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Publication numberUS20070006489 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/177,489
Publication dateJan 11, 2007
Filing dateJul 11, 2005
Priority dateJul 11, 2005
Also published asCN101217894A, CN101217894B, EP1919318A1, WO2007008352A1
Publication number11177489, 177489, US 2007/0006489 A1, US 2007/006489 A1, US 20070006489 A1, US 20070006489A1, US 2007006489 A1, US 2007006489A1, US-A1-20070006489, US-A1-2007006489, US2007/0006489A1, US2007/006489A1, US20070006489 A1, US20070006489A1, US2007006489 A1, US2007006489A1
InventorsCharles Case, Albert Shum, Allan Schrock
Original AssigneeNike, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Control systems and foot-receiving device products containing such systems
US 20070006489 A1
Abstract
Foot-receiving devices, such as articles of footwear, include: (a) a sensing device that senses a characteristic of an interaction between a user's foot and a foot-receiving device; (b) a control system that receives output from the sensing device and controls a characteristic of the foot-receiving device based on this output; and (c) a monitoring system for detecting and/or storing data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the foot-receiving device. The monitoring system may receive input from the same sensing device used for providing data to the control system. The control system may alter the impact attenuation characteristics, the traction characteristics, the flexibility characteristics, the fit characteristics, or the like of the article of footwear. Methods of making and using such foot-receiving devices also are described.
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Claims(57)
1. A footwear system, comprising:
an article of footwear including an upper member and a sole member;
a sensing device engaged with the article of footwear, wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear and a surface when the article of footwear is in use;
a footwear control system that controls a characteristic of the article of footwear based on output from the sensing device; and
a distance monitoring system at least partially engaged with the article of footwear for detecting or storing data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear.
2. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control an amount of impact attenuation provided by the article of footwear.
3. A footwear system according to claim 2, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control the amount of impact attenuation by altering a stiffness of a midsole portion of the sole member.
4. A footwear system according to claim 2, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control the amount of impact attenuation at least in a heel portion of the article of footwear.
5. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control a degree of traction provided by the sole member.
6. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control a degree of flexibility in at least one portion of the article of footwear.
7. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control tightness of a securing system for the article of footwear.
8. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control at least one aspect of the manner in which the article of footwear fits a user's foot.
9. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control the characteristic of the article of footwear so as to reduce or eliminate pronation when the article of footwear is in use.
10. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the distance monitoring system utilizes output from the sensing device for determining the speed or distance information.
11-19. (canceled)
20. A footwear system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a device in communication with the footwear control system for providing user input to the footwear control system.
21-22. (canceled)
23. A footwear system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a device in communication with the distance monitoring system for providing the speed or distance information to a user.
24-25. (canceled)
26. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the sensing device includes a magnet and a sensor for detecting changes in a detected magnetic field as a result of the contact.
27. A footwear system according to claim 1, wherein the sensing device senses contact pressure or a pressure change induced by the contact.
28. A foot-receiving device system, comprising:
a foot-covering member;
a foot-supporting member engaged with the foot-covering member;
a sensing device engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of an interaction between a user's foot and the foot-receiving device when the foot-receiving device is in use;
a control system that controls a characteristic of the foot-supporting member based on output from the sensing device; and
a monitoring system at least partially engaged with the foot-receiving device for detecting or storing data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the foot-receiving device.
29. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control an amount of impact attenuation provided by the foot-supporting member.
30. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 29, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control the amount of impact attenuation by altering a stiffness of at least a portion of the foot-supporting member.
31. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 29, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control the amount of impact attenuation at least in a heel portion of the foot-receiving device.
32. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control a degree of traction provided by the ground-contacting member.
33. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control a degree of flexibility in at least one portion of the foot-receiving device.
34. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control tightness of a securing system.
35. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control at least one aspect of the manner in which at least a portion of the foot-receiving device system fits a user's foot.
36. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the control system is programmed and adapted to control the characteristic so as to reduce or eliminate pronation in a user's gait.
37. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the monitoring system utilizes output from the sensing device for determining the speed or distance information.
38-46. (canceled)
47. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, further comprising:
a device in communication with the control system for providing user input to the control system.
48-49. (canceled)
50. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, further comprising:
a device in communication with the monitoring system for providing the speed or distance information to a user.
51-52. (canceled)
53. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the sensing device includes a magnet and a sensor for detecting changes in a detected magnetic field as a result of the interaction.
54. A foot-receiving device system according to claim 28, wherein the sensing device senses contact pressure or a pressure change induced by the interaction.
55. A method of providing a footwear system, comprising:
engaging a sensing device with an article of footwear, wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear and a surface when the article of footwear is in use;
providing a footwear control system programmed and adapted to receive an output from the sensing device and to control a characteristic of the article of footwear based on the output from the sensing device; and
providing a distance monitoring system at least partially engaged with the article of footwear, wherein the distance monitoring system is programmed and adapted to detect or store data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear.
56. A method according to claim 55, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control an amount of impact attenuation provided by the article of footwear.
57. A method according to claim 56, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control a stiffness of a midsole portion of the sole member.
58-61. (canceled)
62. A method according to claim 55, wherein the footwear control system is programmed and adapted to control at least one aspect of the manner in which the article of footwear fits a user's foot.
63. (canceled)
64. A method according to claim 55, wherein the distance monitoring system is programmed and adapted to receive an output from the sensing device and to utilize the received output for determining the speed or distance information.
65-76. (canceled)
77. A method according to claim 55, further comprising:
providing a device in communication with the distance monitoring system, wherein the device is programmed and adapted to provide the speed or distance information to a user.
78-79. (canceled)
80. A method according to claim 55, wherein the sensing device includes a magnet and a sensor for detecting changes in a detected magnetic field as a result of the contact.
81. A footwear system according to claim 55, wherein the sensing device senses contact pressure or a pressure change induced by the contact.
82. A method of using a footwear system, comprising:
sensing contact between an article of footwear and a surface as the article of footwear is used, wherein the contact is sensed using a sensing device at least partially engaged with the article of footwear;
controlling a characteristic of the article of footwear based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device; and
determining user speed or distance information based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device.
83. A method according to claim 82, wherein the controlling includes controlling an amount of impact attenuation provided by the article of footwear.
84. A method according to claim 83, wherein the controlling includes controlling the amount of impact attenuation by altering a stiffness of a midsole portion of the article of footwear.
85-88. (canceled)
89. A method according to claim 82, wherein the controlling includes controlling at least one aspect of the manner in which the article of footwear fits a user's foot.
90-94. (canceled)
95. A method according to claim 82, further comprising:
providing speed or distance information to the user.
96. A method according to claim 95, wherein the speed or distance information is provided to the user via a device separate from the article of footwear.
97-98. (canceled)
99. A method according to claim 82, wherein the sensing includes detecting changes in at least one magnetic characteristic induced by the contact.
100. A method according to claim 82, wherein the sensing includes detecting a contact pressure or a pressure change induced by the contact.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to articles of footwear or other foot-receiving devices that include monitoring and/or control systems for automatically controlling a characteristic of the article of footwear, such as a performance characteristic of the article of footwear, as well as speed and/or distance monitoring systems, e.g., of the pedometer type.

BACKGROUND

Conventional articles of footwear have included two primary elements, namely an upper member and a sole structure. The upper member provides a covering for the foot that 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 contact surface (the terms “contact surface” or “surface,” as used herein, include any foot or footwear contact surface, including but not limited to: grass, dirt, snow, ice, tile, flooring, carpeting, synthetic grass, asphalt, cement, concrete, clay, court surfaces, and the like). In addition to attenuating ground reaction forces, the sole structure may provide traction and help control foot motion, such as pronation. Accordingly, the upper member and the sole structure operate cooperatively to provide a comfortable structure that is suited for a variety of ambulatory activities, such as walking and running.

The sole member of athletic footwear, in at least some instances, will exhibit a layered configuration that includes a comfort-enhancing insole, a resilient midsole (e.g., formed, at least in part, from a polymer foam material), and a ground-contacting outsole that provides both abrasion-resistance and traction. The midsole, in at least some instances, will be the primary sole structure element that attenuates ground reaction forces and controls foot motion. Suitable polymer foam materials for at least portions of the midsole include ethylvinylacetate (“EVA”) or polyurethane (“PU”) 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. The upper member and sole structure in conventional footwear products may be joined to one another in various different ways, such as using cements or adhesives, stitching or sewing, mechanical connectors, fusing techniques, or the like.

SUMMARY

The following presents a general summary of aspects of this 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.

Aspects of this invention relate to foot-receiving devices, such as articles of footwear (e.g., athletic footwear, etc.), that include a foot-covering member (such as an upper member) and a foot-supporting member (such as a sole member, optionally including insole, midsole, and/or outsole portions) engaged with the foot-covering member. The foot-receiving device further may include: (a) a sensing device engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the sensing device is positioned and/or adapted to sense at least one characteristic of an interaction between a user's foot and the foot-receiving device when the foot-receiving device is in use; (b) a control system that receives output from the sensing device and controls at least one characteristic of the foot-receiving device (such as a characteristic of the foot-supporting member) based (at least in part) on this output; and (c) a monitoring system for detecting and/or storing data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the foot-receiving device. Optionally, if desired, the monitoring system may receive input from the same sensing device used for providing data to the control system. The control system may alter, for example, the impact attenuation characteristics, the traction characteristics, the flexibility characteristics, the fit characteristics, or the like of the article of footwear. Such foot-receiving systems further may include one or more devices, such as remote or peripheral devices, e.g., for receiving user input (e.g., relating to user settings or desired features for the settable or controllable characteristics, etc.), for providing information to the user (e.g., speed or distance information, etc.), and the like.

Further aspects of this invention relate to methods for making footwear or other foot-receiving device systems that include control systems and/or monitoring systems, e.g., of the types described above. Such methods may include, for example: (a) engaging a sensing device with an article of footwear or foot-receiving device (e.g., during footwear manufacturing, at retail or use locations, etc.), wherein the sensing device is positioned and/or adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear or foot-receiving device and a contact surface when the article of footwear is in use; (b) providing a control system programmed and adapted to receive an output from the sensing device and to control a characteristic of the article of footwear or foot-receiving device based on the output from the sensing device; and (c) providing a distance monitoring system at least partially engaged with the article of footwear or foot-receiving device, wherein the distance monitoring system is programmed and adapted to detect and/or store data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear or foot-receiving device. Optionally, if desired, the distance monitoring system may receive input data from the same sensing device that provides input data used by the control system (e.g., if the sensing device is capable of detecting each step down or step up event of the user's foot, etc.).

Still additional aspects of this invention relate to example methods for using footwear or foot-receiving device systems of the types described above. Such methods may include: (a) sensing contact or other interaction between an article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) and a contact surface during use, wherein the contact or interaction is sensed using a sensing device at least partially engaged with the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device); (b) controlling a characteristic of the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device; and (c) determining user speed or distance information based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device.

Various example methods in accordance with these aspects of the invention further may include receiving user input that is used, at least in part, in setting and/or controlling the characteristic of the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device), e.g., to match or set user preferences, etc. The same or a different device, optionally on board, attached to, or remote from the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device), also may be included to provide speed and/or distance information or other information to a user or others.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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:

FIG. 1 illustrates an overview of an example system according to the invention and/or an example environment in which aspects of the invention may be used or practiced;

FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic diagram of an example system that may be used in accordance with examples of the invention;

FIGS. 3A through 3C illustrate an example of an article of footwear including an active impact-attenuation control system as a control system in accordance with examples of the invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates an example graph illustrating how output from a sensing device, such as the sensing device of FIGS. 3A through 3C, may be used to provide pedometer based speed and/or distance information;

FIG. 5 illustrates an example of an article of footwear including a control system with user input and display features in accordance with examples of the invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates an example of a sole member for an article of footwear that includes pronation and/or supination reduction or elimination features as a control system in accordance with examples of the invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates an example of an article of footwear including a traction control system as a control system in accordance with examples of the invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates an example of an article of footwear including a footwear flexibility control system as a control system in accordance with examples of the invention; and

FIG. 9 illustrates an example of an article of footwear including a footwear fit or securing system tightness control system as a control system in accordance with examples of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

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 aspects of 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,” “above,” “below,” “under,” “over,” 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 and/or a typical orientation during use. 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.

To assist the reader, this specification is broken into various subsections, as follows: Terms; General Description of Foot-Receiving Device Systems and Methods of Making and Using Them According to the Invention; and Specific Examples of the Invention.

A. Terms

The following terms are used in this specification, and unless otherwise noted or clear from the context, these terms have the meanings provided below.

“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.

“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.).

“Foot-covering members” include one or more portions of a foot-receiving device that extend at least partially over and/or at least partially cover at least some portion of the wearer's foot, e.g., so as to assist in holding the foot-receiving device on and/or in place with respect to the wearer's foot. “Foot-covering members” include, but are not limited to, upper members of the type provided in some conventional footwear products.

“Foot-supporting members” include one or more portions of a foot-receiving device that extend at least partially beneath at least some portion of the wearer's foot, e.g., so as to assist in supporting the foot and/or attenuating the reaction forces to which the wearer's foot would be exposed, for example, when stepping down in the foot-receiving device. “Foot-supporting members” include, but are not limited to, sole members of the type provided in some conventional footwear products. Such sole members may include conventional outsole, midsole, and/or insole members.

“Ground-contacting elements” or “members” include at least some portions of a foot-receiving device structure that contact the ground or any other surface in use, and/or at least some portions of a foot-receiving device structure that engage another element or structure in use. Such “ground-contacting elements” may include, for example, but are not limited to, outsole elements provided in some conventional footwear products. “Ground-contacting elements” in at least some example structures may be made of suitable and conventional materials to provide long wear, traction, and protect the foot and/or to prevent the remainder of the foot-receiving device structure from wear effects, e.g., when contacting the ground or other surface in use.

B. General Description of Foot-Receiving Device Systems and Methods of Making and Using Them According to the Invention

Some aspects of the present invention relate generally to footwear systems and other foot-receiving device systems. As shown in FIG. 1, which generally illustrates an example of the invention and an example environment in which the invention may be used, one or more individual articles of footwear 100 (such as athletic footwear or other foot-receiving devices) may be equipped with one or more sensing devices 102, such as performance or ground interaction measuring devices. The sensing devices 102 may be programmed and adapted to sense or collect information relating to at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear 100 and the contact surface (e.g., the ground, the floor, etc.) when the article of footwear is used (e.g., the impact force on the contact surface during an athletic event, exercise, or other performance, etc.). Output from the sensing device 102 may be provided to a control system 104, which optionally may include a microprocessor mounted in or on the article of footwear 100, and the control system 104 then can be used to control or change at least one characteristic of the article of footwear 100 (optionally, automatically, without the need for further user input). While any desired number or type(s) of characteristics of the article of footwear 100 may be changed or controlled based on output from the sensing device 102, more specific examples of the types of changes or controls include: change or control in an amount of impact-attenuation provided by the article of footwear 100, e.g., by the sole member; change or control of foot impact characteristics to induce a pronation, supination, or other gait correction configuration; change or control in the tightness of the footwear securing system (e.g., in laces, straps, buckles, etc.); change or control in traction characteristics; change or control in foot fit characteristics; change or control in footwear flexibility characteristics; etc.

