Yes. Yes, you do.
The world is full of gimmicks. A shoe tree, however, is not one of them.
Despite their goofy appearance, shoe trees are an important part of proper shoe care. The wooden inserts help dry out shoes and preserve their shape, allowing them to stay as fresh as they were the day you bought them. And not just for a year or two—expensive dress shoes that are properly cared for with a shoe tree can look like new for decades.
What a shoe tree does
Your shoes take quite a beating during the day, even if you mostly sit at a desk. They bend, flex, and stretch, all the while absorbing loads of foot sweat. Over time this moisture accumulation causes the lining to rot, leather to crack, and the shoe to become deformed. It might also emit a not-so-nice funk. (Pretty picture, eh?)
And get a whiff of this: it takes 24 hours for shoes to dry out completely.
A shoe tree quickens the drying process by absorbing moisture and odors, all while holding the shoe in place so that the leather and lining dry in the right shape.
Types of shoe trees
It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on shoe trees. For $15-30, you can get a good pair, but it probably won’t have a full wooden heel, which is ideal for moisture absorption and shaping. Instead it’ll have a knob or thin piece of wood. Some $30 shoe trees are actually pretty decent, however, and a $15 cheapie is still better than none at all.
Nicer shoe trees have ventilation slots that help dissipate moisture, and they also have fuller heels. More wood means more moisture absorption and odor control, and better preservation of the shoe’s shape.
Pro tip: Don’t be fooled by varnished shoe trees. Their shininess might make you think they’re fancier, but in fact, it’s the exact opposite. The varnish acts as a sealant and doesn’t allow the wood to draw out moisture, so opt for unfinished every time.
Lasted (prices vary)
A really expensive pair of shoes (we’re talking $700+) usually comes with a last, a fancy term for a custom shoe tree. Lasts are the crème de le crème of shoe trees because they’re the closest it gets to having an entire cedar foot inside your shoe. Plus, a last is shaped like the shoe, so it preserves the original shape for much longer.
Cram as much stuff as you want in your suitcase without worrying about deforming your expensive wingtips. Travel shoe trees are lightweight, plastic, and perfect for road warriors.
So, stop walking all over your shoes
Show them some TLC.
And all shoes need a little love–so whether you’re a luxury shoe connoisseur, or a guy with a modest budget who wants to maximize his investments, shoe trees must be in your closet.