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Title:
FOOTWEAR ASSEMBLY WITH INTEGRAL FOOTBED SUSPENSION SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/132465
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A footwear assembly with integral footbed suspension system is disclosed. A shoe comprises a sole, a blade extending away from the sole, an Energy Return System (ERS) connected to the blade, an upper, and a cradle coupled to the upper and coupled to the ERS via a plurality of ties, wherein the ERS is intermediate the cradle and the blade. The ERS is configured to resiliently deform under pressure from the foot while the foot is substantially suspended via the cradle relative to the sole. A plurality of sensors are configured to detect relative movement between components of the shoe and to transmit data to a chip positioned in the shoe. The data can be used for gait and performance analysis.

Inventors:
MCKAY NORMAN (CA)
Application Number:
CA2009/000617
Publication Date:
November 05, 2009
Filing Date:
May 01, 2009
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PLANTIGA TECHNOLOGIES INC (CA)
MCKAY NORMAN (CA)
International Classes:
A43B9/00; A43B7/28; A61B5/11
Foreign References:
US20060000035A12006-01-05
US20050005472A12005-01-13
US6944972B22005-09-20
US6195921B12001-03-06
US20070180736A12007-08-09
US20060021261A12006-02-02
DE102006059658B32008-03-27
US20070006489A12007-01-11
Other References:
See also references of EP 2280621A4
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SUE, Hilton W.C. et al. (601 West Cordova StreetVancouver, British Columbia V6B 1G1, CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS I Claim:

1. A footwear assembly, comprising: a sole; a blade attached to the sole and extending away from the sole and extending around at least a portion of a perimeter of the sole; an upper; a cradle coupled to the upper, the cradle being generally shaped as a footbed and configured to receive a foot and to suspend the foot above the sole whereby the upper and the cradle are moveable as a unit relative to the sole; an energy return system (ERS) coupled intermediate the blade and the cradle, the ERS comprising at least one resilient, flexible member; a first plurality of ties connecting the blade to the ERS; a second plurality of ties connecting the ERS to the cradle, wherein the ERS is configured to resiliently deform away from a rest position under pressure from the foot and to return to the rest position when the pressure is relieved so the upper and cradle can move with the user's foot independently from the sole.

2. The footwear assembly of claim 1 , further comprising: an electronic chip positioned in the shoe and configured to record and transmit data; and a plurality of sensors positioned around the shoe and configured to detect relative movement between at least two of the ERS, the cradle, the ties, the blade, and the sole, the sensors being configured to transmit the data to the chip.

3. The footwear assembly of claim 2 wherein the chip is configured to transmit the data to a computing system for gait and performance analysis.

4. The footwear assembly of claim 2 wherein the data is used to alter characteristics of at least one of the sole, the blade, the cradle, and the ERS to build a shoe for an individual user.

5. The footwear assembly of claim 2 wherein the ERS comprises piezoelectric elements configured to deform under the pressure from the foot and convert the pressure into electricity to provide power to at least one of the sensors and the chip.

6. The footwear assembly of claim 1 wherein the ERS comprises at least two resilient elements, and wherein the blade, the cradle, and the at least two resilient elements are rotatably connected by the ties to form a linkage mechanism.

7. The footwear assembly of claim 1 wherein the blade comprises a slot through which at least a portion of the first plurality of ties passes, and wherein the at least a portion of the first plurality of ties is configured to move within the slot as the ERS is resiliently deformed under pressure from the foot.

8. The footwear assembly of claim 1 wherein the blade comprises: an embedded portion positioned within the sole; a midzone extending above the sole, the midzone containing a slot configured to engage the ties; and an upper portion that engages a shoe upper.

9. The footwear assembly of claim 1 wherein the ERS extends substantially around the perimeter of the sole.

10. The footwear assembly of claim 1 wherein the ERS is configured to be interchanged with another ERS with at least one of a different shape or resiliency.

Description:

FOOTWEAR ASSEMBLY WITH INTEGRAL FOOTBED SUSPENSION

SYSTEM

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a non-provisional patent application that claims the benefit of and priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/049,751 , titled FOOTWEAR ASSEMBLY WITH INTEGRAL FOOTBED SUSPENSION SYSTEM, filed May 1 , 2008 which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference thereto.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure is directed toward footwear, and more particularly to footwear with an integral footbed suspension system.

