Title:
Toe piece for a wakeboard binding and method of use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toe piece for a wakeboard binding employs two different materials. The bulk of the toe piece is made from a first material having a certain degree of elasticity. A remaining portion of the toe piece as side portions are made from a material that is more elastic than the first material. This enables an upper portion of the toe piece to move or flex more with respect to the lower portion so that entry of a foot into the binding or out of the binding is easier.



Inventors:
Sanderson, Brian (Oceanside, CA, US)
Crumrine, Scott (Carlsbad, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/882773
Publication Date:
02/14/2008
Filing Date:
08/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B35/85
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SWINEHART, EDWIN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CLARK & BRODY (Alexandria, VA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. In a wakeboard binding including a heel piece and toe piece, the improvement comprising: a toe piece having an upper portion, side portions, and a lower portion, the upper portion made of a first material having a first elasticity, at least one of the side portions including a segment of a second material having a second elasticity that is greater than the first elasticity so that the upper portion is able to move with respect to the lower portion and facilitate entry of a foot into the binding and removal of a foot from the binding.

2. The binding of claim 1, wherein the segment is wedge shaped.

3. The binding of claim 1, wherein the segment extends from a rear of the toe piece to a front of the toe piece.

4. The binding of claim 1, wherein each side portion has a segment.

5. The binding of claim 1, wherein the at least one segment is made from styrene butadiene rubber.

6. In a toe piece for a binding for a wakeboard having an upper portion, side portions and a lower portion, wherein the toe piece is made of an elastic material, the improvement comprising at least one side portion including a segment made of another elastic material which has higher elasticity than the elastic material of the remainder of the toe piece to facilitate entry of a foot into the toe piece and exit of a foot from the toe piece.

7. The toe piece of claim 6, wherein the segment is wedge shaped.

8. The toe piece of claim 6, wherein the segment extends from a rear of the toe piece to a front of the toe piece.

9. The toe piece of claim 6, wherein each side portion has the segment.

10. The toe piece of claim 6, wherein the segment is made from styrene butadiene rubber.

11. In a method of donning a wakeboard binding by inserting a user's foot between a heel piece and a toe piece of the binding, wherein the toe piece is made of a first elastic material and has an upper portion, a lower portion and side portions, the improvement comprising: a) providing at least one side portion of the toe piece with a segment of a second elastic material, the second elastic material having an elasticity greater than an elasticity of the first elastic material, and b) inserting the foot between the heel and toe piece, the inserting step causing the upper portion of the toe piece to move with respect to the lower portion as a result of stretching of the segment to enable the foot to be inserted with less effort.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the segment provided with the toe piece is wedge shaped.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein the segment provided with the toe piece extends from a rear of the toe piece to a front of the toe piece.

14. The method of claim 11, wherein each segment is made from styrene butadiene rubber.

Description:

This application claims priority under 35 USC 119(e) based on provisional patent application No. 60/836,132, filed on Aug. 8, 2006.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to an improved wakeboard binding, and in particular to a binding that utilizes a toe piece that is designed to provide more comfort to a user, and facilitate entry of a user's foot into the binding.

BACKGROUND ART

In the art of making wakeboard bindings, the heel and toe pieces are molded in flat pieces, which are then curved during binding manufacture. U.S. Pat. No. 6,036,561 to Fletcher, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety, is one example of a wakeboard binding wherein heel and toe pieces are used as part of the binding. FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate the flat toe piece design of the prior art. In FIG. 1, a toe piece is designated by the reference numeral 60, and is T-shaped. Referring to FIG. 2, segment 61 is designed to conform to a user's shin 67, with segment 63 wrapping around a user's arch 69. Segment 63 also has a plurality of openings which allows the toe piece to be secured as part of the wakeboard binding.

In one mode, the prior art wakeboard bindings utilize these two-dimensional ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) or rubber heel and toe pieces by bending them into the assembled position to form a “boot” which is used to secure the foot. These pieces are then usually surrounded by an “overlay” to provide more support and a tighter fit to the foot.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,997,375 to Vukelic, also incorporated herein in its entirety by reference, discloses a wakeboard binding typical of the prior art types. Vukelic describes the heel and toe piece as being made from sheet material, e.g., an elastomeric metallocene rubber bonded to a foam sheet.

The toe piece can have a laminate construction made up of closed cell foam materials such as the combination of styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and Lycra, with the Lycra forming the outer layer in contact with the user's foot.

Another type of prior art toe piece is a pre-molded design as shown in FIG. 3 and disclosed in United States Published Patent Application No. 2006/0014450 to Crumrine, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety. In FIG. 3, the heel piece is designated by the reference numeral 1 and toe piece is designated by the reference numeral 3, both molded in a three dimensional shape.

