FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to footwear. In particular, the invention relates to footwear having at least one wheel for rolling.
There have been a variety of mechanisms developed to allow a person to roll on footwear, for use by children and adults alike. Some footwear is made specifically for rolling, for example integral roller skates, including “in-line” skates, which are permanently equipped with wheels. While roller skates are particularly adapted for allowing the user to roll or skate, and are thus useful both for sport and as a mode of transport, they are at best awkward to wear indoors and not viable for wear in places where rolling is not permitted or where rolling is not possible (for example on soft grass or coarse gravel).
Thus, when used as a mode of transport a user must typically carry along normal footwear and switch to the normal footwear where rolling is unsafe or not permitted, such as in many malls or professional offices, or to travel over ground unsuitable for rolling. For convenience, there has been developed wheeled footwear having removable wheels. This is somewhat more practical for use as a mode of transport, as the wheels can simply be removed in places where rolling is not permitted or practical. However removal often requires the use of tools or strenuous effort. Moreover, the wheel assemblies must be carried around by the user when not in use, which is inconvenient.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,406,038 issued Jun. 18, 2002 to Adams, which is incorporated herein by reference, teaches a heeling apparatus that includes a shoe with a wheel built into the heel that allows one to roll on smooth ground. In such a heeling apparatus the wheel is not able to be easily removed to allow a user to walk normally. Since the installed wheel permanently protrudes below the bottom of the heel, it is not possible for the user to walk normally without removing the wheel.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Further, a user of such wheeled shoes comes to a stop from rolling by placing the front sole portion of the shoe on the supporting surface. Such an action often leads to abrupt and sudden stops, which can cause a user to tumble over. This may lead to a variety of injuries.
In drawings in which similar references are used in different figures to denote similar components and which illustrate by way of example only a preferred embodiment of the invention,
FIG. 1 is a side view of footwear according to the invention with the wheel assembly detached.
FIG. 2 is a side view of the sole of the footwear of FIG. 1 with the wheel assembly attached in a first orientation in which the wheel protrudes from the bottom of the wheel assembly to contact a supporting surface.
FIG. 3 is a side view of the sole of FIG. 2 with the wheel assembly attached in a second orientation in which the wheel is recessed from the supporting surface.
FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the sole of FIG. 2 without the wheel assembly.
FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the wheel assembly in the first orientation shown in FIG. 2.
FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the wheel assembly in the second orientation shown in FIG. 3.
FIG. 7 is a side view of the engaging clips immediately prior to engagement of the wheel assembly.
FIG. 8 is a side view of the engaging clips with the wheel assembly in the engaged position.
FIG. 9 is a bottom view of the wheel assembly showing the positions of the engaging pins.
FIG. 10 is a side view of the engaging pins in an engaged position.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 11 is a side view of the engaging pins in a disengaged position.
The present invention provides footwear, for example a shoe 10, that has a detachable wheel assembly 14 so that the footwear that can be used for either walking normally or for rolling along a surface by raising the forepart of the footwear so that only the wheel 16 contacts a supporting surface. The invention will be described and illustrated in the context of a shoe 10, however it will be appreciated that the principles of the invention can be applied to any type of footwear and the invention is not intended to be limited to any particular type of footwear.
As shown in FIG. 1, a shoe 10 has a sole 11 (FIG. 1 shows the shoe upper 10 a schematially.) The sole 11 may be composed of any suitable material, but preferably is comnposed of, or augmented with, a material that will not wear unduly quickly due to scraping encountered during rolling. The sole 11 comprises a recessed portion 12 for receiving a wheel assembly 14. In the preferred embodiment the recessed portion 12 is disposed in the heel region of the sole 11, so that the user rolls on the heel of the foot, however it is possible to dispose the wheel assembly 14 in other positions on the sole 11. Further, while the recessed portion 12 is shown in the drawings as completely open, the recessed portion 12 of the sole may optionally have a peripheral wall (not shown) for aesthetic purposes. The recessed portion 12 of the sole 11 is provided with a cavity 13 for purposes explained below.
The detachable wheel assembly 14 comprises a wheel 16 mounted to an axle 17 (shown in FIG. 5). The wheel assembly 14 has a cavity 18 within a housing 20, to which the axle 17 is mounted, for example embedded in the housing 20 such that the wheel 16 rotatably protrudes from a first face 14 a of the wheel assembly 14 and is flush with or preferably slightly recessed from a second, opposite face 14 b of the wheel assembly 14. The wheel 16 may be made of any suitable material such as, for example, urethane, plastic, polymer, metal, rubber, or a composite material, or the like, as is well known to those skilled in the art. The axle 17 may similarly be made of any suitable material, preferably a low friction material such as steel. The wheel 16 and axle 17 may be molded into the housing 20, or the housing 20 may be formed in two parts and adhered together with the wheel 16 and axle 17 in position.
In the preferred embodiment the wheel assembly 14 is engaged to the recessed portion 12 by an engaging mechanism comprising at least one engaging member or clip 22 projecting from the sole 11 in the recessed portion 12. In the preferred embodiment, four engaging clips 22 project from the sole 11, generally evenly distributed about the periphery of the the recessed portion 12. The engaging clips 22, preferably formed from a sturdy, rigid or semi-rigid plastic such as nylon, are aligned with complementary slots 24 disposed about the housing 20 of the wheel assembly 14 and comprise snap-fit openings 25 into which the stems 32 of pins 30, shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, are locked when the wheel assembly 14 is engaged to the sole 11. The pins 30 are inserted into openings 31 in the sides of the wheel assembly 14 (shown in phantom in FIG. 6) so that the pins extend laterally, generally centrally, through the respective slots 24.
To attach the wheel assembly 14 to the sole 11, the slots 24 are aligned with the engaging clips 22 and the wheel assembly is depressed toward the sole 11. The slots 24 serves as guides, aliging the snap-fit openings 25 with the stems 32 of pins 30, and as the wheel assembly gets close to the sole 11 the pins 30 slide into the entrance of the complementary openings 25 as shown in FIG. 7 and finally snap into the engaging position shown in FIG. 8. The wheel assembly 14 can be detached by applying force in the opposition direction, to pull the pins 30 out of openings 25 and separate the wheel assembly 14 from the sole 11.
To securely engage the pins 30 in the openings 31, the pins 30 may include a stationary washer 34 a and a movable washer 34 b slidably received on the stem 32, with a spring 38 therebetween, as shown in FIGS. 10 and 11. The pin 30 can be pushed into opening 31 with the flat end 36 oriented in the direction of a vertical slit inside the opening 31 (not shown) and then rotated 90 degrees to lock the pin 30 in the opening 31 under the pressure of compression spring 38. However, any other suitable method of securing the pins 30 in the openings 31 is possible, including molding the pins 30 directly into the housing of the wheel assembly 20, and the invention is not intended to be limited thereby.
In use, when the wheel assembly 14 is in the first orientation in which the wheel 16 protrudes from the bottom of the wheel assembly 14, by raising the forepart portion of the sole 11 the user can roll along the supporting surface, and stop by lowering the forepart portion of the sole 11 so that both the forepart of the sole 11 and the wheel 16 contact the supporting surface. To switch to a walking mode, the wheel assembly 14 is detached by pulling or prying it away from the sole 11, reversing its orientation, and reattaching the wheel assembly 14 to the sole in the second orientation in which the wheel 16 is flush with or recessed from the bottom of the wheel assembly 14, thereby providing a walking surface on the sole 1 1 of the footwear 10. In the second orientation the wheel 16 projects into a cavity 13, extending into the recessed portion 12 of the sole 11, as shown in phantom in FIG. 2.
In the preferred embodiment the forepart region of the sole 11 is augmented by a skid pad 40, shown in FIG. 4, that has a lower coefficient of friction than the bottom surface of the sole 11 and thus enables a user to come to a gradual rather than an abrupt stop when the forepart portion of the sole 11 is lowered to the supporting surface. The skid pad 40 can be made from any suitable material that allows for a gradual slowing down of a user and resists wear due to abrasion, for example thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride.
Various embodiments of the present invention having been thus described in detail by way of example, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that variations and modifications may be made without departing from the invention. The invention includes all such variations and modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims.