US 20010018805 A1
A sole assembly for boots adapted to any of a plurality of sporting activities, which enables the user to customize his/her boot depending on the sport involved. A flexible sole is associated with a foot support with which a fastening arrangement, adapted to ensure a removable fastening of the support on the bottom surface of the sole, are associated.
1. A support/sole assembly for boots adapted to any of a plurality of sporting activities, and particularly snowboard boots, in-line roller skate boots, alpine ski boots, walking and hiking boots, gliding boots, etc., said assembly comprising:
a boot liner;
a sole directly constituting a boot inner sole or an outer sole of said liner, said sole having an upper surface in direct or indirect contact with a foot of a wearer, and a bottom surface, said sole being made of a flexible material;
at least one support;
a fastening system ensuring a removable fastening of said support on said bottom surface of said sole, said fastening system including a fastening arrangement associated with said support.
2. An assembly according to
3. An assembly according to
4. An assembly according to
5. An assembly according to
6. An assembly according to
7. An assembly according to
8. An assembly according to
9. An assembly according to
10. An assembly according to
11. An assembly according to
12. An assembly according to
13. An assembly according to
14. An assembly according to
15. An assembly according to
16. An assembly according to
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to a wedge-sole assembly for boots adapted to any type of sporting activity, and more particularly snowboard boots, alpine ski boots, in-line roller skate boots, walking or hiking boots, gliding boots, etc. The invention enables the user to customize his/her boot according to the sport involved.
 2. Description of Background and Relevant Information
 In the state of the prior art, there are numerous systems for sole customization that are permanently adhered to the sole, as well as soles that are molded to the shape of the foot. These devices are adapted to an orthopedic type medical use, and are intended only to correct defects in the anatomy and/or foot movement. However, the inventions described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,316,333 and 4,841,648 include a removable wedge, or support, system with a Velcro® type quick-fastening that is positioned on top of the inner sole of the boot. The user can vary the correction of the sole himself by interchanging the wedges selected from a standard set of wedges adapted for this purpose.
 The inventions described in French Patent Publication No. 2,315,870 and U.S. Pat. No. 2,311,925 disclose pads, or wedges, that can be optionally stacked and arranged on top of the boot sole due to special quick-fastening systems.
 However, all these systems position the foot supports, i.e., wedges, on top of the sole. The supports thus used must be made of a special material, therefore relatively expensive, to be in contact with the foot. Moreover, this relates to an orthopedic use.
 Other inventions described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 1,985,919 and 880,245 disclose supports that are positioned beneath the sole. They disclose rigid pieces, located beneath the sole, that are adapted to fix the curve of the sole in the area of the plantar arch. These pieces, riveted on the sole, are used for orthopedic purposes.
 None of these aforementioned systems provides an adaptation of the sole to the type of sport involved.
 One of the objects of the present invention is to propose a foot support device that enables the user to customize the sole according to the sporting activity to be undertaken.
 Another object of the invention is to propose a device whose support wedges are not required to be made of expensive materials resisting contact with the foot.
 According to the invention, the sole assembly includes at least one foot support with which fastening systems, adapted to ensure a removable fastening of the support on the bottom surface of the sole, are associated. This invention makes it possible to equip either a boot inner sole, or the outer sole of a liner positioned within a boot.
 In a first embodiment, the foot support covers the entire sole.
 In a second embodiment, the foot support cooperates with only a portion of the sole.
 In a third embodiment, the foot support covers the entire sole and includes support elements with different thicknesses and rigidities.
 In a fourth embodiment, the foot support and the sole serve to maintain a reinforcement of the upper.
 The invention will be better understood and other advantages thereof win become apparent from the description, with reference to the annexed drawings that are an integral part thereof. The description shows, by way of non-limiting examples, certain preferred embodiments.
FIG. 1 schematically shows a side view of a boot liner in the first embodiment.
FIG. 2 schematically shows a side view of a first application of the second embodiment.
FIG. 3 shows a transverse view of a second application of the second embodiment.
FIG. 4 schematically shows a transverse view of a liner in a third embodiment.
FIG. 5 shows a bottom view of the support of a first application of the third embodiment.
FIG. 6 shows a bottom view of the support of a second application of the third embodiment.
FIG. 7 shows a bottom view of the support of a third application of the third embodiment.
FIG. 8 shows a transverse view of an improvement to the previous embodiments.
FIG. 9 shows a perspective view of a reinforcement described in FIG. 8.
