It’s highly likely that Stan Hockerson has had a hand in what’s on your feet.
Hockerson, a 1972 Petaluma High graduate who ran for Santa Rosa Junior College and Cal Poly, has scores of patents that probably figure into how your current athletic footwear was designed.
I asked him if that makes his job title “Inventor,” which admittedly would be kind of awesome.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever met a true inventor,” Hockerson, who now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., said. “I’d say 99 percent of anyone who gets a patent is someone who is trying to fix something; there is a problem they are trying to fix.”
Hockerson, a 4:28-miler in his youth who probably put in his fair share of miles in cruddy shoes, had a slew of things he wanted to fix. One of the first? That rolling motion that most shoes in the 1970s and early ’80s threw at runners and athletes because of where the foot rested on the base of the shoe.
“The shoes used to sit on top of the midsole. I dropped the shoes inside the heel,” he said. “It cups it, so it can’t go right or left.”
It’s an idea that has become a staple of just about every athletic shoe made.
He got a patent in 1982 and started making inquiries to Converse, Nike, Reebok, PRO-Keds and New Balance.
“They all rejected it,” he said.
Until they started using it.
Hockerson said he had to evolve into part legal pitbull to protect his designs. Hockerson has faced off with the biggees: Nike, Rebook and Costco, among others. His legal clash with Red Wing Shoes out of Minnesota became case law.
“People stole it so I became a lawyer,” he said.
He doesn’t mean it literally, but you get the idea.
“I’ve been to court many, many, many times,” he said.
When Nike incorporated one of his designs in a shoe after repeatedly shooting him down in writing, all he had to do was produce the letters, show them the shoe and the argument was over.
“They settled right up with me,” he said.
Still, it seems everyone copies Nike so he had to keep clawing to get keep shoe companies honest, he said.
Now when he sees athletes with multi-million dollar contracts and eponymous shoes wearing technology he had a hand in, he almost sounds amused.
“It took me 10 years to get my midsoles into the NBA,” he said. “All the doctors said you are going sprain ankles.”
But somewhere between Chuck Taylor and Michael Jordan, someone saw the light.
“There is not an NBA player not in that patent today,” he said.
Which begs the impolite question — with Nike Kobe’s going for $199; Nike LeBron’s selling for $175 and Stephen Curry’s signature Under Armour shoes for $120, is Hockerson hearing the soft plink of his piggy bank filling every time a kid walks out of Foot Locker?
“We’ve made a lot of money,” he said. “I don’t need to work.”
But he quickly added: “It doesn’t change who I am. I still wear old pants.”