Do shoe trees work?
November 2, 2014 5:15 AM   Subscribe

Is there any real evidence that shoe trees do what they are supposed to do?

According to Wikipedia and a bunch of shoe blogs and fashion websites, shoe trees prevent creases from developing and absorb moisture. What I find lacking is objective evidence supporting this. Googling "controlled trial shoe trees" or "experiment shoe trees" doesn't yield anything close to convincing me to invest in them.

The closest I found is a user on the Ask Andy About Clothes forum who did a 4 year experiment on 3 pairs of shoes, with 1 pair being fitted with a shoe tree on the right shoe, 1 pair with a shoe tree on the left shoe and 1 pair untreed. The conclusion was that there was no difference whether the shoe was treed or untreed.

Has anyone tried anything similar with a larger sample size?
posted by ianK to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Three years may not be enough time. More like 7 to 10 years. We don't seem to keep our shoes that long anymore. It also depends on your climate.
posted by myselfasme at 5:35 AM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My opinion is not based on any kind of scientific study (or even pseudo-scientific study), but I have one pair of shoes that I keep trees in. I have had them for 10 years and only wear them on special occasions (maybe 3 times a year) and they look like the day I bought them. I suspect that trees date from the days when shoes were custom made and so were effective at keeping what were probably quite expensive shoes in good shape. If the shoes are not expensive (and none of mine are, really), then I don't see much point in them - except for that one pair that I mentioned - because I don't want to go out and buy shoes every time I have to go to a wedding or event like that. Even if you wanted to put them in your everyday shoes, they certainly can't do any *harm*, I would say.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 5:44 AM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My surmise is that it depends a lot on how you wear your shoes and what kind of shoes they are.

I wear my shoes pretty hard and they do sometimes get rained on, and I have noticed that I get better results with trees until the shoes are dry. In one instance, I pretty much restored a pair that had gotten unwearably creased over time by treeing them for a couple of weeks right after wear while they were still damp. (I hadn't been treeing them before.) Those were a pair of Italian calf bluchers, blake rapid construction, slightly blobby in shape.

I do feel like I notice a difference when I don't tree my good boots and favorite loafers - I can see that they have dried/sat and are just a little creasier and the soles are not flattened back into their appropriate shape. I assume that this would make a difference over time.

I think there's an idea that properly treated shoes won't crease, or won't crease noticeably, and this isn't true - any shoe will crease over time, because you're bending the leather.

My feeling is that the damper your shoes get and the better the construction, the more difference trees are likely to make. Cheaper corrected-grain leather is going to crease more deeply and permanently because what is creasing is the plastic coating on top of the leather, and trees won't do as much about that. Shoes that don't get worn heavily or very damp just aren't going to alter their shape as much.

I usually tree shoes for a day or two after wear but I don't store them with trees in - I just don't have enough shoe trees, for one thing, and I don't think it makes a real difference for another.
posted by Frowner at 6:10 AM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think of shoe trees as being the thing my grandparents used for the shoes that they brought out once a year or less and therefore had no intention of replacing within the next two decades if they didn't have to. I don't wear shoes like that, so I don't use them--my special occasion shoes, I feel okay with replacing them in a couple years because I'm going to want something that better fits whatever I'm wearing just then.
posted by Sequence at 6:15 AM on November 2, 2014

What Frowner said.
posted by nihraguk at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2014

I like top quality shoes. I don't use a tree though but none of them have been ruined after more than a year of wear. Just put them back in the box with the tissue paper and it should all be fine.
posted by Woodstock at 7:06 AM on November 2, 2014

I use cedar shoe trees to regulate the foot stank if it's been a long sweaty day.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:39 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also +1ing Frowner, especially "the damper your shoes get and the better the construction, the more difference trees are likely to make."

Also agreeing that people used to keep shoes for longer. When pregnancy changed my foot shape I set aside a really outstanding-looking, beautifully made pair of shoes for my daughter, and I treed them because...well, how else would you store a shoe for a decade or two? I sell vintage clothes and old shoes left to be old shoes often have a sort of folded-in-on-themselves look. A cursory Google says I am not the only person harbouring a belief that leather can shrink slightly over time. Four years is not very long for the potential life of a shoe.
posted by kmennie at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have had them for 10 years and only wear them on special occasions (maybe 3 times a year) and they look like the day I bought them

And I have a pair like that that have never been treed. A single data point without even a control data point is completely useless.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2014

I only have a single data point and no controlled data, however, my personal experience is enough to make me continue to use shoe trees:

I have enlarged toe joints. I have canvas skimmer sneakers, several pairs of the same brand, which I have had for around 7 years. I also have toe puff-style shoe trees, but not enough for each pair of skimmers. The ones that have shoe trees in them retain their original shape in the toebox. The ones without shoe trees have distorted and, in particular, have bumps permanently formed in them by my enlarged toe joints.

It is true that after 7 years of frequent wear, the most frequently worn shoes are starting to reek with little curvy smell-lines radiating upwards therefrom, and the alleged odor-absorbing properties of the shoe puffs haven't prevented that.

This is not a citation, but it is enough to convince me to use shoe trees whenever possible.
posted by tel3path at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally I've noticed that shoe trees definitely help with the moisture and smell issues at the end of the day. I try to rotate between pairs every day, but sometimes I don't and the shoe trees make it a non-issue.

Then again, I might have sweatier feet than normal. This post brought to by the letters T, M and I.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:15 PM on November 2, 2014

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