Imported: 10 Mar '17 | Published: 27 Nov '08
USPTO - Utility Patents
An article of footwear comprising a plate insert with plurality of longitudinally staggered, substantially lateral cutouts is described.
The present application claims the benefit of priority to provisional application Ser. No. 60/938,943, filed May 18, 2007, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
A. Field of the Invention
Aspects of the present invention relate generally to footwear. More particularly, the present invention relates to the use of a flexible plate as a support apparatus in an item of footwear.
B. Description of the Related Art
A major consideration in designing active footwear is hazards (e.g., stones and rocks). Stepping on stones, rocks or other small irregularities (hereinafter rocks) can concentrate forces on the shoe sole in a small area, thereby increasing pressure or stress in the area. A stone or rock is said to penetrate the sole when concentrated stresses are transmitted to cause discomfort to the wearer.
The extent of stress placed on a piece of footwear, and the associated risk of penetration, may be dependent on the size of the rock (i.e., small, medium, large etc.). Small rocks typically cause only limited concentrated stresses in a localized region of the sole of a shoe. See e.g., FIG. 1. Usually, these concentrated stresses are easily dissipated by using cushioning material in the shoe sole. Larger rocks also typically present lesser risk of penetration because larger rocks offer larger contact areas. See e.g. FIG. 2. Larger contact areas allow for a greater distribution (i.e., less concentration) of internal stresses created by contact, thereby minimizing risk of penetration.
Rocks of intermediate size, however, typically present the greatest risk of penetration. See e.g., FIG. 3. Stresses generated by intermediate rocks are typically concentrated enough to cause pain to the user. Rocks of intermediate size are those ranging from 1-6 centimeters.
Rock penetration is primarily a forefoot issue. The heel is typically protected by both a thicker cushion in the heel of a shoe, and a thick, fat pad of flesh located under the heel of the wearer. This multilayered cushion typically provides more than adequate protection against rock penetration, and serves to dissipate forces or stresses caused by contact. However, in the forefoot, hard tissues (e.g., bones) are closer to the ground surface, and less protected by cushioning soft tissue. Moreover, current shoe designs often require the shoe sole to be thinner in the forefoot, and therefore are less resistant to rock penetration.
Referring to FIG. 4, an exemplary shoe construction is shown. Boot 110 includes an outsole 112, midsole 114, shank 116, and shell 118. Heel cushion 120 and forefoot cushion 122 may be disposed between an insole 124 and shell 118. An upper 126 also may be provided, and optionally may include lacing 128. Preferably, shank 116 is disposed in a recess 114a in midsole 114, while cushions 120, 122 are disposed in recesses in insole 124.
In an exemplary embodiment, outsole 112 may be formed of carbon rubber, while midsole 114 may be formed of molded ethyl vinyl acetate foam. Shank 116 may be formed of thermoplastic polyurethane, while upper 126 may be formed of leather, fabric textiles, foam and other suitable insulation. Various polymer components may be coupled to each other with an adhesive or other bonding agent, while upper 126 may be coupled to shell 118, for example, using stitching proximate to the lower edge of leather portion 130 of upper 126.
A stiff plate may be inserted in the shoe to resist rock penetration. A plate presents a physical barrier to the rock, reducing the extent to which it compresses and penetrates the midsole. It further acts as a buffering conduit by redistributing concentrated stresses, thereby reducing internal stress in the sole materials and peak pressures acting on the foot.
The effectiveness of a plate design may be measured through various performance parameters. These performance parameters include flexibility, torsional flexibility/resistance, uniformity, weight, and stability. Flexibility may be measured by, among other things, the stiffness of the plate during bending. Torsional flexibility/resistance may be determined by, among other things, the stiffness of the plate during bending along the longitudinal axis of the plate. Uniformity typically refers to the ability of the plate to distribute the stresses incurred evenly across its body. Stability typically refers to the difference in stiffness between the medial/lateral and the central portions of the shoe.
In many instances, it may be desirable to provide a supportive, cushioning, rock-resistant plate design wherein the aforementioned criteria are optimized.
Detailed descriptions of one or more embodiments of the invention follow, examples of which may be graphically illustrated in the drawings. Each example and embodiment are provided by way of explanation of the invention, and not meant as a limitation of the invention. For example, features or described as part of one embodiment may be utilized with another embodiment to yield still a further embodiment. It is intended that the present invention include these and other modifications and variations.
FIG. 5 illustrates a foot plate embodiment. The foot plate can include a plurality of longitudinally staggered, substantially lateral cutouts that amount to a returning, back-and-forth plate structure as shown. The longitudinal axis is shown by line Y-Y, while the lateral axis is shown by line X-X. This snake or continuous S (or Z) shape allows full torsional flexibility, while reducing compression and protecting from penetration.
