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· Sartorial Sultan<br> Moderator, Trad Forum
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I'm going to go counter to the usual wisdom here and say that shoe trees serve the same purpose as a woman's hair curlers: to hold the "set" of the shoe (or hair) as it dries.
I think this is the primary purpose as well. Shoe trees can actually help creasing over time if they are put in promptly after they are worn.

I don't doubt that there is some absorption of moisture, but filling out the shoe itself is the main function.
 
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