Do Shoe Trees Stretch Shoes? Complete Answer Guide

A shoe tree is not what shoes grow on! As much fun as it would be to just pick shoes off a tree-like an apple or an orange, that’s not how it works. A shoe tree is an item shaped roughly like a foot (cedar is the traditional material, but plastic is becoming popular.) put inside a shoe to retain its shape. Wadded up newspaper or rags are a cheap way to go about it, but a shoe tree gives better results due to firmness.

do shoe trees stretch shoes

What Do Shoe Trees Do?

The primary purpose of a shoe tree is to help the shoes keep their shape. They also do a good job of wicking away moisture that can damage leather. All in all, a shoe tree keeps the shoes in a constant state of a wearable condition so that they last longer.

They are an inexpensive method of getting more wear out of your shoes. Most people only use them on dress shoes, but if you have some high-end leather sneakers (particularly those hard to find vintage models) a shoe tree will make them last longer.

Are Shoe Trees Necessary?

If you have expensive leather shoes, they’re practically a must. They will help the leather keep its shape and keep moisture from settling in to not only ruin the leather but lead to bad odors. Fine leather needs support to stay fine-looking. Shoes that are kept in shape will be more comfortable to wear. Some people swear cedar is the only way to go but plastic is more convenient for traveling.

Can Shoe Trees Fix Creases?

Shoe trees can be useful if you need to remove some creases, but they can also keep creases from forming, to begin with. Shoe trees keep the shoes rigid so that the leather does not crease when you are not wearing the shoes.

How To Use Shoe Trees?

It’s quite simple. You put the trees in the shoes as soon as you take them off, while the leather is still flexible. Adjust the springs so that it fills the entire shoe, if applicable. Keep the shoe on the tree for at least twenty-four hours. You can use the same pair of shoe trees for multiple pairs.

If you use wooden shoe trees, you will get the best results if you sand them once a year. If the shoes are heavily saturated, they should be dried out by being stuffed with newspaper before being put on a shoe tree;

How Tight Should A Shoe Tree Be?

It should be fairly taut so that there are no creases. You don’t want it so tight that it distorts the shape of the shoe or flattens the sole. If the leather is very soft, you might want to (literally) dial it back a notch. The packaging your shoe trees came in may have come with a size guide you can follow for the best results.

How Long Should You Leave Shoe Trees In?

At least twenty-four hours is recommended. It is also recommended that you alternate your shoes so that you are not wearing the same pair every day. If you have a job that requires dress shoes every day, it would be best to get two pairs of dress shoes, one to wear while the other is on the tree.

Can Shoe Trees Damage Shoes?

It can if you get the wrong type for your shoe and foot needs. You don’t need your shoes widened if you have narrow feet, for example. A shoe tree that doesn’t fill all the spaces in a shoe is fairly useless. It should be remembered that a shoe tree is designed more for smoothing than stretching. As long as you get the right kind, there is little chance that a shoe tree will do any damage to your shoes.

What Size Shoe Tree Should I Buy?

Many shoe tree manufacturers will have a chart on their website that will help you determine what size you need. If when you insert the tree into your shoe the front and heel parts are contacting each other then it is too big.

If you can’t insert it at all, the tree is way too big. If it doesn’t sufficiently fill your shoe then the tree is too small. The front and heel portions of the shoe tree should ideally be about 0.3 centimeters to 1.3 centimeters apart when inserted.

Do I Need Shoe Trees For Every Pair Of Shoes?

Nope. One for every two pairs is a good idea. You can wear one pair while the other rests on the shoe tree. They’re not necessary for inexpensive shoes or shoes made of something other than leather.

Are Cedar Shoe Trees Worth It?

Cedar not only draws out and absorbs moisture in the shoes but leaves a nice woodsy scent. They’re good for freshening up your shoes. If your cedar shoe trees are losing their scent a little rubbing with sandpaper will bring it back.

Beech Vs Cedar Shoe Trees

Cedar is definitely the most aromatic of woods. If it reminds you a bit too much of dog kennels and old school pencil sharpeners, there are other options. Beech, lime, and Alderwood are all good alternatives if you don’t care for the smell of cedar. Don’t get anything varnished. They look nice, but they won’t absorb moisture and will effectively be no better than a plastic shoe tree. Which brings us to the next topic.

Do Plastic Shoe Trees Work?

They won’t have that woodsy smell, of course, but they will do the job of smoothing out the leather and helping the shoe keep its shape. They may help the shoes air out some, but they won’t absorb moisture as readily as cedar. Because they are lighter than wooden shoe trees, they may be the preferred choice for traveling.

Split Toe Vs Full Toe Shoe Tree

Split toe shoe trees are the most commonly found variety in the United States. As the name suggests, they have a split toe front and they also have a single barrel spring mechanism. The full toe shoe is more common in Europe and comes with a prominent vamp plus a double-barrel spring mechanism.

