Title:
Protective footwear and method of forming the same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Formfitting footwear including a stretchable sleeve to be worn on a human foot, the sleeve having a first end and a second end opposite the first end. Toe openings are disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve. A footpad is disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve adjacent the toe openings, the footpad including an inner layer of at least one of shock absorbing material and cushioning material and an outer layer that contacts a ground surface.



Inventors:
Huggins, Jamie (Waltham, MA, US)
Application Number:
10/958517
Publication Date:
05/25/2006
Filing Date:
10/05/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41B11/00; A43B17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SUTTON, ANDREW W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AMSTER, ROTHSTEIN & EBENSTEIN LLP (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Formfitting footwear comprising: a stretchable sleeve to be worn on a human foot, the sleeve having a first end and a second end opposite the first end; toe openings disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve; a footpad disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve adjacent the toe openings, the footpad comprising an inner layer of at least one of shock absorbing material and cushioning material and an outer layer that contacts a ground surface.

2. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, further comprising an elastic portion formed around the second end of the stretchable sleeve that prevents the stretchable sleeve from falling towards a wearer's toes.

3. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the inner layer of the footpad is made of a foam material.

4. The formfitting footwear of claim 3, wherein the foam material is polyurethane foam.

5. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the inner layer of the footpad is made of a gel material.

6. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the thickness of the inner layer is in the range of about 0.25 mm to about 3.0 mm.

7. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the outer layer is made of a material from the group consisting of smooth leather, suede leather, synthetic leather, moldable polymers and elastomers.

8. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the outer layer is textured to enhance traction.

9. The formfitting footwear of claim 8, wherein the textured footpad comprises one or more of the following: ridges, grooves and dimpling.

10. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, further comprising a toe piece that forms the toe openings.

11. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the footpad further comprises a moisture-absorbing layer.

12. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the stretchable sleeve comprises a cut-out portion to which the toe portion is attached.

13. The formfitting footwear of claim 1, wherein the stretchable sleeve comprises a cut-out portion to which the footpad is attached.

14. A method of forming formfitting footwear comprising: providing a sheet of stretchable material, the sheet having a first longitudinal end portion, a second longitudinal end portion, a first lateral end portion and a second lateral end portion; forming toe openings at the first longitudinal end portion of the sheet; attaching a footpad to the first longitudinal end portion of the sheet adjacent to the toe openings; folding the sheet such that the first lateral end portion overlaps the second lateral end portion with the footpad disposed between the first and second lateral end portions; permanently attaching the first lateral end portion to the second lateral end portion so as to form a sleeve with the footpad disposed within the sleeve; and turning the sleeve inside out such that the footpad is disposed outside the sleeve.

15. The method of claim 14, further comprising attaching an elastic portion to the second longitudinal end portion of the sheet.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein the step of forming toe openings comprises attaching a toe piece to the sheet.

17. The method of claim 14, wherein the step of attaching a footpad comprises attaching to the sheet an inner layer of at least one of shock-absorbing material and cushioning material and an outer layer that contacts a ground surface during use.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the step of attaching a footpad further comprises attaching to the sheet a moisture-absorbing layer.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure relates to protective footwear for use in dance and other athletic activities.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The need for protective and functional footwear intended for specific applications is well-known. Just as sports such as basketball and football place different demands on the human foot and thus require specialized footwear, different forms of dance and athletics also require specialized footwear. For example, ballet requires specially designed toe shoes, jazz-style dance requires specially-designed character shoes, and tap dance requires specially modified tap shoes.

Unlike many more traditional forms of dance, modern dance requires rapid, abrupt and often complex shifts in body position, center of gravity, directional momentum and weight distribution. Included in these movements are forceful turns, spins and other such movements that can cause friction burns, tearing, slivers, blisters and other foot problems. In addition, modern dancers—like other dancers—risk serious injury if their foot should slip on the dance floor or if they should turn their ankle. However, given the aesthetic requirements of their art, most modern dancers currently opt to dance barefoot and tolerate the damage done to their feet.

Earlier, unsuccessful attempts at providing such footwear range from the use of thongs that were wrapped around the foot to dancers cutting up nylon stockings and tying them to their feet before each performance. Footwear currently available for use in modern dance includes a “sole” that is secured to the foot by an ankle strap and toe loops. Other footwear products cover only the ball of the foot and do not have an ankle strap. Such products attach to the foot with toe loops and an elastic band that crosses over the bridge of the foot. However, these known footwear products are not securely bound to the foot, and thus have a tendency to cause tearing of the skin, particularly between the great and index toes. For this reason, most modern dancers do not use this type of footwear. A major drawback of all the above approaches is that such footwear does not provide all of the necessary protective and safety benefits, not are they durable and minimally disruptive to a dancer's performance.

