Let’s talk about shoe trees

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A note from the writer: I cannot consider myself as an expert of shoe care but after conducting shoe care lessons to just slightly above a thousand people and cleaning about five hundred pairs of shoes, I can safely claim that I am experienced enough to have the most unfortunate profession of being a shoeshine boy. I am not here to bore you with long essays on how, what, who, when, why constructs their shoes and all that rubbish when you can already find six thousand and eight pages on that. Oh yes, you are allowed to argue and contest my opinions but who cares about what you say? I forgot to mention, I have thirty pairs of shoe trees. Three hundred and twenty-seven if you include those sitting in my company’s warehouse. Shoe trees are important for maintaining your shoes because they;
  1. preserving the shape of your shoes by stretching the creases
  2. absorbing the sweat and moisture from your feet and preventing mould or bacteria
One of the most common question that consumers, shoe retailers and cobblers like to ask: ‘Why is it that your size 41/42 shoe tree cannot fit my size 42 shoe? First of all, we have to understand that different shoes are constructed in different shapes and shoe trees come in different designs as well. Let’s talk about the shoes first. Italian and French shoes tends to be slightly narrow and tapered at the front for a very sleek and dapper look. The Italians and French do not really care if you feel like chopping off your aching legs after wearing their shoes for a full day, they just want to make you look like Don Juan DeMarco, one feet above ground. English and German shoes tend to concentrate more on fitting and comfort which is why some English shoe maker makes four fittings, from narrow to extra wide, so even if you have Ronald McDonald’s feet, I am sure you can find a pair of English shoes that fit. I am not too sure about American shoes, as my knowledge is just limited to Allen Edmonds and a very old pair of normal fitting (You see, I told you I am experienced but not an expert.) So in short, the cutting and the construction of the shoe may affect the fitting of the shoe tree as well. So, shoe trees usually come in three forms; made of plastic/foam, made of wood but without the full heel (good for traveling, but most people dun bother) and lastly, made of wood with a full contoured heel and either with adjustable front side pieces or the split toe (I personally prefer this because its versatile). So the one with the full contoured heel happens to be the best among the three and the most expensive. Let’s just cut the crap and talk about the most expensive kind. They are usually made of lotus wood (usually painted black or lacquered to hide their ugliness and make it look expensive, manufacturers who do this and consumers who buy them are total idiots in my opinion, because shoe trees are supposed to absorb moisture and odours so painting shoe trees closes all the pores on them), beech wood (I like those but very uncommon and does not smell so fresh) and the wood that everyone pretends to know, cedar wood. To do justice to the wood, I will digress and explain them. There are ten over kinds of cedar wood from all over the world and they can be distinguished by its slight red tinge and a woody musky fragrance, although some species may tend to be white in colour. Period. Back to shoe trees. So a size 41/42 shoe tree may fit a wide fitting size 40 shoe but yet have difficulty fitting a narrow fitting size 41. This may be down to two reasons. The front part which is called the crown, is expandable at the side. So if the shoe tree is too wide at the front, all you have to do is actually tighten the side screw abit to make it narrower at the front and if the shoe is too wide, you can release the screw to make the shoe tree wider as well. Of course some times, the top part of the crown maybe quite tight, especially for a pair of Oxfords but usually not so bad. The second issue is abit tricky. The contoured heel may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some contoured heels are very narrow while some are very voluptuous in shape. The voluptuous ones are the trouble makers but they can be corrected. If you have such a problem, just take a piece of not so abrasive sandpaper and sand the heel moderately until it fits your shoes. Of course, the best solution will be to wear the particular pair of shoes you are buying the shoe trees for and fit them with the shoe trees you wanna buy. Do not buy from those retailers who do not allow you to try the shoe trees. Do not be restricted by the sizes. If size 41/42 fits your size 43 shoes, go for it. After all, it’s really just a number.
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