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Publication numberUS20070169378 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/650,665
Publication dateJul 26, 2007
Filing dateJan 8, 2007
Priority dateJan 6, 2006
Also published asWO2007081822A2, WO2007081822A3
Publication number11650665, 650665, US 2007/0169378 A1, US 2007/169378 A1, US 20070169378 A1, US 20070169378A1, US 2007169378 A1, US 2007169378A1, US-A1-20070169378, US-A1-2007169378, US2007/0169378A1, US2007/169378A1, US20070169378 A1, US20070169378A1, US2007169378 A1, US2007169378A1
InventorsMark Sodeberg, Mike Mayberry
Original AssigneeMark Sodeberg, Mike Mayberry
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Rough and fine adjustment closure system
US 20070169378 A1
Abstract
Disclosed is a closure system used in combination in any of a variety of applications including clothing, for example as a footwear lacing system comprising a lace attached to a tightening mechanism. The tightening mechanism provides for both rough and fine adjustment of the closure system. The rough adjustment allows for rapid tightening of a loosened opening. The fine adjustment allows for final closure and incremental adjustment of the tension in the closure system.
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Claims(28)
1. A footwear lacing system, comprising:
a footwear member including first and second sides configured to fit around a foot;
a first lace guide attached to the first side;
a second lace guide attached to the second side;
a tightening mechanism attached to the footwear and including a housing and a rotatable spool, wherein the spool includes at least one bore defining a lace pathway extending from a first side of the spool disposed near the guides through at least a portion of the spool to a second side of the spool disposed away from the guides; and
a lace, wherein the lace extends between the first and second guides to define at least a portion of a lacing zone and the lace being adapted to extend through the bore in the spool of the tightening mechanism and including a portion extending from tightening mechanism outside the lacing zone adapted to be grasped by a user and wherein the lace is configured to be pulled through the spool without rotating the spool to permit a first stage tightening of the lacing zone and the spool being rotatable to permit a second stage tightening of the lacing zone.
2. A footwear lacing system as in claim 1, further comprising a rotatable knob selectively engageable with the spool.
3. A footwear lacing system as in claim 2, wherein the knob is rotatable only in a first, lace tightening direction.
4. A footwear lacing system as in claim 3, wherein the knob is moveable between an engaged position and a disengaged position, and the spool is rotationally locked to the knob when the knob is in the engaged position.
5. A footwear lacing system as in claim 4, wherein the knob has an axis of rotation and the knob is moveable between the engaged position and the disengaged position by moving the knob along the axis of rotation.
6. A footwear lacing system as in claim 1, wherein the lace pathway extends across the top of the spool and is partially enclosed.
7. A footwear lacing system as in claim 1, wherein the lace pathway is fully enclosed by the spool.
8. A tightening mechanism, comprising:
a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening, and an exit opening;
a spool disposed in the internal chamber,
wherein the spool has an axis of rotation and includes two substantially parallel bores substantially perpendicular to the axis of rotation and extending through the spool from a first side of the spool to a second side of the spool;
a control knob selectively engageable with the spool,
wherein the knob has an axis of rotation substantially parallel to the axis of rotation of the spool and is rotatable only in one direction when engaged with the spool and wherein the spool is rotatable about its own axis in both directions when the knob is disengaged from the spool.
9. A tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 8, further comprising an alignment portion spaced apart from the entrance opening of the housing.
10. A tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 9, wherein the alignment portion is connected to the housing with elongated tubes.
11. A tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 9, wherein the alignment portion and the housing are unitary.
12. A tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 8, further comprising a lace extending through the bores in the spool such that a portion of the lace extends outwardly from the housing from both the entrance and exit openings.
13. A tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 12, wherein rotation of the knob when engaged with the spool causes the lace to wind into the housing and onto the spool from both the entrance and exit openings.
14. An article incorporating a tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 8.
15. An article as claimed in claim 14, wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.
16. A closure system incorporating the tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 8.
17. A closure system as claimed in claim 16, further comprising at least two lace guides and a lace; and
wherein the lace couples the lace guides to the tightening mechanism and is configured to extend through the tightening mechanism and is configured to be manually pulled through the tightening mechanism without rotating the spool in a first stage of tightening and the spool is rotated to wind the lace thereon in a second stage of tightening.
18. The closure system of claim 17, wherein the tightening mechanism further comprises a control selectively coupled to the spool.
19. The closure system of claim 18, wherein the control has an axis and is rotatable about the axis.
20. The closure system of claim 19, wherein the control is movable along the axis.
21. The closure system of claim 17, wherein the tightening mechanism further comprises an alignment portion spaced apart from the entrance opening of the housing.
22. The closure system of claim 21, wherein the alignment portion is connected to the housing with elongated tubes.
23. The closure system of claim 21, wherein the alignment portion and the housing are unitary.
24. An article incorporating a closure system as claimed in claim 17.
25. An article as claimed in claim 24, wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.
26. A lace system for constricting an artical, comprising:
a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening and an exit opening;
a rotatable reel disposed in the internal chamber;
a lace passing through the housing such that a portion of the lace extends from the entrance opening to form a lacing zone and a portion extends from the exit opening to form a free end configured to be grasped by a user;
wherein the lace may be pulled by the free end through the housing to take up slack in the lace in the lacing zone without the need to rotate the reel and further tightening of the lace may subsequently be achieved by rotation of the reel to wind lace around the reel.
27. An article incorporating a tightening mechanism as claimed in claim 26.
28. An article as claimed in claim 27, wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS Benefit Claim

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/756,633, filed Jan. 6, 2006.

