One of the most impactful things you can do in the care of leather shoes is to use wooden shoe trees.
The role of a wooden shoe tree is two fold:
- Dry the foot perspiration that the leather has absorbed.
- Keep the leather somewhat taunt to minimize creases when not being worn.
As the perspiration/water begins to dry out of the leather the cellular structure of the leather cells tend to contract. The perspiration/water also has a slight oxidizing effect on the oils in the leather making it less effective as a cellular lubricant.
Putting a wooden shoe tree in a shoe that has just been worn will allow the wood to absorb the perspiration/water quicker that just allowing it to evaporate, and it keeps some pressure against the leather, minimizing the leather cell compression.
The oxidizing effect on the oils caused by the perspiration of each wear is very minimal, but is cumulative over time, which is why shoes should be conditioned (oil added) after a given number of times being worn (about every 20 wears, or every 6 months, at a minimum).
Adding oil to a shoe, through the conditioning process, will also have a slight reduction (as opposed to oxidation) effect on the existing oils in the leather as well.
Since shoes spend most of their time being slowly depleted of necessary oils, between conditioning sessions, it is important to keep shoe trees in your shoes when you are not wearing them. This will keep the shoes looking better for longer and add to the general health of the leather. This is true for all leather shoes, including loafers.
Shoe trees typically come in 4 different sizes for men (US sizes listed below):
- Small (5.5 to 7)
- Medium (7.5 to 9)
- Large (9.5 to 11)
- X-Large (11.5 to 13)
Shoe trees also come in different structures:
A shoe tree can have any combination of these structures: