The unexpected result of our pull-apart test was that the Payless shoes were surprising well constructed. They withstood the heel pull-off test and were well bonded together, although our expert panellists noted some stray remnants of adhesive that should have been sanded off.
From a manufacturing point of view, the Nine Wests had the most sophisticated and well designed construction. The shank gives a shoe its strength and support. In this pair, it combined with a screw to secure the heel, and this proved to be the sturdiest construction of the three pairs.
However, the function of the Nine Wests shoes was sacrificed for fashion — the design of the heel and the slightly upturned toe resulted in a wobbly walk for wearers (see The road test). The Nine Wests also had more padding in their heels than the others, but they possibly needed it to boost stability.
The Anne Kleins’ construction was solid, but not markedly superior to the others.
The Payless shoes were entirely synthetic, and once you damage the vinyl, there’s nothing you can do to repair them. The leather of the Nine Wests and Anne Kleins can be maintained with shoe polish.
The Nine Wests’ cow-leather upper had a ‘high shine’ finish, which means the leather had been sanded and then coated with a layer of polyurethane — similar to the patent leather process.
The Anne Kleins were made of high-quality kid leather that not only looked good but felt soft. Unlike the others, its upper was made of just one piece of leather with only one seam at the back of the heel. The lining was also kid leather, which our road-testers found very comfortable.
The soles of the Payless pair had anti-slip ridging but they were made of PVC, which will cause static electricity and heat up quickly. The Nine Wests' soles were made of resin, with anti-slip ridging. Resin doesn’t create static electricity like PVC and it also moderates hot and cold temperatures reasonably well.
The Anne Kleins were the only pair with leather soles, so they will be the most effective at moderating extremes of hot and cold. Leather soles wear out more quickly than synthetic ones, but on the upside, they can be repaired. The experts thought a half-sole could easily extend the life of these shoes.
While the Anne Kleins and Nine Wests had better padding in their heels than the Payless, the experts noted that none of the shoes had sturdy cushioning material such as cork in the toe/ball area. This would make them more comfortable.
The Nine Wests had a more exaggerated toe spring than the others, known as a`Turkish-style’ toe.