INCORPORATION BY REFERENCE

This application hereby incorporates by reference U.S. Patent Publication No. 2006-0156517, published Jul. 20, 2006; U.S. Patent Publication No. 2003-0204938, published Nov. 6, 2003; U.S. Patent Application No. 2002-0095750, published Jul. 25, 2002; U.S. Pat. No. 6,289,558, issued Sep. 18, 2001; U.S. Pat. No. 6,202,953, issued Mar. 20, 2001; U.S. Pat. No. 5,934,599, issued Aug. 10, 1999; and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/756,633, filed Jan. 6, 2006, in their entireties.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to closure systems used in combination with any of a variety of applications including clothing and baggage, for example in a lacing system for footwear that provides rough and fine adjustments of the tightening pressure.

2. Description of the Related Art

There currently exist a number of mechanisms and methods for providing closure to openings on any of a variety of articles, including clothing and baggage. This includes traditional manual tie systems which require manual tying of the lace to secure the tightening pressure, pull type systems with sliding pressure clasps, and reel based tightening systems. A number of such reel based systems are disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/263,253, filed Oct. 31, 2005, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Notwithstanding the forgoing, there remains a need for an improved closure system for use in a variety of applications, which enables rapid removal of slack, followed by customized adjustability of tension.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the invention provide the ability to close any of a number of articles with a closure system having both rough and fine adjustments. The rough adjustment allows for rapid tightening of a loosened opening. The fine adjustment allows for incremental adjustment of the tension in the closure system.

In some embodiments, a lacing system includes a footwear member including first and second opposing sides configured to fit around a foot, at least a first and second opposing lace guides on the opposing first and second sides, a rotatable spool having at least one lace pathway extending through at least a portion thereof, and a lace guided by the guides and extending through the lace pathway through the spool. The lace may be pulled through the spool to permit a first stage tightening of the footwear and the spool may be rotated to permit a second stage tightening of the footwear. The lace pathway can extend completely through the spool.

In some embodiments, a closure system for an article having a first side and a second side includes at least a first lace guide on the first side and a second lace guide on the second side defining at least a portion of a lace path which extends between the first and second sides. The system further includes a lace guided by the guide members and extending between the first and second sides such that the lace extends completely through and is rotatable around a spool. The system also includes a control for winding the lace around the spool to draw the first side toward the second side, wherein the lace can be manually pulled through the spool when the spool is in a first position. The system can include multiple tightening mechanisms and multiple lacing zones.

In some embodiments, a method of tightening footwear is provided which includes providing footwear having a rotatable reel, a lace, and a lacing zone. The lace is pulled through the reel for a first distance to reduce the slack in the lace and the reel is rotated to tighten the lace in the lacing zone.

In some embodiments, a method of tightening footwear is provided which includes providing footwear having a mechanical tension adjuster, a lace, and a lacing zone, manually pulling the lace through the reel to reduce slack in the lace, and next actuating the mechanical tension adjuster to tighten the lace in the lacing zone.

Some embodiments provide a two stage tension adjustable closure system including an article having a lacing zone and carrying a rotatable spool having at least one lace pathway through at least a portion of the spool and wherein the spool is convertible between a first mode of operation in which the lace may be pulled through the lace pathway and a second mode of operation in which rotation of the spool winds lace around the spool. In some embodiments, the system is converted from the first mode to the second mode by rotating the spool.

In some embodiments, a footwear lacing system includes a footwear member having first and second opposing sides configured to fit around a foot and at least a first and second opposing lace guides on the opposing first and second sides. The system also includes a housing having a rotatable reel including at least one lace pathway and a lace guided by the guides and extending through the lace pathway through the housing such that when the system is tensioned, the housing is coupled to the guides by the tensioned lace and a section of the lace remains exposed and not under tension.

In some embodiments, a footwear lacing system includes a footwear member including first and second sides configured to fit around a foot, a first lace guide attached to the first side, a second lace guide attached to the second side, a tightening mechanism attached to the footwear and including a housing and a rotatable spool, wherein the spool includes at least one bore defining a lace pathway extending from a first side of the spool disposed near the guides through at least a portion of the spool to a second side of the spool disposed away from the guides, and a lace, wherein the lace extends between the first and second guides to define at least a portion of a lacing zone and the lace is adapted to extend through the bore in the spool of the tightening mechanism such that a portion extends from tightening mechanism outside the lacing zone and is adapted to be grasped by a user. In some embodiments, the lace is configured to be pulled through the spool without rotating the spool to permit a first stage tightening of the lacing zone and the spool is rotatable to permit a second stage tightening of the lacing zone. In some embodiments, the lacing system also includes a rotatable knob selectively engageable with the spool. In some embodiments, the knob is rotatable only in a first, lace tightening direction and in some embodiments, the knob is moveable between an engaged position and a disengaged position and the spool is rotationally locked to the knob when the knob is in the engaged position.

In some embodiments, closure system having multiple stages of tightening includes at least two lace guides, a lace, a tightening mechanism including a housing and a spool having at least one lace pathway extending through the spool from a first side of the spool to a second side of the spool and disposed within the housing, wherein the lace couples the lace guides to the tightening mechanism and is configured to extend through the tightening mechanism and is configured to be manually pulled through the tightening mechanism without rotating the spool in a first stage of tightening and the spool is rotated to wind the lace thereon in a second stage of tightening. In some embodiments, the tightening mechanism further comprises a control selectively coupled to the spool. In some embodiments, the control has an axis and is rotatable about the axis. In some embodiments, the control is movable along the axis. In some embodiments, the closure system comprises multiple lacing zones. In some embodiments, multiple tightening mechanisms are included and one lacing zone is manipulated by a first tightening mechanism and a second lacing zone is manipulated by the second tightening mechanism. In some embodiments, an article is provided which incorporates the closure system wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.