BACKGROUND

What is the problem (analog) with conventional shoes? Shoes do not actually work for you. They do not adapt to your moving about with loaded. There is nothing like a good human fit. In 100 years the "mold" has remained the same.

What is the problem (digital)? Analysis is typically only conducted with awkward equipment and only in the lab. It results in questionable (or subjective) data dumps. Further, static templates can be copied, lost, or stolen. It also provides very limited real-world sampling.

SUMMARY

What is the problem (analog) with conventional shoes? Shoes do not actually work for you. They do not adapt to your moving about with loaded. There is nothing like a good human fit. In 100 years the "mold" has remained the same.

What is the problem (digital)? Analysis is typically only conducted with awkward equipment and only in the lab. It results in questionable (or subjective) data dumps. Further, static templates can be copied, lost, or stolen. It also provides very limited real-world sampling.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 2 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 3 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 4 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 5 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 6 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 7 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 8 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 9 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 10 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 11 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

Figure 12 is an illustration of a shoe assembly in accordance with the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A Basic Description of our Footwear Mechanics

Overview of the parts:

The new shoe is binary. It is separated into two regions of activity, with suspension of the human body as a physical differentiator:

1) the body of the shoe: the upper and the cradle (the upper/Down under combination); and

2) the shoe's chassis: perimeter sole, blade, energy return system and sleeve.

Our footwear (footware, as we've called the new shoe) has broken the known way for manufacturing shoes, and introduced a new way for people to interact with their shoes. It's centered around a continuously changing form, as it will change according to how the user is acting as they go over the ground. The regular shoe is centered on using the last, with many people involved in the process, usually done in low pay areas around the world. Our shoe is not constructed this way.

BODY

In one embodiment, the body of the shoe has the following construction:

Upper:

It is made of leather or fabric or other materials, just like materials current uppers have.

The upper is physically, dimensionally larger than the foot cradle, in both length and width. There needs to be enough of a size difference for energy return system + blade, as described below, to fit into this space (which we are calling Timing space).

It has a firm strip of material (a Rail), likely a nylon material (though many other polymers are possible choices), that runs around the leading edge of the upper, on the inside. This strip of material is attached - with glue, sewing or other means, and this strip may be composed of several parts.

It may be a part of a structural piece that's flush with the inner surface of the leather.

This strip is configured to anchor the narrow ties that lie between it and the cradle.

Foot Cradle (the "Down under"):

The Foot Cradle is the foot bed, where the foot goes.

It is like a hammock, sling, or carriage, in a basic physical description, but much more complex, in that it has the unique property of being responsive at varying locations along its perimeter. These are called domain areas as they work with the tie and other parts that lie in the same area at 'that point' within the shoe.

It can be designed to conform closely to the bottom of the foot.

It has a firm strip of material (rail), like that of the Upper, that runs around the perimeter, this time on the outside of this cradle.

This strip parallels the strip on the upper.

The cradle could be built from various materials (nylon, woven mesh, gore tex, rubber... anything that can be thought of really, so long as it has the bed of it, with the bottom of it just to the other side of the bed, thus pointing to its material and all of it suspended).

This cradle could have numerous embodiments and materials.

In cradle construction, the forefoot, mid foot and rear foot can all have varying degrees of flexibility, stiffness or even hollowed out or raised up parts.

It's possible to have different materials placed between the foot and cradle (below: #12).

For instance, materials that add a rise (1 1), or that of a depression (9) can be added to the foot cradle material.

In one embodiment, a ridge or horizontal shelf will run around the foot cradle (10). This ridge could have different materials with different strengths placed on it. This way you can have a variety of foot cradle materials / embodiments for specific foot conditions.

In another embodiment, of the above, the cradle could be built with a type of 'long' hook system, for a place to snap-in the foot cradle.

The sides of the cradle may be thinner than what is making up the foot bed. In fact this is amongst the most likely scenarios, as in these cases the rail 'part' is now part of the sides of the cradle. (In other words; the bed and bottom of a cradle is one thing, the sides and its rail another thing. One other embodiment.)

Each part is designable to various conditions and requirements. As shown in Fig. 3:

1. This is an embodiment where no plate is being used. The entire shoe's contact is experienced through the perimeter sole, with its telemetry 'sent' to the sides of a foot; giving the foot a 'feel', just not the familiar one with hits to the bottom of the foot!