Accordingly, there is a need for dance footwear that protects feet from friction burns, tearing, slivers, blisters and other foot problems commonly associated with dance movements, while also providing beneficial traction, maneuverability and an inconspicuous appearance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Formfitting footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention includes a stretchable sleeve to be worn on a human foot, the sleeve having a first end and a second end opposite the first end. Toe openings are disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve. A footpad is disposed at the first end of the elastic sleeve adjacent the toe openings, the footpad comprising an inner layer of at least one of a shock absorbing material and a cushioning material and an outer layer that contacts a ground surface.

In at least one embodiment of the invention, an elastic piece is disposed around the second end of the sleeve.

In at least one embodiment of the invention, the footpad further includes a moisture-absorbing layer.

A method of forming formfitting footwear according to an embodiment of the invention includes providing a sheet of stretchable material, the sheet having a first longitudinal end portion, a second longitudinal end portion, a first lateral end portion and a second lateral end portion. Toe openings are formed at the first longitudinal end portion of the sheet. A footpad is attached to the first longitudinal end portion of the sheet adjacent to the toe openings. The sheet is folded such that the first lateral end portion overlaps the second lateral end portion with the footpad disposed between the first and second lateral end portions. The first lateral end portion is permanently attached to the second lateral end portion so as to form a sleeve with the footpad disposed within the sleeve. The sleeve is turned inside out such that the footpad is disposed outside the sleeve.

These and other features of this invention are described in, or are apparent from, the following detailed description of various exemplary embodiments of this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various exemplary embodiments of the invention will be described in detail, with reference to the following figures, wherein:

FIG. 1 shows protective footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention placed on a wearer's feet;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration;

FIG. 3 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an another exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an another exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration;

FIG. 5 shows the sleeve of FIG. 4 spread out and patterned to include a second cut-out portion;

FIG. 6 shows protective footwear according to another exemplary embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 shows a step of a method of forming formfitting footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 8 shows another step of a method of forming formfitting footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The protective footwear according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention includes an elastic sleeve having toe holes and a footpad that protects a wearer's foot from blisters, burns, cuts, scrapes and other injuries commonly associated with athletic movements, and that also functions to absorb shock to the bottom of the foot that occurs during, for example, leaping maneuvers. In exemplary embodiments, the protective footwear of the present invention may include ankle support and/or protective material surrounding the toes openings. It should be appreciated that, although the protective footwear of the present invention is particularly applicable to dance, it may also be used in other activities, such as, for example, martial arts, pilates, yoga or gymnastics.

FIG. 1 shows protective footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention placed on a wearer's feet. The protective footwear 1 includes a sleeve 10 that is preferably made of an elastic material so as to conform and fit snugly around the foot. An elastic piece 12 is provided around an open end of the sleeve 10 to ensure that the sleeve 10 does not fall towards the toes during movement. Toe openings 14 are provided at the opposite end of the sleeve 10 to allow the toes to move freely and contact the ground surface. As shown in FIG. 1, a footpad 16 is disposed on the bottom portions of the sleeve 10 near the ball of the foot. As will be described in more detail below, the footpad protects the wearer's foot from injury by providing a barrier between the skin and the floor and by absorbing shock, and also provides traction.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration. As shown in FIG. 2, the sleeve 10 is cut out of or otherwise formed from elastic material so as to have the appropriately placed toe openings 14 formed in an upper portion 11 of the sleeve 10. The elastic material used to form the sleeve 10 is preferably lycra or spandex. The footpad 16 is attached to a lower portion 13 of the sleeve 10 preferably by sewing. In the present embodiment of the invention, the footpad 16 is a multi-layer structure made up of a ground-contact layer 18, a shock-absorbing and/or cushioning layer 20 and an optional moisture absorbing layer 22. The various layers of the footpad 16 may be laminated together by, for example, adhesive.

The ground-contact layer 18 is preferably made of a durable material that provides adequate friction with the ground surface. Suitable material for the ground contact layer 18 include smooth leather, suede leather, synthetic leather, moldable polymers, elastomers and synthetic rubber materials, such as neoprene. The ground-contact layer 18 may also be textured to enhance traction, such as by forming ridges, grooves and/or dimplings in the outer surface of the ground-contact layer 18. The thickness of the ground-contact layer 18 is preferably in the range of about 0.25 mm to about 2.0 mm.