In some embodiments, a tightening mechanism for use in a closure system includes a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening, and an exit opening, a spool configured to be disposed within the internal chamber of the housing and to be in communication with the entrance and exit openings, wherein the spool has an axis of rotation and includes two substantially parallel bores substantially perpendicular to the axis of rotation and extending through the spool from a first side of the spool to a second side of the spool, a control knob selectively engageable with the spool, wherein the knob has an axis of rotation substantially parallel to the axis of rotation of the spool and is rotatable only in one direction when engaged with the spool and wherein the spool is rotatable about its own axis-in both directions when the knob is disengaged from the spool. In some embodiments, the tightening mechanism also includes an alignment portion spaced apart from the entrance opening of the housing. In some embodiments, the alignment portion is connected to the housing with elongated tubes and in some embodiments, the alignment portion and the housing are unitary. In some embodiments, the tightening mechanism also includes a lace extending through the bores in the spool such that a portion of the lace extends outwardly from the housing from both the entrance and exit openings. In some embodiments, rotation of the knob when engaged with the spool causes the lace to wind into the housing and onto the spool from both the entrance and exit openings. In some embodiments, an article is provided which incorporates the tightening mechanism wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.

In some embodiments, a two stage tension adjustable closure system includes a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening and an exit opening, a rotatable reel disposed within the internal chamber, a lace passing through the housing such that a portion extending from the entrance opening forms a lacing zone and a portion extending from the exit opening forms a free end configured to be grasped by a user and wherein the reel is convertible between a first mode of operation in which the reel does not rotate and the lace may be pulled by the free end through the housing to set a first tension on the lace in the lacing zone and a second mode of operation in which rotation of the reel winds lace around the reel. In some embodiments, an article is provided which incorporates the two stage tension adjustable closure system wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.

In some embodiments, a tightening mechanism includes a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening, and an exit opening, a spool is disposed in the internal chamber, wherein the spool has an axis of rotation and includes two substantially parallel bores substantially perpendicular to the axis of rotation and extending through the spool from a first side of the spool to a second side of the spool. The tightening mechanism may also include a control knob selectively engageable with the spool, wherein the knob has an axis of rotation substantially parallel to the axis of rotation of the spool and is rotatable only in one direction when engaged with the spool and wherein the spool is rotatable about its own axis in both directions when the knob is disengaged from the spool. In some embodiments, the tightening mechanism further includes an alignment portion spaced apart from the entrance opening of the housing. In some embodiments, the alignment portion is connected to the housing with elongated tubes and, in some embodiments, the alignment portion and the housing are unitary. In some embodiments, a lace may extend through the bores in the spool such that a portion of the lace extends outwardly from the housing from both the entrance and exit openings. In some embodiments, rotation of the knob when engaged with the spool causes the lace to wind into the housing and onto the spool from both the entrance and exit openings. In some embodiments, an article is provided which incorporates the tightening mechanism wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.

In some embodiments, a lace system for constricting an article includes a housing having an internal chamber, an entrance opening and an exit opening, and a rotatable reel disposed in the internal chamber wherein a lace passes through the housing such that a portion of the lace extends from the entrance opening to form a lacing zone and a portion extends from the exit opening to form a free end configured to be grasped by a user and wherein the lace may be pulled by the free end through the housing to take up slack in the lace in the lacing zone without the need to rotate the reel and further tightening of the lace may subsequently be achieved by rotation of the reel to wind lace around the reel. In some embodiments, an article is provided which incorporates the lace system wherein the article is one of footwear, shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, or sports equipment bindings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of the upper of a sport boot liner or sport boot including a closure system configured in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the sport boot of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective schematic view of an embodiment of a closure system;

FIGS. 4A and 4B are side elevation views of one embodiment of a closure system;

FIGS. 5A through 5C are front perspective views of a portion of a closure system applying tension to a lace;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a portion of a closure system.

FIG. 7 is a front view of a bag including a closure system configured in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a side view of a bag including a closure system configured in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments of the closure system disclosed herein may be used on any number of different articles including shoes, boots, sandals, pants, belts, jackets, vests, gloves, and headwear, baggage, briefcases, back packs, and sports equipment bindings, etc. For convenience, a number of the figures included in this application illustrate a closure system on an inner boot liner as used, for example, in some types of snowboarding and skiing boots. In general, embodiments of the closure system disclosed herein can be used to close or secure, and are most commonly used to draw opposing sides or objects together. In addition to many other applications, drawing opposing sides together may serve to close an opening, such as the opening formed by the sides of a traditional running or sports shoe or it may serve to remove excess space such as when applied to a bag to compress its internal volume. In the instance of back packs, for example, the systems may assist in securing an outer accessory carrier or may be used to secure or close one or more internal cavity portions.