2. Emphasis on cradle conforming to foot. Thick leather, stretchy material, anything that conforms to the foot.

3. In this embodiment both plate and cradle is emphasized. This cradle shows how stiffness can be applied to the cradle, either partially or wholly.

4. In this embodiment the plate can be built up. Depending on assessment the plate could be build up in certain places only.

5. This embodiment shows how the cradle and plate could be built as one unit, with space between the two. This is as close as we come to a midsole. This embodiment would see the stiff plate connected to, in someway, the foot cradle.

6. In this embodiment the foot cradle is shown to have reinforcements placed in it. Or this could be a 'hollowed place' on the cradle. In back it's built up on the inside.

Tie:

Ties are narrow and short members that connect the upper and foot cradle together at various points around the shoe (see Fig. 4). Most likely they are fibrous and somewhat stiff.

They are most likely evenly distributed around the foot, but for the highly motivated they could be tied to where a person has a joint that needs particular attention. For the athlete these ties would be adjustable; which would make all the domain parts adjustable too.

Ties are connecting the larger upper with the smaller foot cradle. In other words; the ties connect the cradle/carriage to the upper.

It may be permanently attached to the upper or foot cradle through the stiff rails, or possibly made to hook, or slide, into a fixed area on the rail.

Primarily the tie will travel, under the load of a person, through the stiffening blade and the energy return system.

The tie moves vertically based on amplitude of force strike.

CHASSIS Perimeter Sole:

At its base the strike force is absorbed by this component.

At a basic level this is the part that reacts to the foot's strike force, as it now includes the reaction from the ground, the part of it directly beneath each tie's domain.

In one embodiment there may be a part (a foot Plate) that is housed within the perimeter, that will then add to the perimeter, making a full soled shoe

In one embodiment, a full sole plate can be screwed, clicked in, snapped on, etc., over the entire perimeter sole, on the outside of course.

The exterior portion of this sole plate may be flexible (so it can bend over small extrusions (could be rocks etc.,) of the grounds topography.

It could be segmented physically or have stiff portions connected with softer portions.

Segmentation could allow for partial rotation of the segments.

Segments could be inter-locked like a ball and joint, so they more readily grip various ground angles.

Note there is always space between the bottom of the foot cradle and the top of the footplate.

Embedded in the rim of the perimeter sole, whether segmented or not, is a slightly wide, as a vertical measure, ribbon like blade (see below).

In one embodiment the blade can be sandwiched by the perimeter sole, meaning the perimeter sole will have two edges. In some embodiments, we could have places along the blades length where it has 'screwed in' axes, allowing a control of where it bends.

At the top of the perimeter sole, and on the inside, considering the blade, there is a groove or shelf that is set for the base of the energy return unit. In some manner this is set up to hold the base of the hard driver.

Blade:

It is a vertical piece of plastic, likely a nylon, that is embedded near the outer rim of the perimeter sole.

It may removable from the perimeter sole, or not, and it may be segmented or not. It could have soft sections, for where the shoe bends.

For the most part it is required on both sides of the foot - the very front and back is not necessarily needed, as it bends in the perimeter sole when both sides go one way - and then another - as the person plants their sole, at times, angled away from the vertical stance and movements

This points to the duality of the blade, since it can angle itself, going from one direction to another, depending on how the foot is angling itself during a stride.

One major descriptive point: the upper portion, or zone, of this component fits between the upper and cradle. The vertical portion of the blade, that is used for travel, fits between, usually, the bottom of the upper and the top of the perimeter sole. This distance can be anywhere between a third of an inch and three quarters. The blade will be even higher (two inches, or more) for military and army type boots, where more stability / control / strength is needed.

One of the main purposes for it is controlling for lateral instability.

Of central importance are the vertical cut-outs in the blade that act as a guide for the tie.

Each of these cut out guides the vertical travel of the tie. There is a cut out for each tie.

Note that the cut-outs may be in a sliding portion, wafer thin, of the blade; or they may be in short sections, that once put together are making up a whole blade.

And note the cut-outs may be in various shapes.

In the illustrated embodiment (see Fig. 6) there are three horizontal zones for the blade: one, the embedded part that fits in the perimeter sole; two, the mid zone where the body moves up and down against it; and three, the part that fits into the body parts of the shoe (in the Timing space).