FIG. 1 shows a liner CH, provided with a sole 1, within which is located the foot P, shown in dotted lines, as well as a wedge, or sole support, 4 that forms, together with the sole 1, the sole assembly of the invention. A fastening arrangement 10 adapted to ensure a removable fastening of the sole support 4 on the bottom surface 3 of the sole 1 is associated with the support 4. In the embodiment shown in the figure, the sole 1 includes, on its bottom surface 3, a fastening arrangement 11 that is complementary with the fastening arrangement of the sole support 4. In this embodiment, the fastening system 10, 11 is of the self-gripping type, i.e., Velcro® or hook-and-loop fastening type. The loop portion of the self-gripping fastening system is preferably positioned on the sole 1 of the liner CH to prevent the self-gripping system from getting dirty during an occasional walk while wearing the liner alone. Other embodiments can be envisioned; for example, if the fastening system is arranged on the sole support 4 only, it can be of the self-adhesive type that can be repositioned.
 In practice, in this embodiment, the fastening system 11, i.e., the loop portion of the self-gripping system, is fixed, by appropriate means such as neoprene glue, on the entire bottom surface 3 of the sole 1. The fastening arrangement 11 can be positioned directly on the sole 1 of the liner CH or on an attached rubber or leather sole. The sole support 4 is integral, or unitary, and has a constant or variable thickness, and covers the entire bottom surface 3 of the sole 1. The fastening arrangement 10, i.e., the hook portion of the self-gripping system, is fixed by appropriate means such as neoprene glue, on the upper surface of the sole support 4. The bottom portion 3 of the sole 1 and the support 4 have surfaces that are almost identical and complementary. The self-gripping loop/hook portions could be inverted.
 The user wishing to modify his/her liner CH first removes it from the boot. Then, the support 4 is fastened on the bottom surface 3 of the sole 1, or the support 4 is replaced with another model of support due to the removable fastening system 10, 11. The user then repositions the liner CH, equipped with the support 4, in the boot CH.
 The foot P exerts on the upper surface 2 of the sole 1, shown in dotted lines, by direct or indirect contact, a pressure that strengthens the fastening system 10, 11. The sole support 4, which presses against the top of the boot sole, is compressed by this pressure. Each sole support is designed so as to provide certain characteristics that are necessary for practicing the specified sport.
 The sole support 4 could advantageously have a shock-absorbing characteristic to increase the user's comfort during the sporting activity.
 The sole support 4 could have a variable thickness so as to adjust at best the volume of the liner to the user's foot. It can also have more or less rigid zones to improve the sole torsional strength along certain directions.
 This embodiment also applies to a boot inner sole.
 The various fastening systems 10, 11 previously described also apply to the figures and descriptions that follow and are therefore designated by the same reference numerals.
 In FIG. 2, the sole support elements 4, 44, 54 do not cover the entire bottom surface 3 of the sole 1.
 The support elements 4, which is positioned in the area of the metatarsophalangeal joints, has a shock-absorbing function. This support element 4 can be made of plastic gum or shock-absorbing gel about 3 to 5 millimeters thick. Advantageously, it has an elliptical shape.
 The sole support element 44 is positioned in the area of the plantar arch. It is made of a rigid plastic material such as a thermoformed polyethylene about 2 millimeters thick. It has a raised edge 44 a adapted to conform to the shape of the plantar arch, and an approximately planar zone 44 b adapted to improve the fastening on the sole.
 The support element 54 is positioned in the heel area. It has a rigid shell made of a thermo-injected plastic about 1 millimeter thick, which envelops the lateral and rear portions of the heel as well as the bottom of the heel.
 So that the foot is properly supported on the sole support element(s) and the boot sole, the sole 1 must be made of flexible materials of the type that is also normally used for the soles of liners. The flexibility of the sole 1 makes it possible, among other things, to better exploit the shock absorbing functions of certain elements 4. Thus, the pressure exerted by the foot P compresses the element 4 while eliminating the difference in thickness of the support elements 4, 44, 54. Therefore, the sole 1 will deform to take support on the support elements 4, 44, 54, and to take support on the boot in the area of the zones of the sole 1 which are not equipped with a support element. Not using a flexible material for the sole 1 considerably diminishes the efficiency of the invention due to the loss of transmission of the supports and to the reduction in the stability of the foot.
 In FIG. 3, the sole 1′ represents the inner sole of a boot. The inner sole 1′ includes on its bottom surface 3 a housing 31 associated with the support element 4. The bottom surface 3 of the sole 1 includes a fastening arrangement 11, at least in the area of the housing 31. The support element 4 is maintained in the housing 31 by an appropriate fastening arrangement 10. In the case where the constituent material of the support element 4 is more compressible than the material of the inner sole 1′, the depth of the housing 31 is equal to or less than the thickness of the support element 4. This makes it possible to compress the support element 4. Otherwise, the depth of the housing 31 is greater than the thickness of the support element 4. The foot P compresses the inner sole 1′ which has a firm support when the element 4 is placed in contact with the boot sole.
 The embodiment shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 applies, in a non-limiting manner, to the inner sole of a boot, as well as to the outer sole of a liner.
 In FIG. 4, the support element 4 includes at least two support elements 12, 39 affixed to one another. This affixation can be obtained by an adjusted, but removable assembly between the two support elements 12, 39. But it can also be obtained by fastening the two support elements 12, 39 by appropriate means, such as neoprene glue, on the fastening arrangement 10, such as the hook portion of the hook-and-loop fastening system. The support elements 12, 39 have different thicknesses and different rigidities. This makes it possible to use the shock-absorbing function of one of the support elements 12, 39. If the support element 12 is thicker than the support element 39, the shock-absorbing function is ensured by the material of the support element 12, and the support element 39 is more rigid than the support element 12. Inversely, if the support element 12 is thinner than the thickness of the support element 39, the shock-absorbing function is ensured by the material of the support element 39, and the support element 12 will be more rigid than the support element 39.
 The support element 12 here is housed in a recess 13 associated with the support element 4. The support element 39 is affixed to the support element by gluing on the support that is constituted by the self-gripping fastening arrangement 10. The support element 14 can also be fixed directly on the support element 4 by appropriate means such as neoprene glue. The support elements 12, 14 have shock-absorbing functions and are positioned in the area of the metatarsophalangeal joint and of the heel of the foot, respectively.
FIGS. 5, 6, 7 show sole supports pre-assembled by the manufacturer, which are each adapted to specific sporting activities.
FIG. 5 shows a support in which the shock-absorbing function is most important. It is more specifically adapted to the snowboarding style for performing jumps, whether the jump is performed from a springboard, known as “big air,” or in an artificial channel, also known as “half pipe.” The support 4 includes a support element 12 having a shock-absorbing function in the heel area. The support 4 includes a support element 14 having a shock-absorbing function in the area of the metatarsophalangeal joint. The support elements 12, 14 are made of a soft gel about 5 millimeters thick, for example.
 The support element 32 is made of a flexible PVC foam about 2 millimeters thick, for example. The support element 33, positioned in the area of the plantar arch, is made of a hard PVC foam, for example, about 1.5 millimeters thick.
 These support elements 12, 14 are affixed to the support 32 according to a fastening mode similar to that described in FIG. 4 for the support element 12.
 As is readily understood, such a support that is flexible and has elements that are also shock-absorbing, is adapted more particularly to any sporting activity involving numerous jumps and landings on hard surfaces, especially roads and sidewalks, but also small impacts repeated on these same hard surfaces. The liner or the sole equipped with such a flexible support can be used in particular in inline roller skating for a so-called “aggressive” style, or for gliding boots, known as “grind,” adapted to glide on the edges of low walls, guardrails, etc. The use of the invention is advantageous for the so-called “grind” gliding boots especially as they often lack a shock-absorbing function in the outer sole of the boot.
 The specific materials mentioned above are given only as non-limiting examples.
FIG. 6 shows a support whose construction is similar to those described previously, but has a different geometry. The support is of the “hard” type and is adapted in this case to a snowboarding style that requires a good control of the pressures exerted on the board. The support elements 12, 14 are of the shock-absorbing type and are made of a soft gel about 3 millimeters thick.
