This roadside shoe tree in East Amherst near Buffalo has been collecting shoes for years.
by Chris Clemens
In certain Middle Eastern countries it’s considered to be incredibly insulting to throw your shoe at someone. Some Eastern religions remove their shoes before entering a temple. In Slovakia, it’s a Christmas Day tradition to stand with your back facing the door while tossing a shoe over your shoulder. If your shoe lands with the toes facing the door, you’re sure to be married by the following Christmas. New Zealanders have ‘welly wagging’ where they competitively throw rubber Wellington boots and claim a Golden Gumboot trophy. But Americans, for some strange reason, throw our shoes up in to trees.
What Is A Shoe Tree
Around the United States there are about 75 reported ‘Shoe Trees’. Each one has an original story more mysterious than the last. There is nearly only one fact where the stories about shoe trees converge. In nearly every case I’ve read the collections began with one person tossing footwear high in the air before gravity pulled them back to be stuck on a branch forever. That’s it.
Passersby wanting to join in the tradition donate their shoes in the same fashion. Then after a few years, what was once just a tree is now an American roadside icon.
Shoe Tree In East Amherst
While it’s unfortunate that I haven’t been able to find the story about this one shoe tree in particular, that didn’t stop me from driving well out of my way for a visit after discovering a photo online.
On a cold, frozen Western New York morning, I finally visited the Shoe Tree of East Amherst. I found it at 8209 Transit Road after driving North off the Depew exit from Interstate 90.
On the west side of the road in a residential yard with a frozen roadside ditch separating the tree and the roadway I found a mature leafless tree. Decorating that tree was about a couple hundred pairs of footwear adorning its trunk and branches.
Recognizing that it was private property, I chose not to intrude and just snapped a few photos. I visited without actually releasing my own shoes into the air. Quite unfortunately, I haven’t been able to discover the origin of the first pair on this tree. I actually can’t even find if the property owners had anything to do with it. Even if they weren’t responsible for its beginning, they seem to be fine with its preservation.
If you go, be mindful that this is located in someone’s yard and respect and care for their property should be given. Also, this stretch of road has cars moving at a pretty decent clip, so if you’re parked on the shoulder you should use caution.
More Shoe Trees
If Shoe Trees are your thing, you may want to do a bit of research on the collection of four shoe trees in Lyndonville, about a half hour Northeast of this one.
In the meantime, you can also checkout this list on Roadside America of all the rest of the Shoe Trees in the country. Or, if footwear isn’t your thing at all, you could visit the ‘Bra Tree’ at Bristol Mountain Winter Resort!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens