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Title:
FLEXIBLE FOOT INSERTION DEVICE AND METHOD OF USE THEREOF
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2003/073894
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention provides a foot insertion device (100) comprising a sheet (20) of flexible, moldable material; wherein the sheet (20) of material has a first side, a second side, a thickness, a longitudinal axis (L), a transverse axis (T) and a periphery. The sheet (20) of material is positionable inside footwear to facilitate entry of a person's foot into this footwear. A layer of hydrophobic material is disposed on the first side of the sheet of material, wherein the hydrophobic material facilitates entry of a person's foot into the footwear.

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Inventors:
Van Der, Puije Patrick D. (3525 Paden Road P.O. Box 595 North Gower, Ontario K0A 2T0, CA)
Application Number:
PCT/CA2003/000280
Publication Date:
September 12, 2003
Filing Date:
March 04, 2003
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
Van Der, Puije Patrick D. (3525 Paden Road P.O. Box 595 North Gower, Ontario K0A 2T0, CA)
International Classes:
A47G25/82; (IPC1-7): A47G25/82
Foreign References:
US3643350A
US3088639A
DE9104363U1
DE7630884U1
DE1824824U
US6065654A
US1913709A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MBM & CO. (P.O. Box 809 Station B Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5P9, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
I CLAIM:
1. A foot insertion device, comprising: a) a sheet of flexible, moldable material, the sheet of material having a first side, a second side, a thickness, a longitudinal axis, a transverse axis and a periphery, the sheet of material being positionable inside footwear to facilitate entry of a person's foot into footwear; b) a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on the first side of the sheet of material, the hydrophobic material facilitating entry of a person's foot into the footwear.
2. The foot insertion device according to claim 1, further comprising a second layer of gripper material disposed on the second side of the sheet of material, the gripper material preventing the movement of said foot insertion device.
3. A foot insertion device according to claim 1, further comprising an aperture formed on one end of the flexible sheet of material.
4. A foot insertion device according to claim 1, further comprising a holding apparatus formed on one end of the flexible sheet of material, the holding apparatus comprising a marker to be used as a reflective beacon.
5. A foot insertion device according to claim 1, further comprising a handle formed on one end of the flexible sheet of material, the handle comprising an aperture sized to receive a person's hand or gloved hand for grasping the sheet of material, the aperture being generally elliptical in shape.
6. A foot insertion device according to claim 1 wherein the hydrophobic material repels snow, ice and water.
7. A foot insertion device according to claim 1, further comprising a reflective marker and a tether for attaching the marker to the sheet of material.
8. A foot insertion device according to claim 1 wherein the sheet of material is flexible simultaneously about the longitudinal axis and about an axis transverse to the longitudinal axis to conform to a person's foot when inserted inside the footwear.
9. A foot insertion device according to claim 1 wherein the periphery of the sheet of material is tapered at one end to facilitate insertion of the sheet of material into the footwear.
10. A foot insertion device, comprising: a) a flexible, moldable substrate; b) a film of hydrophobic material disposed on the substrate; c) a layer of gripper material disposed on an opposite side of the substrate; and d) the substrate being of a size to enable insertion inside a unit of footwear prior to a person's foot, the substrate being moldable about a person's foot upon insertion into the footwear, the substrate remaining between the footwear and the person's foot as the foot is being inserted into the footwear to facilitate entry of the person's foot into the footwear.
11. A foot insertion device according to claim 10, further comprising a handle formed on one end of the substrate, the handle comprising an aperture sized to receive a person's hand or gloved hand for grasping the substrate, the aperture being generally elliptical in shape.
12. A foot insertion device according to claim 10, further comprising a marker attached to the substrate to serve as a reflective beacon for the substrate when placed in snow, ice or any type of winter terrain.
13. A foot insertion device according to claim 10, further comprising: a) a marker attached to the substrate to serve as a reflective beacon for the substrate when placed in snow, ice or any type of winter terrain; and b) a tether for attaching the marker to the substrate.
14. A foot insertion device according to claim 10 wherein the substrate comprises a longitudinal axis and a transverse axis, the substrate being flexible simultaneously about the longitudinal axis and about the transverse axis to conform to a person's foot when inserted inside the footwear.
15. A foot insertion device according to claim 10 wherein the substrate comprises a periphery, the periphery being tapered to facilitate insertion of the substrate into the footwear.
16. A method of inserting a person's foot into a unit of footwear, comprising the steps of : a) providing a foot insertion device comprising: i) a sheet of flexible, moldable material; ii) a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on a first side of the flexible material, the hydrophobic material being slippery when dry; b) inserting the foot insertion device into a unit of footwear; and c) inserting a person's foot into the unit of footwear while maintaining the sheet of material between a portion of the person's foot and the footwear, the person's foot contacting the layer of hydrophobic material to facilitate insertion of the person's foot into the unit of footwear.
17. The method of claim 16, further comprising the steps of : a) grasping the foot insertion device; and b) removing the foot insertion device from the footwear after the person's foot has been inserted into the footwear.
18. A foot insertion device according to claim 10 where the substrate comprises a periphery, the periphery being tapered to facilitate insertion of the substrate into the footwear, the substrate being placed into the footwear such that a portion of the substrate is positioned contiguously adjacent to a bottom, inside surface of the footwear.
19. The method of claim 16 wherein the step of inserting the foot insertion device into a unit of footwear comprises placing a portion of the foot insertion device contiguously adjacent to a bottom surface of the unit of footwear.
20. A foot insertion device, comprising: a) a flexible, moldable substrate having a first side and a second side; b) a film of hydrophobic material disposed on the first side and a layer of gripper material on the second side of the substrate; and c) the substrate being of a size to enable insertion inside a unit of sports footwear prior to insertion of a person's foot, the substrate being positioned contiguously adjacent a bottom surface and side surfaces of the unit of sports footwear, the substrate being moldable about a person's foot upon insertion of the foot into the unit of sports footwear, the substrate remaining between the bottom surface and the side surfaces of the unit of sports footwear while the person's foot is being inserted or removed from the footwear to facilitate entry or exit of the person's foot into and out of the footwear.
21. An alpine ski sports footwear foot insertion device, comprising: a) a flexible, moldable substrate, the substrate having a periphery, a top side, and a bottom side; b) a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on the top side of the substrate ; c) a layer of gripper material disposed on the bottom side of the substrate; and d) the substrate having a narrowed, tapered forward end to facilitate insertion of the substrate into a unit of alpine ski sports footwear, the substrate having an enlarged rearward end relative to the narrowed, tapered forward end, the periphery being curved and gradually contoured from the narrowed, tapered forward end to the enlarged rearward end.
Description:
FLEXIBLE FOOT INSERTION DEVICE AND METHOD OF USE THEREOF FIELD OF THE INVENTION The present invention pertains to the field of foot insertion devices, and more particularly to devices and a method for assisting in the insertion or removal of a foot into a unit of footwear.