Additionally, as shown in the example of FIG. 1, as the user 106 moves, the sensing device 102 also may be capable of providing (and programmed and adapted to provide) information indicating each time the user steps down in the article of footwear 100. This step information may be used by systems and methods in accordance with at least some examples of this invention to provide distance monitoring systems, e.g., systems for detecting and/or storing speed and/or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear 100. In other words, the sensed interaction between the article of footwear 100 and the contact surface, which is used to provide footwear characteristic control information in the example system described above, also may be used to provide speed and/or distance information (e.g., speed and/or distance information of the pedometer type). If desired, this speed and/or distance data may be stored in a memory (e.g., a memory included on board the article of footwear 100, a memory provided with a peripheral device, etc.), e.g., for later use and/or analysis, and/or it may be transmitted or otherwise made available to the user 106 or others, e.g., via wireless transmission devices 108 optionally included as part of the control system 104 or the article of footwear 100. Optionally, if desired, the sensing device 102, the control system 104, and/or the article of footwear 100 may include one or more microprocessors or other data processing capability to enable processing of collected data before transmitting the data or other information to the user 106 or others.

The data or desired information may be conveyed to the user 106 or others in any desired manner without departing from the invention, for example, to a wireless receiver 110 provided with a display device 112. Optionally, if desired, the display device 112 may be equipped with one or more microprocessors to enable initial processing of the raw data sent by the sensing device 102, control system 104, and/or the article of footwear 100, to enable further processing of data and/or information sent, etc. Any type of information may be presented to the user 106 (or others) via display device 112, such as speed and/or distance information, time information, GPS information, footwear setting information, etc. As more specific examples, the display device 112 may include various electronic devices, such as portable, user carried devices, e.g., a watch, a PDA type device, a cellular telephone, an MP3 or other audio player, a head worn display device, a pager type device, headphones or earphones, etc. Any type of “display device” also may be provided, such as audio devices, video devices, audio/video devices, alpha-numeric displays, etc.

If desired, the display device 112 (for another device) also may be programmed and adapted to receive user input, e.g., control or setting information for the control system 104, etc. In this example configuration, the display device 112 may be equipped with a transmitter or other output device that sends data to a receiver or other input device located in or on the article of footwear. If desired, devices 108 and 110 may be capable of performing both transmission and reception functions in at least some examples of this invention.

In light of this general example and general description of an example environment of use, various example aspects of the invention will be described in more detail below, including various example features relating to example structural components of foot-receiving device systems in accordance with the invention; manners of making such systems; and manners of using such systems.

1. Example Foot-Receiving Device Systems According to the Invention

In general, aspects of this invention relate to foot-receiving device systems, such as articles of footwear (e.g., athletic footwear, etc.), that include a foot-covering member (such as an upper member) and a foot-supporting member (such as a sole member, optionally including an insole, a midsole, and/or an outsole portion) engaged with the foot-covering member. The foot-receiving device system further may include a sensing device engaged with at least one of the foot-covering member or the foot-supporting member, wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of an interaction between a user's foot and the foot-receiving device when the foot-receiving device is in use (e.g., interactions between the foot-receiving device and its contact surface and/or a user's foot during a step). The sensing device may send its output to a control system, and the control system then may be used to control at least one characteristic of the foot-receiving device (such as the foot-supporting member) based on output from the sensing device. The foot-receiving device system also may be equipped with a monitoring system for detecting and/or storing data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the foot-receiving device system. Optionally, if desired, this monitoring system may receive input from the same sensing device used for providing data to the control system.

The control system may be used to control a wide variety of different features or characteristics of the foot-receiving device system. For example, the control system may be programmed and adapted to: (a) control an amount of impact attenuation provided by the foot-supporting member (e.g., by altering a stiffness of at least a portion of the foot-supporting member, by changing the impact attenuation at least in a heel portion of the foot-receiving device, etc.); (b) control the amount of impact attenuation in one or more portions of the foot-receiving device so as to reduce or eliminate pronation and/or supination when the foot-receiving device is in use; (c) control a degree of traction provided, e.g., by the ground-contacting member of the foot-receiving device (e.g., by an outsole member); (d) control a degree of flexibility in at least one portion of the foot-receiving device (e.g., in the arch, in the upper member, in the toe portion, etc.); (e) control at least one aspect of the manner in which the foot-receiving device fits a user's foot (e.g., by controlling a degree of tension applied to a securing system for the foot-receiving device; by controlling a fit of the foot-covering member, by controlling a fit of the foot-supporting member, etc.); and the like. Optionally, if desired, the control system may respond to the sensing device output and control the characteristics or features of the foot-receiving device in an automatic or “smart” manner (e.g., without the need for user input to change the settings, automatically, between steps, etc.).

Various peripheral devices also may be associated with foot-receiving device systems in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. For example, a peripheral device may be provided that is in communication with the control system for providing user input to the control system (e.g., to allow at least partial user control over the control system, to allow remote user control, to allow user input regarding general settings, preferences, or ranges, etc.). This same peripheral device or a different device also may be used to provide information to the user, such as information as to the status or settings of the control system; information gathered, detected, or produced by the monitoring system (e.g., speed or distance information); map, track, or route warning or other information; and/or any other desired audio, video, alphanumeric, or other information. Optionally, the peripheral device(s) will be sized, shaped, and weighted so as to be portable and easily carriable by a user of the foot-receiving device system (e.g., to enable easy carrying during a performance, athletic event, exercise routine; to enable the device to be included in or attached to the foot-receiving device, the user, the user's clothing, etc.; etc.).

The sensing device that supplies signals to the control system and/or the monitoring system may be of any suitable or desired form without departing from the invention, including, for example, pressure sensors, force transducers, Hall effect sensor systems, strain gauges, piezoelectric elements, load cells, proximity sensors, optical sensors, accelerometers, capacitance sensors, inductance sensors, ultrasonic transducer and receiver systems, radio frequency transmitter and receiver systems, magneto-resistive elements, etc.

As noted above, at least one more specific aspect of the invention relates to footwear systems that include footwear control systems and speed and/or distance monitoring systems. Some more specific examples of footwear systems in accordance with these examples of the invention may include: (a) an article of footwear including an upper member and a sole member; (b) a sensing device engaged with the article of footwear, wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear and a contact surface when the article of footwear is in use; (c) a footwear control system that controls a characteristic of the article of footwear based on output from the sensing device; and (d) a speed and/or distance monitoring system at least partially engaged with the article of footwear for detecting or storing data indicating speed and/or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear. Optionally, if desired, the speed and/or distance monitoring system may use input from the sensing device mentioned above.

2. Example Methods of Making Foot-Receiving Device Systems According to Examples of the Invention

Further aspects of this invention relate to methods for providing footwear and/or other foot-receiving device systems that include control systems and speed and/or distance monitoring systems, e.g., of the types described above. Such methods may include: (a) engaging a sensing device with an article of footwear or other foot-receiving device (e.g., during footwear manufacturing, at retail or use locations, etc.), wherein the sensing device is adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device and a contact surface or a user's foot when the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device is in use; (b) providing a control system programmed and adapted to receive an output from the sensing device and to control a characteristic of the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device based on the output from the sensing device; and (c) providing a speed and/or distance monitoring system at least partially engaged with the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device, wherein the speed and/or distance monitoring system is programmed and adapted to detect or store data indicating speed or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device. Optionally, if desired, the speed and/or distance monitoring system may receive data from the sane sensing device that provides output used by the control system. In various example methods in accordance with this invention, the control system and/or the monitoring system may be of the types described above and/or may be programmed and adapted to control and/or perform the various functions described above.

Additionally, methods in accordance with at least some examples of this invention further may include providing a peripheral device. The peripheral device may perform various functions, including, for example: providing user input to the control system; providing information to the user or others (such as information as to the status or settings of the control system; information gathered, detected, or produced by the monitoring system (e.g., speed or distance information); warning information; and/or any other desired audio, video, alphanumeric, or other information); etc. Optionally, the peripheral device(s) will be sized, shaped, and weighted so as to be portable and easily carriable by a user of the foot-receiving device (e.g., to enable easy carrying during a performance, athletic event, exercise routine; to be mounted on an article of footwear, an article of clothing, or a piece of athletic equipment; etc.).

3. Example Methods of Using Foot-Receiving Device Systems According to Examples of the Invention

Still additional method aspects according to the invention include methods for using footwear or other foot-receiving device systems that include control systems and speed and/or distance monitoring systems, e.g., of the types described above. Such methods may include: (a) sensing contact between an article of footwear or other foot-receiving device and a contact surface or a user's foot as the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device is used, wherein the contact is sensed using a sensing device at least partially engaged with the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device; (b) controlling a characteristic of the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device; and (c) determining user speed or distance information based, at least in part, on output from the sensing device. In various example methods in accordance with these aspects of the invention, the control system and/or the speed and/or distance monitoring system may be of the types described above and/or may be programmed and adapted to control and/or perform the various functions described above.

Various example methods in accordance with these aspects of the invention further may include receiving user input that is used, at least in part, in controlling the characteristic(s) of the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device. Such user input may be entered, for example, through a footwear mounted input system, through a device separate and remote from the article of footwear, etc. The same or a different peripheral device also may be included to provide speed and/or distance information to a user of the article of footwear or other foot-receiving device (or to others). The devices included in these methods may be portable so as to be readily carried by the user, e.g., during use of the article of footwear, as part of the article of footwear, clipped to a belt or other portion of the user's clothing, worn on a user's arm or leg, etc.

Specific examples of structures according to examples of the invention are described in more detail below. The reader should understand that these specific examples and structures are set forth merely to illustrate the invention, and they should not be construed as limiting the invention.

C. Specific Examples of the Invention

The various figures in this application illustrate examples of footwear and other foot-receiving device products 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.

As described above, FIG. 1 generally illustrates an example of the invention and an example environment of use in which articles of footwear 100 (such as athletic footwear) or other foot-receiving devices are equipped with sensing devices 102, control systems 104, and speed and/or distance monitoring devices. The sensing devices 102 may include detectors or sensing devices for sensing and/or collecting information during a performance (e.g., during exercise, an athletic event, or other performance activity). The sensing devices 102, control systems 104, and/or the articles of footwear 100 further may include processing capabilities and/or transmission/reception capabilities to provide information to the footwear user 106 (or others) and/or to receive information from the footwear user 106 (or others). The desired information may be presented to the user 106 (or others) and/or input may be received from the user 106 (or others) via a communication device 112, such as a watch, a PDA type device, a cellular telephone, an MP3 or other audio player, a head worn display device, a pager type device, RF device, infrared transmission, etc. Alternatively or additionally, if desired, the sensed information (based on output generated by sensing device 102) may be used to automatically change or control characteristics or features of the footwear 100 itself (e.g., to control the impact attenuation characteristics of the footwear, etc.) or to change or control other devices, with or without providing speed, distance, and/or other information to a user 106 (or others).

FIG. 2 schematically illustrates example elements and an example arrangement or system 200 that may be included as part of an overall footwear or foot-receiving device system that includes control and/or distance monitoring capabilities of the type generally described in conjunction with FIG. 1. The system 200 of this example includes a monitoring element 202 that includes a sensing device 204 adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact or interaction between an article of footwear and a contact surface or a user's foot when the article of footwear is in use. The monitoring element 202 in this example structure 200 may be mounted in and/or constructed as part of the article of footwear, e.g., in or as part of the sole member of an article of footwear, such as in the midsole. Optionally, if desired, the sensing device 204 may be separate from the monitoring element 202, and optionally, the sensing device 204 may send signals to the monitoring element 202 (e.g., via wired or wireless connections, etc.).

Data relating to the contact or interaction between the article of footwear and the contact surface or the user's foot may be measured by sensing device 204 and transferred to a microprocessor 206 and/or stored in memory 208. Based on the measured data from the sensing device 204, the microprocessor 206 may control one or more devices 210, e.g., included as part of the article of footwear to control a characteristic of the article of footwear. As a more concrete example, and as will be explained in more detail below, the sensing device 204 may sense the amount of compression of the article of footwear's midsole member. Based on the sensed degree of midsole compression, the microprocessor 206 may control a device 210 to increase or decrease the stiffness of at least a portion of the sole member. In this manner, the monitoring element 202 can be used to actively and/or automatically control the impact attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear without the need for additional user input. Various examples of this type of impact attenuation control and other controlled devices 210 will be described in more detail below. Of course, if desired, the controlled device 210 may be included as part of the monitoring element 202 without departing from this invention.

In addition to providing information regarding the degree of compression of the midsole or other aspects of the interaction between a user's foot and an article of footwear, the sensing device 204 of this example system 200 also may be capable of sensing each of the user's steps (e.g., the midsole will compress somewhat with each step). If desired, and as will be explained in more detail below, detection of information corresponding to each user's step may be used by systems and methods according to at least some examples of this invention to collect pedometer type speed and/or distance information relating to use of the article of footwear. This speed and/or distance information may be stored in memory 208, e.g., for real time or later analysis, display, processing, review, etc. Optionally, if desired, the speed and/or distance information may be transmitted to another device 212, e.g., a peripheral display device, in any desired manner, e.g., via wired or wireless connections (a wireless communication system is illustrated in the example of FIG. 2), to enable display of speed and/or distance information to the user in real time, as the exercise or event continues, etc. As described above, this device 212 may be any type of display device, such as an audio display device, a video display device, an alphanumeric display device, or the like. More specific examples of possible devices 212 for this purpose include: a watch or other arm worn display device, a PDA type device, a cellular telephone, an MP3 or other audio player, a head worn display device, a pager type device, etc.

As further shown in FIG. 2, the device 212 also may include a user input system for receiving a user's input, e.g., and directing it to the monitoring system 202. Of course, the user input system may be used for any purpose without departing from this invention, for example: for requesting information from the monitoring element 202 (such as pedometer type speed and/or distance information, step count information, other available information); for setting parameters used in the control system 200 (e.g., setting general impact attenuation characteristics, etc.); for communicating with other devices; for interacting with other features of the device 212 (e.g., requesting time, altitude, or GPS information; setting time, display or other features of device 212, etc.); and the like. The input system may include any type of input devices, such as buttons, keys, switches, voice recognition/input, digitizer/stylus input, etc.

A wide variety of characteristics of an article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) may be controlled by systems and methods in accordance with this invention, and additionally, a wide variety of different types of sensing devices also may be used (e.g., magnetic sensors, Hall effect sensors, light or other radiation sensors, pressure sensors, piezoelectric sensors, accelerometers, gyro-sensors, optical sensors, etc.). One more specific example relates to active/automatic control of impact-attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear based on a sensed degree of compression of the midsole and/or other portions of the article of footwear. For example, when a midsole member compresses a substantial amount as sensed by a sensing device 204, the monitoring element 202 in accordance with at least some examples of the invention may sense this large amount of compression and automatically activate a device so as to increase stiffness characteristics of at least some portion of the article of footwear. On the other hand, when the sensed midsole member compression is determined to be rather slight, e.g., optionally, despite rather firm contact with the contact surface or the user's foot, the monitoring element 202 in accordance with at least some examples of the invention may sense this fact and automatically activate a device so as to decrease stiffness characteristics of at least some portion of the article of footwear. Independent user input may be provided, e.g., to set broad parameters for the desired amount of impact attenuation (e.g., a user's preference for a firm midsole v. a user's preference for a soft midsole, etc.), to override the automatically set impact attenuation levels, etc.

Various detector types, systems, and methods may be used for providing automatic impact attenuation control without departing from this invention. For example, known systems like those described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,430,843, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0009913, and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0177531 may be used to actively and/or dynamically control the impact attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear in accordance with at least some examples of this invention (U.S. Pat. No. 6,430,843, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0009913, and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0177531 each are entirely incorporated herein by reference).

FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C illustrate more specific examples of arrangements, elements, and components that may be included in monitoring and/or control systems in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. As shown in these figures, a sole member 300 of an article of footwear 350 (or other foot-receiving device) includes a midsole member 302 and an outsole member 304. In this example sole structure 300, the monitoring and/or control system and the sensing device(s) associated therewith are provided in an area defined between the midsole member 302 and the outsole member 304. More specifically, in this example structure, a lower support plate 306 and an upper support plate 308 are provided (optionally, integrally formed with the outsole member 304 and the midsole member 302, respectively), and portions of the monitoring and control system are provided between these plates 306 and 308. These optional upper and lower support plates 308 and 306, respectively, may be included, for example, to help maintain at least some portions of the monitoring and/or control system in a particular predetermined orientation. If desired, at least some portions of the monitoring and/or control system may be disposed within a cavity 310 defined in the midsole member 302. The midsole 302 may be made of conventional materials and/or in conventional manners, as are known and used in the art.

