Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20060130365 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/287,474
Publication dateJun 22, 2006
Filing dateNov 28, 2005
Priority dateNov 29, 2004
Also published asCN101102692A, EP1827156A1, EP1827156B1, WO2006057978A1
Publication number11287474, 287474, US 2006/0130365 A1, US 2006/130365 A1, US 20060130365 A1, US 20060130365A1, US 2006130365 A1, US 2006130365A1, US-A1-20060130365, US-A1-2006130365, US2006/0130365A1, US2006/130365A1, US20060130365 A1, US20060130365A1, US2006130365 A1, US2006130365A1
InventorsSusan Sokolowski, Martin Lotti, Jane Savage, Linda Allen, Maria Kozo
Original AssigneeNike, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Impact-attenuating elements and customizable products containing such elements
US 20060130365 A1
Abstract
Impact-attenuating elements for footwear or the like may include (a) a first impact-attenuating material (e.g., foam) in a first region; and (b) a second impact-attenuating material in a second region (e.g., foam of a higher density). At least one characteristic of the impact-attenuating characteristics (e.g., support) provided by the impact-attenuating element may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in the footwear. For example, the “firmness” of the support provided by the impact-attenuating element may be changed by rotating or flipping the impact-attenuating element so that foam of a different density is provided at different areas of the foot.
Images(7)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(57)
1. A foot-receiving device, comprising:
a foot-covering member;
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member, wherein the foot-supporting member includes a foot-contacting surface; and
an impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element is shaped and arranged such that an axial direction of the impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface, and wherein the impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member so as to enable changing of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the foot-receiving device by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
2. (canceled)
3. A foot-receiving device according to claim 1, wherein at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member includes a retaining element that engages an outer surface of the impact-attenuating element to hold at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
4. A foot-receiving device according to claim 1, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a first impact-attenuating material and a second region including a second impact-attenuating material that differs in at least one impact-attenuating characteristic as compared to the first impact-attenuating material.
5-6. (canceled)
7. A foot-receiving device according to claim 1, wherein the impact-attenuating element is provided in a heel area.
8. A foot-receiving device according to claim 1, further comprising:
a second impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the second impact-attenuating element is shaped and arranged such that an axial direction of the second impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface, and wherein the second impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member so as to enable changing of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the foot-receiving device by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the second impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
9. (canceled)
10. A foot-receiving device according to claim 1, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
11. A foot-receiving device, comprising:
a foot-covering member;
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member; and
an impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a foam material having a first density and a second region including a foam material having a second density that is greater than the first density, and wherein the impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member so as to enable changing of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the foot-receiving device by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
12. A foot-receiving device according to claim 11, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a cylindrically shaped member formed, at least in part, from the foam material having the first density and the foam material having the second density.
13. A foot-receiving device according to claim 12, wherein the foam material having the first density faces the foam material having the second density along an interface.
14. A foot-receiving device according to claim 13, wherein the interface extends along a diagonal of the cylindrically shaped member.
15. A foot-receiving device according to claim 11, wherein the impact-attenuating element is provided in a heel area.
16. A foot-receiving device according to claim 11, further comprising:
a second impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the second impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member so as to enable changing of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the foot-receiving device by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the second impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
17. (canceled)
18. A foot-receiving device according to claim 11, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
19. A foot-receiving device, comprising:
a foot-covering member;
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member, wherein the foot-supporting member includes a foot-contacting surface;
an impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element is shaped and arranged such that an axial direction of the impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface; and
means for varying at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element.
20. A foot-receiving device according to claim 19, wherein the means for varying enables changes in a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
21-22. (canceled)
23. A foot-receiving device according to claim 19, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a first impact-attenuating material and a second region including a second impact-attenuating material that differs in at least one impact-attenuating characteristic as compared to the first impact-attenuating material.
24. A foot-receiving device according to claim 19, wherein the impact-attenuating element is provided in a heel area.
25. A foot-receiving device according to claim 19, further comprising:
a second impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the second impact-attenuating element is shaped and arranged such that an axial direction of the second impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface; and
means for varying at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the second impact-attenuating element.
26. A foot-receiving device according to claim 19, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
27. A foot-receiving device, comprising:
a foot-covering member;
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member;
an impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a foam material having a first density and a second region including a foam material having a second density that is greater than the first density; and
means for varying at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element.
28. A foot-receiving device according to claim 27, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a cylindrically shaped member formed, at least in part, from the foam material having the first density and the foam material having the second density.
29. A foot-receiving device according to claim 28, wherein the foam material having the first density faces the foam material having the second density along an interface.
30. A foot-receiving device according to claim 29, wherein the means for varying enables changes in a position or orientation of at least a portion of the interface with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change the at least one impact-attenuating characteristic.
31. A foot-receiving device according to claim 27, wherein the impact-attenuating element is provided in a heel area.
32. A foot-receiving device according to claim 27, further comprising:
a second impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member; and
means for varying at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the second impact-attenuating element.
33. A foot-receiving device according to claim 27, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
34. An impact-attenuating element for a foot-receiving device, comprising:
a first impact-attenuating material included in a first region; and
a second impact-attenuating material included in a second region, wherein the second impact-attenuating material differs in at least one impact-attenuating characteristic as compared to the first impact-attenuating material, wherein the first region and the second region combine to form at least a portion of a composite member and are oriented with respect to one another such that at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in a foot-receiving device, and wherein the first impact-attenuating material faces the second impact-attenuating material along an interface that extends along a diagonal of the composite member.
35. An impact-attenuating element according to claim 34, wherein the first impact-attenuating material contacts the second impact-attenuating material along an impact-attenuating material interface.
36. An impact-attenuating element for a foot-receiving device, comprising:
a first impact-attenuating material included in a first region, wherein the first impact-attenuating material includes a foam material having a first density; and
a second impact-attenuating material included in a second region, wherein the second impact-attenuating material includes a foam material having a second density greater than the first density, and wherein the first region and the second region combine to form at least a portion of an integral structure and are oriented with respect to one another such that at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in a foot-receiving device.
37. (canceled)
38. An impact-attenuating element according to claim 36, wherein the first impact-attenuating material contacts the second impact-attenuating material along an interface.
39. An impact-attenuating element according to claim 36, wherein the first impact-attenuating material faces the second impact-attenuating material along an interface that extends along a diagonal of the integral structure.
40. A method, comprising:
providing a foot-receiving device including:
a foot-covering member, and
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member, the foot-supporting member including a foot-contacting surface; and
engaging an impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member such that an axial direction of the impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface of the foot-supporting member, and wherein a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element may be changed with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element.
41. A method according to claim 40, further comprising:
changing the position or orientation of at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
42. A method according to claim 41, wherein the changing includes rotating at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
43. A method according to claim 41, wherein the changing includes inverting at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
44. A method according to claim 40, further comprising:
after the engaging, maintaining at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the foot-covering member and the foot-supporting member, wherein the maintaining includes engaging a retaining element provided with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member with an outer surface of the impact-attenuating element to hold at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
45. (canceled)
46. A method according to claim 40, wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a first impact-attenuating material and a second region including a second impact-attenuating material that differs in at least one impact-attenuating characteristic as compared to the first impact-attenuating material.
47. A method according to claim 46, wherein the first impact-attenuating material is a foam material having a first density and the second impact-attenuating material is a foam material having a second density that is greater than the first density.
48. A method according to claim 40, wherein the impact-attenuating element is engaged in a heel area of the foot-receiving device.
49. A method according to claim 40, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
50. A method according to claim 40, further comprising:
engaging a second impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member such that an axial direction of the second impact-attenuating element extends in a direction so as to pass through the foot-contacting surface of the foot-supporting member, and wherein a position or orientation of at least a portion of the second impact-attenuating element may be changed with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element.
51. A method, comprising:
providing a foot-receiving device including:
a foot-covering member, and
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member; and
engaging an impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element may be changed with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element, and wherein the impact-attenuating element includes a first region including a foam material having a first density and a second region including a foam material having a second density that is greater than the first density.
52. A method according to claim 51, further comprising:
changing the position or orientation of at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
53. A method according to claim 52, wherein the changing includes rotating at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
54. A method according to claim 52, wherein the changing includes inverting at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
55. A method according to claim 51, further comprising:
after the engaging, maintaining at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the foot-covering member and the foot-supporting member, wherein the maintaining includes engaging a retaining element provided with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member with an outer surface of the impact-attenuating element to hold at least the portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member.
56. (canceled)
57. A method according to claim 51, wherein the impact-attenuating element is engaged in a heel area of the foot-receiving device.
58. A method according to claim 51, wherein the foot-receiving device is a piece of athletic footwear.
59. A method according to claim 51, further comprising:
engaging a second impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein a position or orientation of at least a portion of the second impact-attenuating element may be changed with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the second impact-attenuating element.
Description
    RELATED APPLICATION DATA
  • [0001]
    This application claims priority benefits based on U.S. Provisional Patent Appln. No. 60/714,518 filed Nov. 29, 2004 (converted to a provisional application from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/998,156). This provisional patent application is entirely incorporated herein by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The invention relates generally to impact-attenuating elements. Such elements may be provided in a wide variety of different products, e.g., in footwear products and other foot-receiving devices, such as in the heel and/or toe areas of footwear products.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    Conventional articles of athletic footwear have included two primary elements, namely an upper member and a sole member or structure. The upper member provides a covering for the foot that securely receives and positions the foot with respect to the sole structure. In addition, the upper member may have a configuration that protects the foot and provides ventilation, thereby cooling the foot and removing perspiration. The sole structure generally is secured to a lower portion of the upper member and generally is positioned between the foot and the ground. In addition to attenuating ground reaction forces, the sole structure may provide traction and control foot motions, such as pronation. Accordingly, the upper member and the sole structure may operate cooperatively to provide a comfortable structure that is suited for a variety of ambulatory activities, such as walking and running.
  • [0004]
    The sole member or structure of athletic footwear generally has exhibited a layered configuration that includes a comfort-enhancing insole, a resilient midsole formed from a polymer foam material, and a ground-contacting outsole that provides both abrasion-resistance and traction. The midsole is the primary sole structure element that attenuates ground reaction forces and controls foot motions. Suitable polymer foam materials for the midsole include ethylvinylacetate or polyurethane that compress resiliently under an applied load to attenuate ground reaction forces. Conventional polymer foam materials are resiliently compressible, in part, due to the inclusion of a plurality of open or closed cells that define an inner volume substantially displaced by gas.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0005]
    The following presents a general summary of aspects of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of at least some aspects of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key or critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. The following summary merely presents some concepts of the invention in a general form as a prelude to the more detailed description provided below.
  • [0006]
    Aspects of this invention relate to impact-attenuating elements, systems and products in which they are used (such as footwear, other foot-receiving devices, and the like), and methods of manufacturing foot-receiving devices including such elements, systems, and products. In at least some examples, impact-attenuating elements in accordance with this invention may include: (a) a first impact-attenuating material included in a first region (e.g., foam having a first density); and (b) a second impact-attenuating material included in a second region (e.g., foam having a higher density than that of the first material). The two impact-attenuating materials may face and/or contact one another along an interface. The first and second regions of impact-attenuating materials, in at least some examples of the invention, may combine to form at least a portion of an integral structure (e.g., a cylindrically shaped member) and may be oriented with respect to one another such that at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in the foot-receiving device.
  • [0007]
    Additional aspects of this invention relate to foot-receiving devices, such as pieces of footwear, that include one or more impact-attenuating elements, e.g., of the types described above. Foot-receiving devices in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may include: (a) a foot-covering member (e.g., an upper member); (b) a foot-supporting member (e.g., a sole member) engaged with the foot-covering member (directly or indirectly), wherein the foot-supporting member includes a foot-contacting surface; and (c) an impact-attenuating element located between the foot-covering member and the ground-contacting element and/or engaged (directly or indirectly) with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member. The impact-attenuating element(s) may be movably and/or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, and they may be designed such that changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member results in a change of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element. Structural elements may be included as part of the impact-attenuating element and/or the foot-receiving device to enable varying the impact-attenuating characteristic(s) of the impact-attenuating element and/or fixing the position or orientation of the impact-attenuating element with respect to the foot-receiving device structure.
  • [0008]
    Still additional aspects of the invention relate to the production and/or use of foot-receiving devices including impact-attenuating elements, e.g., of the types described above. Such methods may include, for example: (a) providing a foot-receiving device including a foot-covering member and a foot-supporting member engaged (directly or indirectly) with the foot-covering member; and (b) engaging an impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member so as to enable changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0009]
    A more complete understanding of the present invention and certain advantages thereof may be acquired by referring to the following description in consideration with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numbers indicate like features, and wherein:
  • [0010]
    FIG. 1 illustrates an example impact-attenuating element structure useful in some example aspects of this invention;
  • [0011]
    FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate inclusion of an impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear in which the impact-attenuating element is oriented for walking;
  • [0012]
    FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate inclusion of an impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear in which the impact-attenuating element is oriented for running or jogging;
  • [0013]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate inclusion of an impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear in which the impact-attenuating element is oriented for cross-training;
  • [0014]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate an example of shapes and changes in orientation of an impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear;
  • [0015]
    FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrate an example of shapes and changes in orientation of another impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear;
  • [0016]
    FIGS. 7A and 7B illustrate an example of shapes and changes in orientation of still another impact-attenuating element structure in a piece of footwear; and
  • [0017]
    FIG. 8 illustrates an example footwear structure including multiple impact-attenuating elements.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0018]
    In the following description of various examples of the invention, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof, and in which are shown by way of illustration various example systems and environments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other specific arrangements of parts, example systems, and environments may be utilized and structural and functional modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. Also, while the terms “top,” “bottom,” “side,” “front,” “back,” and the like may be used in this specification to describe various example features and elements of the invention, these terms are used herein as a matter of convenience, e.g., based on the example orientations shown in the figures. Nothing in this specification should be construed as requiring a specific three dimensional orientation of structures in order to fall within the scope of this invention.
  • [0019]
    To assist the reader, this specification is broken into various subsections, as follows: Terms; General Description of Customizable Impact-Attenuating Elements According to the Invention; Specific Examples of the Invention; and Conclusion.
  • A. TERMS
  • [0020]
    The following terms are used in this specification, and unless otherwise noted or clear from the context, these terms have the meanings provided below:
  • [0021]
    “Foot-receiving device” means any device into which a user places at least some portion of his or her foot. In addition to all types of footwear (described below), foot-receiving devices include, but are not limited to: bindings and other devices for securing feet in snow skis, cross country skis, water skis, snowboards, and the like; bindings, clips, or other devices for securing feet in pedals for use with bicycles, exercise equipment, and the like; bindings, clips, or other devices for receiving feet during play of video games or other games; and the like.
  • [0022]
    “Footwear” means any type of product worn on the feet, and this term includes, but is not limited to: all types of shoes, boots, sneakers, sandals, thongs, flip-flops, mules, scuffs, slippers, sport-specific shoes (such as golf shoes, tennis shoes, baseball cleats, soccer or football cleats, ski boots, etc.), and the like. “Footwear” may protect the feet from the environment and/or enhance a wearer's performance (e.g., physically, physiologically, medically, etc.).
  • B. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF CUSTOMIZABLE IMPACT-ATTENUATING ELEMENTS ACCORDING TO THE INVENTION
  • [0023]
    As noted above, various impact-attenuating elements and systems have been known, including such elements and systems for use in footwear products. Conventionally, the insole, midsole, and/or outsole portions of footwear products may include foam or other materials that attenuate shock and dampen vibrations, e.g., in the heel and/or toe areas of a shoe. Typically, footwear comes with fixed support and/or impact-attenuating characteristics, characteristics that are predetermined by the shoe manufacturer. If a user desires to change the support and/or impact-attenuating characteristics of a piece of footwear, he or she may add separate insole or orthotic elements to the shoe. Such elements, however, typically are not designed to fit into a specific shoe structure, and thus these elements may move around in the shoe, migrate during use, bunch up, and/or take up too much room inside the shoe such that the shoe no longer fits comfortably on the wearer's foot. Also, these elements tend to pull out of the shoe and/or move inside the shoe when the foot is removed, thereby making their use inconvenient and their loss a distinct possibility.
  • [0024]
    Footwear comfort and desired impact-attenuating characteristics for a piece of footwear are not a “one size fits all” proposition. Rather, different support or impact-attenuating characteristics may be desired in a piece of footwear, e.g., depending on the type of activity engaged in and/or specific characteristics associated with a user and/or a user's typical gait or stride. For example, different support and/or impact-attenuating characteristics may be preferred, depending on whether a particular piece of footwear is designed or being used for walking, jogging, sprinting, track-and-field events, basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, cross training, tennis, or other sports. The types of activities in which the user engages also may change over time. As still additional examples, some users have a tendency to pronate or supinate in their stride, and such users might benefit from specially positioned support and/or impact-attenuating elements in a piece of footwear. User preference also may play a role in positioning and/or selecting characteristics of support and/or impact-attenuating elements in footwear, e.g., to help affect or control a user's gait characteristics, to increase comfort, to provide desired support characteristics, etc.
  • [0025]
    Accordingly, it would be useful to provide support and/or impact-attenuating elements in and/or for footwear and other foot-receiving device products that can be freely customized and adjusted by users, e.g., for particular uses, for particular stride or gait types, and/or for particular user preferences.
  • [0026]
    In general, aspects of this invention relate to impact-attenuating elements, products in which they are used (such as footwear, other foot-receiving devices, and the like), and methods for making and/or using foot-receiving device products including such elements. In at least some instances, impact-attenuating elements also may provide support for the user's foot. Impact-attenuating elements for use in foot-receiving devices (e.g., footwear, etc.) in accordance with at least some example aspects of this invention may include, for example: (a) a first impact-attenuating material included in a first region; and (b) a second impact-attenuating material included in a second region, wherein the second impact-attenuating material differs in at least one impact-attenuating characteristic as compared to the first impact-attenuating material. The first and second regions of impact-attenuating materials, in at least some examples of the invention, may combine to form at least a portion of an integral structure and may be oriented with respect to one another such that at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in the foot-receiving device.
  • [0027]
    In at least some example impact-attenuating element structures according to this invention, the first impact-attenuating material may be a foam material having a first density, and the second impact-attenuating material may be a foam material having a second density that is greater than the first density. The first and second impact-attenuating materials may face one another, or even contact one another, e.g., along an interface. The impact-attenuating element structure may be a cylindrically-shaped structure formed, at least in part, from the first and second impact-attenuating materials, and if desired, the interface between the two impact-attenuating materials may extend along a diagonal of the cylindrically-shaped structure. If desired, the impact-attenuating element structure may include a handle member (e.g., formed from an impact-attenuating material) or some other suitable structure to facilitate handling by the user, e.g., to help the user grasp and move the element within the foot-receiving device structure, to allow removal of the element from the foot-receiving device structure, etc.
  • [0028]
    Additional aspects of this invention relate to foot-receiving devices, such as pieces of footwear, that include one or more impact-attenuating elements, e.g., of the types described above. Foot-receiving devices in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may include: (a) a foot-covering member (e.g., an upper member); (b) a foot-supporting member (e.g., a sole member) engaged (directly or indirectly) with the foot-covering member, wherein the foot-supporting member may include a ground-contacting element (e.g., an outsole) and/or a foot-contacting surface; (c) an impact-attenuating element engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member and/or the foot-supporting member; and (d) means for varying at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element. As another example, foot-receiving devices in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may include: (a) a foot-covering member (e.g., an upper member); (b) a foot-supporting member (e.g., a sole member) engaged (directly or indirectly) with the foot-covering member, wherein the foot-supporting member includes a ground-contacting element (e.g., an outsole) and/or a foot-contacting surface; and (c) an impact-attenuating element engaged (directly or indirectly) with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member. The impact-attenuating element(s) may be movably and/or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, and it (they) may be mounted at any position in the foot-receiving device structure without departing from the invention (e.g., in the heel area, in the toe area, etc.). The impact-attenuating element(s) further may be designed, positioned, and/or structured such that changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member results in a change of at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element in the foot-receiving device structure. In at least some examples, an axial direction of the impact-attenuating member, when mounted in a foot-receiving device, will extend through the foot-contacting surface of the foot-supporting member.
  • [0029]
    In at least some examples of this invention, one or more impact-attenuating characteristics of an impact-attenuating element in a foot-receiving device may be changed by rotating at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member. Such rotation may be used, for example, to provide foam material of different density at different areas or regions of the foot (e.g., to move higher density foam to a medial or lateral region of the foot, etc.). As another example, one or more impact-attenuating characteristics may be changed by removing an impact-attenuating element from a foot-receiving device, physically inverting it and/or otherwise changing its orientation, and returning it to the foot-receiving device in the inverted position (and potentially also rotated with respect to its original position in the foot-receiving device structure). Again, such inversion and/or rotation may be used to provide foam of different density at a desired position within the foot-receiving device.
  • [0030]
    As mentioned above, in at least some examples, the impact-attenuating element(s) may have the structures described above. Also, one or more portions of the foot-receiving device (e.g., the foot-covering member, the foot-supporting member, the impact-attenuating element(s), etc.) may include structure(s) for maintaining at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member. As one more specific example, an outer surface (or some other portion) of the impact-attenuating element(s) may be shaped so as to fit into a corresponding recess or receptacle provided in the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member such that one or more walls of the recess or receptacle (e.g., formed from an impact-attenuating material, such as foam) act as a retaining element to maintain the impact-attenuating element in place. As additional alternatives, adhesives (e.g., weak adhesives) or mechanical connectors, such as snaps, buckles, securing straps, buttons, hook-and-loop fasteners, other fasteners, or the like, may be used to hold the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the remainder of the foot-receiving device structure. As still additional examples, mechanical structures, such as ribs, raised pegs, retaining walls, grooves, and the like, may be provided in the recess and/or receptacle structure to engage corresponding openings or other structures provided in the impact-attenuating element structure (or vice versa).
  • [0031]
    Still additional example aspects of this invention relate to the production and/or use of foot-receiving devices including various impact-attenuating elements, including impact-attenuating elements of the types described above. Such methods may include, for example: (a) providing a foot-receiving device including a foot-covering member and a foot-supporting member engaged (directly or indirectly) with the foot-covering member; and (b) engaging an impact-attenuating element with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the impact-attenuating element is movably or removably mounted with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member such that a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element may be changed with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element. Aspects of this invention further may include changing the position or orientation of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member to thereby change the impact-attenuating characteristics of the foot-receiving device product. This “changing” may be accomplished in any desired manner without departing from the invention, such as by rotating (or “dialing”) at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, by inverting at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element with respect to at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, and the like. The impact-attenuating element may be provided, for example, in the heel area of a piece of footwear (or other foot-receiving device), in the toe area, etc.
  • [0032]
    After positioning or orienting at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element in the foot-receiving device product, this portion of the impact-attenuating element may be maintained in place with respect to the foot-covering member and/or the foot-supporting member. As mentioned above, any desired manner of retaining the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the remainder of the foot-receiving device structure may be used without departing from the invention, for example, using one or more retaining elements, one or more mechanical connectors, weak adhesives, etc.
  • [0033]
    “Foot-covering members” described and used in examples of the invention include, for example, but are not limited to upper members of the types provided in some conventional footwear products. In general, such “foot-covering members” may include portions that extend at least partially over and/or cover at least some portion of the wearer's foot, e.g., so as to assist in holding the foot-receiving device in place with respect to the wearer's foot. “Foot-supporting members” described and used in examples of the invention include, for example, but are not limited to sole members of the types provided in some conventional footwear products. In general, such “foot-supporting members” may extend at least partially beneath at least some portion of the wearer's foot, e.g., so as to assist in attenuating the reaction forces to which the wearer's foot would be exposed, for example, when stepping down in the foot-receiving device. “Ground-contacting elements” or members described and used in examples of the invention include, for example, but are not limited to outsole elements of the types provided in some conventional footwear products. In general, such “ground-contacting elements” may be made of suitable and conventional materials to provide long wear and protect the foot and/or prevent the remainder of the foot-receiving device structure from wear effects, e.g., when contacting the ground or other surface in use of the foot-receiving device product.
  • [0034]
    Specific examples of the invention are described in more detail below. The reader should understand that these specific examples are set forth merely to illustrate examples of the invention, and they should not be construed as limiting the invention.
  • C. SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF THE INVENTION
  • [0035]
    The various figures in this application illustrate examples of impact-attenuating elements useful in systems and methods according to examples of this invention. When the same reference number appears in more than one drawing, that reference number is used consistently in this specification and the drawings to refer to the same or similar parts throughout.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a first example impact-attenuating element 100 that may be used in accordance with various examples of this invention. This example impact-attenuating element 100 includes a first impact-attenuating material 102 in a first discrete region of the structure 100 and a second impact-attenuating material 104 in a second discrete region of the structure 100. These first and second regions of the impact-attenuating element 100 may combine together to form at least a portion of an overall integral or unitary structure. For example, if desired, the two impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 may be fixed to one another, e.g., via an adhesive, heat processing, and/or in any other desired or suitable manner. As another example, the two impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 may be maintained as separable elements and held together by external forces in use (e.g., the user's weight, mechanical connectors, structural elements in the foot-covering member and/or the foot-supporting member, etc.), without departing from the invention. While the overall composite structure 100 may take on various sizes and shapes without departing from the invention, in this illustrated example the impact-attenuating element 100 generally is a cylindrically-shaped composite member formed from impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 with an overall round cross sectional shape. In at least some example structures 100, if desired, an open space 106 may be defined in the structure, e.g., at a central portion of the cylindrically-shaped composite member 100. This open space 106, when present, may extend all of the way through member 100 or partially through it.
  • [0037]
    The second impact-attenuating material 104 may differ in various respects compared to the first impact-attenuating material 102 such that at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the second impact-attenuating material 104 differs from the corresponding characteristic(s) of the first impact-attenuating material 102. For example, in the illustrated example structure 100, the impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 may be formed from foam or other impact-attenuating material, and the material making up the first impact-attenuating material 102 may have a lower density than the material making up the second impact-attenuating material 104 such that the second impact-attenuating material 104 provides greater support, better stability, and/or a different, more firm impact-attenuating effect as compared to the first impact-attenuating material 102.
  • [0038]
    In at least some example structures according to the invention, the first impact-attenuating material 102 may face the second impact-attenuating material 104 along an interface 108, and in at least some example structures, the two impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 may contact one another along this interface 108. This interface 108, as illustrated in FIG. 1, may extend along a diagonal of the cylindrically-shaped composite member 100. In the illustrated example structure 100, the area of each transverse cross section parallel with end faces 110 a and 110 b of the impact-attenuating element 100 will contain a different percentage area of the first impact-attenuating material 102 and the second impact-attenuating material 104. In other words, in this illustrated example, the cross sectional area of each impact-attenuating material 102 and 104 changes continuously along the axial length L of the impact-attenuating element 100.
  • [0039]
    By providing impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 of different densities and arranging these materials along a sloping interface 108 such that the cross sectional area of each impact-attenuating material 102 and 104 changes continuously along the axial length L of the impact-attenuating element 100, at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the impact-attenuating element 100 may be controlled by changing a position or orientation of at least a portion of the impact-attenuating element 100 in the device in which it is placed. Of course, other ways of changing and/or controlling the impact-attenuating characteristics of an element 100 are possible without departing from the invention. Various example features of the invention will be described in more detail below.
  • [0040]
    As mentioned above, the example impact-attenuating element 100 illustrated in FIG. 1 has a generally round cross-section with a round central opening 106. Of course, many variations in the size, relative size, shape, and orientation of the various features of an impact-attenuating element, including its exterior shape and the shapes of any open areas, are possible without departing from the invention. For example, both the outer surface 112 and the interior open area 106 of the element 100 may have any desired sizes, relative sizes, and/or shapes without departing from the invention, such as round, square, triangular, other polygons, elliptical, etc. The shapes of the open area 106 and exterior surface 112 also may differ from one another in a given structure without departing from the invention. Also, the impact-attenuating element 100 need not have a right cylindrical shape in all examples of the invention. Other shapes, such as non-right cylindrical, spherical, hemispherical, hemi-elliptical, cubic, conical, truncated conical, etc., may be used for the impact-attenuating element overall shape without departing from the invention. Additionally, if desired, in at least some examples, no open area 106 need be provided such that the element 100 is a solid or non-hollow material. As still another alternative, if desired, one or both ends of the open area 106 may be closed off so as to define a closed structure (or partially closed structure) with one or more hollowed out interior portions without departing from the invention. As still additional examples, the open area 106, if present, need not extend all the way through the cylindrically-shaped member 100, and it need not be centrally located. Many other variations on the size, shape, location, and arrangement of various parts of the impact-attenuating element structure are possible without departing from the invention, and some additional examples of different shapes and/or arrangements are described in more detail below in conjunction with FIGS. 6A through 8.
  • [0041]
    The impact-attenuating element 100 need not include an impact-attenuating material interface 108 that is a smooth, constantly sloped line or curve in all examples of the invention. Rather, if desired, the interface 108 may be curved or shaped such that some portions of the interface surface are more sloped than other portions. Also, as another example, the interface may be stepped, with constant or differing sized steps, flat or slanted steps, etc., without departing from the invention. In still other examples, if desired, the interface slope or steps on one side of open area 106 may differ (e.g., in size slope, number, or orientation, etc.) from the interface slope or steps on the other side of open area 106. Many other variations in the interface 108 slope, orientation, size, shape, and/or arrangement may occur without departing from the invention. As still additional examples, no clear-cut interface 108 is required in all examples of the invention. Rather, if desired, the density or other impact-attenuating characteristic of the material may change gradually across the volume of the impact-attenuating element 100. In other words, the regions of different impact-attenuating material need not have a clear interface between them in all examples of the invention (e.g., a more gradual change in the materials, densities, or regions is possible in at least some examples of the invention).