BACKGROUND Shoe horns were created many years ago to aid the average person in putting on a pair of shoes. Shoe horns are most often used with dress shoes or the like which are traditionally easier to fit over the human foot as opposed to a pair of high performance sports footwear such as alpine ski boots, snowboarding boots, skates and the like.

Traditionally, shoe horns help to eliminate the action of having to fit the human heel over the rigid heel portion of a shoe or boot.

Shoe horns of metal, wood or plastic have been known for many years, to assist entry of the foot into a shoe. Such devices are rigid, elongated, and curvilinear in cross section, as is well known, to enable temporary insertion beneath and behind the heel to serve as a type of ramp for the foot. While traditional shoe horns are handy when readily available, and serve to lengthen shoe life, they are much too rigid and inflexible to be used to assist in the insertion of a human foot into a unit of high performance footwear, particularly alpine ski boots.

It has long been a problem for wearers of tight-fitting footwear to effectively place their feet inside such footwear. Traditional shoe horns have served over the course of many years to facilitate insertion of a foot into footwear. While a traditional shoe horn may be sufficient in certain circumstances, it becomes highly ineffective and impractical in others.

Boot straps or pull tabs have been developed to assist people in entering high performance footwear easily however, these devices have shortcomings. The concept of having a bootstrap or a pull tab on high performance footwear for ease of placing the

unit of footwear on a foot has been taught heretofore. Such a strap or tab is typically attached as by stitching or rivets to the upper portion of a ski boot or skate for example.

Unless the high performance footwear is made of very unusual overall construction, however, the tremendous stress applied repeatedly to the pull tab or boot strap too frequently results in its pulling loose, thereby damaging the unit of high performance footwear as well as destroying the pull-on feature.

