"If the shoe doesn't fit"
by Sandy Cosser
If you love shoes as so many people do, you will know that sometimes they lose their shape and gape most inelegantly at the heel or arch. They can crack and crease in the most inappropriate of places and usually, for reasons unknown, these things happen to your favourite pairs of shoes. Another thing that shoe lovers will be familiar with is the buying of shoes that are slightly too small in the hopes that they will stretch with time. They are, after all, too gorgeous to put back on the shelf. The remedy for that problem is the shoe stretcher. Now we shall delve more deeply into these mysterious, shoe saving devices.
In addition to maintaining the original shape and preventing creases and cracking, shoes trees absorb moisture from the lining of the shoes, which helps to prevent unwanted shoe odour. They are usually adjustable in order to fit a range of sizes and function just as well in men's and women's shoes.
Shoe trees come in 2 different types, plastic and wood. Plastic trees (there's an oxymoron) are cheaper than the wooden ones and are lightweight. They don't, however, absorb moisture. The wooden trees, which are usually cedar, usually last longer, work better, absorb moisture and as a bonus feature, add a clean, fresh scent to your shoes.
Additional benefits include preventing shrinkage. Shoes shrink when they are not worn for a while, inserting a shoe tree will prevent this shrinking from taking place. You can also insert them into shoes when you are going to polish them so that they hold their shape and make the buffing job easier.
Regarding shrinking, shoe trees really only work to prevent shrinking, they can be used to stretch shoes but only slightly. If you need to actually stretch your shoes you need to get a shoe stretcher.
Shoe stretchers can expand the length and width of shoes but if you want both features in one device, make sure that you get a "two-way" shoe stretcher. Shoe stretchers are ideal for situations when you buy that gorgeous pair of shoes a touch too small, when your feet swell, when you get bunions or any number of reasons. They come with little holes in them and special plugs, which can then be inserted into these holes so that you can stretch certain problem areas, such as an area where your shoe pinches you, or where you have a bunion etc. Shoe stretchers are not ideal for situations when you have a pair of shoes 2 sizes too small and you're trying to stretch the shoe to fit. What you need in that situation is a new pair of shoes.
Shoes that work best with stretchers are those made with natural materials like leather and suede because they have some give in them. Materials like vinyl don't have much give at all. They come in many different types depending on the shoe. You get stretchers for high heels, boots, flats and other specific types of footwear so you have to make sure that you are buying the right kind when you are in the shop. You also get different stretchers for the different parts of the shoe. They come in men's or women's size ranges.
There is no denying that these 2 devices are useful. When you need a shoe stretcher you really need one and if you don't have one you wish all mightily that you did. And how many of us have shoes that are dented or bent out of shape from being thrown carelessly in the cupboard and having numerous other shoes thrown equally carelessly on top of them? Shoe trees would come in very handy in cases like that. The bottom line really is, be careful with your shoes, take better care of them and they will last longer and take better care of your feet.
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