  • [0042]
    Also, impact-attenuating elements in accordance with at least some examples of the invention are not limited to those having two regions with different impact-attenuating material. Any number of impact-attenuating materials and/or interfaces may be provided in an impact-attenuating element without departing from the invention. Moreover, it is not necessary for the two impact-attenuating materials to differ compositionally. Rather, if desired, in at least some examples of the invention, an impact-attenuating element may be constructed from a single piece or type of impact-attenuating material wherein one area or region of a unitary piece of impact-attenuating material is treated in some manner so as to change at least one impact-attenuating characteristic of the material in that region as compared to the corresponding impact-attenuating characteristic(s) of the material in another region. Such treatments may include heat treatment, chemical treatments, addition of foam material modifiers during production of at least one region, laser processing, other processing, etc. Even when two (or more) discrete regions of impact-attenuating materials are provided, the general composition of the materials may be the same in each region without departing from the invention, e.g., each region may comprise a polyurethane foam material, but the foam materials may have different densities.
  • [0043]
    FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate an example foot-receiving device 200 (e.g., an athletic shoe) that includes an impact-attenuating element 100 like that generally illustrated in FIG. 1. As shown, this example impact-attenuating element 100 includes two regions having two different impact-attenuating materials 102 and 104 (e.g., polyurethane foam materials of different densities) joined at interface 108. Of course, as indicated above, many variations in the size, shape, structure, orientation, and other characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 100 may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0044]
    The impact-attenuating element 100 in this example footwear structure 200 is provided as at least a portion of the sole member 202 in the heel area of the shoe 200. More specifically, in this example structure, the impact-attenuating element 100 is provided as a portion of the shoe's midsole 202 b, arranged between the outsole member 202 c and footwear footbed (e.g., the shoe insole 202 a and/or upper member 208). The impact-attenuating element 100 may fit into opening(s) or receptacle(s) formed in or provided as part of the midsole 202 b, outsole 202 c, upper member 208, etc. As illustrated in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the axis or axial direction 204 of the impact-attenuating element may be arranged such that the axial direction 204 extends through the foot-contacting surface (e.g., insole 202 a) and/or ground contacting element (e.g., outsole 202 c) of the foot-receiving device product.
  • [0045]
    The sole member 202 may be attached to the footwear upper member 208 in any desired manner, including through the use of stitching, adhesives, and in other conventional manners well known and understood in the art. The sole member 202 and the upper member 208 also may be made from any desired materials and in any desired construction without departing from the invention, including with conventional materials and of conventional constructions known and used in the art. In the illustrated example, the impact-attenuating element 100 is sandwiched between the footwear footbed and the outsole 202 c such that the impact-attenuating element 100 may act akin to a “trampoline” to provide support, stability, and the ability to attenuate ground reaction forces.
  • [0046]
    In this example structure, the athletic shoe 200 may be designed and used for general walking or similar types of exercise or use. Accordingly, the impact-attenuating element 100 is arranged in the heel area of the shoe 200 to provide impact-attenuation and foot support better suited for these types of activities. FIG. 2A shows a view of the shoe upper member 208 and insole 202 a with the impact-attenuating element 100 shown in a sectional view at the center of the length L of the element 100 (see FIG. 1 for dimension “L”), and FIG. 2B shows a lateral side view of the shoe 200. Notably, with the impact-attenuating element 100 in this orientation, the larger volume of impact-attenuating material 102 having a lower density is provided at the backmost heel portion of the shoe 200, and the higher density impact-attenuating material 104 is provided more toward the front of the shoe 104. This orientation and positioning promotes a soft, smooth heel strike when the shoe 200 contacts the ground surface during a walking step.
  • [0047]
    For users that tend to pronate or supinate somewhat when walking, the impact-attenuating element 100 may be rotated somewhat (e.g., about axis 204 in the direction of arrow 206) to thereby provide more support in the lateral or medial portions of the shoe 200. Rotation of the impact-attenuating element 100 in this manner may help better support the user's foot such that the step down is better supported, feels more stable, and feels smoother, making the walk more comfortable. Positioning of the impact-attenuating element 100 in the shoe 200 also may ultimately change or affect the user's gait, e.g., to help reduce or eliminate pronation or supination. If desired, in at least some examples of the invention, the rear heel area of the sole member 202 may be detachably engaged with the upper member 208 and/or another portion of the sole member 202 (e.g., near the heel counter area) to allow user access to the impact-attenuating element 100, e.g., so that it may be repositioned and/or reoriented, if necessary or desired. As another example, if desired, users may gain access to the impact-attenuating element 100 through an opening provided in the upper member, the midsole member, and/or the insole member, to allow repositioning and/or reorienting of the impact-attenuating element 100.
  • [0048]
    The same impact-attenuating element 100 (and indeed the same overall shoe) may be used for a running shoe product 300 as illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B. When running, many runners tend to step somewhat toward the lateral (outside) area of the foot. Therefore, runners typically can use more support toward the outside or lateral side of the foot as compared to the medial side. Footwear products and impact-attenuating elements of the types described above may be used to help support the user's foot in a running shoe product.
  • [0049]
    FIG. 3A illustrates a view of the shoe upper member 308 with an impact-attenuating element 100 shown in a sectional view at the center of the length L of the element 100, and FIG. 3B shows a lateral side view of the shoe 300. The impact-attenuating element 100 in this example structure 300 is like that generally illustrated in FIG. 1. As shown, the impact-attenuating element 100 in this example structure 300 is provided as at least a portion of the sole member 302 in the heel area of the shoe 300. More specifically, in this example structure 300, the impact-attenuating element 100 is provided between the shoe's midsole member 302 b and the outsole member 302 c (optionally, if desired, the impact-attenuating element 100 may fit into openings and/or receptacles provided in the sole structure 302 and/or upper member 308). Again, in this example structure, the axis or axial direction 304 of the impact-attenuating element may be arranged such that it extends through the foot-contacting portion and/or the ground-contacting portion of the foot-supporting structure (e.g., the sole member 302). The sole member 302 (which may additionally include an insole 302 a) may be attached to the footwear upper member 308 in any desired manner, including in conventional manners well known and understood in the art. The various parts of the sole member 302 and the upper member 308 may be made of any desired materials and in any desired construction without departing from the invention, including from conventional materials and conventional constructions that are well known in the art.
  • [0050]
    In this example structure, the athletic shoe 300 is designed and used for running, jogging, or similar types of exercise. Accordingly, the impact-attenuating element 100 is arranged in the heel area of the shoe 300 to provide impact-attenuation and foot support better suited for these types of activities. As shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the larger volume of impact-attenuating material 102 having the lower density is provided at the medial heel portion of the shoe 300, and the higher density impact-attenuating material 104 is provided toward the lateral rear heel portion of the shoe 104. The impact-attenuating element 100 also is physically inverted from its orientation shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. Accordingly, when running or jogging, the lateral, rear portion of the user's heel receives the greatest support during a heel strike when the shoe 300 contacts the ground surface in use.
  • [0051]
    Of course, individual users may customize the position and/or orientation of the impact-attenuating element 100 with respect to the shoe 300 (e.g., the sole member 302 and/or the upper member 308) to best suit their comfort, running style, typical running speed, etc. This may be accomplished, for example, by rotating the impact-attenuating element 100 somewhat (e.g., about axis 304 in the direction of arrow 306) to thereby provide more support in the lateral or medial portions of the shoe 300 (e.g., depending on the user's preference, typical gait or stride characteristics, etc.). Rotation of the impact-attenuating element 100 in this manner may help such users step down more smoothly, making the run or jog more comfortable. Any type of removable engagement between the impact-attenuating element 100 and the shoe structure 300 may be used so as to enable this type of adjustment and/or customization, if desired, without departing from the invention.
