoe trees with a shoe stretcher. These are different things. A shoe tree should fit snug but a shoe stretcher is meant to stretch your shoes! A good fitting shoe tree will not stretch your shoes.

So, a shoe tree is a wooden insert that you place inside your leather shoe when you aren't wearing them.


Out of all shoe care products, shoe trees might be the most neglected. They are, however one of the most important.





What Do They Do?


A shoe tree does many things for you and your shoes.


The porous wood helps absorb moisture. On average, a person's feet can sweat about 225ml a day, or about the size of a small can of Coke. Your shoes are often dealing with all of this excess moisture, and shoe trees help to absorb that.


Less moisture in your shoes does two things: Increased lifespan and decreased odour.


Leather is most susceptible to damage when it is wet. The more excess moisture in your shoes, the less you'll get to wear them before they break down. This can be things like cracking, excessive creases or "wrinkles."



Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees displayed with Ermenegildo Zegna brown cap toe derby shoes and saphir medaille d'or 1925 pommadier cream polish and a Saphir Beaute du cuir wooden horse hair brush

Prepping to do some polishing means making sure you have your shoes trees.

Also, the odor in footwear is caused by bacteria. These bacteria love that moisture as they find it a perfect environment. Don't let them move in! Less moisture = less odor. Think about a wet towel that doesn't dry thoroughly - even if it just came out of the wash, it will still smell if improperly dried.


Shoe trees help keep the shape of the leather. This helps shoes look newer longer and helps minimize creasing. Notice that we said minimize creasing, NOT prevent.
All real leather shoes will crease (except for Shell Cordovan, which we'll touch on elsewhere).



 Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees displayed with Ermenegildo Zegna brown cap toe derby shoes and saphir medaille d'or 1925 pommadier cream polish and a Saphir Beaute du cuir wooden horse hair brush  with shoe trees being inserted

Inserting shoe trees to hold the shape while polishing.  


It is a by-product of use and a way of life, regardless of how much you spent on them. By using shoe trees you can help prevent deep creasing, and by using the proper polishes you can minimize the colour loss in the creases too, dramatically improving the look.


Shoe trees are also essential from a shoe care stand point. When you are doing ANY type of care on your shoes such as brushing, using a conditioner, polishing, etc. you need to have shoe trees inside them. This prevents you from crushing or deforming or wrinkling your shoes as you work on them.



Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees displayed with Ermenegildo Zegna brown cap toe derby shoes and saphir medaille d'or 1925 pommadier cream polish and a Saphir Beaute du cuir wooden horse hair brush with shoe trees inserted and being brushed

Now you can brush your shoes vigorously without worrying about them losing their shape or getting crushed.




Are Shoe Trees Necessary?


Yes. These are an indispensable shoe care tool. You should have a pair of shoe trees for every shoe you own, and they should be in your shoes whenever your feet aren't.


As above, they help with your care routine and provide tons of benefits for you. They also provide benefits that other provides can't. You can't replace what a shoe tree does with any other product.


You can learn more about how essential they are in a routine in our Beginner's Guide to Shoe Care.




How Should Shoe Trees Fit? 


Shoe trees come in different sizes. One size does not fit all.


You want to match your shoe tree size up with your shoe size. Some shoe trees are szied right up to your exact size, some come in small, medium, large, etc. This will vary by brand so be mindful when you're purchasing.


You want your shoe trees to fit snugly into your shoes. They shouldn't be super tight and feel like they are stretching your shoes out. They also shouldn't be loose in your shoes either.


If your shoes feel like they're stretching your shoes and are very difficult to insert they are likely too big. If your shoe trees slip into your shoes very easily and you still lots of extra room in the shoes they are likely too small. (Think about the extra space you would have if you put a shoe on that was 2-3 sizes too big. It be would be a "sloppy" fit. )





Should I Use Shoe Trees In My Boots? 


Yes! You can use normal shoe trees in your boots and you'll get all of the benefits.
They are hard to find, but some makers actually make boot trees. They are just like a normal shoe tree but have an extended/tall portion at the heel to fill the shaft of the boot. A boot tree won't give you that much extra benefit over a normal shoe tree. They are a nice touch though, if you can find them.





Should I Use Shoe Trees In My Loafers?


Yes! Just like dress shoes with laces, your loafers need love too. Since loafers can't be adjusted as much, we caution not to use shoe trees that are too large in a soft loafer.


If you have a thin, suede driving loafer you don't want to stretch it out at all with an improperly sized shoe tree. Using the correct size will ensure your shoes won't stretch and will be at their best.



Crockett & Jones Cavendish tassel loafers displayed with Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees and Saphir Medaille d'or Invulner, Saphir Medaille d'or Crepe brush, Saphir Medaille d'or polishing brush, saphir medaille d'or suede eraser brick.

Crockett & Jones Cavendish loafer with Saphir Beauté du cuir cedar shoe trees. 




Should I Use Shoe Trees In My Sneakers?


