US 20020166262 A1
A shoe has an upper, an insole and an outsole. A mesh is integrated to the bottom of the outsole to form an integrated mesh/outsole. The mesh and the outsole may be molded in a single injection molding step or the mesh may be molded to the outsole. The mesh is typically made of fabric, polymer and/or metal and preferably nylon.
1. A method for making a shoe, comprising the steps of:
providing an upper, a mesh, and an outsole, wherein the outsole comprises a bottom;
integrating the mesh to the bottom of the outsole forming an integrated mesh/outsole, wherein the mesh functions as a integral part of the outsole.
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11. A shoe, comprising:
an outsole comprising a bottom; and
a mesh being integral to the bottom of the outsole and functioning as an integral part of the outsole.
12. The shoe of
13. The shoe of
14. The shoe of
15. The shoe of
16. The shoe of
 The present application is a continuation-in-part (CIP) and claims the priority of copending U.S. application Ser. No. 09/347,051 filed Jul. 2, 1999, entitled “FLEX SOLE”, which is incorporated herein by reference. The invention is also related to U.S. application Ser. No. 09/373,122 filed Aug. 12, 1999, and issued Apr. 9, 2002 as U.S. Pat. No. 6,367,172 entitled “FLEX SOLE”, U.S. application Ser. No. 09/496,922 filed Feb. 2, 2000 entitled “FLEX SOLE” and U.S. application Ser. No. 09/497,299 filed Feb. 2, 2000 entitled “FLEX SOLE WITH EVA ENHANCEMENT”, which are also incorporated by reference herein.
 1. Field of the Invention
 The invention relates to footwear or shoes, particularly walking or athletic shoes constructed with a mesh in the outsole.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 Footwear can be designed to provide a variety of stylistic and functional benefits. Shoes normally worn for active use, e.g., extensive walking or fitness sports, typically consist of an upper (of canvas, leather or other supple fabric material) joined to an outer sole (of rubber, leather or other durable material) having a bottom that contacts the ground. The inner surface of the outer sole, i.e., outsole, has distinct regions that contact corresponding portions of the wearer's foot. For example, the outsole can have distinct heel, arch and plantar regions that underlie the respective portions of the foot. These regions of the outsole can be specifically adapted to provide functional benefits to the parts of the foot that are supported by them.
 The outsole needs to embody both flexible and durable characteristics. First, it must be durable to resist wear from contact with the pavement and torsional stresses. However, it must also be flexible so to bend with the foot during walking or running, and must further cushion the shock of the impact due to foot motion.
 A highly flexible inner sole, i.e., insole, is usually provided so that it directly contacts the wearer's foot and it is positioned between the foot and the upper surface of the outsole. The insole typically has an upper surface of fabric or soft leather to give added comfort and breathability to the sole of the foot.
 Typical outsoles are made of rubber, usually a thermal plastic rubber (TPR). The hardness of the outsole will determine how fast it is worn down during use. The harder the TPR, the longer the shoe outsole will last. However, the harder the outsole, the less comfortable the shoe is to the wearer. Previous applications have disclosed methods to make the shoe more comfortable to the wearer by placing ethyl-vinyl-acetate (EVA) pads into cavities formed in the TPR outsole to soften the impact of the shoe with the ground, while still retaining the wear resistance of the outsole. The wear on the outsole will only occur at certain portions of the foot. The portions that typically wear fastest are the heel section and the plantar section. As a result, additional rubber is added to the entire outsole, even though, only the heel and plantar portions wear. However, the outsole must still be flexible enough not to reduce the overall flexibility of the shoe. Reduced flexibility can lead to wearer discomfort.
 Related to the wear characteristics is the strength of the outsole itself. The outsole will have a certain strength and typically it can only be increased by increasing the volume of rubber in the outsole.
 The weight of a shoe also detracts from the comfort of the wearer, particularly for an athletic shoe. Thus, it would be advantageous if increased wear resistance could be achieved in a shoe, without a significant loss of flexibility and with a reduction in weight.
 Another important feature in footwear is its cosmetic appearance. A shoe must be appealing and both the upper and the outsole contribute to a shoe's overall appearance. Some of the cosmetic appeal of a shoe, especially an athletic shoe, is the tread pattern on the bottom of the outsole. Different combinations of tread pattern and colors, but utilizing just rubber, are well known in the art. However, if new styles, patterns and color combinations could be designed without increasing the cost, weight or strength of the shoe, it would be beneficial to the manufacturer.
 Therefore, there is a need for a shoe having additional wear resistance in the heavy wear regions of the shoe. The increased wear resistance should not effect the properties of the outsole rubber. It should also be able to be manufactured in an existing step to remove the need for any additional step or cost. Also, there is a desire for different styling and patterns to increase the appeal of the shoe.