  • [0052]
    Thus, as shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, a user (or another) typically would orient or position the impact-attenuating element 100 differently for use in running and/or as a running shoe product 300 from the manner in which it was oriented or positioned for walking and/or in a walking shoe product 200, as shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. Of course, if desired, the same physical shoe may be used for each type of activity and a user may simply reposition or reorient the impact-attenuating element 100 at any given time, depending on the type of activity to take place. Also, as indicated above, many variations in the size, shape, structure, orientation, and other characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 100 and the shoe structure 300 may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0053]
    The same impact-attenuating element 100 (and indeed the same physical shoe product, if desired) also may be used by users involved in cross-training exercises. An example shoe product 400 useful for cross-training purposes is illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B. When cross-training, users typically are involved in various different athletic activities, and therefore, their footwear must provide support and impact-attenuation for different potential activities and movements (e.g., moving forward and/or backward, moving side-to-side (e.g., medial-to-lateral movements and vice versa), rapidly changing directions, etc.). In the orientation illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B, an impact-attenuating element 100 is oriented to provide greater support toward the outside or lateral side of the foot as compared to the medial side. Footwear products 400 and impact-attenuating elements of the types described above may be used, for example, to help support the user's foot when cycling, stair stepping, rowing, playing ball, or performing other exercises.
  • [0054]
    FIG. 4A illustrates a view of a shoe upper member 408 and insole 402 a with an impact-attenuating element 100 shown in a sectional view at the center of the length L of the element 100, and FIG. 4B shows a lateral side view of the shoe 400. The impact-attenuating element 100 of this example structure 400 is like that generally illustrated in FIG. 1. As with the other examples described above, the impact-attenuating element 100 in this example structure 400 is provided as at least a portion of the sole member 402 in the heel area of the shoe 400. More specifically, in this example structure 400, the impact-attenuating element 100 is arranged between the outsole member 402 c and the shoe midsole 402 b. Optionally, if desired, the impact-attenuating element 100 may fit into openings and/or receptacles provided in the sole structure 402 and/or the upper member 408. The impact-attenuating element may be arranged in the shoe 400 such that its axis or axial direction 404 again extends through the foot-contacting surface and/or the ground-contacting surface of the shoe's sole member 402. The sole member 402 may be attached to the footwear upper member 408 in any desired manner, including in conventional manners well known and understood in the art. The various parts of the sole member 402 and the upper member 408 may be made of any desired materials and in any desired construction without departing from the invention, including from conventional materials and conventional constructions known in the art.
  • [0055]
    In this example structure, the athletic shoe 400 is designed and used for cross-training purposes, e.g., potentially a variety of different exercises and/or activities. Accordingly, in its illustrated arrangement, the impact-attenuating element 100 is provided in the heel area of the shoe 400 to provide impact-attenuation and foot support suitable for different types of activities. As shown in the arrangement of FIGS. 4A and 4B, the larger volume of impact-attenuating material 102 having the lower density is provided at the medial heel portion of the shoe 400, and the higher density impact-attenuating material 104 is provided toward the lateral heel portion of the shoe 300. The impact-attenuating element 100 also is physically inverted from its orientation shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B and in the same orientation shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B. Accordingly, in use, the lateral portion of the user's heel receives the greatest support during use.
  • [0056]
    Of course, individual users may customize the position or orientation of the impact-attenuating element 100 with respect to the shoe 400 (e.g., the sole member 402 and/or the upper member 408) to best suit their comfort, movement style, the type of exercise being performed, etc. This may be accomplished, for example, by rotating the impact-attenuating element 100 somewhat (e.g., about axis 404 in the direction of arrow 406) to thereby provide more support in the lateral or medial portions of the shoe 400 (e.g., depending on the user's preference, the upcoming activities, etc.). Rotation of the impact-attenuating element 100 in this manner may help such users step down more smoothly, making the exercise more comfortable. Any type of removable engagement between the impact-attenuating element 100 and the shoe structure 400 may be used so as to enable this type of adjustment and/or customization, if desired, without departing from this invention.
  • [0057]
    Thus, as shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, a user (or another) may decide to orient or position the impact-attenuating element 100 differently for cross-training exercises as compared to the manner in which it was oriented or positioned in the running shoe product 300 (FIGS. 3A and 3B) and/or in the walking shoe product 200 (FIGS. 2A and 2B). If desired, the same physical shoe may be used for each type of activity, and a user may simply reposition or reorient the impact-attenuating element 100 at any time, depending on the type of activity to take place. Of course, as indicated above, many variations in the size, shape, structure, orientation, and other characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 100 and the shoe structure 400 may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0058]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate an overhead view of an impact-attenuating element 100 of the general types described above at various positions and orientations in a heel portion of a foot-receiving device 502. In this example arrangement, at least a bottom portion of the impact-attenuating element 100 fits into an opening or receptacle 504 defined in a midsole (or other portion) of the foot-receiving device structure 502. In use, if desired, the top portion of the impact-attenuating element 100 may be covered so that it does not directly contact the user's foot, e.g., by a closure element, an insole element or other portion of the foot-receiving device's 502 upper member or sole member structure (no covering is shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B). Alternatively, if desired, a user's foot may directly contact the impact-attenuating element 100 in the foot-receiving device structure 502.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 5A illustrates the impact-attenuating element 100 in a first position with respect to the heel portion of the foot-receiving device 502 (e.g., set up for some sort of cross-training exercises). If, after cross-training, the user decides to go for a jog or participate in some other event, he or she may rotate the impact-attenuating element 100 with respect to the foot-receiving device 502, for example, by rotating the element 100 within the opening or receptacle 504 using the handle member 140. The handle member 140 may be made out of any desired material without departing from the invention, including some of the same impact-attenuating material (e.g., polyurethane foam material) used in the remainder of the impact-attenuating element 100. As shown in FIG. 5B, the impact-attenuating element 100 is rotated approximately 45 degrees from its position in FIG. 5A, thereby affecting and changing the impact-attenuating characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 100 and the overall foot-receiving device 502.
  • [0060]
    Various ways of maintaining the impact-attenuating element 100 in place with respect to the foot-receiving device structure 502 may be used without departing from the invention. For example, the midsole, outsole, upper member, or other portion of the foot-receiving device structure 502 may include a receptacle (e.g., a cup-shaped receptacle element that defines opening 504) or the like into which the top and/or bottom portion(s) of the impact-attenuating element 100 is (are) designed to fit. If desired, the side walls defining the opening 504 may be formed from foam or other impact-attenuating material (e.g., like that used in element 100 and/or other portions of the midsole structure). The top and/or bottom surface(s) of the receptacle may include raised ribs designed to fit into corresponding slots or grooves defined in the top and/or bottom of the impact-attenuating element 100 or vice versa. Additionally or alternatively, as another example, one or more side surfaces of the receptacle may include raised ribs designed to fit into corresponding slots or grooves defined in the side walls of the impact-attenuating element 100 or vice versa. As still another example, the top and/or bottom surfaces of the receptacle and the impact-attenuating element 100 each may include raised ribs and slot or groove portions without departing from the invention. As still another example, the top, bottom, and/or side surfaces of the receptacle and/or the impact-attenuating element may be roughed and/or otherwise formed from suitable materials and/or formed with suitable surfaces or surface treatments so as to create a high coefficient of friction between these elements, to thereby hinder and/or prevent easy rotation of the impact-attenuating element 100 with respect to the receptacle by a simple friction fit.