The monitoring and/or control system in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may include an actuation system 314 driven based on output from a sensing device (described in more detail below). The actuation system 314 may include a driver 316 (e.g., a motor) and an adjustable element 318. The monitoring and/or control system further may include a sensor 320, e.g., a proximity sensor, a magnetic field sensor, a Hall Effect sensor, an accelerometer, etc., a magnet 322, and associated electrical circuitry. In general, if desired, the monitoring and/or control system may take on the general structure and/or form illustrated and described in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0177531.

In the example structure illustrated in FIGS. 3A through 3C, the sensor 320 is located below the adjustable element 318, and the magnet 322 is vertically spaced from the sensor 320 and located above the adjustable element 318. Any desired type of magnet 322 may be used without departing from this invention, such as a neodymium iron bore type magnet or other known or conventional magnets (e.g., permanent magnets). The actual positioning and/or spacing of the sensor 320 with respect to the magnet 322 may vary widely, e.g., to suit a particular application, for example, for measuring and/or modifying the compressibility of the sole member 300 (e.g., the midsole member 302). In this illustrated example structure 300, the sensor 320 and the magnet 322 are located at positions that generally correspond to areas where maximum compression occurs in the rearfoot portion of an article of footwear 350 (e.g., under the user's calcaneous or heel). In such structures, the sensor 320 and magnet 322 may be centered generally between a lateral side and a medial side of the sole member 300 and may be between about 25 mm and about 45 mm forward of a posterior aspect of the user's foot.

If desired, the overall monitoring and/or control system, or at least portions of it, may be encased in a sealed, waterproof enclosure. The actuation system 314 may include a driver 316. More specifically, in at least some example arrangements, the driver 316 may include a motor 324 and a transmission element 326. The adjustable element 318, which may be used to control the degree of stiffness or “give” in the midsole member 302, may include a limiter 328, an expansion element 330, and a stop member 332. In the particularly illustrated example, the driver 316 includes a lead screw drive, made up of the bi-directional electric motor 324 and a threaded rod that forms the transmission element 326. If desired, in at least some examples of this invention, the motor 324 may be a radio-controlled servomotor of the type used in model airplanes or other similar small electronic objects. The threaded rod 326 may be constructed from any desired material, such as steel, stainless steel, etc.

The motor 324 may be mechanically coupled to the transmission element 326 to drive the transmission element 326 in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. The transmission element 326 may be designed to threadedly engage the limiter 328 and transversely position the limiter 328 relative to the expansion element 330 (see the double headed arrow in FIG. 3B). In this illustrated example structure 300, because the limiter 328 is threadedly engaged with the transmission element 326, it is prevented from rotation relative to the motor 324 and the article of footwear, and therefore, no power is required to maintain the limiter's 328 position once the position is set in this example structure 300. For example, the actuation system 314 may contain sufficient friction and a sufficiently fine thread may be provided on the transmission element 326 to prevent inadvertent rotation of the transmission element 326 during or in response to a heel strike or other step down event. Of course, other arrangements of the various sensor and control elements are possible without departing from this invention. As a more specific example, the driver 316 may include any type of rotary or linear actuator, a gear train, a linkage, or combinations thereof, without departing from this invention.

In the illustrated example structure 300, the expansion element 330 constitutes a generally cylindrical element with an elongated circular or generally elliptically-shaped cross-section. While they may be, the arcuate ends of the expansion element 330 are not necessarily semi-circular in shape. The radius of the arcuate ends may be selected so as to suit a particular application, e.g., to provide a predetermined amount of flex, etc. Moreover, the sizes of these ends may be varied, e.g., to control the amount of longitudinal expansion of the expansion element 330 when under a compressive vertical load, etc. In general, the larger the radius or size of the end portions, greater longitudinal expansion is possible under vertical compression loading. The expansion element 330 may be constructed so as to have a solid outer wall, and optionally, if desired, a compressible core of foam or other resilient material. The size, shape, and materials used in the expansion element 330 may be freely selected, e.g., to suit a particular application. As more specific examples, the expansion element 330 may be constructed from plastic or polymeric materials, such as thermoplastic materials like DESMOPAN® (a thermoplastic polyurethane material available from Bayer AG of Leverkusen, Germany), PEBAX® (a polyether-block co-polyamide polymer available from Atofina Corp. of Puteaux, France), etc. In at least some examples, the expansion element 330 or at least its outer wall may be made as a unitary, one-piece member, e.g., by injection molding or by other suitable or desired methods, including conventional methods known in the art.

If desired, the transmission element 326 may extend through the expansion element 330 and connect to stop member 332. The stop member 332 may be used to prevent movement of the expansion element 330 in a direction away from the limiter 328. Alternatively, if desired, the functions of the stop member 332 may be performed by a rear wall of the cavity 310 or other portion of the sole structure, and the stop member 332 may be omitted, without departing from this invention. A wide variety of other structural modifications also may be provided within the sole structure without departing from this invention.

The general operation of the adjustable element 318 is described with respect to an application where the monitoring and/or control system is used to modify the impact-attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear 350 in response to a measured parameter, for example, in response to measured compression of the midsole member 302. The expansion element 330 compresses when acted on by a vertical force (e.g., a step, landing a jump, etc). In response to the compression, the expansion element 330 expands in the horizontal direction. The limiter 328 controls/limits the amount of movement or horizontal expansion that the expansion element 330 can experience. When the horizontal movement is limited, the vertical movement will be limited as well, thereby enabling control over the firmness or feel of the midsole member by controlling the location of limiter 328. Therefore, by controlling the position of limiter 328, the overall impact attenuation characteristics of the article of footwear 350 may be controlled.

The monitoring and/or control system may be used to actively and/or automatically control the amount of midsole member 302 compression a user creates when stepping down in the article of footwear 350, landing a jump, etc. As an example, when a user wearing an article of footwear 350 like that illustrated in FIGS. 3A through 3C engages a contact surface during a stride or other activity, vertical force is applied to the expansion element 330 via the sole member 300 and the user's foot. This force causes the expansion element 330 to expand during ground contact until the expansion element 330 contacts the limiter 328, thereby controlling the amount of compression experienced in the sole member 300.

During compression, the sensing device 320 included as part of the monitoring and/or control system in this example system measures field strength of the magnet 322. In this illustrated example structure, the sensing device 320 is provided proximate the bottom of the midsole member 302 and the magnet 322 is disposed proximate the top of the midsole member 302 with the expansion element 330 therebetween. The magnetic field strength detected by the sensing device 320 changes as the magnet 322 moves closer to the sensing device 320, e.g., as the midsole member 302 is compressed, for example, during a step, when landing a jump, etc. The amount of change or other variations in the sensed magnetic field may correspond to the force of the step (e.g., proportionally, etc.). A microprocessor 334 included as part of the monitoring and/or control system may be programmed and adapted such that this magnetic field strength can be converted to a distance (e.g., a midsole member 302 compression distance). The change in distance (and thus the change in measured magnetic field strength) indicates the extent to which the midsole member 302 has compressed. The microprocessor 334 of the monitoring and/or control system then may output a signal to the actuation system 314 based on the change in distance or compression measurement, to thereby automatically, and in real time, change the impact-attenuation characteristics of the article of footwear 350 (e.g., to modify the hardness or compressibility of the midsole member 302 based on the signal received from the monitoring and/or control system). Changes to the impact-attenuation characteristics may be made on the fly, if desired, between steps, automatically, while the event or performance continues (e.g., high measured midsole compression levels or forces may induce a “hardening” of the midsole and/or low measured midsole compression levels or forces may induce a “softening” of the midsole).