 The support 4 includes a support element 34 constituted of a relatively rigid material, and which includes a portion 34 a that encompasses the toe zone, a portion 34 b that encompasses the heel zone and a portion 34 c that connects these two zones by the lateral outer zone of the sole. The support element 34 here is made of a hard PVC foam about 3 millimeters thick. The support element 35 positioned on the remaining surface, including the plantar arch, is made of a less rigid material, for example, soft PVC foam about 2 millimeters thick. This lateral asymmetry in rigidity causes an asymmetry on the control. The objective of such a sole geometry, with its rigid support element 34, is to improve the front control due to the portion 34 a, and the rear control due to the portion 34 b, with respect to the transmission of the supports produced by the foot. The portion 34 c ensures homogeneity of the supports between the two front and rear positions, and a good transfer between the front and rear supports. Such a hard support can be used advantageously in snowboarding on trails, where it is necessary to control the board with precision in edge setting, therefore on front and rear supports of the foot. Moreover, the portion 34 c improves the lateral control on the outer side, which is particularly adapted to snowboarding, especially when gliding upward in half pipes. Indeed, during this activity, the snowboarder is mainly in support on the outer side of the boot that is located at the rear of the board, and needs a substantial lateral bending on the medial side on the other boot.
FIG. 7 shows a support of intermediate hardness adapted to snowboarding for a multipurpose usage. One still has the support elements 12, 14 which have a shock-absorbing function in the area of the heel and of the metatarsal bones. The support 4 includes a through recess 30 in which a removable support element 36 is housed. This support element 36 includes fastening means adapted to fix it on the bottom surface of the sole. The use of one of the support elements shown in FIGS. 5, 6, 7 therefore makes it possible to transform the boot and to adapt it to various snowboarding activities. The support element 36 can be made in the same material as that of the support element 38, i.e., a hard PVC foam about 1.5 millimeters thick. The support element 36 can advantageously be elongated and constituted of a rigid material and will be positioned between the heel and the metatarsal bones, along the approximate longitudinal axis of the foot. Thus, the user can change the support element 36 only, depending on the desired torsional rigidity. The support 4 can also include a support element 37, positioned in the area of the plantar arch, which has a shock-absorbing function.
FIGS. 8 and 9 shows a reinforcement 17 that has a certain rigidity along the bending direction of the liner. The reinforcement 17 includes at least one arm 43 that is maintained laterally against the liner by at least one guide 40, 41, 42 made on the liner. The end of this guide 40, 41, 42 can advantageously include a device, such as lacing guides 50, for tightening the liner. The lower end of the arm 43 includes a fastening member 16 that is inserted between the support 4 and the sole 1.
 Either the reinforcement 17 is fixed on the bottom surface 3 of the sole 1 by the fastening member 16 that is complementary of the fastening member 11 arranged on the sole 1, or the reinforcement 17 is fixed on the support 4 by the fastening member 16 that is complementary of the fastening member 10 of the support 4. In this case, the support 4 must cover the fastening member 16 entirely. The two fastening methods can be combined advantageously.
 Each arm 43 of the reinforcement 17 has a geometry such that it has high forward bending inertia, and low lateral bending inertia. For example, the arm 43 is made of plastic such as polyurethane or polyethylene about 2 millimeters thick and approximately 3 centimeters wide. The arm 43 has a profile that presents a curvature 45 that connects the top 46 of the arm, whose direction is approximately that of the top of the upper of the liner CH, to the bottom of the arm 43, whose direction is approximately that of the instep. The linkage between the bottom 47 of the arm and the fastening member 16 is positioned in the area of the metatarsal bones. However, the previously described curvature enables a certain deformation of the arm 43 toward the front, with a return toward the rear. The reinforcement 17 is essentially adapted to snowboarding.
 By way of a non-limiting example, a series of standard supports can be provided for the user. In the preferred embodiment, one will provide specific supports adapted respectively to distinct sporting activities, as explained with reference to FIGS. 5-7. Thus, the snowboarder can optimize his/her pair of snowboard boots at will to perform “big air” jumps one day, and practice on trail the next day, simply by changing the support. Similarly, the in-line skater can select a so-called “aggressive” skating style and a “recreational” skating style with the same skates simply by changing the support. Likewise, the city resident can use these gliding boots to glide on guardrails and, by changing the supports, obtain a boot adapted for long walks in the city. One can envision a whole host of distinct applications making it possible to optimize a multi-purpose footwear element for each specific activity. The supports are easy to use by the user especially as they constitute a complete and independent assembly covering the entire inner sole or liner of the footwear element.
 The present invention is not limited to the embodiments described hereinabove, which are provided for guidance only, but also encompasses all similar or equivalent embodiments. It applies to any type of boot in which similar or identical problems must be resolved.
 The instant application is based upon French Patent Application No. 00.03198, filed Mar. 6, 2000, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference thereto in its entirety, and the priority of which is hereby claimed under 35 U.S.C. §119.