Title:
Molded shoe with unitary strap attachment connector
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shoe having a one-piece connector attaching a strap to the shoe and method of construction the same is provided. The shoe has: a sole; an upper portion extending from the sole with an aperture defined in the upper portion; a strap with a strap aperture defined in an end of the strap; and a one-piece connector having a shaft, an inner head fixed to a first end of the shaft and an outer head fixed to a second end of the shaft. The connector secures the strap to the upper portion of the shoe by the shaft extending through the aperture and the strap aperture. Material surrounding the apertures is elastic to allow diameters of the apertures to be temporarily stretched allowing the inner head of the connector to pass through the apertures before the diameters of the apertures contract, holding the connector in place.



Inventors:
Mann, Steve (Saskatoon, CA)
Application Number:
11/728808
Publication Date:
11/22/2007
Filing Date:
03/27/2007
Assignee:
Double Diamond Distribution Ltd. (Saskatchewan, CA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A43C11/00
View Patent Images:
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20080289215Shoe Sole Having Upwardly Sloped Front and Rear SidesNovember, 2008Park
20030213147Insole of a shoeNovember, 2003Chen et al.
20090282697FOOTWEAR SOLENovember, 2009Lee
20040064976Inerchangeable shoe ensembleApril, 2004Barteet
20080244931REPLACEABLE HEEL SYSTEMOctober, 2008Gallegos
20020133976Spring supported athletic shoeSeptember, 2002Crutcher
20090172973ENVIRONMENTAL-PROTECTION SHOE SOLE MADE OF RECYCLED SHOESJuly, 2009WU
20070163145Waterproof Foot CoveringJuly, 2007Lavers



Primary Examiner:
BAYS, MARIE D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP - MINNEAPOLIS (Lawrenceville, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A footwear piece comprising: a sole; an upper portion extending from the sole and having a rear opening operative to receive a foot of a user and a footwear aperture defined in a back part of the upper portion, wherein a first material defining the footwear aperture has a first thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the footwear aperture can be increased by stretching; a strap having a first end, a second end and a strap aperture defined in the first end of the strap, wherein a second material defining the strap aperture has a second thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the strap aperture can be increased by stretching; and a connector having a shaft with a length substantially equal to a total of the first thickness plus the second thickness, an inner head fixedly connected to a first end of the shaft and an outer head fixedly connected to a second end of the shaft, wherein the connector secures the first end of the strap to the upper portion by the shaft extending through the footwear aperture and the strap aperture.

2. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the first material and second material are moldable foam material.

3. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the footwear piece is made of a moldable foam material.

4. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the diameter of the footwear aperture and the diameter of the strap aperture can be stretched larger than a diameter of the inner head of the connector.

5. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the strap is operative to hold the foot of the user in the rear opening of the footwear piece.

6. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein a design is provided on an outside surface of the outer head of the connector.

7. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the outer head is a decorative object.

8. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein an attachment device is provided on an outside surface of the outer head of the connector that allows a decorative object to be attached to the outside surface of the outer head.

9. The footwear piece of claim 8 wherein the attachment device is an aperture that mates with a tab flange on the decorative object allowing the decorative object to be removable attached to the outside surface of the outer head.

10. The footwear piece of claim 1 wherein the inner head and the outer head each have a diameter that is substantially the same.

11. The footwear piece of claim 1 further comprising: a second footwear aperture defined on an opposite side of the upper portion of the footwear piece from the footwear aperture, wherein a third material defining the second footwear aperture has a third thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the second footwear aperture can be increased by stretching; a second strap aperture defined in the second end of the strap, wherein a fourth material defining the second strap aperture has a fourth thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the second strap aperture can be increased by stretching a second connector having a shaft having a length substantially equal to the third thickness and fourth thickness, an inner head fixedly connected to a first end of the shaft; and an outer head fixedly connected to the other end of the shaft, wherein the second connector secures the second end of the strap to the upper portion by the shaft extending through the second footwear aperture and the second strap aperture.

12. The footwear piece of claim 9 wherein the first material and third material are made from the same type of material and the second material and fourth material are made from the same type of material.

