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Expensive Athletic Shoes Are Running Into Real Competition
Payless Shoe Source jumped into the fall season by announcing a new performance sneaker which the company says is as good as the pricey name brands. The inexpensive sneaker named "The Amp" sells for under $40 and utilizes much of the technology the $100 sneakers have boasted about in past years.

According to Payless, "The Amp" is equal in quality to expensive brand sneakers, incorporating the new technology. It is designed with different cushioning zones and shoe stability such as a dual density, posted midsole and support for the back of the shoe.

Another low-cost sneaker contender comes from Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, one of the hottest sportswear chains headquartered in Port Washington, NY. They recently launched New York Knicks' Stephon Marbury's new line of apparel and shoes. The line features the athletic Starbury 1 shoe, priced at $14.98, and offers, "the same performance attributes found in sneakers sold for $100 or more," says Marbury.

Will Athletes Buy Cheap Sneakers?
For hard-core athletes, the major concern is avoiding injury and many are not willing to experiment with a product offering anything less than superior quality. Serious runners rely wear testing reports similar to that which Runner's World conducts. For most, finding the top level of quality means spending over $100 for a pair sneakers. The risk in buying a shoe which lacks a solid track record for performance may not be worth the savings in the long run.

However, the casual athlete, college student, or high schoolers may find The Amp, Starbury 1 or one of Bike's Starter shoes such as Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers line which sold last year at Wal-Mart for under $40, fits their needs and their wallets.

Sales Performance So Far
Port Washington, a N.Y. based NPD Group, reports that the under $50 sneaker makes up more than half the sales in the U.S., compared to sneakers $90 or more, which make up eight percent of the market. Statistics also show, however, that the $90 plus segment is growing at a much faster rate (up 24 percent) than its rival $50 sneaker (up 8.7 percent).

The Amp is being sold in 400 Payless Shoe Stores with plans to expand its distribution to 1,600 branches by next year. Payless Chief Executive, Matthew Rubel said sales of The Amp initially exceeded the company's expectations.

Steve & Barry's reported selling more of Marbury's line in the first three days of it being on the sales floor than they sold company-wide in total footwear over the previous three months.

"There are kids that don't have a choice," said Marbury to the Wall Street Journal, "Now people can buy a line and say 'OK, we're buying the same exact quality for $14.98 or less."

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