In addition to the needs associated with placing a person's foot inside of traditional footwear, a particular need exists to facilitate the insertion of a person's foot into a type of tight-fitting, high-performance footwear. Examples include, snow skiing boots, snowboard boots, mountaineering boots, water ski boots, wake board boots, diving footwear, diving fins, roller blades, skates and any other conceivable high-performance or sporting footwear. Given the external forces associated with the activities requiring such high-performance footwear, an extremely tight fit between the person's foot and the footwear is often required. Certain binding systems may allow the footwear to be secured tightly around the person's foot subsequent to entry into the footwear. On the other hand, certain footwear is not intended to be secured in an after-the-fact manner about the user's foot. Rather, the person's foot must be inserted into the footwear in the tight-fitting position where the footwear will ultimately remain during use of the performance footwear, for example in alpine ski boots.

In the particular example of snow ski boots, a person is typically required to insert his or her foot into the snow ski boot while in the snow or in cold winter whether conditions.

This can be cumbersome and awkward, yet the fit between the person's foot and the snow ski boot must remain extremely tight. In addition, there are problems associated with utilising any type of device where the device is difficult to use or may be lost in the snow.

One traditional way that person's have attempted to resolve the problem specifically relating to footwear for winter sports is to use a particular type of"rear entry"snow ski boot such as that described by U. S. Patent No. 4,615, 127. Typically, this type of snow ski boot is very cumbersome and the locking mechanisms, which include screw fasteners, are placed at the back and side of the boot making it difficult for the wearer not only to close the boot properly around the foot but also to lock the boot in place.

Therefore, any advantage gained for easy access is lost in the time it takes a person to properly enter and fasten a ski boot of this design. A second disadvantage to this type of design is that this"rear entry"method may severely compromise the safety of a skier. A rear entry boot design must be a"two-piece"design which in turn has a higher chance of detachment given the external forces associated with the sport of alpine skiing than the traditional one-piece molded ski boot.

In view of the foregoing, there has remained a need to facilitate insertion of a person's foot into high-performance footwear of all types, particularly footwear for snow related or winter sports. This need is particularly great where the high-performance footwear is intended to be used in a cold or potentially cold environment, such as, snow, ice or winter-like conditions and the like. In particular, a tight fit is required for alpine skiing, snow-boarding, and other similar winter sports given the forces exerted upon the equipment during normal use. Where such a tight fit is necessary, the interference between a person's foot and the footwear that must be overcome is significant. Often it is not possible to get the proper tight fit without some type of external assistance.

This background information is provided for the purpose of making known information believed by the applicant to be of possible relevance to the present invention. No admission is necessarily intended, nor should be construed, that any of the preceding information constitutes prior art against the present invention. The utility of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention with reference to the accompanying drawings.

In view of the foregoing, there is a need to provide a reliable, easy-to-use system for facilitating insertion of a person's foot into high-performance footwear. A particular need exists with respect to footwear for winter sports, especially alpine skiing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION An object of the present invention is to provide a flexible foot insertion device and method of use thereof. In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a foot insertion device comprising a sheet of flexible, moldable material, the sheet of material having a first side, a second side, a thickness, a longitudinal axis, a

transverse axis and a periphery, the sheet of material being positionable inside footwear to facilitate entry of a person's foot into footwear ; a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on the first side of the sheet of material, the hydrophobic material facilitating entry of a person's foot into the footwear.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a foot insertion device, comprising a flexible, moldable substrate; a film of hydrophobic material disposed on the substrate; a layer of gripper material disposed on an opposite side of the substrate; and the substrate being of a size to enable insertion inside a unit of footwear prior to a person's foot, the substrate being moldable about a person's foot upon insertion into the footwear, the substrate remaining between the footwear and the person's foot as the foot is being inserted into the footwear to facilitate entry of the person's foot into the footwear.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of inserting a person's foot into a unit of footwear, comprising the steps of providing a foot insertion device comprising a sheet of flexible, moldable material; a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on a first side of the flexible material, the hydrophobic material being slippery when dry; inserting the foot insertion device into a unit of footwear; and inserting a person's foot into the unit of footwear while maintaining the sheet of material between a portion of the person's foot and the footwear, the person's foot contacting the layer of hydrophobic material to facilitate insertion of the person's foot into the unit of footwear.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided a foot insertion device, comprising: a flexible, moldable substrate having a first side and a second side; a film of hydrophobic material disposed on the first side and a layer of gripper material on the second side of the substrate; and the substrate being of a size to enable insertion inside a unit of sports footwear prior to insertion of a person's foot, the substrate being positioned contiguously adjacent a bottom surface and side surfaces of the unit of sports footwear, the substrate being moldable about a person's foot upon insertion of the foot into the unit of sports footwear, the substrate remaining between the bottom surface and the side surfaces of the unit of sports footwear while the person's foot is being inserted