13. The footwear piece of claim 9 wherein the footwear aperture and second footwear aperture are defined on substantially opposing sides of the rear opening of the footwear piece causing the attached strap to be positioned across the rear opening.

14. The footwear piece of claim 13 wherein the connector and second connector allow the strap to pivot freely relative to the upper portion of the footwear piece.

15. A method of attaching a strap to a footwear piece using a connector, the method comprising: providing a connector having a shaft, an inner head fixedly connected to a first end of the shaft and an outer head fixedly connected to a second end of the shaft; aligning a footwear aperture defined in a back part of an upper portion of the footwear piece with a strap aperture defined at an end of the strap; stretching the strap aperture and the footwear aperture to allow the inner head of the connector to pass through the footwear aperture and strap aperture; passing the inner head of the connector through the footwear aperture and strap aperture; and once the inner head of the connector has passed through the footwear aperture and the strap aperture, allowing a diameter of the footwear aperture and a diameter of the strap aperture to contract to a size less than a diameter of the inner head of the connector.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein the strap is attached to the upper portion so that the strap is positioned across a rear opening of the piece of footwear to engage a heel of a foot of a user and maintain the foot of the user in the upper portion of the footwear piece.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/786,192, filed Mar. 27, 2006.

BACKGROUND

This invention is in the field of footwear and more particularly an apparatus and method of attaching a strap to footwear using one-piece connectors.

Various types of footwear are held on a foot of a wearer using a strap that wraps around a heel of the user. This strap, in many cases, is connected to a main or upper portion of the footwear with a pair of two-piece rivets; one of two-piece rivets attaching each end of the strap to the main or upper portion of the footwear piece.

For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,993,858 teaches the use of a two-piece rivet with a male and female portion, in order to attach a strap to the rest of a piece of footwear. This document teaches the construction of a molded piece of footwear. First, the shoe and strap section are molded and perforations are made in the shoe and strap. Next, a pair of two-piece rivets are then inserted through the apertures to attach the strap to the shoe. A male part of the two-piece rivet is inserted through a perforation in the shoe and a perforation in the strap and then a female part of the two piece rivet is snapped into place to attach the strap to the shoe.

The problem with using a two-piece rivet is that there is a weakness in the two-piece rivet at the point were the two pieces snap together, i.e. what is snapped together can be unsnapped. Although U.S. Pat. No. 6,993,858 teaches that the two-piece rivet can be made of plastic or made from some other material such as metal or rubber, whatever material these two-piece rivets are made out of, the material cannot be so rigid that the two-piece rivet will not snap together. Because of this limitation that the material used must be elastic enough to allow the two-piece rivet snap together, the rivet can be snapped apart causing the strap to detach from the shoe. Additionally, the snap mechanism that allows the two-pieces of the rivet to snap together, is by necessity weaker than a solid shaft would be, allowing the two-piece rivet to break more easily. If the two-piece rivet is made of a material that is too strong and rigid to try to prevent the two-piece rivet snapping apart or breaking, the two-piece rivet will not snap together.

Because, the strength and rigidity of the material that the two-piece rivet is made out of is limited by the amount of force necessary to snap the two-pieces together, there is always a limitation in the material used for the two-piece rivet and there is a trade-off between the strength of the material being used to make the two-piece rivet and the ability to snap the two-pieces together. Additionally, there is an inherent weakness in the two-piece rivet as a result of the snap mechanism having to be used. Because the two-piece rivet is used to secure a foot of a person in the footwear, substantial forces and stress are placed on the two-piece rivet and it is common for these two-piece rivets to unsnap or break.

SUMMARY

The present disclosure is directed to a piece of footwear and method of manufacturing the piece of footwear using a single piece that overcomes problems in the prior art.