Should You Use Shoe Trees In Sneakers and Loafers?

Ordinary, everyday sneakers don’t really need a shoe tree. That’s a little like casting pearls before swine. However, if you managed to get a pair of vintage Air Jordans and want to keep them looking sharp, a shoe tree might do it.

Keep in mind, the shoe tree is meant for leather goods. If your loafers are leather, a shoe tree could help keep them nice looking. It would be wasted on something like canvas, however.

Boot Trees Vs Shoe Trees

A boot tree has a more solid heel and ankle formation to help boots keep their shape. You don’t want your winter boots to be all flopped over through spring and summer and be wrinkled when winter comes back.

Or your hiking boots spending the winter getting creased and cracked. It looks bad, feels bad and if the boot has a zipper it can be broken. Shoe trees are good for shoes but boot trees will keep the shaft of the boot straight without being creased.

How Do Boot Trees Work?

The whole purpose of a boot tree is to support the heel counter. This aids in the preservation of the integrity of the higher heel that a boot has. Plus, it keeps it from creasing or folding over. The front part works just the same as a regular shoe tree. The whole thing works very much like an ordinary shoe tree only thicker and more vertically oriented.

Can You Use Shoe Trees In Boots?

You could, but that doesn’t mean you should. Not only does an ordinary shoe tree do nothing for the shaft of the boot but boot leather is thicker and sturdier than leather for dress shoes. It would be like trying to drive an elephant with a chicken feather. Boots also need more support in the heel and ankle. Only a boot tree will give a boot what it needs.

How To Make Your Own Shoe Tree?

If you’re handy with wood carving tools, you can make a custom shoe tree. You’ll need a saber saw and a carving knife. If you just want to absorb some moisture, you can wad up some newspaper. Magazine pages are too slick for the job.

You can get a bag of cedar chips like the kind used for pet bedding if you want the smell as well as absorption. (PSA: You’re actually not supposed to use these around rodents and rabbits. Their little lungs can’t handle it. Dogs and horses can cope.) If you want something that prevents creasing, only a shoe tree will do.

Shoe Tree Vs Shoe Stretcher

Shoe trees are only able to stretch shoes by a marginal amount. If you really want your shoes stretched, you need to get a shoe stretcher. Shoe trees just help the leather keep its shape.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Shoe Tree?

If you don’t mind your shoes smelling slightly musky with vanilla and cherry overtones you can use Play-Doh or other modeling clay. Wrap it in plastic wrap and stuff it into the shoe until it is full. A balloon filled with plaster of Paris will do the same thing.

What Is A Shoe Stretch Spray?

This is a spray formulated to quickly penetrate shoe leather and relax the fibers for easy stretching.

Does Shoe Stretch Spray Work?

Stretch spray is basically a liquid that will get the leather damp without doing any damage to it. This makes the leather more malleable without making it fragile. You want the leather to bend, not break.

How To Use Shoe Stretch Spray?

It is recommended that you spray the interior or exterior of your shoe with the shoe spray and use a shoe stretcher to get your shoes to the desired size.

How Do You Make A Shoe Stretch Spray?

You can make your own spray with three parts of water to one-part isopropyl alcohol. Shake it up, spray it and use the stretcher while it’s still damp.

Shoe Trees Vs Newspaper

As said before, the newspaper only absorbs moisture. It’s just too soft to keep the leather in shape. That’s what a shoe tree is for.

How Do You Stretch Shoes With Newspaper?

You don’t. A newspaper absorbs moisture and that’s about it. Print isn’t dead, it just has limits.

Does Putting Shoes In The Freezer Stretch Them?

If you don’t have plaster of Paris but do have a freezer, water and something flexible to hold water in, you can make a temporary shoe tree. Put a plastic bag or balloon full of water inside your shoe and freeze it. Your shoes will be a little chilly but that can be a plus on a hot day.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Help Stretch Shoes?

This is a major ingredient in shoe stretch spray. However, it needs to be diluted.

Can You Stretch Shoes A Full Size?

It’s going to take some elbow grease, but a shoe stretcher can get them up a size. Give the handle a full turn once every eight hours for a couple of days could do the job. Even after that, you may need to put them on the break them or use the above-mentioned ice trick. Heat can make the shoes expand, but it can also crack the leather so use a hairdryer with caution.

Is Shoe Stretching Permanent?

If done right, stretching will leave the shoes in a permanent state. Be sure not to overdo it.


The author tried to explain her latest article to her brother. He dismissed shoe trees as a “bougie product”. Well, my research shows that many places that make sell shoe trees will monogram them for a little extra.

Yeah, monogrammed anything is a little bougie. But, if you pay a lot for a pair of leather shoes, doesn’t it make sense to do something to extend their lifetime so you can get the most bang for your buck?


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