Of course, other structures for changing the hardness or compressibility of the midsole member 302 may be used without departing from the invention. More specific examples include air or fluid filled bladders (e.g., where changes in pressure or volume change hardness or compressibility), piston type systems, hydraulic type systems, pneumatic type systems, etc. The impact attenuation characteristics of the article of footwear also may be changed at any location in the article of footwear without departing from the invention, such as at one or more of the medial, lateral, or mid-portions of the foot, at the frontfoot, arch, midfoot, or rearfoot portions, etc.

Detection of compression of the midsole member 302 also may be used in systems and methods in accordance with at least some examples of this invention as a step count indicator, thereby allowing the monitoring and/or control system to also provide pedometer based and/or other speed and/or distance information. This data may be stored in memory 336, displayed on the article of footwear, and/or otherwise provided to a user, e.g., via a wired or wireless connection (a general transmission/receiver device 338 is illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B). Any type of speed and/or distance type information may be provided and/or any type of data transmission system may be used without departing from this invention, including, for example, using algorithms and/or systems of the types described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,724,265, 5,955,667, 6,018,705, 6,052,654, 6,876,947 and 6,882,955, which patents each are entirely incorporated herein by reference.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example of output that may be generated by a sensing device (e.g., sensor 320) and its use for both impact attenuation control and providing pedometer based speed and/or distance information. As shown in FIG. 4 and described above, a sensing device 320 (e.g., a Hall sensor or other magnetic sensor) may generate an output indicating a measured magnetic field strength of magnet 322. Due to midsole compression (e.g., during a step, landing a jump, etc.), the magnitude of the measured magnetic field strength may change over time (e.g., through the course of a step, etc.). If the measured peak magnetic field strength during a step cycle falls below a predetermined lower threshold 380, the impact attenuation characteristics of the article of footwear 350 may be considered as too stiff (e.g., the midsole does not provide adequate compression), and the position of the limiter 328 may be moved to enable more expansion of the expandable element 330. On the other hand, if the measured peak magnetic field strength during a step cycle falls above a predetermined upper threshold 382, the impact attenuation characteristics of the article of footwear 350 may be considered as too giving (e.g., the midsole provides too much compression), and the position of the limiter 328 may be moved to enable less expansion of the expandable element 330. In this manner, output from the sensing device 320 may be used to automatically control impact attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear.

This same sensor data, however, also may be used to provide “step count” information (e.g., each user step may be sensed due to compression of the midsole member). For example, as illustrated in FIG. 4, each time the sensed magnetic field strength exceeds a certain threshold 384, systems and methods according to at least some examples of this invention may consider that the user has taken a step. Using this step count data, along with data indicating the user's step length (e.g., data previously entered by the user, previously measured, measured on a metered track, derived from averages for specific user heights, etc.), elapsed time data, and the like, systems and methods according to this example of the invention may measure and/or display to the user (or others) pedometer based speed and/or distance information (e.g., distance=step count×step length; speed=distance/elapsed time; etc.).

As described above in conjunction with FIGS. 1 through 3C, if desired, systems and methods in accordance with at least some example aspects of this invention may operate in conjunction with one or more peripheral devices, e.g., devices that provide information to users, devices that receive user entered input (e.g., step length data, etc.) devices that receive input from other sources (e.g., GPS data, map data, etc.) etc. In the various illustrated examples discussed above, the monitoring and/or control system and/or the speed and distance measuring system may communicate with the peripheral device via a remote or wireless connection. Any desired type of connection, communication system, and/or communication protocol may be used without departing from this invention.

It is not necessary, however, for the user inputs, external inputs or information sources, and/or display devices to be remote from and/or wirelessly in communication with the monitoring and/or control system and/or the speed and distance measuring system. For example, if desired, wired connections, electrode pins or connections, and the like may be used as opposed to wireless connections. Additionally, if desired, the user inputs, external inputs or other information, sources (e.g., GPS tracking systems, map information, etc.) and/or display devices may be provided on and/or as part of the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) or separate from the associated article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device). As one more specific example, as illustrated in FIG. 5, an article of footwear 400 that includes a monitoring and/or control system and/or a speed and/or distance measuring system (generally indicated as expansion element 330 in FIG. 5) also may include user input devices 402(a) and 402(b) (e.g., in the form of buttons, etc.) that allow the user to input information requesting increased or decreased midsole member compressibility, respectively. As more specific examples, if desired, input buttons 402(a) and 402(b) may be used to change and/or control the position of limiter 328 (see FIGS. 3A and 3B), to thereby change the potential compressibility of the midsole member 302. Of course, user input for other purposes may be provided without departing from the invention (e.g., to provide other footwear control information, to control information provided as output, to request certain output information, to input typical stride length data or other information used in pedometer systems, etc.).

In addition to user input devices, articles of footwear 400 also may include one or more display devices 404 that provide various types of information to the user, such as midsole compressibility setting information, speed and/or distance information, and/or any other desired information. For example, the display device 404 may be an LED, LCD, or other display devices like those typically used for electronic devices, such as watches, cellular telephones, PDAs, MP3 or other portable audio devices, and the like. Also, the various display device(s) 404 and/or input systems 402(a) and 402(b) individually may be mounted on any part of the footwear structure 400 without departing from the invention, such as on the upper member, on the sole member, on more than one portion of the footwear structure 400, etc.

Characteristics of an article of footwear other than the amount of impact attenuation provided may be controlled without departing from this invention. FIG. 6 illustrates an example sole structure 500 that includes devices that alter a user's gait, e.g., to help in correcting (e.g., reducing or eliminating) pronation or supination in a user's gait, to help the user step or land more correctly, or for other purposes. As shown, the sole member 500 of an article of footwear may include one or more sensing devices 502(a) and 502(b) that sense the manner in which the user's foot (or the article of footwear) strikes the contact surface. The sensing device(s) (e.g., 502(a) and 502(b) in this example) may be positioned so as to sense when a user pronates and/or supinates in his/her gait. The sensing device(s) 502(a) and 502(b) may provide their signals to a microprocessor or other portion of a monitoring and/or control system 504, which can determine, for example, the relative timing and/or force associated with the footstrike on each side of the foot. The microprocessor or other portion of the monitoring and/or control system 504 may be provided on-board the article of footwear (e.g., in the midsole, as shown in FIGS. 3A through 3C) or remote from it, such as in a peripheral device for receiving user input and/or displaying information for the user. If the footstrike is sensed substantially more or substantially earlier on one side of the foot as compared to the other (e.g., when more than a predetermined degree of pronation or supination is detected), elements 506(a) and/or 506(b) provided as part of the article of footwear may be controlled (e.g., by the same microprocessor or other portion of the monitoring and/or control system 504 described above or a different microprocessor or system) so as to change the user's gait or footstrike characteristics to reduce or eliminate the pronation or supination. As more specific examples, the controlled elements 506(a) and 506(b) may constitute air or fluid-filled bladders that expand or contract depending on the applied pressure, air or fluid-filled bladders that become softer or harder depending on the applied pressure, expansion elements of the type described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 3C, pistons, hydraulic elements, pneumatic elements, etc. Of course, any way of detecting the pronation and/or supination tendency and/or modifying the article of footwear or the sole member 500 to reduce or eliminate the pronation and/or supination tendency and/or otherwise change the user's gait or footstrike characteristics may be used without departing from the invention. Also, as described above, these changes can be made automatically, in between steps, as the user continues using the article of footwear.

The control element(s) 506(a) and/or 506(b) to change the characteristics of a person's gait or footstrike characteristics may be changed for any reason and/or in response to any sensed characteristics without departing from the invention. Additionally, the fluid-filled bladders, pistons, hydraulic elements, pneumatic elements, or other controlled elements may be provided at any location in the article of footwear without departing from the invention, such as at one or more of the medial, lateral, or mid-portions of the foot, at the frontfoot, arch, midfoot, or rearfoot portions, etc.