 Frequently shoes are made outside the United States and are imported into the country. Trade tariffs or duties are levied on these products when they enter the country. The amount of these duties depends on the quantity and types of materials used to make the shoes. Therefore, it would be advantageous if a shoe with lighter weight and greater wear resistance could be made with material that would cause a reduction in the duty on the shoe.
 It is the foregoing and various other drawbacks of the prior art which the present invention seeks to overcome by providing a shoe having an upper, an insole, and a rubber outsole with a mesh integrated into the bottom of the outsole to form an integrated mesh/outsole. The mesh and the outsole may be molded in a single injection molding step. The mesh is typically made of fabric, polymer and/or metal and preferably nylon.
 Also, the shoe can be formed so the mesh and outsole are bonded in a single injection molding step or the upper, insole, mesh and outsole may bonded in a single injection molding step.
 The mesh is light weight, but increases the wear resistance of the outsole without the addition of extra amounts of rubber. The mesh is inexpensive itself, and shoes with an integrated mesh/outsole have a lower duty assessed than shoes with pure rubber outsoles.
 Referring now to FIGS. 1-4, a shoe 10, in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. The shoe 10 includes an upper 12, an insole 14, a rubber outsole 16 and a mesh 15. The mesh 15 is integrated into a bottom 18 of the outsole 16 to form an integrated mesh/outsole 20. The mesh 15 may be integrated into the outsole 16 in a single injection molding step.
 The outsole 16 can be made of thermal plastic rubber (TPR). Typically, the outsole 16 is formed with a heel 24, an arch 26, and a plantar region 22. The outsole 16 may further comprise a plurality of ribs 32.
 The mesh 15 is typically made of fabric, polymer and/or metal. The mesh 15 is preferably nylon and can have numerous types of weaves. The patterns of the interlacing threads 30 of the mesh 15 can vary greatly. First, the materials may be combined to enhance certain properties. Next, the colors of the threads 30 can be altered to give a varying color scheme. More detailed color combinations and patterns can be created by weaving a mesh 15, than can be formed in rubber. Each particular color in rubber must be separately mixed and formed, whereas forming a multi-colored mesh 15 is a simpler process and less expensive. The colors and patterns of the weave can now exactly match that of the upper 12, if so desired. Also, the weave can have threads of different density, this will alter the weight and pattern of the mesh 15 and be part of the determination of the strength of the mesh 15.
 The shoe 10 can be formed so the mesh 15 and outsole 16 are bonded in a single injection molding step. Alternately, the shoe 10 can be formed so the upper 12, the insole 14, and the outsole 16 are formed or bonded to each other and integrated with the mesh 15 in a single injection molding step.
FIG. 3 illustrates a cross section of the sole taken at lines 3-3 of FIG. 2. The mesh 15 is integrated to the bottom 18 of the outsole 16 so the mesh 15 comes in contact with the ground surface. The mesh 15 can be of a variable thickness depending on the weave and the thread count.
 Referring now to FIGS. 5, 6 and 7, an alternate embodiment is illustrated in which the outsole 16 is formed from ethyl-vinyl-acetate (EVA), and has one or more cavities 50 formed therein. The cavities 50 may be in a section of the outsole 16 with ribs 32, so that the ribs 32 surround the cavity or cavities 50.
 Pads 52, which may, for example, be made of EVA, may be formed to match the shape of the cavity 50. As an alternative, the pads 52 may be made of TPR or some other rubberlike material. The pads 52 may be made softer then the outsole 16. The shape and depth of the cavity 50 (and therefore that of the pad 52) can be concave and deep, slim and shallow, or any other shape and depth as desired.
 During formation, mesh 15 is placed within the cavity 50 so the mesh 15 comes in contact with the ground surface. The mesh 15 can be the thickness of the entire cavity 50 or just the thickness of the outsole 16 prior to the formation of the ribs 32. The pad 52 can then be affixed over the mesh 15 to fill any gap between the mesh 15 and the insole 14. This pad 52 may be affixed to the inner periphery 34 of the ribs 32 or on a lip (not illustrated) formed at the bottom of the cavity.
 The mesh 15 may also be formed as part of the pad 52, and when the edge 54 of the pad is affixed to the inner periphery 34 of the cavity 50, the mesh 15 will be in contact with the ground surface.
 Additionally, as the wearer of the shoe 10 runs or exercises, the front of the shoe 10, where the pad 52 may be located, bends in a back and forth manner. In order to provide increased flexibility in this regard, the pad may be formed with grooves 56. The grooves 56 facilitate this bending of the shoe 10 and thus enhance its flexibility. Further, the removal of material to make the grooves 56 also reduces the weight of the shoe, making it even more lightweight.
