Shoe Goo was created in 1972 by Lyman Van Vliet, a 45-year old senior executive at Hughes Aircraft Co. with a degree in physics from Wayne State University. A frequent player of tennis, Van Vliet was dissatisfied with the durability of the soles of his tennis shoes and sought a method to extend their life by repairing them.
Although Van Vliet already held several patents related to the aerospace industry, he had no extensive background in chemistry. Nevertheless, he set to work to create a solvent which could be used to create a pliable surface coating for shoe soles, whipping up his experimental blends in a spaghetti pot. The ultimate result of Van Vliet's efforts was a polymer that was eventually marketed as "Shoe Goo".
Van Vliet founded a company called Eclectic Products and began to market his new creation via small advertisements in tennis magazines, with his wife Sandy hitting the road to gain placement in tennis pro shops. Orders began to pour in. In 1974 Sandy Van Vliet convinced the retail giant K-Mart to place an order, and Eclectic Products was firmly established. Although originally developed for footwear used by tennis players, Shoe Goo quickly gained a foothold in the booming jogging market of the 1970s and 1980s.
Eclectic Products began modestly, beginning with just 22 orders during its first year of existence, 1972. By the end of its first decade, the company employed 15 people and touted annual sales of approximately $2 million, with Lyman Van Vliet quitting his job at Hughes Aircraft so that he could devote full time to his new enterprise.
Originally based in the garage of the Van Vliet's home in Palos Verdes in Southern California's South Bay, in 1976 Eclectic Products established a manufacturing facility in nearby San Pedro. In 1988, Eclectic Products was sold to the Willamette Valley Company, which moved the base of operations to Eugene, Oregon.
Shoe Goo can be used as a pliable adhesive for separated shoe components, as a filler on worn shoe soles, and as a sealer to repair waterproof fabrics and footwear. Skateboarders use Shoe Goo on their skate shoes to both protect and repair damage done by the sandpaper-like "grip tape" of the skateboard. Cricketers use Shoe Goo for minor repairs to the bat and for waterproofing the toe of the bat.
The product is also used by hobbyists in lieu of rubber cement as an assembly adhesive for radio controlled models of cars and aircraft, repair of lexan bodies, and as a waterproofing agent for model boats.
Shoe Goo is also commonly used amongst skydivers to repair and strengthen the soles of 'booties' on relative-work jumpsuits.
The Shoe Goo product has been repackaged for other uses, with Eclectic Products making use of the alternate brand names "Sportsman's Goop", for sales as a waterproof seam-sealer, and "Shoemaker in a Tube".
- "A Shoe-repair Product For People On The Run," Inc. magazine, September 1, 1982.
- Sally Koris, "Shoe Goo Guru Lyman Van Vliet Cures Tattered Tennis Toes with Sheer Stick-to-Itiveness," People magazine, vol. 18, no. 8 (August 9, 1982).
- Eclectic Products, "The Scoop on Goop", aneclecticblog.com/ Retrieved October 17, 2010.
- Art Harris, "Gizmos Add Life to Tennis Gear," The Blade [Toledo, OH], October 14, 1978.