US 20030177662 A1
A laced shoe having a shoelace which is conducted along guide elements disposed on opposing flaps of the shoe. The shoe includes spacers, disposed between the flaps, to serve as limiting stops to define the gap between the flaps. In this way, the tightness of the lacing in various sections of the shoe can be individually limited. The spacers may be tubes or helical springs threaded or clipped on sections of the shoelace.
1. A laced shoe comprising:
opposing flaps having guide elements mounted thereon;
a shoelace conducted along the guide elements; and
spacers disposed to define a gap between the flaps.
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 This application claims priority of German Patent Application No. 102 08 853.3 filed Mar. 1, 2002.
 Laced shoes, in particular, laced boots, such as snowboard boots, inline skate boots, hiking boots, mountain boots, etc., are tied with a shoelace, which is threaded through several guide elements, such as eyelets, on two opposing flaps of the boot, wherein the ends of the shoelace are fixed, whether through a lacing knot or a holding or clamping device, as can be deduced from U.S. Pat. No. 5,934,999 or DE 298 14 659.2 U1.
 An important advantage of laced shoes lies in the fact that the pressure exerted by the shoe on the foot is distributed in a relatively uniform manner, and the shoe can nevertheless be soft and flexible.
 However, for certain applications, this very uniform pressure distribution is not desired, for example, in the case of snowboard boots, where the application of a relatively strong pressure on the shank and instep is desirable, in comparison with the area of the toes, which should be laced more loosely, in order to ensure the mobility of the toes and to avoid tying off of the area of the front of the foot. For this purpose, DE 298 14 659.2 U1 has proposed separate shoelaces or shoe straps, which can be manipulated and thus adjusted separately for different shoe areas. This is, however, cumbersome.
 An object of the invention is therefore to improve the laced shoe of the initially mentioned type in such a way that when using a single shoelace, the pressure distribution in different areas of the shoe, particularly the area of the front of the foot and the instep and shank areas, can be adjusted individually.
 In one aspect of the invention, spacers are disposed between the flaps of the shoe, the flaps being pulled toward one another by the shoelace. The spacers serve as a limiting stop to define the minimum gap between the flaps. In one embodiment, these spacers are sleeves, which surround a section of the shoelace, in particular, onto which shoelaces are threaded or clipped. If the shoelace is tightened, then the opposing flaps are pulled toward one another, until the sleeve acts as a stop for the flap. By adjusting the length of these sleeves, the strength of the lacing is thus adjustable.
 The spacers are supported by the shoelace section and since the shoe lace section is under tensile stress, the buckling strength of the spacers is ensured so that the spacers are resilient to pressure. Various spacer designs are possible, some of which are explained in more detail in the following description.
 The invention is explained in more detail with the aid of embodiment examples, in connection with the drawings.
FIG. 1 is an embodiment example of a laced shoe according to the invention, in schematic representation;
FIG. 2 is a section of the laced shoe and the spacer according to another embodiment example of the invention;
FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 2 according to still another embodiment example of the invention;
FIG. 3A is an enlarged view of a detail of FIG. 3;
FIG. 4 is another embodiment example similar to FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is another embodiment example of a section of the laced shoe with a spacer in the form of a helical spring;
FIG. 6 is another embodiment example of a section of the laced shoe including spacers in the form of perforated disks;
FIGS. 6A and 6B are enlarged detail views of FIG. 6, in cross section;
FIG. 7, another embodiment example including a spacer in the form of a threaded sleeve;
FIG. 8, another embodiment example of an adjustable spacer; and
FIG. 9, yet another embodiment example of a spacer.
 First, reference is made to FIG. 1. The shoe is designated in its totality by reference symbol 1. It has a forefoot part 2, an instep part 3, and a shank part 4, as well as a sole 5. In the part which points toward the front, the body of the shoe forms two flaps 6 and 7, between which there is a tongue 8. The two flaps 6 and 7 are pulled toward one another by a shoelace 9, wherein the shoelace is guided along guide elements 10 on the edges of the flaps 6 and 7 and deflected. Sections of the shoelace 9 span the gap between the two flaps 6 and 7, wherein all known types of lacing are conceivable and not only the lacing shown in FIG. 1 in which sections of the shoelace are crossed. In the embodiment example shown, the shoelace 9 is guided to the intersection points into additional guide elements 11. These may be sleeves with transverse holes through which the shoelace is threaded. In this connection, reference is made to the fact that “shoelace” is understood to mean any form of pulling element—that is, not only conventional textile cord, plastic cord, but rather also wire cord, straps, etc.
