Best Shoe Trees

Updated March 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

63 Models Considered
26 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
183 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best shoes trees

Last Updated March 2019

A pair of high-quality leather shoes is a major investment worth protecting, and that’s exactly what shoe trees do. These devices preserve leather shoes by maintaining their shape and wicking away moisture that can cause leather to become brittle and crack.

If you're not sure what type or size shoe trees you need, or even exactly what a shoe tree is, you've come to the right place. We’ve put together this shopping guide with everything you need to know before buying a pair of shoe trees. Put your feet up and relax as you take a look at our top picks, and get ready to wear your favorite leather shoes for years to come.

Many high-quality leather shoes are bespoke, or custom-made for the wearer. These shoes, made of the finest leather, will last longer and maintain their shape better with good-quality shoe trees.

Key considerations

Types of shoe trees

Spring or spiral: Spring or spiral shoe trees have a narrow heel piece connected to a full toe piece via a spring, and these pieces press against the inside of the heel and toe of the shoe. This isn't the most effective tree for maintaining a shoe’s shape. It tends to be too narrow in the heel, causing the heel to bend in and warp. This type of tree also presses forward into the toe bed, rather than up and out, which can warp the shoe and allow wrinkles to form in the leather.

Full-toe: A full-toe shoe tree has a solid piece of wood that fits in the toe bed and a full-size heel piece that’s connected to the toe piece by a slide or hinge mechanism. It differs from a lasted shoe tree (see below) in that it isn't made from the shoe’s last, which means it may not fill the entire toe bed. It does work well as long as the shoe tree’s size and shape complement the size and shape of your shoes. This type of shoe tree doesn’t provide the more customized fit of a split-toe or lasted shoe tree.

Split-toe: A split-toe shoe tree has two pieces of wood in the toe that expand sideways to press the leather outward. With some split-toe trees, the pieces are evenly sized, while with others they may be slightly off center. This design might be coupled with a full or narrow heel. We suggest sticking with a full heel to maintain the shoe’s overall shape.

Combination: Combination shoe trees extend forward like a full-toe model and expand outward like a split-toe model. These trees might be less expensive than split-toe trees, but they don't provide as good of a fit.

Lasted: If you're looking for the crème de la crème of shoe trees, you want a lasted shoe tree. “Last” is the name for the generic form used by the manufacturer to make a shoe, and each manufacturer creates its own lasts. A lasted shoe tree only fits a specific type and size of shoe, meaning it provides the absolute best fit.

There are a few styles that are almost exclusively used in lasted shoe trees:

  • Three-piece: This shoe tree has a separate heel, midsole, and front piece. The design allows it to fill the entire shoe from heel to toe while reaching the top of the laces.

  • Hollow: This shoe tree is hollowed out, and because the pieces have to be custom fit to be hollowed appropriately, this type of shoe tree is rarely found in a generic model. All wooden shoe trees allow moisture to evaporate while also helping to wick it away. The reasoning behind the hollow design is that the moisture can evaporate more quickly.  

  • Hinged: Rather than a spring or a slide mechanism between the heel and toe pieces, some lasted shoe trees have a hinge. With this type, the shoe tree must fit well or it can be nearly impossible to put in the shoe.
     

Boot tree: While this shopping guide is about shoe trees, we wanted to make you aware that boot trees are also available for high-end leather boots.

Size

 One-size-fits-all trees aren't going to provide the true benefits you need from a shoe tree. Usually, these rely on a spring mechanism, which can misshape the heel or toe of the shoe. However, you can find generic models in different sizes that help preserve a shoe’s shape better than if you used no shoe tree at all. Of course, a lasted shoe tree is the best option because it’s customized to both the make and size of your shoes. If you choose a generic shoe tree, carefully follow the manufacturer's sizing guidelines to make sure you get the best fit.

DID YOU KNOW?

A well-fitting shoe tree should be hard to remove from the shoe. It might also take a bit of elbow grease to get it into place because the tree should fit in the shoe almost the way your foot does.

Shoe tree features

Materials

What the shoe tree is made of can make a big difference in its effectiveness. It comes back to the original purpose of using shoe trees at all. Not only do they help maintain the shape of your shoes, but shoe trees also allow moisture to evaporate, which prevents lining rot and cracks in the leather. However, there are also some materials you want to avoid.

Wood: Traditionally, wood – and cedar in particular – is the preferred material because it’s hard enough to maintain the leather's shape while absorbing also moisture and allowing the leather to breathe. Any type of wood, whether it be cedar, beech, birch, or maple, will work to prevent wrinkles and cracks while helping moisture evaporate. But watch out for varnished wood. It might look pretty, but the varnish seals the wood, eliminating its moisture-wicking properties, making the shoe trees not much better than plastic.  