Because the sensing devices 502(a) and 502(b) of this example sole structure 500 are capable of detecting the surface contact by the foot (e.g., each step), the same signals for detecting a pronation, supination, or other gait tendency also may be used for providing speed and/or distance measurement information, e.g., conventional pedometer type speed and/or distance information, without departing from this invention. Accordingly, in the same manner described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 4, the microprocessor and/or other control system 504 (or another microprocessor or system) in sole member 500 also may be used to provide speed and/or distance information to the user, e.g., via a remote peripheral device, via a display on board the article of footwear, etc., based on output generated by one or more of the sensing devices 502(a) and/or 502(b).

FIG. 7 illustrates another example of an article of footwear 600 in which a characteristic thereof may be automatically controlled. In this example footwear structure 600, the degree of traction provided by the article of footwear 600 may be controlled, e.g., automatically and on the fly, optionally, between individual steps, for example, based on the amount of slip detected during a user's step. As a more specific example, as illustrated in FIG. 7, an article of footwear 600 may be equipped with one or more sensing devices 602, such as an accelerometer and/or other devices, that is positioned so as to be capable of sensing when a user's foot slides or slips in making a step. When a slip or slide is detected (e.g., more than a predetermined amount of slip or slide, as determined by an algorithm provided in a microprocessor and/or other portion of the control system 604), the microprocessor and/or other portion of the control system 604 (or another microprocessor or system) may be programmed and adapted to change one or more characteristics of the article of footwear 600 in an effort to provide better traction. More specifically, in accordance with at least some examples of this invention, the microprocessor and/or other portion of the control system 604 (or another microprocessor or system) may be programmed and adapted to change the traction characteristics of at least some portion of the footwear outsole member 606 so as to provide better traction. As one more specific example, the traction providing characteristics of the footwear outsole member 606 may be changed, e.g., by heating the material of the outsole member 606 using one or more heating elements 608 included in or adjacent to the outsole member 606. Heating elements 608 of this type may be used to soften the material of the outsole member 606 somewhat, thereby providing better traction on floors or other surfaces.

Of course, other ways of modifying the traction characteristics of an article of footwear may be used without departing from this invention. For example, when slides or slips are detected, a microprocessor or other portion of the control system may be used to automatically lengthen spikes or cleats included in the article of footwear (e.g., by rotating out additional spike or cleat length, by pushing out more spike or cleat length via pneumatic, hydraulic or pressure cylinders, etc.). As another potential example, a microprocessor or other portion of the control system may be used to automatically expose additional spikes or cleats included with the article of footwear when a predetermined degree of slipping and/or sliding is detected. Still other ways of modifying the traction characteristics may be provided without departing from this invention.

Because the sensing device 602 of this example footwear structure 600 may be capable of detecting surface contact by the foot (e.g., detecting each step due to the change in direction detectable by an accelerometer or other detector, etc.), the same signals for detecting a slip or slide also may be used for providing speed and/or distance measurement information, e.g., conventional pedometer type speed and/or distance information, without departing from this invention. Accordingly, in the same manner described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 4, the microprocessor and/or other portions of the control system 604 (or another microprocessor or system) in the article of footwear 600 also may be used to provide speed and/or distance information to the user, e.g., via a remote peripheral device, via a display on board the article of footwear, etc., based on output generated by the sensing device 602.

Another example of a controllable article of footwear 700 is shown in FIG. 8. In this example footwear structure 700, a degree of flexibility of the article of footwear 700 is controlled, optionally automatically and on the fly (e.g., in real time, between steps or interactions with the ground surface, etc.), based on output from one or more sensing devices (a single sensing device 702 is shown in FIG. 8). As an example, the sensing device(s) 702 may sense a degree of flex in the article of footwear 700 as the user steps down and send this information to a microprocessor or control system 704. If the amount of flex exceeds an upper threshold or falls below a lower threshold, the degree of flexibility of the article of footwear may be changed, e.g., based on signals provided by the microprocessor or other portion of the control system 704. As another example, if desired, sensors may be located to sense the degree of pressure applied by the user's foot to various portions of the sole member (e.g., at the insole, in the heel and toe areas, etc.) to sense when the user is attempting to flex the shoe's arch (e.g., for dancing and/or aerobic shoes), and the flexibility of the article of footwear 700 then may be changed to allow more or less flex in the arch, depending on the pressure applied by the user's foot and/or the locations where the pressure is applied.

Any way of changing the degree of flexibility of an article of footwear may be used and the degree of flexibility may be changed at any location in the article of footwear without departing from this invention. FIG. 8 generally illustrates an example in which the degree of flexibility in an arch support portion of an article of footwear 700 is changed, e.g., by changing a thickness of a support plate system 706 included in the arch area (in this general illustrated example, the thickness of the plate system 706 is changed by moving one plate 706(a) with respect to the other 706(b) to thereby increase or decrease the overall thickness of the plate system 706 in the arch area). Alternatively, as another example, if desired, additional plate elements may be moved from one area of the article of footwear 700 to another area to provide additional plate support material or to decrease the amount of plate support material in a given area, to thereby increase or decrease flexibility in that area. As still additional examples, heating and/or cooling elements also may be provided with the article of footwear 700, mechanical devices may be fixed, loosened, moved, etc., and the like, to change the degree of flexibility of a support material without departing from this invention. Other ways of changing the flexibility may be provided without departing from the invention.

Because the sensing device(s) 702 of this example footwear structure 700 may be capable of detecting surface contact by the foot (e.g., each step due to the detected flex amount, etc.), the same signals for detecting the degree of flex also may be used for providing speed and/or distance measurement information, e.g., conventional pedometer type speed and/or distance information, without departing from this invention. Accordingly, in the same manner described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 4, the microprocessor and/or other portion of the control system 704 (or another microprocessor or system) in the article of footwear 700 also may be used to provide speed and/or distance information to the user, e.g., via a remote peripheral device, via a display on board the article of footwear, etc., based on output generated by the sensing device(s) 702.

FIG. 9 illustrates still another example of a controllable article of footwear 800. In this example footwear structure 800, aspects of the manner in which the article of footwear 800 fits or engages a user's foot are controlled, optionally automatically and on the fly (e.g., in real time, between steps or interactions with the contact surface, etc.). One or more fit aspects of the article of footwear may be controlled based on output from one or more sensing devices (a single sensing device 802 is shown in FIG. 9). As an example, the sensing device(s) 802 may sense the amount of pressure applied by a user's foot when contacting the ground or other surface during a step, jump, etc., e.g., as a measure of the effort being put forth by the user. This data may be sent to a microprocessor or other portion of the control system 804. If the contact pressure exceeds an upper threshold or falls below a lower threshold, the tightness of the laces or other securing system 806 of the article of footwear may be changed, e.g., based on signals produced by the microprocessor or other portion of the control system 804.

Any way of changing the tightness of the securing system or other fit characteristic for an article of footwear may be used without departing from this invention. FIG. 9 generally illustrates an example in which the degree of tightness of a securing system is changed by changing a length of a strap member 806 used as the securing system (the strap member 806 in this example securing system wraps around the user's foot multiple times—across the upper member, through the sole member etc.). The length of this strap member 806 may be changed, for example, by using the microprocessor or other portion of the control system 804 to wrap or unwrap some of the strap member 806 from a supply device 808 (e.g., a roller, etc.). As another example, if desired, the microprocessor or other portion of the control system 804 may be used to move more of the strap member 806 through a clamp or buckle member 810 (e.g., by rotating a portion of the clamp 810 that engages the strap 806, etc.). As still additional examples, if desired, the microprocessor or other portion of the control system 804 may be used to move securing system laces into or out of a lace clamp or holding member, change a length of a fitting strap or cable that fits around a periphery of a wearer's foot, and/or otherwise change an aspect of the manner in which the article of footwear engages or fits a user's foot. The securing system and/or other fit element that is controlled may be located at any place in the article of footwear and/or engage the user's foot or portions of the article of footwear at any desired location and in any desired manner without departing from this invention. Systems of this type may be used to automatically customize the footwear size to a user, at any given time of use, irrespective of the other equipment being worn by the user (e.g., no socks, thin socks, thick socks, multiple pairs of socks, etc.). As described above, user input also may be received by such fit adjusting systems to enable at least some user control over the type of fit at a given time (e.g., tight fit for play, loose fit at other times, tight fit for running or sprinting v. looser fit for walking or jogging, etc.).

