US 20020078591 A1
A shoe for dance or athletics. The shoe includes a shoe upper having a respective toe portion, a ball portion and a heel portion. A split sole beneath the shoe upper. The split sole includes a front sole under the toe portion of the shoe upper, a middle sole under the ball portion of the shoe upper and a rear sole under the heel portion of the shoe upper. A mid-flex portion between the middle sole and the rear sole and a front-flex portion between the front sole and the middle sole enables the shoe to bend easily at the flex portions.
1. A shoe comprising:
a shoe upper including a toe portion, a ball portion and a heel portion; and
a split sole beneath the shoe upper, the split sole including
a front sole portion under the toe portion of the shoe upper,
a mid-sole portion under the ball portion of the shoe upper, and
a rear sole portion under the heel portion of the shoe upper;
the shoe upper includes two separated areas which do not have a respective sole portion beneath, including a mid-flex portion between the mid-sole portion and the rear sole portion and a front-flex portion between the front sole portion and the mid-sole portion.
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 The present invention relates to a shoe with a tri-split sole, particularly useful as a dance shoe, but also useful as an exercise shoe. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved split sole arrangement with two split areas which enables a more natural movement of the foot within the shoe while also providing protection of the foot from impacts associated with dance or exercise.
 A typical shoe, including a dance shoe, dance slipper, and athletic shoe has a continuous sole that extends from the toe up to the heel. For enhancing the flexibility of the shoe to enable the wearer's foot and the shoe to bend and flex more easily, it is known to split the outsole of the shoe defining a front portion beneath the toes and the ball of the foot and a rear portion under the heel and to have no outsole below the mid-section of the foot, covering the arch of the foot.
 Examples of split sole shoes with a single split are seen in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,519,148 and 4,554,749, which suggest a shoe or slipper that is usable in a dance application, and U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,541,186 and 4,542,598, which show an athletic shoe. In shoes of this type, beneath the mid-section of the foot, between the sole sections at the front and rear of the shoe, the material of the shoe upper is wrapped under the foot. The shoe upper also encloses the sides and top of the foot.
 A dancer's foot can be bent slightly at the arch and also can be bent at the toe. Known shoe designs do not take all of the bend locations into consideration. More importantly, and particularly relevant to dance shoes, a wearer typically flexes and bends the foot not only at the mid-section, but also at the toe portion between the ball of the foot and the toes. Particularly, when a dancer executes an extension, the foot is curved with the toes and arch bent to form a “C” curve.
 It is an object of the present invention to provide a shoe with increased flexibility when a wearer's foot is arched and during normal bending of the foot.
 It is a further object of the present invention to provide a dance shoe having separate outsole portions, namely a front sole portion, a mid-sole portion and a rear sole portion for enabling flexibility.
 According to the invention, the shoe upper is secured to three separated outsole portions. The shoe may be in the form of a dance shoe, a dance sandal, a dance sneaker, which, inter alia, has a thicker sole or other ballet or pointe shoe, an athletic shoe or sneaker, etc. The three sole portions are attached beneath the upper in a respective location corresponding to the toe area, the ball area and the heel area of the wearer's foot.
 The three separate sole portions are spaced apart from the neighboring section(s) by gaps between the sole portions. Typically, the gaps are wide enough to be formed from the material of the shoe upper wrapped under the foot there. However, a gap between sole portions may be formed from a separate elastic or flexible material piece.
 The tri-split sole shoe of the present invention provides increased flexibility in the area between the toes and the ball of the foot that conventional split sole shoes do not provide.
 Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of a preferred embodiment considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a shoe according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a section view along section line 3-3 in FIG. 2;
FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the shoe of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the shoe of FIG. 1 on a wearer's foot flat on a surface;
FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of the shoe the FIG. 4 on a wearer's foot in an extended position and executing a toe stand; and
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a further embodiment of a shoe according to the present invention.
 The invention is described herein as applied on a dance shoe. This, however, is one example of the many possible show applications for the invention.
 One embodiment of the illustrated shoe 10 is shown in FIGS. 1-5. It includes three separate and independent, essentially inflexible outsole portions 20, 30 and 40 below a typical dance shoe upper 15. A front sole portion 20 is located below a respective front, toe portion 21 of the shoe upper 15. A mid-sole portion 30 is located below a respective ball portion 31 of the shoe upper 15. A rear sole portion 40 is located below a respective heel portion 41 of the shoe upper 15.
 The shoe upper 15 is preferably formed of a flexible, substantially inelastic material such as a conventional dance shoe leather or fabric, or a combination thereof.
 As seen in FIGS. 2 and 3, the shoe upper 15 includes two separate areas which do not have a respective sole portion underneath, a mid-flex portion 35 between the mid-sole portion 30 and the rear sole portion 40 and a front-flex portion 25 between the front sole portion 20 and the mid-sole portion 30. As shown in FIG. 2, the front-flex portion 25 of the shoe 10 is preferably located substantially between the toes and the ball of a typical wearer's foot, while the mid-flex portion 35 is preferably located at substantially the arch of a typical wearer's foot.
 As shown in FIG. 1, the shoe upper 15 includes a forward section 16 and a rearward section 17. The forward section 16 includes both the toe portion 21 and the ball portion 31, and the rearward section 17 includes the heel portion 41. Further, the illustrated shoe upper 15 includes an elastic material member 50 which extends between the forward section 16 and the rearward section 17 and joins them. The elastic member 50 provides a flexible and slightly stretchable connection at the mid-flex portion 35 of the shoe 10. However, at the location of the member 50, the shoe upper may be of a continuous piece with the forward and rearward sections.