Referring to FIG. 1, there is disclosed one embodiment of a closure system 22. The closure system 22 generally comprises a tightening mechanism 25, a lace 23, a first side 32 and a second side 34, and at least one attachment point 50 on one or both of the sides. The lace 23 may be fixedly or slidingly connected to the one or more attachment points 50 depending on the application and the demands of the closure system 22. In FIG. 1, the lace 23 is slidingly attached to three attachment points 50 on each of the first and second sides as it is threaded through the boot. In the illustrated embodiment, the lace 23 passes through the tightening mechanism 25. As used herein, the terms lace and cable have the same meaning unless specified otherwise. The lace 23 is preferably a low friction lace that slides easily through the boot 20 and automatically equilibrates tightening of the boot 20 over the length of the lacing zone, which, in the case of a boot, generally extends along the ankle and foot. In the case of a shoe, the lacing zone would extend over the foot. In the case of a horse or motorcycle racing boot, the lacing zone may extend beyond the ankle and over a portion or all of a wearer's lower leg region and more.

The boot 20 includes an upper 24 comprising a toe portion 26, a heel portion 28, and an ankle portion 29 that surrounds the wearer's ankle. An instep portion 30 of the upper 24 is interposed between the toe portion 26 and the ankle portion 29. The instep portion 30 is configured to fit around the upper part of the arch of the medial side of the wearer's foot between the ankle and the toes.

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the boot 20. As shown, the top of the boot 20 may comprise two opposed closure edges or flaps 32 and 34 that partially cover a tongue 36. In some embodiments, a tongue is not included. Generally, the lace 23 may be tensioned to draw the flaps 32 and 34 toward each other and tighten the boot 20 around the foot, as is understood in the art. Although the inner edges of the flaps 32 and 34 are shown separated by a distance, it is understood that the flaps 32 and 34 could also be sized to overlap each other when the boot 20 is tightened, such as is known with ski footwear. Thus, references herein to drawing opposing sides of footwear towards each other simply refers to bringing two portions toward each other. This reference is thus generic to footwear in which opposing edges remain spaced apart even when tight (e.g. tennis shoes), footwear in which opposing edges may overlap when tight (e.g. certain snow skiing boots), and footwear in which the opening of the footwear is not centered along the midline of the foot but rather disposed to the side such that one side is a canapy or other member covering the top of the foot and the other side is disposed on the side of the foot (e.g. certain cycling shoes). In each, tightening is accomplished by drawing opposing sides of the footwear towards each other.

Referring to FIG. 2, the tongue 36 preferably extends rearwardly from the toe portion 26 toward the ankle portion 29 of the boot 20. The tongue 36 may be provided with a low friction top surface 37 to facilitate sliding of the flaps 32 and 34 and lace 23 over the surface of the tongue 36 when the lace 23 is tightened. The low friction surface 37 may be formed integrally with the tongue 36 or applied thereto such as by adhesives, heat bonding, stitching, or the like. In one embodiment, the surface 37 is formed by adhering a flexible layer of nylon or polytetrafluoroethylene to the top surface of the tongue 36. In other embodiments, the tongue 36 includes one or more enclosed or partially open guiding members through which the lace may be threaded. The tongue 36 is preferably manufactured of a soft material, such as leather or insulated fabric.

The upper 24 may be manufactured from any of a wide variety of materials known to those skilled in the art. In the case of a snow board boot, the upper 24 may be manufactured from a soft leather or fabric material that conforms to the shape of the wearer's foot. For other types of boots or shoes, the upper 24 may be manufactured of a hard or soft plastic. It is also contemplated that the upper 24 could be manufactured from any of a variety of other known materials. For example, when used as an inner boot liner for snowboarding boots or other cold weather footwear, the upper 24 may be manufactured of one or more soft, insulated materials, such as insulated fabrics.

As shown in FIG. 2, the lace 23 may be threaded in a crossing pattern along the midline of the foot between two generally parallel rows of sliding attachment points or guides 50 located on the flaps 32 and 34. The guides 50 may be attached to the flaps 32 and 34 or to other spaced apart portions of the shoe through any of a variety of ways, as will be appreciated by those of skill in the art in view of the disclosure herein. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, the guides 50 are sewn directly onto the surface of the flap 32 or 34 or opposing sides of the upper 24. Stitching the guide 50 directly to the flap 32 or 34 may advantageously permit optimal control over the force distribution along the length of the guide 50. For example, when the lace 23 is under relatively high levels of tension, the guide 50 may tend to want to bend and to possibly even kink. Bending of the guide member 50 under tension may increase friction between the guide member 50 and the lace 23 and severe bending or kinking of the guide member 50 may undesirably interfere with the intended operation of the closure system. Thus, the attachment mechanism for attaching the guide member 50 to the shoe may provide sufficient support of the guide member to resist bending and/or kinking. Sufficient support is particularly desirable on the inside radius of any curved portions.

In other embodiments, the guides 50 each consist of a guide surface and a strip of material looped around the top and bottom edges of the flaps 32 and 34 so as to define a space in which guide surface is positioned. The material may be any of, or a combination of, a variety of materials including leather, synthetic fibers, plastic, etc. In some embodiments, the strip of material is looped and attached to either the top or the bottom edges of the flaps 32 and 34. The lace 23 slides through the guides 50 during tightening and untightening of the lace 23, as described more fully below. In still other embodiments, some or all of the guides 50 may be sewn into the upper 24 such that only the ends 49 are exposed.

In the illustrated embodiment, there are three guides 50 on each flap 32, 34 although the number of guides 50 may vary. In some embodiments, one, two, four, five or six or more guides 50 may be desirable on each side of the boot. In some embodiments, it may be desirable to include different numbers of guides 50 on each flap. This might be particularly advantageous when the tightening mechanism 25 is positioned on one side of the opening to be secured, such as on a bicycle shoe or a running shoe.