Because the sensing device(s) 802 of this example footwear structure 800 may be capable of detecting surface contact by the foot (e.g., each step due to the detected pressure sensing, etc.), the same signals for controlling the tightness or fit characteristic(s) also may be used for providing speed and/or distance measurement information, e.g., conventional pedometer type speed and/or distance information, without departing from this invention. Accordingly, in the same manner described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 4, the microprocessor and/or other portions of the control system 804 (or another microprocessor or system) in the article of footwear 800 also may be used to provide speed and/or distance information to the user, e.g., via a remote peripheral device, via a display on board the article of footwear, etc., based on output generated by the sensing device(s) 802.

As described above, user input may be received, e.g., in a peripheral device that is remotely located from the article of footwear and/or removably mounted to the article of footwear (or other portions of the user's body or clothing). This device may be used, at least in part, to remotely control the desired characteristic(s) of the article of footwear (e.g., to enable the user to set impact attenuation characteristics at discrete levels or intervals, to enable the user to vary the set performance characteristic(s) and/or their thresholds, to enable the user to override the automatically set characteristic(s), etc.).

This user input device may adjust the settings in both articles of footwear simultaneously, and/or if desired, individual control over the articles of footwear may be provided. If desired, the overall system may control stiffness or impact attenuation in the plantar/dorsi directions of the user's foot as well as in the medial/lateral directions, or in combinations or subcombinations of these various directions. Additionally, if desired, impact attenuation or other characteristics may be controlled in the upper member and/or in any portion of the sole member without departing from this invention. Also, pedometer based speed and/or distance information may be derived from step counts generated by one article of footwear or by two.

As still additional potential examples or alternatives, if desired, the peripheral device may display GPS information, map information, or other location or route based information (e.g., generated based on GPS and/or pedometer based speed and/or distance information). If desired, in such systems, one or more characteristic(s) of the article of footwear may be controlled based on, for example: the user's location along a route; detected changes in terrain, altitude, etc; reaching various predetermined landmarks; reaching various threshold distances or altitudes; and the like. As still additional examples, various landmarks (such as mile markers along a route, signs, other transmission devices, or the like) may be used to transmit information to a control system (optionally carried by the user and/or within the article of footwear) that may be used for changing one or more characteristics of an article of footwear in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. A wide variety of control elements and triggering events may be used to automatically control one or more characteristic(s) of an article of footwear without departing from this invention.

Systems of the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,865,825, which patent is entirely incorporated herein by reference, also may be used for providing control in accordance with at least some examples of this invention.

Various examples of the invention described above relate to use of control systems in accordance with examples of the invention to adjust various characteristics of an article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) in real time, e.g., on the fly, automatically, as the article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) is being used (e.g., in between individual steps), etc. While one advantageous aspect in accordance with some examples of this invention, the invention is not limited to use in these situations. For example, systems and methods according to at least some examples of the invention may be used to adjust characteristics of an article of footwear (or other foot-receiving device) over time and/or under different use conditions, e.g., to accommodate for changes in the footwear structure caused by wear, damage, aging, temperature, humidity, moisture, etc. As a more specific example, aspects of the present invention may be used to adapt the impact attenuation characteristics of an article of footwear due to changes in the foam material of the midsole member that may occur over time (e.g., due to foam breakdown, damage, wetness, aging, etc.), so that the article of footwear provides a more consistent feel throughout its life and/or under a wide variety of use conditions. As another example, aspects of the invention may be used to adjust the traction characteristics of an article of footwear due to wear on the outsole, cleats, or spike members that may occur over time (e.g., to provide additional cleat or spike length as the ends of the cleats or spikes wear away, to heat the outsole member more often or frequently as the outsole member's traction elements wear away, etc.).

Various manners of operating control systems in accordance with examples of this invention are described above and will be evident to those skilled in the art based on the descriptions above. As a more specific example, one or more features relating to contact between an article of footwear and a contact surface or a user's foot may be sensed as the article of footwear is used (e.g., as the user steps down), such as one or more of the various features described above in connection with FIGS. 1-9 (e.g., contact pressure, midsole compression, degree of flex, degree of slip or slide, etc.). The sensed information may be fed to a control system, which in turn may send signals to another device e.g., to change a configuration of the article of footwear to thereby control a characteristic of the article of footwear when appropriate (e.g., when the sensed parameters fall within a predetermined range, when they fall above or below threshold values, depending on a predetermined algorithm, etc.). Optionally, user input may be provided and used, at least in part, to set one or more of the characteristics and/or parameters associated with setting the characteristic(s). The changed characteristic(s) may include, for example: changing impact attenuation characteristics, changing traction characteristics, changing flexibility characteristics, changing fit characteristics, changing securing system tightness characteristics, etc. These changes to the characteristics may occur at any time, such as in real time, on the fly, between steps or jumps, etc., while use of the article of footwear continues. Many different changes to the characteristics may occur during continuing use of the article of footwear without departing from the invention. The sensed information, or optionally information from another sensor or detector, also may be used in determining user speed or distance information (e.g., pedometer type speed and/or distance information) and providing this information to the user.

Various different methods of providing footwear systems including control features also may be provided without departing from the invention, as is evident from the description above. Such methods may include engaging a sensing device with an article of footwear, e.g., with the upper member and/or sole member, integrally formed as part of the article of footwear, embedded or housed in the sole member, etc. This engaging may occur during footwear manufacture or assembly, at retail or use locations (e.g., via a slot or mounting element provided in the article of footwear for receiving the sensing and/or control devices, etc.). The sensing device, as noted above, may be positioned and adapted to sense at least one characteristic of contact between the article of footwear and a contact surface or a user's foot when the article of footwear is in use. A control system may be provided (e.g., separate from or commonly housed or supported with the sensing device) to receive output from the sensing device and to control a characteristic of the article of footwear, as described above (e.g., to alter some aspect of the article of footwear's configuration), based on the received output. The control device may be located in or on the article of footwear, partially in or on the article of footwear, or remote from the article of footwear without departing from this invention. Aspects of providing footwear systems in accordance with examples of the invention further may include providing a distance monitoring system, optionally at least partially engaged with the article of footwear, for detecting or storing data indicating speed and/or distance information associated with use of the article of footwear. Optionally, the distance monitoring system may use the same sensing device and optionally the same signals provided by the sensing device as those used for footwear characteristic control.

CONCLUSION

Of course, many modifications to the specifically described structures, systems, and methods may take place without departing from this invention. For example, 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, combinations, and permutations of the above described systems and methods. Moreover, various specific structural features included in the examples merely represent examples of structural features that may be included in some examples of structures according to the invention. Those skilled in the art will understand that various specific structural features may be omitted and/or modified in a footwear or other foot-receiving device product without departing from the invention. Moreover, with respect to the methods, many variations in the method steps may take place, the steps may be changed in order, various steps or features may be added or omitted, etc., without departing from the invention. Thus, the reader should understand that the spirit and scope of the invention should be construed broadly as set forth in the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification36/132
International ClassificationA43B5/00
Cooperative ClassificationA61B5/1038, A43B3/0005, A43B5/06, G01C22/006, A43B13/181, A43D1/027, A43B7/24, A61B5/6807
European ClassificationA43B3/00E, A61B5/68B1D3, A43B5/06, A61B5/103P2, A43D1/02D, A43B13/18A, A43B7/24, G01C22/00P
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 18, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: NIKE, INC., OREGON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:CASE, JR., CHARLES W.;SHUM, ALBERT;SCHROCK, ALLAN M.;REEL/FRAME:017107/0208;SIGNING DATES FROM 20051010 TO 20051012