or removed from the footwear to facilitate entry or exit of the person's foot into and out of the footwear.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided an alpine ski sports footwear foot insertion device, comprising: a flexible, moldable substrate, the substrate having a periphery, a top side, and a bottom side; a layer of hydrophobic material disposed on the top side of the substrate; a layer of gripper material disposed on the bottom side of the substrate; and the substrate having a narrowed, tapered forward end to facilitate insertion of the substrate into a unit of alpine ski sports footwear, the substrate having an enlarged rearward end relative to the narrowed, tapered forward end, the periphery being curved and gradually contoured from the narrowed, tapered forward end to the enlarged rearward end.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES Figure 1 is a top view of an example of a foot insertion device according to one embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 2 is side view of the foot insertion device according to one embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 3 is an illustration of a method of using the foot insertion device enabling the insertion a person's foot into a high performance unit of footwear according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Definitions As used herein, the term"footwear"is used to denote an article of clothing used to cover the foot and used in leisure or sporting activities. Footwear includes, but is not limited to, any type of tight-fitting, high-performance footwear such as snow skiing boots, snowboard boots, mountaineering boots, roller blades, skates and any other conceivable high-performance or sporting footwear.

The term"moldable material"is used to denote any material, polymer, plastic, metal or alloy that is lightweight and imparts flexibility to the final product.

The term"hydrophobic material"is used to denote a type of material that whether forming a surface or when applied to a surface provides a very low frictional coefficient which results in surface that is highly slippery. <BR> <BR> <P>The terms"gripper material", "anti-skid"and"anti-slip"when applied to describe a type of material are used to denote a type of material that provides a surface that has a high frictional coefficient.

Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs.

Figures 1 and 2 show a foot insertion device according to the present invention. The foot insertion device 100, generally comprises a flexible, moldable sheet of material 20.

The sheet of material has a longitudinal axis L and a transverse axis T that runs perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The flexible, moldable sheet of material 20 is formable and bendable simultaneously in multiple directions, including about the longitudinal axis L and the transverse axis T. The primary or base material utilised for the flexible, moldable sheet of material is made of a polymer, plastic, metal or alloy for example, but could be made of any suitable material provided that the moldable, flexible characteristics, as well as suitable bonding characteristics as disclosed below remain a functional characteristic of the moldable material.

In one embodiment of the invention, a first layer of hydrophobic material 28 is disposed on the first or top side, of the flexible material, 20 or substrate. Optionally, a second layer of hydrophobic material may be disposed on the second side of the flexible sheet of material or substrate. A layer of a gripper material 32, may optionally be disposed on the second or bottom side, at the back end 22 of the flexible material 20. Any suitable process may be used for coating the substrate with the hydrophobic material and the gripping material. Dipping, spraying, gluing, sticking, or coating processes may be used. The hydrophobic and/or gripping material should have sufficient time to dry and

cure according to the materials used. The hydrophobic material 28, may be of any substance that is slippery to the touch, including but not limited to plastic polymers, waxes, Teflon and the like. Preferably, the hydrophobic material will be slippery to the touch of a portion of the human body or clothing. It is to be understood, however, that it would not be departing from the scope of the present invention to utilise another type of hydrophobic material provided it results in a relatively low coefficient of friction between a portion of the human body or clothing and the particular material being used.

In one embodiment the hydrophobic material is the substrate itself, such that the entire foot insertion device 100 is made of a polymer, plastic, metal or alloy having a low coefficient of friction on their exposed surfaces.

In one embodiment of the present invention the flexible strip of moldable material 20, may be coated on one or both sides with a hydrophobic material 40 that provides the user with a slippery bendable platform to assist with the insertion of a persons foot into and out of a unit of footwear. The foot insertion device may also include a holding apparatus 80 to assist the user with the insertion or removal of the device from a unit of footwear.