The shock-absorbing and/or cushioning layer 20 is preferably placed between the ground-contact layer 18 and the optional moisture-absorbing layer 22. Depending on the structure and materials used, the shock-absorbing and/or cushioning layer 22 may have the ability to cushion and/or absorb forces exerted on the wearer's feet during, for example, dance movements such as leaps and twirls. The shock-absorbing and/or absorbing layer 22 assists in reducing foot pain and injury. Suitable materials for the shock-absorbing and/or absorbing layer 22 include foam materials, such as, for example, polyurethane foam, hydrophilic urethane foam, polyethylene foam, closed cell foams, open cell foams, ethylene propylene rubber (EPDM), or gel-like materials, such as, for example, non-silicon polymer gel. The thickness of the shock-absorbing layer 18 is preferably in the range of about 0.25 mm to about 3.0 mm.

The moisture-absorbing layer 22 is preferably placed closest to the wearer's foot to enhance sweat capability. The moisture-absorbing layer is an optional layer, and thus, in other exemplary embodiments of the invention, the footpad 16 may only include the ground-contact layer 18 and the shock-absorbing layer 20. The moisture absorbing layer 22 is preferably made of materials such as, for example, Ultralore® or nylon and polyester fabrics made with up to 50% load of ReFresh fibers, and has a thickness in the range of about 0.25 mm to about 2.0 mm.

The elastic piece 12 is preferably in a band shape and is attached to the end of the sleeve 10 furthest from the wearer's toes. The elastic piece 12 is attached to the sleeve 10 by sewing and/or adhesive and is made of, for example, woven or knit elastic.

FIG. 3 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an another exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration. The present embodiment is substantially the same as the previous embodiment except for the provision of a separate toe piece 32 that protects the forefoot of the wearer and provides toe openings. As shown in FIG. 3, the toe piece 32 is attached to a cutout portion 30 of the sleeve 10 formed in the upper portion 11 of the sleeve 10. Preferably the toe piece 32 is formed of a material that provides sufficient support so that the portions adjacent to or between the toe holes do not tear during intensive use, and also sufficient comfort so as not to induce blistering or tearing of the skin adjacent to or between the toes. Appropriate materials for the toe piece 32 may be, for example, neoprene, powermesh or tricot spandex.

FIG. 4 is an exploded view showing various components of the protective footwear according to an another exemplary embodiment of the invention with the sleeve in a spread-out configuration. The present embodiment is substantially the same as the first-described embodiment except for the provision of a second cut-out portion 34 formed in a lower portion 13 of the sleeve 10 that accommodates the footpad 16. FIG. 5 shows the sleeve 10 spread out and patterned to include the second cut-out portion 34. The footpad 16 is attached to the cut-out portion 30 preferably by sewing. In other embodiments of the invention, the sleeve 10 may include both the first cut-out portion 30 to accommodate the toe piece 32 and the second cut-out portion 34 to accommodate the footpad 16.

FIG. 6 shows protective footwear according to another exemplary embodiment of the invention. The present embodiment is substantially the same as the previous embodiments except that the sleeve 10 extends over the ankle of a user. Such a construction provides increased lateral stability and support.

In a method of forming the protective footwear according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, the sleeve 10 is first formed from a lycra sheet in a spread out configuration as shown in FIG. 2. Cut-out portions 30 and 34 may be formed in the lycra sheet to accommodate the toe piece 32 and the footpad 16, respectively. Alternatively, toe holes 14 may be formed directly in the sheet instead of using a separate toe piece 16. The footpad 16 is then attached to the lower portion 13 of the sleeve 10 and the lycra is trimmed around the footpad 16. The elastic piece 12 is then attached to the end of the sleeve 10 furthest from the wearer's toes. As shown in FIG. 7, the upper portion 11 of the sleeve 10 is folded over the lower portion 13 of the sleeve 10 such that the footpad 16 is disposed within the void defined by the upper portion 11 and lower portion 13. Then, as shown in FIG. 8, the upper portion 11 and the lower portion 12 are joined together around their respective edges, and the product is turned inside out to result in the finished protective footwear 10.

It should be appreciated that the protective footwear according to various exemplary embodiments of the invention may be made by any other suitable process, such as one in which the sleeve with the toe holes are formed as a unitary construction using conventional molding processes. Alternatively, the upper and lower portions of the sleeve may be two entirely separate pieces which are later sewn together.

Now that the preferred embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described in detail, various modifications and improvement thereon will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, the spirit and scope of the present invention is to be construed broadly and limited only by the appended claims, and not by the foregoing specification.