In the illustrated embodiment, the guides 50 each have first and second openings or ends 49, 51 separated by a generally U-shape guide surface. The linear distance or length between the openings 49 and 51 may be varied to adjust the distribution of the closing pressure that the lace 23 applies to the upper 24 when the lace 23 is under tension. In addition, the length need not be the same for all guide members 50 on a particular shoe. For example, the length may be shortened near the ankle portion 29 to increase the closing pressure that the lace 23 applies to the ankles of the wearer. In general, the length of guide members 50 will fall within the range of from about ½″ to about 3″, and, in some embodiments, within the range of from about ¼″ to about 4″. In one snowboard application, a length within the range of from about 1½″ to about 2½″ is preferred. Different specific length combinations can be readily optimized for a particular boot design through routine experimentation by one of ordinary skill in the art in view of the disclosure herein. In addition, it may be advantageous to incorporate C, ellipse, or sinusoidal-shaped lace pathways on guide members 50 depending on the application or the location of the guide member. For example, in one snowboarding application, a C-shaped guide member 50 is used on each of the medial and lateral sides in the lower ankle portion 29 and/or upper instep portion of the boot. In some applications, it may be advantageous to incorporate pulleys or other rotating guide surfaces in some or all of the guides to facilitate the movement of the lace therethrough.

In certain boot designs, it may be possible during the tightening process for an opposing pair of lace guides to “bottom out” and come in contact with each other before that portion of the boot is suitably tightened. Further tightening of the system will not produce further tightening of the footwear 20 at that point. Rather, other portions of the boot which may already be sized appropriately would continue to tighten. As such, it may also be desirable to include adjustable guides which can be moved to accommodate the need for greater tightening in certain regions.

As shown in FIG. 3, in some embodiments the lace 23 may extend around the ankle portion 29 through an upper guide member 52. An internal guide member 52 preferably extends through the ankle region of the upper around either side of the ankle portion 29 to the tightening mechanism 25. The guide member 52 may be a channel completely enclosed within the upper 24 (as shown), may be an external guide, or may be a combination of the two. As shown, the tightening mechanism 25 may be located in a position other than on the tongue 36 as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. In FIG. 3, the tightening mechanism 25 is located on the heel side of the ankle portion 29 of the boot.

Alternatively, the tightening mechanism 25 may be positioned on the medial side or lateral side of the footwear 20. As a further alternative, the tightening mechanism 25 may be positioned in the toe region 26 of the footwear 20. In general, the location of the tightening mechanism 25 will depend upon the requirements imposed by the intended use of the footwear 20, as will be appreciated by those of skill in the art.

In general, each of the guide members 50 and 52 defines a lumen 54 and a pair of openings 49, 51 that communicate with opposite ends of the lumen 54. The openings 49 and 51 function as inlets/outlets for the lace 23. Lumen 54 is may be either semi-enclosed or entirely enclosed and may provide a guide surface along which lace 23 may slide. Lumen 54 may be configured to minimize the friction between lace 23 and the guide surfaces of the lumen 54 contacting the lace.

In some embodiments, such as in bicycling shoes or rock climbing shoes, it may be advantageous not to include a traditional tongue portion as shown in the figures. In these applications and other embodiments, the opening may not be centered along the midline of the shoe. In such a case, the tightening mechanism may be attached to the shoe or boot on one side of the opening or the other rather than in the middle of the opening.

In some embodiments, it may be advantageous to incorporate one or more of the tightening mechanisms 25 disclosed herein to achieve multiple lacing zones. For example, the disclosed tightening mechanisms 25 could be used in the multiple lacing zone applications disclosed in the patent and patent applications previously incorporated herein in their entireties. Similarly, the dynamic fit closure system that is achieved with the tightening mechanism 25 and other associated parts discussed herein may benefit from an expansion limiting strap, also disclosed in the patents and patent applications incorporated herein in their entireties.

The lace 23 may be formed from any of a wide variety of polymeric or metal materials or combinations thereof, which exhibit sufficient axial strength and bendability for the present application. For example, any of a wide variety of solid core wires, solid core polymers, or multi-filament wires or polymers, which may be woven, braided, twisted or otherwise oriented can be used. A solid or multi-filament metal core can be provided with a polymeric coating, such as PTFE or others known in the art, to reduce friction. A polyethylene lace 23 may be used to provide kink resistance and high tensile strength. A high molecular weight polyethylene such as Spectra® made by Honeywell International Inc. may be used to provide an effective lace 23.

In one embodiment, the lace 23 comprises a stranded cable, such as a 7 strand by 7 strand cable manufactured of stainless steel. In order to reduce friction between the lace 23 and the guide members 50, 52 through which the lace 23 slides, the outer surface of the lace 23 is preferably coated with a lubricous material, such as nylon or Teflon. In a one embodiment, the diameter of the lace 23 ranges from 0.024 inches to 0.060 inches. In some embodiments, the diameter is approximately 0.027 inches. In other embodiments, the diameter is approximately 0.0312 inches. The lace 23 is desirably strong enough to withstand loads of at least 40 pounds. In some embodiments, the lace 23 is strong enough to withstand loads of at least about 90 pounds. In certain embodiments the lace is rated at least about 100 pounds up to as high as 200 pounds or more. A lace 23 of at least five feet in length is suitable for most footwear sizes, although smaller or larger lengths could be used depending upon the lacing system design. In the case of the a stranded metallic cable, it is beneficial to secure the ends of the strands. For example, the ends can be welded at each end of the lace. In some embodiments, the ends of the lace are rounded.

As illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B, in one embodiment, tightening mechanism 25 includes a control mechanism, for example knob 70, in an engaged position (FIG. 4A) and a disengaged position (FIG. 4B). In the engaged position, manipulation of the knob 70 applies incremental tension to the lace 23, causing the closure system 22 to tighten in its fine adjustment mode. In the disengaged position, manipulation of the knob 70 generally has no effect on the lace 23, allowing the lace 23 to be manually pulled to unwind the reel 82. Once returned to the engaged position, rotation of the knob 70 may then apply additional tension to the lace 23. In some embodiments, the knob 70 is only rotatable in a first, lace tightening direction.

In some embodiments, the knob 70 is manipulated into the disengaged position by pulling the knob 70 away from tightening mechanism 25. In some embodiments, the knob 70 is held in the disengaged position, the engaged position, or both positions. In some embodiments, the knob 70 is held by friction, and in one embodiment, is held using detents. In some embodiments, movement of the knob 70 from either, or both, the engaged position or the disengaged position results in an audible confirmation that the knob 70 has been moved. In some embodiment, the knob 70 clicks into and out of the positions.

As illustrated in FIGS. 5A through 5C, one embodiment includes a housing 80 and an internal rotation member or reel 82. The housing 80 includes at least one entrance opening or hole 84 and at least one exit opening or hole 86 and a main chamber 88. In some embodiments, two entrance holes 84 and two exit holes 86 are included to assist in preventing the lace 23 from tangling when two ends of the lace or two laces are passed through the housing 80. The reel 82 may be positioned inside the main chamber 88. The reel 82 may include a spool 90 for winding the lace 23. In one embodiment, the spool 90 includes first and second bores 92 defining first and second lace pathways extending transversely through the spool from a first side of the spool through at least a portion of the spool to a second side of the spool. Two bores 92 may be beneficial when two ends of the lace or two laces are passed through the spool 90. In some embodiments, spool 90 includes a single bore 90. In some embodiments, 3 or more bores 90 are incorporated and in some embodiments, the spool 90 does not include a bore 90. In the illustrated embodiment, the lace 23 passes through the first and second bores 92 as it passes through the tightening mechanism 25. The bores 92 may be fully or partially enclosed within the spool 90. In the illustrated embodiment, the bores 92 are fully enclosed and run generally on a single plane through the approximate vertical center of the spool 90 and are positioned approximately equidistant from the central axis of the spool 90. In some embodiments, the bores 92 do not run through the center of the spool 90, but are still enclosed by the spool 90. In some embodiments, the bores 92 extend across the top or the bottom of the spool 90 and are not fully enclosed. In some embodiments, the bores 92 extend in approximately the same plane through the spool. 90. In other embodiments, the bores 92 are positioned in different planes. In some embodiments in which only one end of the lace 23 passes through the tightening mechanism 25, only one bore 92 is required.

When the spool 90 is in a first, rough adjust position (see FIG. 5A), the bores 92 are generally aligned with the exit holes 86 of the housing 80 and the lace 23 passes from the lacing zone, through the spool 90, and through the exit holes 86 of the housing 80. With the bores 92 generally aligned with the exit holes 86 and entrance holes 84 of the housing, friction is minimized such that the lace 23 may be freely pulled through the tightening mechanism 25 to remove slack in the lace 23 and create first, rough tension on the lace 23. Pulling slack lace 23 through the tightening mechanism 25 when the spool 90 is in the first position provides the rough adjustment of the illustrated closure system 22. The spool 90 can be in the first, rough adjustment position shown in FIG. 5A when the control mechanism 70 is in either the disengaged or the engaged positions illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B. As such, a rough adjustment of the tension on the lace 23 can be achieved independently from rotation of the spool 90 or the knob 70. This allows for rapid taking in of slack in the lace 23 prior to a more finite tensioning of the lace achieved by manipulating the tightening mechanism 25.

To facilitate fine adjustment or leveraged tension of the lace 23, the knob 70 is moved to the engaged position such as by pushing the knob 70 toward the housing 80. Once in the engaged position, additional tension is placed on the lace in one embodiment by rotating the knob 70 to rotate the reel 82. The knob 70 is manipulated, preferably by rotation, to wind lace 23 onto the spool 90 of the reel 82. As the knob 70 is manipulated, lace 23 passing through the reel 82 will wind around-the spool 90 from both directions. Thus, referring to FIG. 5B, it will be understood that as the spool 90 rotates, the lace 23 will begin to bend at the point that it exits the spool 90. This causes an incremental increase in friction between the lace 23 and the spool 90. Additional friction is placed on the lace at the point it enters the spool 90. At a certain angle, the friction becomes too great for the lace 23 to be pulled through the spool 90, effectively locking the lace into the tightening mechanism 25.

