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Running shoes - get what you pay for?

Yet another study is suggesting that you may be wasting your money if you're paying top dollar for running shoes.

This one — published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine — looked at nine different pairs of shoes and found that the low- and medium-cost shoes "provided the same (if not better) cushioning of plantar pressure as high-cost running shoes."

Back in 1999, McGill University researcher Steve Robbins concluded that pricey runners aren't worth the money and may even increase your risk of injury by 123 per cent.

If that's the case, the argument you'll hear in specialty running shoe stores that you need to buy pricier shoes to protect you from the risk of injury, doesn't hold water. Unless, perhaps, you are prone to injury. Or have special-needs feet.

As hockey players load up on protective gear, you would expect their rate of injury to fall. It hasn't — just as it hasn't for runners as the price and variety of shoes continues to hit ever higher levels.

This latest British study was small and the authors say they are conducting further research into shoe performance. They didn't reveal they brands they looked at — but they weren't exactly cheap, ranging from about $80 Cdn to $150 Cdn, which is nowhere near the fanciest of the fancy.

The thing is, people who get into recreational long-distance running tend to be in that demographic that advertisers and corporations love — well-educated, professional and with a fair bit of disposable income. Go to any runner's expo at any major marathon and see how quickly you lose count of all the premium credit cards being used to buy merchandise at the vendors' booths.

It's no wonder there's been something of a backlash. For instance, there's a growing movement of barefoot runners. When I ran the Athens marathon four years ago, I saw one man running that route with all his tootsies exposed. Pretty brave, considering much of the route that year was a construction site as the city tried to get ready for the Olympics.

Nike has jumped on the barefoot bandwagon with its line of Nike Free shoes, which the company claims is the closest thing to running barefoot. It's also trying to take advantage of the demand for less-expensive shoes by teaming up with a discount shoe retailer in the U.S. to sell a cheaper runner.

Last year, NBA star Stephon Marbury launched a line of inexpensive basketball shoes. All cost under $15 US. He claimed they were as good as anything you'd pay $150 for.

Some people don't need to go barefoot to avoid the high cost of shoes. I came across the Coat Man in the starting area of the Los Angeles Marathon last March.

Dennis Marsella has run more than 50 marathons since the early 1980s. He runs each of his races wearing black wing-tipped dress shoes and a heavy winter coat, while carrying a tray containing a bottle of champagne. He claims to have never suffered an injury. Not even a cramp.

Me? I prefer a bit of cushioning under my sad soles. But I haven't paid full price for a pair of running shoes — or just about every other bit of running gear — in a few years. Not since I discovered factory outlet stores and the occasional good buy at some of those discount clothing chains.

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