The thin, flexible sheet of material 20 comprises a front end 18 and a back end 22. In one embodiment, the back end 22 may be relatively wider than the front end 18, however such a shape is not necessarily a requirement. The periphery of the sheet of flexible, moldable material 20 tapers from the back end 22 to the front end 18. The configuration of the foot insertion device 100 allows the device to be readily placed inside a unit of footwear or other applicable articles of clothing.

In one embodiment of the invention, the thickness of the flexible, moldable sheet of material can vary, however it should be sufficiently thing such that its thickness does not impede the insertion of a foot into a foot unit by being too thick. For example, the material can be between 0.25mm to 5mm thick or more particularly 0. 5mm to 2mm thick. In addition, the potential thickness of the material can be directly dependent on the type of material from which the device is fabricated as would be known to a worker skilled in the art. It can be appreciated that if the material is too thin is may become more brittle during use in freezing conditions for example. In addition, the overall cross

sectional dimensions of the device can be directly related to the size of the foot unit with which it is to be used. For example, the larger a foot unit the foot insertion device may be larger when compared to a smaller foot unit.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the foot insertion device may further comprise one or more apertures formed in the sheet of material toward the back end 22.

An aperture 50, may be generally elliptical in shape and converge at one end toward the longitudinal axis L of the sheet of flexible, moldable material 20. The aperture serves as a handle to allow a person to grasp the flexible, moldable sheet of material, including for example conditions where a person is required to wear bulky clothing articles such as ski mittens or gloves. Through use of the aperture 50, a person can more readily install the foot insertion device into a unit of footwear and subsequently remove the sheet of flexible material from the unit of footwear after a person's foot has been inserted into the unit of footwear. This process will be described in greater detail below. While an aperture has been defined as being elliptical, any other shape desired may provide the desired functionality, for example the aperture may be circular, square, rectangular or any other shape as desired.

In a further embodiment of the present invention, the foot insertion device 100 may further comprise a tether aperture 70, to which a strap, tether or holding apparatus 80 can be inserted to be used to assist in the carrying or utilisation of the foot insertion device. The tether can be attached to the sheet of material 20, and in one embodiment be made from a coloured or reflective material to be used as marker, by any suitable means. Figure 1 shows the tether looped and knotted at the back end that has been inserted through aperture 70 of the device 100. The holding apparatus 80 may be made of any suitable material, such as rubber, twine, leather and the like.

In one embodiment, the reflective marker 90 may be made of any suitable material that has sufficient size and reflectivity characteristics to be visible above the surface of snow, ice or any other terrain to reflect the flexible sheet of material 20 when placed thereon. For example, the reflective marker 90 may be made of a molded plastic polymer and may or may not be coated with any desirable coloured or protective outer coating. The reflective marker may be made of any desired size and shape, as long as the function of the foot insertion device is not unduly encumbered.

As shown in Figure 2, in one embodiment of the present invention, the flexible, moldable sheet of material 20 more specifically comprises a substrate having a first side, a second side, and a periphery. The substrate can have appropriate bonding characteristics to ensure a proper bond between the substrate and a hydrophobic layer of material 28. Any suitable material may be used, one'suitable material that may be used as a substrate is polyurethane.

In one embodiment, the hydrophobic material utilised with the present invention will leave no significant or appreciable residue on the person or clothing after it comes into contact with a portion of the human body or clothing. A primary benefit associated with the present invention is that it facilitates the insertion of a person's foot into extremely tight-fitting footwear and the facilitating device is completely removable from the footwear.

In one embodiment, the gripper material utilised with the present invention may be made from any suitable material which provides an"anti-skid"resistance to the foot insertion device 100. It is to be understood, however, that it would not be departing from the scope of the present invention to utilise another type of material to fashion a surface 32, that provides an anti-skid resistance. As shown in Figure 2, the gripper layer 32 may be designed in such a way as to provide a zone or zones of gripper material, preferably at the back end 22 of the foot insertion device 100. The gripper material 32 may be of any substance that when touched provides a surface that prevents slippage, or has an anti-slip quality to prevent the movement of the foot insertion device 100, including but not limited to rubber, rubber polymers, and the like. The layer of gripper material 32 may provide an"anti-slip"surface surrounding the aperture 50, that facilitates the removal of the foot insertion device 100 from the unit of footwear. Such gripper material results in a relatively high coefficient of friction between the foot insertion device and a portion of the inside of a unit of footwear, particularly the ankle portion, and also between the aperture 50, and a person's hand. In one embodiment the gripper material is a thin rubber design, such that the bottom surface surrounding the aperture 50, at the back end 22 of the foot insertion device 100 is covered. However, it is to be understood that the gripper material 32 may be applied to the bottom surface 32

in any type of pattern or design, as long as the flexible and slippery functions of the foot insertion device are not inhibited by such a pattern.