Referring to FIG. 5C, it will be understood that further rotation of the reel 82 will cause the lace 23 to continue winding around the spool 90. This will place increased tension across the lacing zone of the footwear 20 as well as wind in the free ends of the lace 23. In many applications, after the desired tension has been achieved across the lacing zone, the free ends of the lace 23 will remain beyond the opposing side of the housing 80. These free ends may be tucked into the upper portion 24 of the footwear 20, or otherwise secured such as through the use of any of a variety of clips or fasteners. A ratchet connected to the reel 82 or the spool 90 prevents undesired reverse rotation of the spool 90 until the knob 70 is manipulated into the disengaged position. Suitable reel and ratchet systems are disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/263,253 which has herein previously been incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Thus, the embodiments disclosed herein provide a structure and method for enabling rapid removal of slack lace 23 with subsequent fine tuning of the tension in the lace 23. The tightening mechanism 25, including the reel 82 and/or the spool 90, may be provided with visual and/or tactile indicia so the user can readily determine when the spool 90 is in the rough adjust configuration illustrated in FIG. 5A. In this configuration, the wearer may readily grasp the free ends 21, 27 of the lace 23 which extend through the upper portion of the reel 82 and may pull on the lace 23 until the desired rough adjustment tightening has been achieved. Rough adjustment of the lace 23 in such a manner does not require the spool to take up slack. Once the desired rough adjustment has been achieved, the reel 23 may be rotated as illustrated in FIGS. 5B and 5C until the desired fine adjustment has been achieved. As used herein, fine adjustment also may be considered to be a tensioning phase, in which tension on the lacing zone is accomplished by rotation of the reel 82 or knob 70.

Embodiments of the invention may further be considered to include a first adjustment phase in which manual adjustment is accomplished by manually pulling on the lace 23 which extends through the reel 82 when the reel 82 is in a configuration such as that illustrated in FIG. 5A. Once the desired manual adjustment has been achieved, the system may be mechanically adjusted by rotating the knob 70. The mechanical adjustment phase can produce a higher level of tension than can conveniently be accomplished by the manual adjustment phase. In the mechanical adjustment mode, the spool 90 may be configured to rotate once per rotation of the knob 70, such as in an embodiment having no gearing. Alternatively, one or more gears or a gear train may be utilized to provide improved leverage, such that a single revolution of the knob 70 will produce less than one revolution of the spool 90, as is understood by those of skill in the art. A variety of leveraged mechanical adjustment reels 82 are disclosed, for example, in the patents and patent applications previously incorporated herein by reference in there entireties and otherwise known to those of skill in the art.

To release the closure system 22, the knob 70 is manipulated into the disengaged position, such as by pulling the knob 70 away from the housing 80 or manipulating other disengagement controls (not shown), at which point the reel 82 is free to rotate. Lace 23 is unwound from the reel 82 by either pulling on the slack lace 23 extending from the exit holes 86 of the housing 80 or by pulling on the lace 23 extending downward from the entrance holes 84 of the housing 80. In some embodiments, the closure system 22 is loosened by pulling the tongue 36 of the boot 20 away from the internal cavity of the ankle portion 29 of the boot 20, or by pulling one or both of the two sides 52, 54 of the upper 24 away from each other. In still other embodiments, an automatic winding mechanism may be included in the housing 80 to partially wind some of the loosened lace 23 back onto the spool 90 when the tongue 36 or the sides of the boot 52, 54 are released.

Generally, the free ends 21, 27 of lace 23 are threaded through the housing 80 of the tightening mechanism 25. As illustrated, the ends 21, 27 may pass through the exit holes 86 and away from the guides 50 of the boot 20. In such an embodiment, the ends 21, 27 are pulled to rough tighten the closure system 22. In some embodiments, the ends 21, 27 pass through the tightening mechanism 25 and are secured, either to each other, to the boot 20, or to both. In such an instance, the lace 23 may be pulled away from the tightening mechanism 25 at some intermediate point along the lace 23 rather than from the ends 21, 27. The free ends 21, 27 may be connected together to form a loop, such as by stitching, knoting, adhesives, clips, or the like. They may further be provided with a grip such as a “T” shaped or looped handle to facilitate grasping and pulling during the rough adjust phase.

It is generally advantageous to minimize the depth (thickness along the axis of rotation) of the tightening mechanism 25 to allow for a low profile. In many applications, such as when the tightening mechanism 25 is engaged and disengaged by push-pulling the knob 70, the knob 70 of the tightening mechanism 25 remains accessible even when in the engaged position. In some applications, such as when the tightening system 22 is used on an inner boot liner, as shown, it is advantageous to locate the knob 70 spaced apart in the vertical as worn direction from the nearest guide members 50. In such an application, the guide members 50 on the inner boot liner 20 are located within or at least partially covered by the outer boot upper (not shown), but the knob 70 on the inner liner 20 may be located above the outer boot upper. Thus, the knob 70 on the inner liner 20 is accessible even when the outer boot has been closed. In still other embodiments, a hole or opening is incorporated in the upper of the outer boot to allow access to the control knob 70 of the tightening mechanism 25 attached to the inner liner 20.

However, if the entrance holes 84 of the housing 80 of the tightening mechanism 25 are vertically displaced from plane A defined by the upper exit holes 49 of the upper guide 50 (see FIG. 2), tension in the tightening the system 22 may encourage the housing 80 entrance holes 84 into alignment with the upper exit holes 49 in plane A. If the tightening mechanism 25 housing 80 is mounted to a relatively rigid material, such as a plastic upper housing in a ski boot application, such force is absorbed by the upper. However, when the housing 80 is mounted to a flexible material, such as the case when it is mounted to a relatively flexible inner boot 20, the force drawing the housing downward may pull the liner down relative to the boot.