 As seen in FIG. 2, the elastic member 50 has an extended portion 51 which extends along the bottom of the shoe upper 15 and forms the front-flex portion 25 between the front sole portion 20 and the mid-sole portion 30. It will, however, be evident to one skilled in the art of shoe manufacture, that separate elastic or flexible members can be secured to the appropriate locations to form the front-flex and mid-flex portions of the shoe upper, as opposed to using the single flexible member with an extended portion as described herein.
 The elastic member 50 may be formed of an elastic material such as neoprene, cotton lycra, nylon lycra, elastic Gore or other suitable elastic material. The elastic Gore material may be formed of about 40%-80% polyester and 20-50% rubber. The elastic member 50 may have an elasticity of about 30% to 100% stretch in a longitudinal direction of the shoe (in a direction extending from the front body portion to the rear body portion). The elastic member 50 also preferably has an elasticity in a lateral direction (substantially transverse to the longitudinal direction) that is less than the percentage of stretch in the longitudinal direction. More specifically, the percentage stretch in the lateral direction may be about 5-60%. The material is selected and of such length between the forward and rearward body portions that the elastic member 50 is at maximum stretch tension when the shoe 10 is in its longest stretched or flat foot position shown in FIG. 3. This maximum tension of the elastic member 50 provides a comfortable, snug fit on the wearer's foot and prevents the shoe 10 from becoming loose or slipping off the wearer's foot during activity.
 In addition, the maximum stretch of the elastic member 50 allows the elastic material to contract when a wearer's foot is arched without the elastic material bunching, wrinkling or sagging beneath the foot.
 Additionally, with reference to FIG. 2, the shoe 10 of the present invention may also includes other elements depending upon the required use of the shoe. In particular, the shoe may include additional cushioning elements 22, 32 and 42, as a mid-sole between the wearer's foot and the front sole portion 20, the mid-sole portion 30 and the rear sole portion 40, respectively. Further, an insole liner 55 may be positioned within and along the bottom of the shoe upper 15. The invention may be used in some types of shoes not provided with cushioning elements or an insole liner, e.g., a more typical ballet shoe.
 The elastic member 50 extends forward inside portion 30 to the forward extended portion 51 which forms the front-flex portion 25 between the front sole portion 20 and the mid-sole portion 30. This allows the wearer to easily bend the shoe and enter an arched position from a flat-foot position, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. Unlike typical split sole shoes having a single, integral front sole portion which covers the toe area and the ball area, the shoe of the present invention bends easily at the location between the toes and the ball of the foot, thus enabling the wearer to more fully bend the foot in a “C” curve to more easily stand on pointe than that position which could be achieved with conventional split sole shoes having a single, integral front sole portion.
 Another embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 6. Elements which are the same as in the first embodiment are designated by the same reference numerals as those used above. Description of the similar elements has been omitted.
 The shoe 100 of FIG. 6 is similar to the shoe 10 shown in FIGS. 1-3 in having three separate outsole portions 20, 30 and 40 provided beneath respective portions 21, 31 and 41 of the shoe upper 115 corresponding to particular sections of a wearer's foot.
 However, the shoe upper 115 of the embodiment shown in FIG. 6 is longitudinally split so as to form two respective halves of the shoe upper 120 and 130. A securing member 140 provided on the shoe upper 115 may be of any known type, such as a lacing (shown in FIG. 6), strapping (not shown), a Velcro (fine hooks to loops) arrangement (not shown) or any other arrangement which allows the wearer to draw the two halves 120 and 130 of the split upper 115 together in a manner which tightens the shoe on the wearer's foot.
 Further, and as stated above with respect to the first embodiment, the shoe upper can be constructed of a flexible, substantially inelastic material such as a conventional dance shoe leather or fabric, or a combination thereof.
 Regardless of the materials chosen for the shoe upper 115, the shoe upper 115 includes two separate areas which do not have a respective sole portion beneath, a mid-flex portion 35 defined between the mid-sole portion 30 and the rear sole portion 40 and a front-flex portion 25 defined between the front sole portion 20 and the mid-sole portion 30. As described above, the front-flex portion 25 is located substantially between the toes and the ball of the wearer's foot, while the mid-flex portion 35 is located at substantially the arch of the wearer's foot.
 In the embodiment of FIG. 6, the front-flex portion 25 and the mid-flex portion 35 of the shoe are formed by the flexible material of the shoe upper 115 construction wrapped under the foot. Accordingly, the shoe bends easily at the front-flex portion 25 and the mid-flex portion 35 due to the flexible nature of the shoe upper material and thus enables the wearer to form an arch or extend the foot more easily than can be achieved with conventional split sole shoes having a single, integral front sole portion. This material at the flex positions may therefore be flexible, without also being elastic.
 Not only does the tri-split sole shoe of the present invention enable the increased flexibility of the shoe, it also retains the desired foot protecting properties by providing a sole portion beneath the sections of the wearer's foot which receives impacts during dance or exercise, namely the toes, ball and heel portions of the foot.
 Although the present invention has been described in relation to particular embodiments thereof, many other variations and modifications and other uses will become apparent to those skilled in the art. It is preferred, therefore, that the present invention be limited not by the specific disclosure herein, but only by the appended claims.