How To Use A Shoe Horn?

Sometimes it’s called a shoe spooner, shoe spoon, shoe schlipp, or shoe tongue but it’s more commonly known as a shoe horn. This tool is a small lever that flares into a longer spoon-like head so that it can be held against the inside back of a snug-fitting shoe. Its purpose is to slide the heel easily along its basin to the inner sole. They are commonly used for tight-fitting dress shoes but they are also used by people with flexibility issues.

how to use a shoe horn

Why Do They Call It A Shoe Horn?

Originally, shoe horns were made out of horns or hooves of cattle. Over the years, fancier shoe horns were made out of ivory, silver, shell, or bone. Most modern shoe horns are made out of plastic, metal, or wood.

When Was The Shoe Horn Invented?

While one Andrew D. Washington did receive a United States patent in 1903, shoe horns go back much further in history. In fact, Washington’s patent states that it’s closer to improvement than a straight invention, making the shoe horn more flexible and portable. They were quite fashionable in the Victorian Era as were tight shoes.

A gentleman’s dressing-case was not complete without one. Queen Elizabeth I of England went through shoe horns, buying eighteen from her shoemaker Garrett Johnson between 1563 and 1566. The earliest reference to the shoe horn seems to go back to the Middle Ages or Renaissance.

What Is The Shoe Horn Used For?

The shoe horn acts like a little slide for your heel so that you can get into shoes more easily. This is especially helpful if the heel of your foot tends to hang over the back of the shoe. The shoe horn eases the foot into the shoe.

It’s helpful if the shoes are a bit on the small side or don’t get any wider even when they’re untied. Stiff suede shoes may go on more easily with a shoe horn. All in all, using a shoe horn preserves the shape and structure of the heel, keeping them looking new for a long time.

Types Of Shoe Horns

  • A small, travel-sized shoe horn is great for people on the go.
  • A telescopic or extra-long style is good for people who have trouble bending.
  • Plastic shoe horns are inexpensive and flexible.
  • Wooden shoe horns are not very flexible but are long-lasting.
  • Metal shoe horns are not flexible at all but are very durable and smooth.

How Does The Shoe Horn Work?

A shoe horn is a tool that can be used to get your foot to slip easily into your shoe. Fundamentally, the tool offers a smooth ramp that tugs back the heel of your shoe, keeping it from snagging on your ankle as you slip your foot in.

It is a simple tool that combines the mechanics of an inclined plane and a class one lever. When you put the shoe horn between your heel and the shoe, you create a slope to push your heel across.

When you press down on the horn, you create leverage. The horn itself is the beam, your hand is the effort, the shoe is the fulcrum and your foot is the load.

How To Use A Shoe Horn?

To use a travel shoe horn, just rest the shoe horn in the back on the shoes at a roughly ninety-degree angle. Rest your heel on it. Next, gingerly slip your foot into the shoe in such a way that as your heel starts sliding into the shoe the shoe horn is coming out. As is the purpose of shoe horns, this one will efficiently prevent damage to the back of your dress shoes.

A full length, twenty-four-inch shoe horn will not require you to bend or even sit. All you have to do is insert the shoe horn into the back of your shoe. Next, you slip your foot in.

As your heel starts to slide into the shoe, pull up lightly on the shoe horn in such a way that when your heel is completely situated into the shoe you have pulled the shoe horn out completely.

A telescoping shoe horn needs to be released before it can be used. You twist the locking safety ring counter-clockwise in order to unlock. Then you adjust the shoe horn out to the length that you want and turn the locking safety ring clockwise to firmly lock it in.

Put the shoe horn guide against the heel of your shoe. Put your toes in the shoe and lay your heel against the shoe horn guide. Slide your heel down the guide and into the shoe then remove the shoe horn.

A long-handled shoe horn is good for putting on boots. Place the long blade of the shoe horn at the back of your boot. Point the tip of your toes inside the boot. Begin inserting it slowly inside the boot. Slip the heel into the base of the shoe horn. Once most of your foot is inside the boot, minus the heel, slip out the long metal shoe horn.