In a first aspect, a footwear piece is provided. The footwear piece has a sole; an upper portion extending from the sole and having a rear opening operative to receive a foot of a user and a footwear aperture defined in a back part of the upper portion, wherein a first material defining the footwear aperture has a first thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the footwear aperture can be increased by stretching; a strap having a first end, a second end and a strap aperture defined in the first end of the strap, wherein a second material defining the strap aperture has a second thickness and is elastic such that a diameter of the strap aperture can be increased by stretching; and a connector having a shaft with a length substantially equal to a total of the first thickness plus the second thickness, an inner head fixedly connected to a first end of the shaft and an outer head fixedly connected to a second end of the shaft. The connector secures the first end of the strap to the upper portion by the shaft extending through the footwear aperture and the strap aperture.

In as second aspect, a method of attaching a strap to a footwear piece using a connector is provided. The method comprises: providing a connector having a shaft, an inner head fixedly connected to a first end of the shaft and an outer head fixedly connected to a second end of the shaft; aligning a footwear aperture defined in a back part of an upper portion of the footwear piece with a strap aperture defined at an end of the strap; stretching the strap aperture and the footwear aperture to allow the inner head of the connector to pass through the footwear aperture and strap aperture; passing the inner head of the connector through the footwear aperture and strap aperture; and once the inner head of the connector has passed through the footwear aperture and the strap aperture, allowing a diameter of the footwear aperture and a diameter of the strap aperture to contract to a size less than a diameter of the inner head of the connector.

In one aspect, a piece of footwear comprising a main and a strap is provided. The main portion comprises a sole and an upper. The sole cushions a bottom of a foot of a wearer and the upper portion keeps the foot of the wearer positioned against the sole. The strap is pivotally connected to the upper portion of the footwear piece and when worn across a back of a foot of the wearer, holds the foot of the wearer in the upper portion of the piece of footwear.

A first pair of apertures is positioned near a back of the upper portion. This first pair of apertures corresponds to a second pair of apertures located near ends of the strap. The material surrounding the first and second pair of apertures is sufficiently elastic so that the apertures can be temporarily stretched, increasing the size of the apertures. A pair of single-piece connectors are used to attach the strap to the upper portion of the piece of footwear, with each connector passing through one of the apertures on an end of the strap section and one of the apertures on the upper of the footwear so that the pair of one-piece connectors pivotally attach the strap to the main portion of the piece of footwear.

The connectors are formed as a single piece. They are not made of a number of pieces meant to be snapped together to form the connector or unsnapped. Rather than needing to be snapped together in order to attach the strap to the upper portion of the piece of footwear, the material around the apertures is stretched to increase the size of the apertures so that a head of the connector will pass through the aperture and then the aperture is allowed to return to its original size, with the connector attaching the strap to the upper portion of the piece of footwear.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the invention is claimed in the concluding portions hereof, preferred embodiments are provided in the accompanying detailed description which may be best understood in conjunction with the accompanying diagrams where like parts in each of the several diagrams are labeled with like numbers, and where:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a piece of footwear in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is top view of a main portion of the piece of footwear illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is side view a strap portion of the piece of footwear illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4A is a perspective view of a one-piece connector in a first aspect;

FIG. 4B is a perspective view of the one-piece connector of FIG. 4A from another end with a design on an outer surface of an outer head;

FIG. 4C is a perspective view of another aspect of a connector where an outer head is a decorative object;

FIG. 4D is a perspective view of another aspect of a connector that is attachable to a decorative object;

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of a piece of footwear of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a side view of the footwear piece of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a section view of a portion of the footwear piece where a connector attaches the strap to the upper portion of the footwear piece; and

FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating a method of manufacturing a piece of footwear in accordance with the present disclosure.

DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a piece of footwear 10, in accordance with the present disclosure. Footwear 10 comprises a main portion 12, a strap 14 and a pair of one-piece connectors 16.

FIG. 2 illustrates the main portion 12 of the piece of footwear 10. The main portion 12 comprises a sole 22 and an upper portion 24 with a rear opening 18. In some embodiments, sole 22 and upper portion 24 are integrally molded so that sole 22 and upper portion 24 are molded in a single piece. In those embodiments, the entire main portion 12 can be molded in a foam material. In other embodiments sole 22 and upper portion 24 are constructed separately, and upper portion 24 is attached to sole 22 during construction, allowing sole 22 and upper portion 24 to be made of different materials, i.e. a soft material for the upper 24 and a more durable material for the sole 22.