Plastic: Plastic shoe trees are inexpensive and can help maintain a shoe’s shape, but they won’t do much about one of the main purposes of using shoe trees – moisture evaporation. Plastic can trap moisture against the lining, which can accelerate lining rot. Plastic works fine if you want to use shoe trees to prevent your shoes from getting crushed in a suitcase while traveling.

Toe shape and angle

Lasted shoe trees can be expensive. If you're looking for a good generic model, closely inspect the toe shape and angle. The toe piece should fit all the way to the end of the shoe and expand upward and outward to maintain the shape of the shoe's upper. The toe should also be relatively flat. Some toe pieces angle upward, which can warp the shoe over time and/or cause creases.

Heel shape

It can be easy to forget about the shoe’s heel. After all, the toe is the part you see while you're wearing the shoes. But a misshapen heel can turn a comfortable pair of shoes into painful blister creators. Watch out for shoe trees with a narrow heel, especially those with a spring, because the pressure from the spring can cause the leather at the top of the heel to curve inward. Some shoe trees have a wide heel that can also stretch the leather out of shape, but in the opposite direction. In this case, you won't get blisters, but your heel might start to slip out of the shoe when you walk. Look for a shoe tree with a teardrop-shaped heel that's wide at the bottom and narrows toward the top.

Ventilation

Promoting water evaporation is one of the most important purposes of a shoe tree. Models with ventilation slots in the toe allow moisture to evaporate more quickly.

Removal

A well-fitting shoe tree might be difficult to remove from the shoe. Models with a handle carved into the heel piece, a knob, or a metal ring to pull up on the heel are the easiest to remove. Other designs rely on slide and spring mechanisms for removal. While these methods are easier to use, they don't create the tight fit of models with a handle, knob, or ring.

EXPERT TIP

If you travel for work, look for travel shoe trees. These plastic models aren’t intended to wick away moisture, but they can keep your shoes from getting crushed in a suitcase.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

The cost of lasted shoe trees may seem excessive, but these devices can help preserve the investment you’ve made in your leather shoes.


Staff  | BestReviews

Shoe tree prices

Inexpensive: These shoe trees are made of plastic and cost about $5 per pair, although they’re usually sold in packages of four or more. Many of these shoe trees have ventilation slots and narrow heels. While these are a bargain, if you’ve got a pair of bespoke shoes, you’ll probably need to invest more in your shoe trees.

Mid-range: Full-toe wood trees start at $12 and go up to around $40. You can find multi-pair sets made of birch, cedar, and maple. You’ll also see split-toe and spring-toe models in this price range. At the lower end of the range, the shoe trees often have a narrow heel, which can lead to changes in the shoe’s shape.

Expensive: Lasted shoe trees cost much more than generic models, with the range running anywhere from $70 to $130 or more, depending on the shoe manufacturer.

Tips

  • Don’t wait to insert a shoe tree. The leather will start to shrink as it cools, so put the shoe trees in your shoes while the shoes are still warm.

  • Leave the shoe trees in for at least 24 hours. This is enough time for all the heat and moisture to leave the shoes. At that point, the leather should stay in place until you wear them again.

  • Use the shoe trees in the shoes you’ve worn most recently. If you only have one pair of shoe trees but several pairs of leather shoes, you can rotate through your shoes and keep all of them in good shape.

Other products we considered

Our list was limited to five, but here are a few more options that you might want to consider. The Stratton Men’s Cedar Shoe Tree comes in a pack of four, for two pairs of shoes. These full-toe cedar shoe trees have ventilation slots to help moisture evaporate. It’s hard to resist the intoxicating smell of the cedar, too. If you’re looking for a bargain, take a look at the BEWISHOME Shoe Trees. The cedar smells amazing, and the heel is wide enough to fill many shoe designs. Finally, there’s the HoundsBay Men’s Shoe Tree. This split-toe design comes with a wide heel and a carved hook for easy removal. The company plants a tree in the US with every purchase, too.

When leather gets wet, the water temporarily bonds with the naturally occurring oils in the leather. As the water evaporates, it pulls the oils out of the leather, making it brittle. Shoe trees help remove this moisture before it can remove the oils from the leather.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to put a particular shoe tree in my right or left shoe?
A.
Shoe trees are foot specific, and you definitely don’t want to warp your shoes. Some shoe trees are labeled, while others will require some close inspection to determine which is which. Typically, the top of the shoe tree has a steeper angle on the outside edge of the correct foot.

Q. Can shoe trees help remove moisture from rain and snow?
A.
Shoe trees can remove all kinds of moisture, including excessive moisture from rain or snow. However, we suggest drying the shoes as much as possible with a dry cloth before inserting the shoe tree for the best results.

Q. Do I need shoe trees for non-leather shoes?
A.
Unless the material shrinks like leather, you don’t necessarily need a shoe tree to maintain the shape. However, if you pack your shoes in suitcases or store your shoes where they could get crushed, shoe trees can offer some protection. ​​​​​​​

The team that worked on this review
  • Alice
    Alice
    Web Producer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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