I buy two kinds of shoes - top end stuff like Rockport and FootJoy, and cheap on-sale stuff (usually $20 or less) from places like Big5 sporting goods. I don't see much point in mid-grade stuff. The cheap ones wear out and I don't care, and with their sacrifice, the good ones last a very long time.
For me at least, the secret to long life shoes is to never wear the same pair two days in a row. In fact I have several pairs of dessicant bags to help them thoroughly dry overnight (called "stinky pinkies" but google does not seem to turn up any suppliers) By buying two identical pairs of cheap ones, I can wear the "same" shoes to work all the time, not wear them out too soon, and still not care much if something does them damage.
As for brands, over the years I've seen quality come and go in most of the popular ones. New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Saucony - they all seem to wax and wane, while the two brands I named at the top are the only ones to never disappoint me. SO far.