  • [0061]
    As still another example, if desired, the impact-attenuating element 100 may be releasably held in place with respect to the foot-receiving device structure 502 by some type of mechanical connector or fixing element, such as a stop member that extends from the wall of a receptacle into a side of the impact-attenuating element. As additional examples, one or more set screws, brake members, adhesives, lock or bolt type elements, or the like, also may be used to hold the impact-attenuating element 100 in place with respect to the foot-receiving device structure 502. The impact-attenuating element 100 also may be formed as a plug or a part that slides and/or otherwise is received onto a shelf and/or into a drawer type system provided as part of the foot-receiving device structure 502.
  • [0062]
    As still additional examples, the physical shape of the impact-attenuating element and/or the receptacle into which it fits, if any (e.g., part of the foot-receiving device structure), may at least partially help maintain the impact-attenuating element in place with respect to the remainder of the foot-receiving device structure. FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrate one example structure. As shown in FIG. 6A, an impact-attenuating element 600 according to this example of the invention includes a multi-sided polygon structure formed as a cylinder. Like the structure shown in FIG. 1, the cylindrical element 600 may be formed from two (or more) impact-attenuating materials 602 and 604 (e.g., foam materials), wherein one material has at least one impact-attenuating characteristic different from the other material (e.g., material 602 may be made from a foam material (or other material) having a lower density than material 604). If desired, the cylindrical structure may be divided on a diagonal (as in FIG. 1) such that the two impact-attenuating materials 602 and 604 face and/or contact one another along an interface extending along the diagonal of the cylinder 600. Of course, other ways of providing the regions with different impact-attenuating characteristics may be used without departing from the invention, e.g., as described above.
  • [0063]
    In use, a user may change the impact-attenuating characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 600 (and thus the characteristics of the entire foot-receiving device structure including this impact-attenuating element 600) by lifting or otherwise removing the impact-attenuating element 600 out of the opening 606 provided in the midsole, outsole, or other portion of the foot-receiving device structure via handle 608 (e.g., opening 606 may be defined by a corresponding receptacle in the midsole, outsole, upper member, etc.). The impact-attenuating element 600 then may be turned, flipped over, replaced by another, have an impact-attenuating structure added to or taken away from it, or the like, and it then may be replaced within the opening 606 (or otherwise re-engaged with the foot-receiving device structure). As evident from comparing FIGS. 6A and 6B, the impact-attenuating element 600 was turned clockwise approximately 60 degrees in this example. The corners 610 a of each face 610 of the impact-attenuating element 600 engage corresponding corners of the receptacle defining the opening 606, thereby at least partially holding the impact-attenuating element 600 in place with respect to the foot-receiving device structure. Of course, an impact-attenuating element and/or its corresponding receptacle in a foot-receiving device structure may have any desired number of faces 610 without departing from the invention. Moreover, any size or shape faces 610 may be provided without departing from the invention. Additionally, if desired, some face(s) may be sized and shaped differently from other face(s) without departing from the invention.
  • [0064]
    FIGS. 7A and 7B illustrate still another example of an impact-attenuating element structure 700 according to some examples of this invention. In this example, the impact-attenuating element 700 is a star-shaped cylinder that fits into a corresponding opening 706 defined by a receptacle provided as part of a foot-receiving device structure (e.g., in the heel portion of a midsole, outsole, insole, or upper member of a piece of footwear). Like the structures shown in FIGS. 1, 6A, and 6B, the cylindrical element 700 may be formed from two (or more) impact-attenuating materials 702 and 704 (e.g., foam materials), wherein one material has at least one impact-attenuating characteristic different from the other material (e.g., material 702 may be made from a foam material (or other material) having a lower density than material 704). If desired, the cylindrical structure may be divided on a diagonal (as in FIG. 1) such that the two impact-attenuating materials 702 and 704 face and/or contact one another along an interface extending along the diagonal of the cylinder 700. Of course, other ways of providing the regions with different impact-attenuating characteristics may be used without departing from the invention, e.g., as described above.
  • [0065]
    In use, a user may change the impact-attenuating characteristics of the impact-attenuating element 700 (and thus the characteristics of the entire foot-receiving device structure including this impact-attenuating element 700) by lifting or otherwise removing the impact-attenuating element 700 out of the opening 706 provided in the midsole, outsole, insole, upper member or other portion of the foot-receiving device structure via handle 708 (e.g., opening 706 may be defined by a corresponding receptacle in the midsole, outsole, upper member, etc.). The impact-attenuating element 700 then may be turned, flipped over, replaced by another, have an impact-attenuating structure added to or taken away from it, or the like, and it then may be replaced within the opening 706 (or otherwise engaged with the foot-receiving device structure). As evident from comparing FIGS. 7A and 7B, the impact-attenuating element 700 was turned clockwise approximately 50 degrees in this example. The arms 710 of the impact-attenuating element 700 engage corresponding arm receptacles defining opening 706, thereby at least partially holding the impact-attenuating element 700 in place with respect to the foot-receiving device structure. Of course, an impact-attenuating element and/or its corresponding receptacle in a foot-receiving device structure may have any desired number of arms 710 without departing from the invention. Moreover, any size or shape arms 710 may be provided without departing from the invention. Additionally, if desired, some arm(s) 710 (and their corresponding arm receptacle(s)) may be sized and shaped differently from other arm(s) in the structure 700 without departing from the invention.
  • [0066]
    Of course, other ways of engaging impact-attenuating elements with foot-receiving devices structures, maintaining them in place with respect to one another, and/or allowing user access to them for customization or change purposes may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0067]
    FIG. 8 illustrates an example arrangement of multiple impact-attenuating elements 100 in the heel area of a foot-receiving device structure 800 (such as in an article of footwear, including athletic footwear). Of course, any number and/or arrangement of impact-attenuating elements 100, at any desired locations, may be used in a foot-receiving device structure 800 without departing from the invention. Also, while all of the impact-attenuating elements may be of the same structure and/or positioned or oriented the same in a given article of footwear, this is not a requirement. Rather, in at least some examples of the invention, the individual impact-attenuating elements 100 may be individually and independently adjustable to enable a wide range of adjustability and customization. The use of multiple, independent impact-attenuating elements 100 further enhances a user's ability to fine tune the impact-attenuating characteristics and/or the support characteristics to match his/her specific needs and/or preferences.
  • [0068]
    Various factors may be taken into consideration when determining the specific orientation or position of one or more impact-attenuating elements in a given piece of footwear or other foot-receiving device. For example, the orientation and/or position of the impact-attenuating element(s) or portions thereof may be selected based on one or more characteristics of the intended end user, such as: the user's weight, the user's shoe size, the user's foot width, the user's moving speed, the user's jumping ability, the user's tendency to pronate, the user's tendency to supinate, and the like. Also, the orientation and/or position of the impact-attenuating element(s) or portions thereof may be selected, at least in part, depending on the intended use of the footwear or other foot-receiving device product. For example, different impact-attenuating element orientations or positions may be selected depending on whether the footwear or foot-receiving device is used for walking, running, basketball, soccer, football, baseball, softball, sprinting, track events, field events, video game play, training exercises, cross-training, etc. A user's personal preferences and/or comfort also may be used in determining the selected orientation or positioning of the impact-attenuating element(s). Further customization may take place by substituting one impact-attenuating element for another, adding an additional structure to an existing impact-attenuating element, removing a portion of an existing impact-attenuating element, or the like.