 For the fixing of the shoelace, a fixing device is provided in the shank area 4 at the upper end of the tongue 8; the fixing device 12 can be built in any known manner, for example, as in the initially mentioned prior art.
 In the lacing of conventional boots, in which the fixing is arranged in the upper area of the shank, the tensile force transferred to the shoelace goes from the shank end and is reduced by friction in the guide elements 10 downwards, that is, in the direction of the area of the toes 2. Thus, when the lacing is pulled tight, the shank area 4 is normally laced more tightly than the areas lying further “below.” This is just what is desired with snowboard boots. In subsequent use, when the rider bends forward, the friction force in the guide elements 10 is overcome, however, so that the shoe lace 9 slides through into the individual guide elements 10 and thus the lacing in the upper area 3, 4 is looser and is tighter in the lower area 2. The initially adjusted lacing is thus no longer correct and the aforementioned state of the tight lacing in the area of the toes 2 and the looser lacing in the instep and shank areas 3, 4 appears. In order to avoid this, the invention proposes to use spacers 13, which are located between the opposing flaps 6 and 7 of the shoelace 9 and serve as a limiting stop for the movement of the flaps 6 and 7 toward one another. Depending on the type of lacing, that is, the guide element of the shoelace 9, these spacers 13 move transverse to the shoe longitudinal direction or even at a slant. In the embodiment example of FIG. 1, a specific depiction of a spacer 13 comprising a sleeve, which runs transverse to the longitudinal axis of the shoe, is provided in the area of the toes 2. In the instep area 3, where the two guide elements 11 are provided at the intersection sites, four spacers 13 are used, which abut, on the one hand, the respective flaps 6 and 7 and, on the other hand, the guide element 11. In the shank area 4, in turn, two spacers 13 are provided, which lie between the respective flaps 6 and 7 and the fixing device 12.
 As soon as the individual gap between the flaps 6 and 7, which is specified by the length of the spacers 13, is produced when the shoelace 9 is pulled tight, the sleeves act as stops, which prevent a further pulling together of the flaps. Since the shoelace 9 is under tensile stress when tied, it simultaneously forms a guide for the spacers 13 also, so that they, to a very large extent, cannot bend or buckle, and are thus resilient to pressure, even if they have only a relatively low characteristic rigidity.
 Another advantage of the spacers 13 is that the shoelace does not rub against the area of the tongue 8, but rather slides in the sleeve, which is produced from low-friction material, for example, plastic. Also, on the intersection sites 11, the corresponding sections of the shoelace do not rub against one another nor on the tongue.
 FIGS. 2 to 5 show different embodiment examples of the spacers 13.
 In FIG. 2, the spacer 13 comprises a one-piece, cylindrical tube or tubular body, through which the shoelace 9 is conducted. The spacer has a notch 16, running in the axis direction, and several notches 16′, running around the outer circumference, wherein several segments 15 are formed. To adjust the length, the user can remove several segments, in that he cuts open the spacer 13 on the corresponding notches, so that he can remove individual segments 15.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 3, the spacer 13 comprises a long, two-part body including two half-sleeves 17 and 18, which are connected together by a snap 24, 25. The snap consists of, for example, as shown in FIG. 3A, a swallowtail-shaped pin 26, and on the other half-sleeve, a corresponding swallowtail-shaped recess 28, wherein a longitudinal slit 27 is affixed in the pin, which permits an elastic deflection, so that the pin 26 can be introduced into the recess 28 and there automatically locks. Thus, the user can then clip the spacer on the shoelace 9 without having to take out the entire shoelace and thread it in.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 4, the spacer 13, in turn, comprises a one-piece tubular body 19. To adjust the length, cylindrical elements 20, which have a circular segment-shaped recess 21, are used, so that the elements 20 can be clipped on the shoelace 9 or can be removed from it.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 5, the spacer 13 comprises a helical spring 22. Its length can be adjusted by shortening—that is, cutting off—the spring to the desired dimension.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 6, the spacers 13 comprise perforated disks, which are threaded onto the shoelace 9 and lie parallel to the shoelace 9. In the area in which the shoelace a is in a straight line between the opposing flaps 6 and 7, a fixing device 29 for the perforated disks is affixed on the tongue 8 or integrated into the tongue 8. In the embodiment example of FIG. 6, this fixing device 29 is a toothed rod, where the spacing between the teeth corresponds to the width of the perforated disks (see FIG. 6A). In this way, the user can position the perforated disks very simply and quickly. By tightening the shoelace 9, the perforated disks are then maintained and are used as stops for the flaps 6 and 7. In the embodiment example of FIG. 6, the fixing device 29 is shown as a continuous element that completely spans the tongue 8 in the area between the two flaps 6 and 7. Of course, it is also possible to place shorter sections of the fixing device 29 only in the area of the flaps 6 and 7.
