Last shoe trees are a pain, for those not truly experienced with them.
If you got triggered by the title of the post, calm down. I believe that if you could have lasted shoe trees for every pair of shoes (boots are another story), then that this would be ideal. But, many people not used to them will see them as a pain. Here is why.
Let’s get real. They are not easy to put in and to take out. If you have ever pulled out a last from a shoe, a real last, you will fully understand why. An upper should have pretty much zero loose space between the lining and the last. Of course, that is, if it is lasted properly. And because of that, means that every curvature in the shape of the last will act as a friction point when trying to remove the last and/or lasted shoe tree. They are meant to literally fill up every molecule of space inside the shoe. And because of that, can be a bit of a pain.
Personally speaking, I would love to have lasted trees for all of my shoes (but not boots). As shoe trees are really just for maintaining shape (and not for the other marketing gimmicks they are sold for) a lasted shoe tree will clearly do the absolute best job at maintaining that proper shape, as it follows the contour of the shoe. But when owning lasted shoe trees, be prepared to face some effort. Sometimes some annoying effort. I have had several pairs with lasted trees and had varying experiences that I will share below as cautionary tales for you to make wise decisions.
1. My first pair of lasted trees was with my MTO Gaziano & Girling Astaires on the DG70 last. Beautiful shoes. Beautiful trees. The trees fit perfectly and as they were varnished, slid in and out pretty easily. The only thing you have to be careful of when using last shoe trees is making sure to push forward as much as possible the front part so when you push down the heel area you do not come crashing down om the top of the heel counter, essentially damaging the seam on the top line. Because I know that people will simply blame the shoemaker for their own doing. Seen it way too many times. So, avoid crushing the heel. Be careful. Take your time. After all, if you are using lasted trees for your shoes chances are your shoes are of good quality. Treat them as such.
2. My second pair of lasted shoe trees were for my collaborative Saint Crispins boots. The real issue here is that they were shoe trees inside of boots and man, were they the biggest pain in my butt. It was so difficult to get them in and out. To be honest, so much so it kept me from wearing them more often as sad as that is. So, let me share this piece of advice: never have lasted ‘shoe’ trees inside a pair of boots. Big No-No. Request ‘boot’ trees and if that is not an option put them into another shoe and get a generic shoe tree for your boots. I always size down for shoe trees inside my boots. As long as the tree is full-fitting in the forefoot, this will be fine in maintaining the shape of the front while allowing easy movement both in and out.
3. My last pair of lasted shoe trees were on a pair of bespoke boots made for me by Gaziano & Girling. Being boot trees and 3 piece on the top of that, I thought that they would be ideal for ease of use. And again, I was wrong. They were also a pain in the butt. The issue, as stated in the intro paragraph, is that lasted means that there should be zero excess space and that means that in boots, it will be particularly hard to maneuver them no matter their style. While the trees were great in maintaining form throughout the entire boot, they were not easy to get in and out and again, put me off wearing them.
Therefore, my recommendation is: get lasted shoe trees for short shoes i.e. lace shoes, loafers, monkstraps etc. But when it comes to boots, use generic fitting trees that fill the forefoot well but allow the easiness of taking the trees out and putting them back in. There is nothing more annoying than spending longer than 5 seconds with a shoe tree. But if you don’t mind the struggle, by all means, get lasted trees for all that you can as they will surely do their job best, which is to maintain the shoe/boot’s shape.