  • [0069]
    The potential variability and customization features allow manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, trainers, coaches, users, or others to selectively determine and/or change the support and/or impact-attenuating characteristics of a piece of footwear or other foot-receiving device by selecting different impact-attenuating element positions or orientations and/or by selecting different impact-attenuating elements. In this manner, if desired, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, trainers, users, or others can customize a pair of footwear or other foot-receiving device, e.g., based on one or more characteristics of the intended user and/or one or more characteristics of the ultimate intended end use of the product. Moreover, this customization can take place at any stage in the distribution chain, for example, at the construction factory by the manufacturer, by wholesalers or retailers (e.g., at a warehouse or a point of sale location, to replenish depleted stock, etc.), by consumers at the time and/or after the product has been purchased, etc. As one example, users may be allowed to freely select and/or change the position or orientation of at least a portion of an impact-attenuating element in a shoe based on their immediate needs and/or the characteristics they desire in the footwear or foot-receiving devices at a given time (e.g., by switching one impact-attenuating element position or orientation for another at a point of use location). As an even more specific example, the impact-attenuating characteristics of a piece of footwear may be selected by a user about to engage in a jogging exercise and then quickly changed later in time, when the user plays basketball or soccer with a group of friends.
  • [0070]
    As another example, shoe retailers or wholesalers may have a supply of impact-attenuating elements or portions thereof available to insert into footwear or foot-receiving devices at a point of sale location, e.g., based on the characteristics of the intended user, the intended use, and/or to replenish depleted stock, and the purchaser can select one or more impact-attenuating elements, e.g., based on their individual characteristics, intended use(s), personal preferences, etc. Impact-attenuating elements labeled with various different characteristics and/or footwear labeled with various settings (e.g., for different user characteristics (e.g., weight, etc.) or intended use characteristics (e.g., jogging, etc.) as described above) may be made available to the users.
  • [0071]
    When incorporated into an article of footwear, impact-attenuating elements of the type described above (or at least some portions thereof) may be enclosed within a polymer foam material or other material, such as a polyurethane or ethylvinylacetate material making up at least a portion of a midsole of the footwear article. Alternatively, if desired, portions of the impact-attenuating element(s) may be exposed through apertures in the foam material and/or through other portions of the sole member so as to be visible from an exterior of the footwear. As another alternative, if desired, the impact-attenuating element may be entirely enclosed by the foam material and/or other materials making up the midsole and/or other portions of the sole member.
  • D. CONCLUSION
  • [0072]
    While the invention has been described with respect to specific examples including presently preferred modes of carrying out the invention, those skilled in the art will appreciate that there are numerous variations and permutations of the above described systems and methods. Thus, the spirit and scope of the invention should be construed broadly as set forth in the appended claims.
Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4616431 *Oct 24, 1984Oct 14, 1986Puma-Sportschunfabriken Rudolf Dassler KgSport shoe sole, especially for running
US5560126 *Aug 17, 1994Oct 1, 1996Akeva, L.L.C.Athletic shoe with improved sole
US6523281 *Dec 31, 1998Feb 25, 2003Richard Lennihan, Jr.Footwear for heel strikers
US6722058 *Mar 15, 2002Apr 20, 2004Adidas International B.V.Shoe cartridge cushioning system
US6807753 *May 13, 2002Oct 26, 2004Adidas International B.V.Shoe with tunable cushioning system
US6920705 *Mar 18, 2003Jul 26, 2005Adidas International Marketing B.V.Shoe cartridge cushioning system
US7426792 *Aug 26, 2005Sep 23, 2008Nike, Inc.Footwear sole component with an insert
US20030208928 *May 13, 2002Nov 13, 2003Adidas International B.V.Shoe with tunable cushioning system
US20040194347 *Apr 26, 2004Oct 7, 2004Nike, Inc.Footwear sole with a stiffness adjustment mechanism
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7685742Jul 21, 2006Mar 30, 2010Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US7752775Jul 13, 2010Lyden Robert MFootwear with removable lasting board and cleats
US7770306Aug 10, 2010Lyden Robert MCustom article of footwear
US7877898Jul 21, 2006Feb 1, 2011Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US7950167 *May 31, 2011Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Adjustable footwear sole construction
US7950168 *May 31, 2011Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Adjustable footwear sole construction
US8051584 *Nov 8, 2011E.S. Originals, Inc.Shoe heel assembly and method
US8087187Jan 3, 2012Nike, Inc.Article of footwear with support assemblies
US8117769 *Sep 25, 2008Feb 21, 2012Munro & Company, Inc.Cushioned shoe construction including toe and heel plates
US8118289Feb 16, 2010Feb 21, 2012Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US8209883Jul 3, 2012Robert Michael LydenCustom article of footwear and method of making the same
US8225531Jul 24, 2012Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US8261469Sep 11, 2012Nike, Inc.Articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
US8510971Sep 20, 2010Aug 20, 2013Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US8557157Jul 1, 2009Oct 15, 2013Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Method of manufacturing an article of footwear having a direct attach sole component
US8893404Jan 19, 2012Nov 25, 2014Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US8943709Nov 6, 2008Feb 3, 2015Nike, Inc.Article of footwear with support columns having fluid-filled bladders
US9289027 *Jun 24, 2009Mar 22, 2016Marcel WadmanFootwear item
US20080016718 *Jul 21, 2006Jan 24, 2008Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US20080016719 *Jul 21, 2006Jan 24, 2008Nike, Inc.Articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
US20080016720 *Jul 21, 2006Jan 24, 2008Nike, Inc.Impact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
US20080289218 *Sep 14, 2007Nov 27, 2008Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Adjustable footwear sole construction
US20090241376 *Apr 1, 2008Oct 1, 2009Susan RobsonShoe heel assembly and method
US20100071232 *Sep 25, 2008Mar 25, 2010Steele George LCushioned shoe construction including toe and heel plates
US20100107444 *Nov 6, 2008May 6, 2010Aveni Michael AArticle of footwear with support columns having fluid-filled bladders
US20100107445 *Nov 6, 2008May 6, 2010Aveni Michael AArticle of footwear with support assemblies
US20100140854 *Feb 16, 2010Jun 10, 2010Nike, Inc.Impact-Attenuation Systems for Articles of Footwear and Other Foot-Receiving Devices
US20100307023 *Dec 9, 2010Nike, Inc.Impact-Attenuation Systems For Articles Of Footwear And Other Foot-Receiving Devices
US20110000101 *Jan 6, 2011Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Sole construction and related method of manufacture
US20110005099 *Sep 20, 2010Jan 13, 2011Nike, Inc.Impact-Attenuation Systems For Articles Of Footwear And Other Foot-Receiving Devices
US20110192051 *Jun 24, 2009Aug 11, 2011Marcel WadmanFootwear item
US20140137437 *Nov 20, 2012May 22, 2014Wolverine World Wide, Inc.Adjustable footwear sole with bladder
CN101505623BJul 16, 2007Nov 23, 2011耐克国际有限公司Artcles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
CN101505624BJun 22, 2007Dec 14, 2011耐克国际有限公司用于鞋类物品和其它脚部容纳装置的冲击减弱系统
EP2661976A1 *Jul 16, 2007Nov 13, 2013Nike International Ltd.Articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
WO2008013620A3 *Jun 22, 2007Jan 29, 2009Nike IncImpact-attenuation systems for articles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices
WO2008013689A2 *Jul 16, 2007Jan 31, 2008Nike, Inc.Artcles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
WO2008013689A3 *Jul 16, 2007May 29, 2008Michael A AveniArtcles of footwear and other foot-receiving devices including differently oriented impact-attenuation elements
Classifications
U.S. Classification36/35.00R, 36/28
International ClassificationA43B21/06, A43B13/18
Cooperative ClassificationA43B3/0042, A43B13/186, A43B13/188, A43B7/1465, A43B21/433
European ClassificationA43B7/14A30R, A43B3/00S10, A43B13/18A5, A43B21/433, A43B13/18F5
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 14, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: NIKE, INC., OREGON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SOKOLOWSKI, SUSAN L.;LOTTI, MARTN;SAVAGE, JANE;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017790/0874;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060213 TO 20060301