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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.”

And he still works whether he needs to or not.

He’s had running stores in Colorado and New Mexico and was a pioneer in bringing treadmills into the shop to analyze runner’s gaits in order to best select a shoe.

And he’s still tinkering.

He’s negotiating with Under Armour for the production of a sole design that will allow athletes to customize the sole structure and support.

Studying runners’ gaits has proven to Hockerson that what is good for the left foot is not necessarily good for the right.

His new concept? “We can tune both feet,” he said.

Basically the sole would have pie-slice spaces in the outer midsole that can be custom-filled according to how the foot lands when walking or running. It’s customized support, Hockerson said.

There is also a techie feature: He’s embedding sensors in the sole that will alert the owner via Bluetooth when the support is starting to break down. Think of your car’s engine light going on.

“It’s the first disruptive patent since the 1980s,” he said.

Hockerson is a fan of those disruptor ideas.

It seems that shoes, for Hockerson, should be engineered for performance rather than glamour.

Which actually brought us to the cynical side of the conversation: Aren’t we all just lemmings, buying $150 shoes that are all the same despite their shiny cover and famous hawkers?

Hockerson didn’t shy away.

“You are buying market power,” he said. “Nike is a marketing company. They are not a shoe company.”

And it’s not just Nike. If a kid sees Steph Curry put on extraordinary displays of talent, it must be the shoes right? Or Jordan Spieth wins the British Open?

“Everybody wears Under Armour shoes because that guy wears them,” he said.

Hockerson, who will give a talk about the evolution of running shoes at Heart and Sole Sports in Santa Rosa Wednesday at 7 p.m., said the innovators of what we wear on our feet will likely always be behind the scenes, pushing for innovation that we may feel but not see.

“We never get the credit, we are just the shadow,” he said. “They say ‘Nike came out with the Nike Free.’ Well, they had to buy the patent to do it.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram @kerry.benefield.

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