The Washington Times - April 28, 2009, 11:35AM

I’d like to say that I called it, but really I had no idea this was coming when I wrote last week that sporting good manufacturers and retailers were holding up OK in the economy.

Baltimore-based Under Armour today reported that its revenues rose 27 percent the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same quarter last year, and that net income rose nearly 40 percent.

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Revenues went from $157.3 million to $200 million, powered largely by the introduction of its new running shoe. (See my story about the shoe here.)

Revenues from footwear rose from $16.6 million in the first quarter of 2008 to $56.9 million in first quarter of 2009. Under Armour also makes football cleats, but it’s clear that the running segment got off to a very nice start. The sales numbers are particularly remarkable when you figure that the shoe wasn’t even introduced until the middle of the financial quarter.

“Our success with previous categories laid the groundwork for our most recent advancement - our entry into Running Footwear - and our performance in Running has paved the way to establish Under Armour as a major player in the athletic footwear market over the long-term,” Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said.

When Under Armour introduced its shoe this past winter, there was some skepticism. The shoes are not cheap, and runners are fiercely loyal to the brands that they have grown accustomed to wearing. But I must say that I’ve seen quite a number of people wearing them.

It could also be that the downturn in the economy is working in reverse in this case. We know that more people shedding gym memberships and buying less exercise equipment, which means that they might be increasingly taking up running, which is an inherently inexpensive activity. The shoes may cost upwards of $100, but it’s still pretty cheap to take up running if that’s your only major expense.