This is a question that has come up more recently. 10-15 years ago, we would have said no. But now, we say you should.


Nowadays lots of companies are making high-quality and high-end sneakers. High quality or fashion sneakers can now cost as much as (or sometimes more than) a pair of high-quality dress shoes.


You will get a lot of the benefits that you would get from using them in dress shoes. If your sneakers are mostly fabric they won't need to dry out as much as a leather. That said, if you just got a pair of Yeezy's or Balenciaga sneakers they are an investment. We still feel that they will help keep their shape, allow you to brush them easier, and provide value.


The sneaker came has changed a lot in the last decade. Sneakers have gone from being undervalued to being a staple. Many makers have stepped up their game and many of these sneakers are collector's items. Protect your investment.





Which Shoe Trees Are The Best?


As we said above, a quality wooden shoe tree in the correct size is going to be the best.


There are a few different types to expand upon as well.


We sell, and often recommend, generic shoe trees. That means they are one very versatile shape that can fit into all shoes. We like the versatility of this style. They either have a hinge or a spring to allow them to easily fit into many shoe shapes.


Ours have a split toe so that the width is adjustable. They also have spring in the middle so the length changes. Different sizes will affect the max length though.
If you are looking for "the next level" in shoe trees, that is going to be lasted trees. These are special shoe trees that are sold directly from the shoe maker. They are made in the exact shape of the shoe last that was used to make the shoe. This means they are "custom made" to give you a perfect fit.



Saphir Beaute du cuir cedar wooden shoe trees close up shot to show texture and wood work


For example, if you wear a size 9.5US in a particular model of shoe from a particular company, there will be a specific tree in that size and shape for that specific shoe. This is the best you can get for shoe trees.


That said, they are often hard to come by. Very few makers offer this as it is very labour intensive to make and stock that many different styles and sizes. There benefits that you get from using a lasted tree are also very marginal over a regular shoe tree. They hold the shape a bit better but not dramatically so.


Lasted shoe trees are also very expensive. They are usually $150+ and can cost even more from some makers. If you have the means, want something special, and your shoe makers offers it then go for it!


If you want something a bit more economical then we recommend something like our Saphir Cedar shoe trees. These well made trees will last you forever and do a fantastic job. It is what we have in our shoes, boots, and sneakers.





Do My Shoe Trees Have To Be Cedar?


No. Cedar is the most popular because of its smell. It has a rich and fragrant aroma that smells like organization. This helps leave your shoes smelling great. Cedar is also very porous so it helps with moisture, as above.


Quality shoe trees can come in tons of different wood types though. Any porous wood will do. Some makers prefer woods other than cedar because they lend themselves to the branding of the company more. Some use light woods or exotic woods. All that matters is that they are wood and not plastic or synthetic. (Plastic can be alright for shoes that aren't made out of leather, such as knit sneakers.)





My Cedar Shoe Trees Don't Smell Good Anymore 


One last trick here. After years of use your cedar shoe trees can lose some of their aroma. This is totally natural and is to be expected. If you don't mind them losing their smell, don't worry; Keep using them as you always have and you will still get all of the benefits.


If you want to refresh them you, we have a simple trick: Sandpaper.


If you have some extra fine grit sandpaper you can give them a light sanding all over. This will remove the top layer of the cedar, exposing a fresh layer underneath. The smell with come back.


Note that you don't want to use heavy sandpaper or sand them too much as that can change the size of them.


Also, we recommend giving them a thorough brushing after sanding so that you don't leave any dust in your shoes. Also make sure they are nice and smooth after so they don't damage the lining of your footwear.







To conclude, shoe trees are great for your footwear. They help increase the life of them, allow you to more easily take care of them, and help them to look their best.


Get something wooden, in the correct size, and they will last you for the life of your shoes (and likely more). They are a worthwhile investment. If you need somewhere to look, we carry Saphir's Cedar Shoe Trees and highly recommend them.


All of your quality shoes, sneakers, boots, and/or loafers should have shoe trees in them whenever your feet aren't. So get yourself a pair (or a few) now, your shoes will thank you.


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The wax on the outside will lessen their effectiveness, yes. It should wear away in time, exposing the beautiful wood underneath.

If you’re looking to speed up the process, you can. Go over your shoe trees lightly with a fine grit sandpaper. This should help remove the wax.

And in future, you can sand your shoes trees every couple of years. If they are cedar, this will help refresh the scent of them, which is always nice. In terms of effectiveness, it is the water absorbing power of the wood that does the most work, not the scent. So this is totally optional.


Hi, I have seen wooden shoe trees that are waxed for sale. I would have thought that wax would greatly decrease the porosity of the shoe tree, making it less effective. Is this the case?

Paul Wilson


Great question. You can do it either way. If you’re tightening the laces, don’t make them too snug. I like to tie the laces as I think it looks cleaner. There won’t be any difference in terms of performance or effectiveness. If you’re short on time, leave them untied.



When using shoe trees, should the laces be tightened or left loose.??


Dick Morris

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