In one embodiment of the present invention, Figure 3 illustrates a method of insertion of a person's foot into a unit of footwear 140. As shown in Figure 3, the foot insertion device 100 is first placed inside a particular unit of footwear 140. It is to be understood that this type of footwear shown in the drawings is merely representative of one of any number of different types of footwear, particularly high-performance footwear.

In one embodiment the specific unit of footwear 140 shown in Figure 3 is an alpine snow ski boot which can be secured to a downhill or alpine ski. The alpine ski boot includes an inner layer of conventional foam material and a hard outer shell made from a plastic material, the outer plastic layer covers the moldable inner foam material. A binding system of some type serves to additionally hold a person's foot inside the boot 140, usually a buckle system. A second binding system attaches the alpine ski boot to the ski. It is to be understood that the inside foam, the outer protective shell and the binding systems are conventional and well known to a person skilled in the art.

The present invention can be utilised in connection with virtually any type of high- performance footwear. Some examples, without limitation, include alpine ski boots, snowboard boots, mountaineering boots, telemark ski boots, and any other type of high- performance footwear that requires a particularly tight fit between the person's foot and the footwear. The invention is particularly suitable for footwear utilised in connection with alpine snow sports. The hydrophobic properties of the hydrophobic material 28, enhance the slipperiness or sliding capabilities of the material. Thus, the foot insertion device is highly suitable for use in connection with footwear for alpine or winter sports where the footwear is to be installed and removed around snow and/or ice.

Turning again to the method of insertion shown in Figure 3, the foot insertion apparatus 100 is inserted into the unit of footwear 140 such that the insertion device 100 acts as an interface between portions of the inside surface of the footwear (i. e. , the foam inner portion) and the person's foot.

As shown in Figure 3, a highly restricted opening in the footwear enables only the toes of a person's foot to be first inserted into the footwear 140. The bottom portion of a person's foot will come in contact with the insertion device 100. As the foot is further inserted into the footwear 140, the resistance due to the small opening in the footwear becomes greater as the person's heel engages the back wall of the footwear. The insertion device 100 can greatly facilitate overcoming this extreme interference fit..

As is generally understood, getting a person's heel into tight-fitting footwear can be the most difficult part of the insertion process. The heel engages the insertion device 100 and slides down to rest in the proper position. After the person's foot has been completely inserted into the footwear, the insertion device 100 is easily removed from inside the footwear by grasping the handle provided by aperture 50 or by the holding apparatus 80, and pulling the foot insertion device up and out of the footwear. Again, the hydrophobic coating on the insertion apparatus facilitates this procedure.

It is to be understood that the flexible, moldable properties of the sheet of material 20, which forms the primary portion of the insertion device 100, allow the insertion device to simultaneously articulate or bend about the longitudinal axis L and transverse axis T (see Figure 1). This allows a person's foot to be inserted into the footwear while maintaining the insertion apparatus 100 inside the footwear as well. These properties should not be affected by extreme weather conditions such as freezing temperatures, high winds, sun, snow and any other temperature variations that may occur while using the foot insertion device 100. The properties of the layers of hydrophobic material 28 and gripper material 32 also allow them to bend and form in the same manner as the sheet of material 20.

In one embodiment, a particular advantage associated with the present invention relates to the aperture 50 formed toward the top end 22 of the insertion device 100. The aperture 50 is generally elliptical in shape and converges toward the upper end 22. The convergence of the aperture allows a person to easily grasp the insertion apparatus 100 to assist in the insertion of a person's foot inside of high-performance footwear, especially under condition where the sports enthusiast is required to wear bulky articles of clothing such as mittens, gloves and the like. The closeness of the aperture towards the top end 22 of the insertion device 100 makes the device easier and more comfortable

to grasp and pull from the footwear. While an aperture has been defined as being elliptical, any other shape desired may provide the desired functionality, for example the aperture may be circular, square, rectangular or any other shape as desired.