Do You Need A Shoe Horn?

Most shoes do not require the use of a shoe horn. However, shoes such as dress shoes, high heels, taller shoes, and boots might call for a shoe horn to aid your foot in sliding into your shoe.

If you find yourself struggling to get your heel into your shoes, that may be a good sign that you could benefit from a shoe horn. Brand new shoes are a bit tough to get into and using a shoe horn not only makes it easier but keeps the shoes looking new longer.

Some shoes just have tight collars which can make them a struggle to get on without a shoe horn. If you have trouble with flexibility in your ankles, a shoe horn can really help you out. People with back problems may also find a shoe horn helpful.

Where Can I Buy A Shoe Horn?

You can get them at pretty much any drug store or department store. There are some online stores that sell footwear and accessories that include shoe horns among their wares. Most will be under ten dollars. Even the fancier ones won’t cost more than fifteen dollars unless precious metals or handcrafting is involved.

Of course, a shoe horn doesn’t need to be fancy in order to work well. For example, Shacke, who really specializes more in travel goods, has made quite a serviceable twenty-four-inch shoe horn out of plastic. It’s nothing fancy but it’s lightweight and gets the job done. It is particularly suggested for the elderly.

Houndsbay tries to be more classy without being too ostentatious. It’s metal so it’s more durable and comes with a tasteful gift box. Zomake makes a stainless steel shoe horn that’s great for travel. It is not expensive at all but has many satisfied customers.

How Do You Make A Shoe Horn?

This is a good beginner’s woodworking project that can be done with a piece of scrap wood. Hardwood is best, such as maple, walnut, cherry, or oak. You’ll want a piece that is at a minimum of fifteen inches long by three inches wide by three-quarters of an inch thick.

Sketch out a shape, trying to keep symmetric as possible. Use a coarse grit (thirty-six to sixty grit or so works well) on a belt sander to rough out the flute. Work slowly and gradually across the length and gently rock it back and forth to make a smooth flute.

Taper it all off to a thickness of bout one-eighth of an inch at the tip of the shoe horn. Since you’ll refine it more later, don’t go too thin just yet. Once you get it to the thickness you want, sand with progressively finer grits until a good deal of the deep sanding grooves are out.

Use a round object to trace the shape of a half-circle on the tip of the shoe horn. This will make it easier to slip into the shoe. Draw lines that taper down towards the end of the shoe horn. You will then want to taper the handle towards the back.

This makes it easier to control while using it as it keeps the handle tipped slightly away from the body. When you cut the side profile, leave about one-sixteenth of an inch of wood outside the line so that you can sand it down later.

Tape the cut off piece back onto the shoe horn to make a stable surface for cutting the top profile. Cut around the edges, once more leaving a small bit of wood outside the line. At this point, you may want to drill a small hole that you can use to hang your shoe horn on a hook with.

The rest of the project needs to be sanded down. Utilize sandpaper to taper the tip to a gentle point and smooth the rounded surface. One fifty grit paper should do it. A polyurethane finish may just seem like icing on the cake, but it will make your tool more durable.

Can You Bring A Shoe Horn On A Plane?

According to the TSA, it is perfectly acceptable to bring a shoe horn in either carry-on or checked luggage. However, if your shoe horn is made out of material from a protected species (e.g. teak, tortoiseshell, Brazilian rosewood, ivory) you may not be allowed to take it over state or international lines.

What Can You Use Instead Of A Shoe Horn?

A cardboard box like the kind pasta comes in can be used in a pinch. First, fold the box flat by open the ends. Next, shape the box into a curved shape somewhat like that of a shoe horn. Then, put it into the shoe. Your foot should slide right into the shoe. Anything long and flat will do the job.


The shoe horn is a small but necessary footwear accessory. It is a simple but useful tool that makes putting shoes on easier.


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