Upper portion 24 is constructed to receive the front of a foot of a person and can be open at the toes or closed at the toes. Upper portion 24 can also have perforations for decoration or utility and in some embodiments upper portion 24 is made up of a number of straps, such as a sandal.

Rear opening 18 is sized to allow a foot of a user to pass through the rear opening 18 and into the upper portion 24.

Positioned near a back part of the upper portion 24 of the footwear piece 10 near the rear opening 18 are a first footwear aperture 26 and a second footwear aperture 28. The material surrounding the first footwear aperture 26 and second footwear aperture 28 is elastic so that the first footwear aperture 26 and second footwear aperture 28 can be temporarily stretched larger to increase the size of the first footwear aperture 26 and second footwear aperture 28.

FIG. 3 illustrates a strap 14. Strap 14 has a first strap aperture 36 and a second strap aperture 38 positioned at each end of the strap 14. The strap 14 is constructed so that the material surrounding the first strap aperture 36 and second strap aperture 38 is elastic, allowing the first strap aperture 36 and second aperture 38 to be temporarily stretched larger to temporarily increase the size of the first strap aperture 36 and second strap aperture 38.

FIG. 4A illustrates a one-piece connector 16. Connector 16 has an inner head 42 and an outer head 44 attached to each end of a shaft 46. Inner head 42 and outer head 44 are solidly fixed to the shaft 16 so that inner head 42 and outer head 44 are not removable. Typically, the inner head 32 and outer head 44 are solidly fixed to the shaft 46 by the entire connector 16 being molded in an integral piece, although the inner head 42 and outer head 44 could also be welded or attached to the shaft 46 by another means. Because inner head 42 and outer head 44 are not meant to be removed from the shaft 46, the connector 16 can be made of a sufficient rigid and strong material, such as metal or very hard plastic, that is not elastic, to reduce the likelihood that either the inner head 42 and outer head 44 will separate from the shaft 46.

FIG. 4B shows a perspective view of the connector 16 from the outer end. In one aspect, a design 47 can be provided on an outer surface 48 of the outer head 44.

FIG. 4C shows a perspective view of a connector 56. Connector 56 has an inner head 42 and a shaft 46, however, outer head 58 is a decorative object, such as a logo, animal, shape, etc. (in this case it is a daisy).

FIG. 4D shows a perspective view of a connector 66. Connector 66 has an inner head 42 and a shaft 46, however, outer head 68 has an attachment device 67 on an outside surface 69 of the outer head 68. The attachment device 67 comprises in one embodiment an aperture. A decorative object 72 containing a design is provided that can be removably attached to the attachment device 67 with a tab 74 that mates with the attachment device 67 and will hold the decorative object 72 on the outside surface 69 of the connector 66.

In this manner, a user can select a decorative object 72 of his or her choice and connect it to the connector 66, allowing a user to alter the appearance of the connector 66, without having to replace the connector 66. When a user wishes to switch the look of the connector 66, he or she can choose a different decorative object 72 and attach it to the connector 66.

FIG. 5 illustrates an exploded front view of the piece of footwear 10. The strap 14 is pivotally connected to the upper portion 24 of the main portion 12 using a pair of one-piece connectors 16A, 16B. A first connector 16A is positioned so that the shaft 46A of the first connector 16A passes through the first footwear aperture 26 on the upper portion 24 and the first strap aperture 36 on the strap 14; with the first head 42A and second head 44A maintaining the connector 16A in place on the piece of footwear 10. A second connector 16B is positioned through the second footwear aperture 28 on the upper portion 24 and the second strap aperture 38 on the strap 14, so that the first head 42B and the second head 44B of the second connector 16B hold the shaft 46B in the second footwear aperture 28 of the upper portion 24 and the second strap aperture 38 of the strap 14.

