Foot's Paradise

With a mix of fashion and engineering, athletic shoes leap off the shelves

Jennifer the Valley Girl, whose most strenuous exercise consists of cruising the local shopping mall, favors $64 pink L.A. Gear athletic shoes with Western-style, imitation-silver buckles. Arthur the accountant, who bicycles ten miles before picking up his calculator in the morning, wears TC Lite, Nike's $85 cycling model. His weekend tennis partner rushes the net in Reebok's $80 Italian-made Cosenza tennis shoes, with the brand name discreetly scrawled in the corner.

Only fuddy-duddies still think of sneakers as inexpensive, all-purpose athletic shoes with heavy rubber soles. Today's models are an exacting mixture of fashion and technology, composed of such materials as...

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