 Instead of a toothed rod, the fixing device 29 may comprise a perforated rod in accordance with FIG. 6B, wherein, the perforated disk also has a pin 30, which can be inserted into a corresponding hole 31.
 The fixing device 29, whether in the form of the toothed rod or the perforated rod, can also be integrated into the tongue 8, in that the surface of the tongue has a corresponding indentation or perforations, which is possible without problems if the tongue 8 is made of plastic or has a plastic coating which absorbs the corresponding forces. The only important feature in this embodiment example is that the perforated disk is fixed on the tongue 8 by positively locking in the direction along the shoelace and serves as a stop for the flaps 6 and 7 when the boot is laced up.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 7, the spacer 13 comprises a threaded sleeve with external threads 13 a and 13 b, which are shaped as a left-hand and a right-hand threads according to a variant. The threaded sleeve is hollow on the inside so that the shoelace 9 can pass through. The threaded sleeve can be screwed into insert nuts 29, which are affixed, in turn, via sleeve affixing elements 30 to the flaps (6 and 7) of the boot.
 In the variant shown in FIG. 7, with right-hand and left-hand threads 13 a and 13 b, the insert nuts 29 can be affixed to the flaps of the boot so as not to turn and are designed, for example, in one piece with the affixing elements 30. In other words, the affixing elements 30 can also be omitted if their function is taken over by the insert nuts 29. In this case, a multiple-cornered flat area 31 is provided in the middle of the threaded sleeve; on the flat area, the threaded sleeve can be turned by hand or using a wrench. By turning the threaded sleeve, it is screwed into or out of the insert nuts 29, where the distance between the insert nuts 29 can be adjusted.
 In another variant of this embodiment example, the insert nuts 29 can be turned relative to the affixing elements 30, so that by turning the insert nuts 29 with stationary threaded sleeves, the aforementioned gap can also be adjusted. The insert nuts 29 can then have a milled edge, so that they can be turned manually. In this case, a support flap 32 can also be provided on the threaded sleeve, which prevents turning of the threaded sleeve relative to the boot.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 8, the spacer 13 comprises two sleeves 13 c and 13 d which can be moved into one another in a telescoping manner, which are hollow in the interior, and through which the shoelace 9 runs. The sleeve 13 c can be moved inside the sleeve 13 d. The relative position of the two sleeves 13 c and 13 d can be fixed by a screw 33, which is screwed from the outside into a threaded hole in the sleeve 13 d, and firmly clamps the interior sleeve 13 c.
 In this example, the outer sleeve 13 d can simultaneously form the affixing element 30, which is attached directly to the corresponding flap of the boot.
 In the embodiment example of FIG. 9, the spacer 13 comprises two threaded sleeves 13 e and 13 f, which are also hollow inside so that the shoelace 9 can move through them, and which can be screwed into one another. The inner threaded sleeve 13 e has an outer thread and the outer sleeve 13 f, an inner thread. Thus the length of the spacer can be adjusted by the relative rotation of the two threaded sleeves with respect to one another. Here too, the outer threaded sleeve 13 f can again simultaneously form the affixing element 30 with which the threaded sleeve can be attached to the flap of the boot. In the embodiment example of FIG. 9, the two threaded sleeves—similarly to FIG. 7—can have a polygonal flattening 31 a and 31 b, where it can be gripped by a wrench. Instead of the flattening, holes can also be provided into which one can insert a screwdriver, a rod, or the like, in order to turn the two threaded sleeves relative to one another.
 In all embodiment examples, the shoelace 9 can also be provided with a slidable coating 23, for example, sheathed with plastic, so as to reduce the friction between the sleeve and the shoelace 9.
 Of course, spacers other than the ones described are also conceivable. Thus, the spacer can also have a square cross section or ribs running axially to improve the bending resistance. The spacer material, in particular, may be of plastic or metal. In the embodiment example of FIG. 5, the helical spring 22 can have a sheathing, for example, in the form of known Bowden wires.
 In view of the above, it will be seen that the several objects of the invention are achieved and other advantageous results attained.
 When introducing elements of the present invention or the preferred embodiment(s) thereof, the articles “a”, “an”, “the” and “said” are intended to mean that there are one or more of the elements. The terms “comprising”, “including” and “having” are intended to be inclusive and mean that there may be additional elements other than the listed elements.
 As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.