FIG. 6 illustrates a side view of the footwear piece 10. A user would wear the piece of footwear 10 by slipping his or her foot into the upper portion 24 of the main portion 12 and slipping the strap 14 over a back of a heel on his or her foot. The strap 14 is positioned across the rear opening 18 of the upper portion 24 and the strap 14 contacts a heel of the user and holds the foot of the user in the piece of footwear 10. In order for the piece of footwear 10 to remain on the foot of a user, the strap 14 could be sufficiently elastic to allow the user to temporarily stretch the strap 14 over the heel of the user so that when the user stops stretching, the strap 14 rests snugly against the heel of the user. In a further embodiment, the strap portion 14 can comprises a tensioning component (not shown), such as a hook and loop fastener like one sold under the trade designation of VELCRO, to allow the user to adjust the strap 14 snugly against the heel of the user.

FIG. 7 illustrates a section view of the connector 16 positioned in the piece of footwear 10 along section line A, A′ in FIG. 6. Material defining the footwear aperture 26 has a thickness, a. Material defining the strap aperture 36 has a thickness, b. In order to accommodate the thickness, a, of the material surrounding the footwear aperture 26 and the thickness, b, of the material surrounding the strap aperture 36, the shaft 46 of the connector 16 has a length, L, substantially equal to the thickness, a, of the material surrounding the footwear aperture 26 plus the thickness, b, of the material surrounding the strap aperture 36. While L is substantially equal to the thickness, a, and thickness, b, L may be slightly larger than these two thicknesses to allow the strap 14 to pivot easily around the point of attachment to the upper portion 24 or, alternatively, length, L, could be slightly less than the two thickness, a and b, to create friction between the inner head 42, outer head 46, the material of the footwear aperture 26 and the material of the strap aperture 36.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating an embodiment of the manufacturing method for constructing a shoe or footwear piece. The method 100 comprises the steps of: constructing the main portion 110; constructing the strap 112; perforating the main portion 114; perforating the strap 116; aligning the perforated apertures in the main portion and strap 118; stretching the apertures 120; inserting one-piece connectors through the stretched apertures 122; and allowing the apertures to return to their substantially unstretched shape 124.

The construction of the footwear begins with the construction of the main portion 110. If the main portion is molded in one piece, the main portion is integrally molded at this step. Alternatively, if the main portion 110 is made of a number of different pieces, the different pieces can be molded separately or constructed separately at this point and attached together to form the main portion. The main portion is constructed such that material surrounding an area where perforations will be made in step 114 is sufficiently elastic to allow the eventual apertures to be temporarily stretched larger.

The strap is constructed at step 112. If the strap portion is formed of molded material, the strap is molded at step 112. Alternatively, if the strap is made of several pieces, the pieces can be assembled at this point. The strap is constructed such that the material used around the ends is sufficiently elastic so that apertures made in this material at step 116 can be stretched to make the apertures temporarily larger.

At step 114, a pair of perforations are made in the main portion to form an aperture on either side of the main portion where the strap potion will be attached to the main portion and at step 116 a pair of perforations are made in the strap, with a perforation located near each end of the strap which form a strap aperture at each end of the strap.

To connect the strap to the footwear piece steps 118, 120, 122 and 125 are followed. The strap can be connected at any time after the strap and main portion are constructed. At step 118, the footwear apertures in the main portion are aligned with the strap apertures in the strap and these footwear and strap apertures are stretched at step 120. With the apertures stretched from step 120, one-piece connectors are inserted through the stretched apertures, at step 122, with the stretched apertures clearing an inner head of the connectors.

After the one-piece connectors have been inserted through the stretched apertures at step 122, the apertures are allowed to return to their unstretched shape, at step 124, causing the one-piece connectors to be held in place in the footwear and strap apertures.

In this manner, a strap can be attached to a footwear piece using one-piece connectors to pivotally attach a strap to a main portion of the footwear piece. By using one-piece connectors the one-piece connectors can be constructed of a fairly rigid and strong material increasing their durability.

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous changes and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all such suitable changes or modifications in structure or operation which may be resorted to are intended to fall within the scope of the claimed invention.