Those white kick-around canvas shoes of yesteryear sure could take a lesson or two from today's high-tech shoes. Athletic shoe companies are coming out with technology aimed at cushioning the foot and absorbing the force. It's part of the game to stay ahead of one another in a $12 billion-a-year business. Here's a sampling of the latest in gadgets. They're high-tech, high-priced and on the market:
* Brooks Shoe's Propulsion Plate System is a carbon-fiber plate embedded in the mid-sole that "collects, stores and then releases forward energy into your stride." Think of a vaulter's pole: "as you run, you bend the plate embedded in the shoe, then a precise moment later, the plate springs back and helps you propel forward." There's also the HydroTech sockliner, designed to reduce "heat buildup" and wick perspiration.
* Asics Tiger Corp. continues to ride on the GEL System, a silicone-filled encapsulate that's used for shock dispersion.
* L.A. Gear's Catapult Plate System is a heel spring that takes the shock of impact -- a runner produces a force of about three times the body weight, for example. The spring is made of carbon-fiber and the maker says it has "100 percent memory, allowing it to return to its original shape instantaneously."