 According to another embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 8, the outsole 16 may also contain a break 60. In this embodiment, the outsole 16 is formed of a block 62 of material with two cavities 50A, 50B, filled with two pads 52A, 52B. The block 62 and the pads 52 are preferable formed of EVA, but may be made of other suitable material, e.g. TPR. The mesh 15 and the outsole 16 of the plantar region 22 and the heel region 24 are not connected at the bottom break 60 and thus the block 62 is exposed to the ground surface. The plantar region 22 and the heel region 24 are positioned so that the bottom break 60 is generally located in the arch region 26, which contributes to greater comfort and flexibility of the shoe during wear. The lack of mesh 15 in this area is not detrimental, since the arch region 26 rarely touches the ground and does not experience much wear. However, bending and flexing of the outsole 16 is advantageously allowed at the bottom break 60 where the mesh 15 does not obstruct bending of the outsole 16. The pads 52A, 52B may be less dense then the block 62.
 Referring now to FIG. 9, depicted is a method for making an alternate embodiment shoe that differs from that in FIG. 1. The steps include providing an upper (not shown), and then molding an insole 500 and an outsole 502, wherein the outsole 502 comprises a heel 504, an arch 506, and a plantar region 508. Unlike FIG. 1, the mesh 512 is not one continuous piece. Instead, it is selectively placed at the heel 504 and plantar region 508. Next, the mesh 512 is integrated into the outsole 502 and the intergation allows the mesh 512 to function as a integral part of the outsole 502. The mesh 512 will be exposed and come in direct contact with the ground surface (FIG. 4).
 Once the integration step is complete, the upper (not shown), insole 500, and the assembled outsole 502 can be bonded together. The bonding of the insole 500 and mesh 512 with the outsole 502 forms an integrated insole/outsole/mesh (not shown) and that can be assembled to the upper. An additional embodiment may include a midsole 514 which is bonded between the insole 500 and the outsole/mesh combination.
 Regardless of how the pieces are bonded, molded or integrated, there may be a step of forming ribs 32 in the outsole 16. These ribs 32 can be formed using injection molding at the time the outsole 16 is created.
 Referring now to FIG. 10, a flow diagram for the production of shoes according to an embodiment of the invention is illustrated. A shoe is made by first producing an upper, a mesh and an outsole (step 600). Then the mesh is placed on the bottom of the outsole (step 602). Next, the mesh is integrated to the outsole bottom using any conventional bonding technique that is known in the art (step 606). The upper is then bonded to the lower (step 610).
FIG. 11 illustrates a flow diagram for the production of shoes accoring to another embodiment of the invention. According to FIG. 11, a shoe is formed using an injection molding technique. First the mesh is formed or woven (step 700). Next the mesh insert is placed into the outsole mold (step 704). The mold is then brought to the correct temperature and pressure and the outsole compound is injected into the mold (step 706). The combination is allowed to cure in the mold until the proper density of the outsole is reached (step 708). The outsole and mesh combination are then removed from the mold (step 710). The combination outsole and mesh is then bonded to the upper (step 712).
 For athletic shoes imported into the United States which have a full fabric upper, the duty is 37˝%. However, where the outsole is made of fabric, the duty drops to 10%. With proper application of the principles of the present invention, shoes may be constructed to meet the 10% duty requirement. As a result, the present invention not only results in a shoe with good wear resistance, light weight, flexibility, easy manufacture and low cost materials, but it also commands a lower duty when imported.
 Thus, while there have been shown, described, and pointed out fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood that various omissions, substitutions, and changes in the form and details of the devices illustrated, and in their operation, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, it is expressly intended that all combinations of those elements and/or steps which perform substantially the same function, in substantially the same way, to achieve the same results are within the scope of the invention. Substitutions of elements from one described embodiment to another are also fully intended and contemplated. It is also to be understood that the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale, but that they are merely conceptual in nature. It is the intention, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the claims appended hereto.
 The above and still further objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description of a specific embodiment thereof, especially when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein the reference figures are utilized to designate like components, and wherein:
FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of the present invention in a sports shoe;
FIG. 2 is a partial perspective view of the sole made according to the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a cross section taken at lines 3-3 of the sole of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a bottom view of a shoe according to a first preferred embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of a second embodiment of the present invention with an inserted sole pad in a sports shoe;
FIG. 6 is a partial perspective view of the embodiment of the sole illustrated in FIG. 5;
FIG. 7 is a cross section taken at lines 7-7 of the sole of FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a side view of another embodiment of the outsole of the present invention with sole and heel pads;
FIG. 9 is an exploded diagram illustrating the method for making a shoe according to the invention;
FIG. 10 is a flow chart illustrating an embodiment of a molding process for making a shoe according to the invention in which a bonding step is used; and
FIG. 11 is a flow chart illustrating an alternate embodiment of a molding process for making a shoe according to the invention, in which an injection molding step is used.