The toe piece 3 includes an upper foot segment 5 that extends, from a front edge 7 and is molded to follow the contours of the upper part of a user's foot. The toe piece 3 includes a shin segment 11 that curves upwardly from the upper foot segment 5 to contact the user's shin or leg, and terminates in edge 9. The upper foot segment 5 is molded with a pair of flaps 13, each flap terminating in a flange 15. The flaps 13 are contoured to follow the side of the foot, with each flange 15 angled with respect to a side surface 17 of the flap 13. The flanges 15 facilitate attachment of the toe piece 3 to the binding hardware (not shown). The flanges 15 also include openings 19 to facilitate attachment to a binding component.

One problem with the prior art construction is that the toe piece can be relatively stiff as a result of the use of the EVA or other stiff materials, and this makes it difficult for a user to both insert a foot into the binding and remove the foot therefrom.

In light of the deficiencies in heel and toe pieces of prior art wakeboard bindings, a need has developed to provide improved bindings that offer better comfort and ease of use. The present invention solves this need by providing a toe piece that is made of two materials of different elasticity, with the material of high elasticity or stretching configured as part of the toe piece so entry into and out of the binding is made easier.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the invention to provide an improved wakeboard binding.

Another object of the invention is to provide improved toe piece that is used in wakeboard bindings.

Yet another object of the present invention is the use of the improved toe piece to facilitate donning and doffing of the toe piece by a user.

Other objects and advantages will be come apparent as a description of the invention proceeds.

In satisfaction of the foregoing objects and advantages, the present invention is an improvement in the field of wakeboard bindings. One aspect of the invention is the use of the inventive toe piece as part of a wakeboard binding. These types of bindings typically include a heel piece and a toe piece. The inventive toe piece has an upper portion, side portions, and lower portions. At least the upper portion is made of a first material having a first elasticity, with at least one of the side portions including a segment of a second material having a second elasticity that is greater than the first elasticity. This difference in elasticity between the upper portion and the segment allows the upper portion to move with respect to the lower portions and facilitate entry of a foot into the binding and removal of a foot from the binding.

The segment can have any number of shapes, with one preferred shape being a wedge that matches the wedge shape of a foot, with the narrow part of the wedge extending toward the front of the toe piece, but not extending to the end of the toe piece. In an alternative embodiment, the segment can extend from a rear of the toe piece to a front of the toe piece. While the segment can be on just one side of the toe piece, a segment can be part of each side portion of the toe piece. Generally, the toe piece, but for the segment(s), is made of the same material, i.e., the upper and lower portions and any remaining parts of the side portion match in terms of composition. A preferred material for the segment is a styrene butadiene rubber.

Another aspect of the invention is the toe piece as a separate component for use in assembling a wakeboard binding.

The invention also entails a method of using the toe piece as part of a wakeboard binding. This aspect of the invention is an improvement in the way a foot of a user would enter the binding. By providing at least one side portion of the toe piece with a segment of a second elastic material, the second elastic material having an elasticity greater than an elasticity of a first elastic material of the toe piece, inserting a foot between the heel and toe pieces is greatly facilitated. This is because the upper portion of the toe piece can move or flex to a greater degree with respect to the lower portions and side portions because of the presence of the segment or segments in the toe piece, which segment stretches during foot entry in the binding as a result of its increased elasticity. Similarly, when the foot is removed from the binding, the upper portion is able to flex or moves more because of the greater stretching ability of the segment so that foot removal from the binding is made easier.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a view of a prior art heel and toe piece as part of a wakeboard binding assembly.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a prior art toe piece of FIG. 1 in relation to a lower leg of a user.

FIG. 3 is a view of a perspective view of another type of prior art heel and toe piece.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a portion of a wakeboard binding showing one embodiment of the inventive toe piece.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a portion of a wakeboard binding showing a second embodiment of the inventive toe piece.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention offers significant advantages over the prior art wakeboard bindings that employ toe pieces. In contrast to the typical prior art toe piece that is made of one type of material, the toe piece of the invention is made with two different types of material. The bulk of the toe piece is made from the prior art materials that provide a certain degree of elasticity. A remaining portion of the toe piece is made with a material that is more elastic than the prior art material, and this material makes it easier to don and doff the binding.

The typical prior art toe piece is constructed with an upper portion that is shaped to follow the contour of the arch of the foot and the ankle. The toe piece has a pair of side flaps that extend from the upper portion in the arch area, covering the sides of the foot, and lower portions that include means for attaching the toe piece to the binding base or to the other structure associated with the binding. As mentioned above, the prior art bindings are typically made of a laminate foam construction, with various materials forming the laminate, e.g., SBR, EVA, and Lycra.