The method as shown in Figure 3 shows the device as being utilised solely to assist the heel portion of a person's foot slide over the insertion device 100 to overcome the interference fit at the neck of the footwear. It is to be understood, however, that the foot insertion device 100 could likewise be used between the top portion of the person's foot (i. e. , at the top of the arch) and the forward portion of the footwear opening. Still further, two separate foot insertion devices 100 could be used simultaneously to assist in the insertion of a person's foot into extremely tight-fitting footwear. One insertion device 100 would interface between the person's heel and the back portion of the footwear, and another would interface between the person's top of the foot at the arch and the forward portion of the footwear.

To gain a better understanding of the invention described herein, the following examples are set forth. It should be understood that these examples are for illustrative purposes only. Therefore, they should not limit the scope of this invention in any way.

EXAMPLES EXAMPLE 1: A Foot Insertion Device and Method of Making The present example describes a foot insertion device 100 and a method of use thereof.

The foot insertion device 100, generally comprises a flexible, moldable sheet of material 20. The sheet of material has a longitudinal axis L and a transverse axis T that runs perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The flexible, moldable sheet of material 20 is formable and bendable simultaneously in multiple directions, including about the longitudinal axis L and the transverse axis T, even under extreme weather conditions.

The primary or base material utilised for the flexible, moldable sheet of material in this example is preferably made of a Teflon-like material, but could be made of any suitable material provided that the moldable, flexible characteristics, as well as suitable

bonding characteristics as disclosed remain a functional characteristic of the moldable material in addition to the low frictional coefficient of at least one side thereof.

The sheet of flexible moldable material is hydrophobic in nature and about 0.030 inches thick, approximately 3.5 inches wide and about 7 inches long. To one end is attached an adjustable holding or tethering apparatus 80. The adjustable holding apparatus may be a strap made of material selected from the group comprising plastic, leather, twine or the like. The tethering apparatus 80 may be shaped as a wooden or metal pole, an elongated shaft, a looped structure or an expandable chain etc. Such a tethering apparatus may be attached to a key ring or belt loop for storage purposes. The foot insertion device is lightweight, flexible, and may be made of reflective or coloured material to act as a beacon for the user if the foot insertion device is lost in snow, for example.

Example II. A Foot Insertion Device and a Method of Using The flexible foot insertion device 100, in this example a TeflonT""-like sheet of flexible material 20, is inserted into and against the back of a unit of footwear with the holding apparatus 80 facing up and out of the unit of footwear. In addition, the hydrophobic surface 28 and the gripper surface 32 are placed inside the unit of footwear in such a manner so that the hydrophobic (slippery) surface 28 is pointing to the toe end and the gripper surface 32 is pointing to the heel end of the unit of footwear. A person's foot is inserted into the unit of footwear and gentle vertical, downward pressure is applied to help assist the foot to slide easily into the unit of footwear. The foot insertion device has a similar function to a"shoe horn"and is flexible and slippery so that the device can take the form of the person's foot during the insertion and removal process. The foot insertion device can then be removed by pulling the holding apparatus 80 up and out of the unit of footwear.

To remove a person's foot from a unit of footwear using the foot insertion device 100, the unit of footwear is first untied as much as possible. The flexible foot insertion device 100, in this example a teflon-like sheet of flexible material 20, is inserted into and against the back of a person's heel and ankle and between the back of a unit of footwear with the holding apparatus 80 facing up and out of the unit of footwear. The

hydrophobic surface 28 and the gripper surface 32 are placed inside the unit of footwear in such a manner so that the hydrophobic (slippery) surface 28 is pointing towards the toe end or front and is against the person's heel. Similarly, the gripper surface 32 is pointing towards the heel end of the unit of footwear. Once the foot insertion device is inserted and in place between a person's heel and the back of a unit of footwear as above, gentle vertical upward pressure is applied to help assist the foot to slide easily up and out of the unit of footwear. The foot insertion device has a similar function to a "shoe horn"and is flexible and slippery so that the device can take the form of the person's foot during the removal process. The foot insertion device can then be removed by pulling the holding apparatus 80 up and out of the unit of footwear.

The invention being thus described, it will be obvious that the same may be varied in many ways. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the scope of the invention, and all such modifications as would be obvious to one skilled in the art are intended to be included within the scope of the following claims.