Before exploring the different benefits that pinewood and hardwood shoe stretchers have, it should be mentioned that shoe inserts made of unfinished wood are always better than plastic ones. This is because unfinished wood can wick sweat moisture of of the leather linings, which prevents lining rot.
In this article, we will be comparing the properties of softwoods and hardwoods to evaluate which makes a better wooden shoe stretcher.
What is a hardwood?
Hardwoods like oak, teak, mahogany, and superba come from flowering trees and have the following properties:
- Hardwoods are usually denser and stronger than softwoods.
- Hardwoods are slow to grow, and much more expensive compared to softwoods.
- Hardwoods have great fire resistance.
- They are commonly preferred over softwoods in the constructs that require considerable durability, such as boats, doors etc.
What is a softwood?
Softwoods come from non-flowering plants like conifers. A common example of softwood is pinewood. Softwoods have the following properties:
- Softwoods are less dense and, as the name suggests, softer than hardwoods.
- Softwoods grow quickly, and can be used to produce beautiful furniture cheaply.
- Softwoods have poor fire resistance.
- They are commonly used in furniture that do not require high structural strength, such as ornaments and lamp stands.
Which is better?
That depends on the quality of the shoes you have. If you’ve got thrift store or second-hand shoes that you are only planning to wear a couple of times, pinewood shoe stretchers will do the trick of making them fit your feet and at a lower cost than hardwood ones.
If you are trying to expand leather shoes, however, pinewood shoe stretchers can actually be detrimental to its lifespan. This is because the extremely tiny wood fragments on the surface of pinewood break off easily and, coupled with the enormous pressure that a shoe stretcher applies, can lodge these micro-splinters into the lining of your shoes. As you insert and remove your feet regularly, you force these mircro-splinters to move around while lodged in the leather surface, which speeds up leather degradation. As tiny fragments flake off the leather, it can cause your leather to look old and worn. In extreme scenarios, pinewood shoe stretchers can simply split apart and cause a nasty gash on the inner lining of your shoes.
For shoes that you intend to wear a long time, use shoe stretchers made of a hardwood. For just an additional 2-3 bucks, you could find shoe stretchers made of more affordable hardwoods like superba!
How do I tell pinewood shoe stretchers from hardwood ones?
Rather unfortunately, most mass market shoe stretchers are made from pinewood (a softwood), in a race for margins. You can easily identify these pinewood shoe stretchers via the following characteristics:
- Sometimes wood is of a whiteish-yellow.
- Very distinct wood grain lines and patterns.
- Usually has several cost-saving characteristics, such as a flat top reduce the amount wood required, and thin / minimal mechanisms.