To reduce the downward force, the housing 80 may include a downwardly extending alignment portion 94 having extended entrance holes 96 into which the lace 23 is threaded prior to entering into the main chamber 88 of the housing 80 through the housing entrance holes 84 (see FIG. 6). As shown in FIG. 2, the alignment portion 94 allows for the lace 23 to enter into the tightening mechanism 25 from a generally lateral direction, minimizing the downward force on the tongue 36 or other portion of the boot 20 to which the tightening mechanism 25 is attached.

The alignment portion 94 may be integrally molded with the housing 80 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Alternatively, the tightening mechanism 25 may include a separate alignment portion 94, such as shown in FIG. 6, with tubular members 98 positioning the alignment portion 94 a distance away from the main chamber 88 of the housing 80. The tubular members 98 may be integrally formed or molded with the housing 80, the alignment portion 94, or both, as shown in FIG. 2. As shown in FIG. 2, tubular member 98 may be an open channel and in some embodiments, tubular member 98 is partially or fully enclosed.

Referring now to FIGS. 7 and 8, there is shown a closure system 122 configured for use on a bag, such as pack 120. Closure system 122 works in a similar fashion as closure system 22 by providing a closure system having both rough and fine adjustment of the compressive forces. In some embodiments, closure system 122 includes at least one tightening mechanism 125, at least one lace 123 and at least one guide 150. The lacing zone extends between the first and the second sides of the pack 120. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 7, the closure system 122 is used to reduce excess space in the pack 120 by compressing the volume of the pack 120 on the front of the pack 120. As tension is applied to the lace 123, the sides of the pack 120 are drawn toward each other on the front of the pack 120. In some embodiments, the lace 123 can be routed through central guiding members 171 to provide a low friction surface and to prevent the lace 123 from rubbing against itself as it crosses on the surface of the pack 120. In some embodiments, central guiding members 171 are attached to the surface of the pack 120 by stitching, adhesive, or the like. In other embodiments, central guiding members 171 are free floating. In some embodiments, the central guiding members 171 allow the lace 123 to travel from one side of the pack through the guiding member 171 toward the other side of the pack to form a crossing pattern. In other embodiments, the lace 123 travels from one side of the pack, through the guiding member 171, and back to the originating side of the pack to form an undulating lace pattern.

In FIG. 8 the closure system 122 is configured for use on the side of the pack 120. In some embodiments, a second closure system 122 is included on the other side of the pack 120. As tension is applied to the lace 123, the front and the back of the pack 120 are drawn toward each other to reduce the loose internal volume of the pack 120. The lace 123 can again be routed through central guiding members 171 to provide a low friction surface and to prevent the lace 123 from rubbing against itself as it crosses on the surface of back pack 120. In some embodiments, central guiding members 171 are attached to the surface of the pack 120 by stitching, adhesive, or the like. In other embodiments, central guiding members 171 are free floating. In some embodiments, the central guiding members 171 allow the lace 123 to travel from the front of the pack through the guiding member 171 toward the back of the pack to form a crossing pattern. In other embodiments, the lace 123 travels from the front of the pack, through the guiding member 171, and back to the front of the pack to form an undulating lace pattern. The closure system 122 on the front of the pack shown in FIG. 7 can be used alone, or in combination with one or more of the side mounted systems shown in FIG. 8.

In addition to back packs, the closure system 122 can be used on other types of bags including, but not limited to, baggage, briefcases, gym bags, luggage, and fanny packs to provide rough and fine adjustment of the closing pressure imparted by the system. In addition to reducing the internal volume of the bag, the closure system can also provide a convenient external location for storage of additional equipment or articles.

Although this invention has been disclosed in the context of certain embodiments and examples, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the present invention extends beyond the specifically disclosed embodiments to other alternative embodiments and/or uses of the invention and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof. In addition, while a number of variations of the invention have been shown and described in detail, other modifications, which are within the scope of this invention, will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art based upon this disclosure. It is also contemplated that various combinations or subcombinations of the specific features and aspects of the embodiments may be made and still fall within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, it should be understood that various features and aspects of the disclosed embodiments can be combined with or substituted for one another in order to form varying modes of the disclosed invention. Thus, it is intended that the scope of the present invention herein disclosed should not be limited by the particular disclosed embodiments described above, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7806842Apr 6, 2007Oct 5, 2010Sp Design, LlcCable-based orthopedic bracing system
US8117720Aug 26, 2009Feb 21, 2012Ossur HfRotary tensioning device
US8128587Oct 1, 2010Mar 6, 2012Sp Design, LlcCable-based orthopedic bracing system
US8443501Sep 20, 2010May 21, 2013Joseph A. MahonAdjustable prosthetic interfaces and related systems and methods
US8622947May 8, 2009Jan 7, 20143M Innovative Properties CompanyAnkle support with splint and method of using same
EP2462905A1Sep 12, 2007Jun 13, 2012Boa Technology, Inc.Brace with a closure system
WO2010117723A2 *Mar 29, 2010Oct 14, 20103M Innovative Properties CompanyAnkle brace
Classifications
U.S. Classification36/50.5
International ClassificationA43B5/04
Cooperative ClassificationA45C7/0063, A43C11/20, A43C11/165, A43C1/00, A43C11/008, A45F3/04, A43C7/00
European ClassificationA43C11/16B, A43C1/00, A43C11/00D, A43C11/20, A43C7/00, A45C7/00D2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 3, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: BOA TECHNOLOGY, INC., COLORADO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SODERBERG, MARK;MAYBERRY, MIKE;REEL/FRAME:019112/0157;SIGNING DATES FROM 20070301 TO 20070316