In certain embodiments, the snake shape may redistribute concentrated external stresses along extensions or outriggers 501. Outriggers 501 may be formed by longitudinally staggered, substantially lateral cutouts 504. In effect, the snake shape formed by outriggers 501 may aid in distributing stresses toward outer parts of the shoe. This may reduce internal stress in shoe sole materials above the plate, and alleviate pressure on the foot. Embodiments of the snake-shaped foot plate may also include support ribs 502 to further aid in stress dissipation, and postings 503 to support and enclose the user's foot.
Snake-shaped embodiments enable increased torsional flexibility. In these embodiments, the snake-shape may offer less resistance to forces placed along the longitudinal axis. This allows an athlete faced with hazards to more effectively utilize give along the longitudinal axis and maintain balance during use.
Furthermore, the snake-shape of the instant exemplary embodiment the plate may aid in providing maximum flexibility along the horizontal axis of the plate. The snake-shape may allow a plate to bend more willingly from heel-to-toe, which is of great benefit to those users supporting their weight on their heels, and may aid the wearer in maintaining or regaining her balance.
Embodiment snake-shaped foot plates as described herein may be optimized to provide these benefits while still remaining lightweight. Specifically, when compared to a typical solid plate, an embodiment foot snake-shaped plate as described herein may be stripped of as much unnecessary material as possible, while still providing the benefits described above.
Embodiments of the snake-shaped foot plate may be composed of a single piece of elastomeric polymer (e.g., Hytrel, Pebax, TPU, TPO) or composite material (e.g., carbon fiber, TPU composite), and may be shaped as a curving snake or several continuous snake-shapes (as described above).
In certain embodiments, the snake-shaped foot plate may extend along the foot, while in others it may extend from the toe area to the midfoot area. See e.g., FIG. 6. The snake-shaped foot plate embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6 includes extensions or outriggers 601.
Snake-shaped foot plate embodiments may be located near the top, bottom, or middle of the midsole, with cushioning material placed above and below the plate.
In certain embodiments, outriggers may extend to the horizontal edges of the shoe, while in others it may extend substantially but not completely to the horizontal edges.
In certain embodiments, outriggers may be substantially similar lateral width. See e.g., FIG. 5. In other embodiments, outriggers may be tapered (toward the midfoot or the toe) to fit the general design of the shoe. See e.g., FIG. 6.
Snake-shaped foot plate embodiments extending from the toe area to the midfoot may be especially effective for athletes who balance their weight on their toes (e.g., uphill runners). Uphill runners, for example, require maximum torsional flexibility for at least two reasons. First, the runner's body weight is supported in a very small area (i.e., the toe region). As such, the runner requires the maximum amount of flexibility to help maintain balance and support her constantly-moving body weight. Second, any stone penetration in this relatively small area can knock the runner off-balance. Snake-shaped foot plate embodiments extending from the toe area may aid in dissipating these concentrated stresses in the toe area.
In one embodiment, the distance between the midpoint of one outrigger of the snake-shaped foot plate to the next may be between 0.5 mm-20.0 mm.
FIGS. 7-11 illustrate several views of snake-shaped foot plate embodiments. FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment snake-shaped foot plate in a perspective view as part of an athletic shoe. FIG. 8 illustrates another perspective view of an embodiment snake-shaped foot plate. FIG. 9 illustrates a top view of an embodiment snake-shaped foot plate. FIG. 10 illustrates a bottom view of an embodiment snake-shaped foot plate. FIG. 11 illustrates a view of an embodiment snake-shaped foot plate extending only to the midfoot.
FIGS. 12-13 provide an illustration of a snake-shaped foot plate embodiment incorporating a reinforcing heel cage. FIG. 12 illustrates sole 1200 including snake-shaped foot plate 1201 separate from reinforcing heel cage 1202 including an upper rim, a lower rim, and connecting ribs to support and encase midsole cushioning materials. FIG. 13 illustrates sole 1300 including snake-shaped foot plate 1301 and reinforcing heel cage 1302 formed continuously together.
FIG. 14 provides an illustration of an exploded view of a typical running shoe incorporating an snake-shaped foot plate embodiment. Upper 1401 and outsole 1405 sandwich midsole 1402 and snake-shaped foot plate 1404. Midsole 1402 may further comprise midsole cushions 1403.
While the embodiments of the present invention have been described with reference to the aforementioned applications, this description of the embodiments is not meant to be construed in a limiting sense. It shall be understood that all aspects of the embodiments of the present invention are not limited to the specific depictions, configurations or dimensions set forth herein which depend upon a variety of principles and variables. Various modifications in form and detail of the disclosed apparatus, as well as other variations of the embodiments of the present invention, will be apparent to a person skilled in the art upon reference to the present disclosure.