In the inventive toe piece, each side flap includes a segment of the more elastic material, with the segment being generally between the upper portion and terminal end of the side flap. The segment of more elastic material can be attached to the side flap using any type of attaching technique such as stitching, bonding, adhesives, or combinations thereof. In one embodiment, the segment of more elastic material is wedge shaped following the wedge shape of the foot. An example of the more elastic material is SBR, but the invention is not limited to any particular material, just that the material should have more give or elasticity than the material of the remaining part of the toe piece to facilitate donning and doffing.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show two embodiments of the invention, wherein the overlay of the binding is removed so that the heel piece, toe piece, and base are shown. In the FIG. 4 embodiment, these components are designated by the reference numeral 30, with the heel piece as 31 and the toe piece as 33. The heel piece 31 is also shown with straps 33 and the toe piece 35 is also depicted with straps 37, although each piece could be made without straps if desired. The base is designated by reference numeral 39 and is typical of base constructions in a wakeboard binding. Thus, further detail regarding the base construction is not necessary for understanding of the invention.

The toe piece is shown with an upper portion 41 that is shaped to follow the contour of the arch of the foot and the ankle. The lower portion 43 is designed to aid in attachment of the toe piece to the base to assist in completing the binding assembly. The attachment can be done in any of the conventional ways used to attach toe pieces to the binding base, and a further description of these known attachment techniques is not necessary for understanding of the invention.

Disposed between the upper portion 41 and the lower portion 43 is a segment 45 which is part of the side portion of the toe piece. The segment 45 is made of a material that is more elastic than the material of at least the upper portion 41 of the toe piece. One example of the segment material is SBR, with the remainder of the toe piece made from a laminate construction using EVA, SBR, and Lycra. Of course, any known materials that can be used for wakeboard binding toe and heel pieces can be used, just that the material of the segment 45 should be more elastic than the remainder of the toe piece. By placing the segment 45 as part of the side portion of the toe piece and making it more elastic, this allows the upper portion to move in a greater degree with respect to the lower portion 43 of the toe piece, particularly in directions that would accommodate entry of the foot into the binding and its exit as well. When a foot is inserted between the toe piece 35 and the heel piece 31 donning of the binding is made easier by the stretching of the segment or segments 45 and movement of the upper portion. Likewise, the ability of the upper portion to move more as a result of the stretching of the segment 45 allows a user to remove a foot from the binding with more ease than if the entire toe piece was made of the typically more rigid material used in prior art toe pieces. It should be noted that the toe piece could not be made just of SBR or some other highly elastic material since it would lack the rigidity to hold a user's foot in place during wakeboarding.

While only one segment 45 is shown, it should be understood that another segment 45 is located on an opposite side of the toe piece to provide symmetry in the movement of the upper portion. Of course, only a single segment could be employed, with the segment being of such a size, that it would still allow more movement for the upper portion to facilitate donning and doffing of the binding.

The segment 45 in FIG. 4 extends to a rear of the toe piece near the heel piece, and the segment material is secured by stretch tape 47 to finish the edge. However, any type of binding or securing material could be employed to ensure that the end 49 of the segment 45 is secured to the remainder of the toe piece. The segment can be attached to the remainder of the toe piece in any conventional fashion. FIG. 4 illustrates a stitched connection at 46, but adhesives, molding, bonding, or combinations of these attachment mechanisms can be employed to ensure that the segment remains as an integral part of the toe piece.

In an alternative embodiment, the segment 45 could be shaped so that it is surrounded by the stiffer material of the toe piece as the upper portion 41, the lower portion 43 and a side portion, if so desired. Also, while the segment is shown with a wedge shape, different shapes can be employed, e.g., a shape with more parallel sides, an oval or elliptical shape, a star shape, etc.

In the embodiment of FIG. 5, the heel and toe piece and base combination is designated as 30, with the segment 45′ made of the more elastic material than the upper portion 41′ is shown extending the entire length of the side portion of the toe piece. In effect, this embodiment separates the upper portion 41′ from the lower portion 43′. This embodiment can provide an increased ability of the upper portion 41′ to move with respect to the lower portion 43′ of the toe piece 35′ to make donning and doffing even easier.

While the toe piece is shown with an open toe design in FIGS. 4 and 5, the toe piece 35, 35′ could be made with a closed end if desired. With a closed end, the segment of more elastic material could extend along the side portion partially as shown in FIG. 4 or it would extend to where the closed toe end would interface with the base.

As such, an invention has been disclosed in terms of preferred embodiments thereof which fulfills each and every one of the objects of the present invention as set forth above and provides a new and improved toe piece for wakeboard bindings and its method of use.

Of course, various changes, modifications and alterations from the teachings of the present invention may be contemplated by those skilled in the art without departing from the intended spirit and scope thereof. It is intended that the present invention only be limited by the terms of the appended claims.