The blade can be a consistent height around the shoe, but can work / embrace different heights within the one shoe.

Energy Return System (the "Hard drivers"):

As an overview of its purpose: each of the energy return systems, as in one unit, must have a specific impact strength that can receive the energy charge from the foot loading, and then return it as the pressure is lessened. This system transforms, in a sense interpreting, the forces that are being applied.

The ERS, or driver, has a wafer thin, vertical, and stiff frame; it's open at the top. with an interior space. This space is a zone, designed to allow the new shoe ties traveling room within it. They can move vertically, though slight deviations are allowed. Ties will go downwards first, against the resistance strength of the ERS, and then back up.

On both sides of this vertical frame there are generally flat and extensible / tensor polymer units (likely two to each side, one on either end of the opening - two on the inside and two on the outside of the frame).

Different strengths for the ERS units are pointing to these tensor units. Thickness and lay-up of the polymers, with different amounts of carbon in the elastomer base, for instance, and even the size and thickness, as well as outer shape, will combine to produce ERS units of varying strengths.

Between these tensor units there is a semi pliable - somewhat stiff bridging unit (wing) that lies within the interior space (flush on both sides). It's fibrous so it does not stretch. It should only bend.

The bridge unit is what supports the tie, and thereby that portion of the human body's weight that is bearing down on just that particular area in the shoe (which, for us, are called domains: the tie is the center and the immediately adjacent materials around it, regardless of what layer they are in, are a part of each domain).

The tensor units are never pinned to each other, but only to the frame with one lock-pin and to the bridge unit with another lock-pin.

All of the pins, the eight of them in the illustrated embodiement, are meant to allow rotations (small arcs) in tensor units, which allows and controls the down and up movements of the bridge.

There's a mathematical relationship between where the pins are, both in the frame and the bridge. A front tensor will widen when the load is taken on, and the tensor in back of it will lengthen. This process gives the pin placements a kind of "X", or scissor action.

The arrangement allows one to maximize the tie travel, while minimizing the distortion in tensor units.

It means the makeup of the polymers, the ones that make up the tensor units, are managed by making them stay within their plastic limit.

The tensor units themselves can be designed in many ways - the size of the tensor units can vary, as there is not much of a bounding limit (just the envelope of space we are calling Timing space). As well, the pins too can be different diameters, and different thicknesses.

The pins can be lock pins (our choice), and angled (like an hour class, as shown in the above illustration) so as to lock in place, keeping locked the tensor unit, frame, bridge combination.

Other embodiments for the energy return system are varied (as shown below).

In one embodiment (see Fig. 8, far left) the tie goes through an energy return system (as described above).

In another embodiment (see Fig. 8, middle image) a short length of connector material replaces the tie, the ERS in this system longer and more like an amalgam of materials that may be likened to materials of today, that are already going into the makeup of a shoe.

In the last embodiment (See Fig. 8, right image) a belt system replaces the unit type of energy return system. A belt system might replace the need for the stabilizing blade, as it could incorporate stiffening units within it. An overhead clasp would connect the foot cradle and upper duo to the belt system.

In the embodiment below (see Fig. 9), the blade and an energy return system are built as one.

In these embodiments (See Fig. 10, below), considered for the heaviest of duty footwear, the energy return systems may be either reinforced with metal, or completely built from it.

In another embodiment (see Fig. 11 , above left) there is a scissor-like version of the energy return system. Hard members criss-cross to either side of the tie (each of the four ERS's seen in Fig. 1 1 are showing an end view of one tie). Load actions will squeeze the polymer units to either side of the tie, thus providing vertical travel.

In the second embodiment (see Fig. 11 , above middle) the tie pulls at two of the arms in the polymer mix, and simultaneously presses on two. A stiff frame circles the whole unit.

In the third embodiment (see Fig. 11 , the two above right, showing a 'before' and 'after') the polymer body bends (only with pressure applied), as the tie sits over a semi-stiff bar that also bends under the load pressure. Both polymer elements here are held in place by a stiff bottom (possibly metal), likely with pins.

Sleeve:

The sleeve is there to cover for all of the inner workings (inner moving parts) and it's pictured here in a wide red band, or ribbon. It's elastic in the main embodiment, probably waterproof, and it gets fixed within the leading edge of the upper and against the side of the blade, between it and the inside edge of the perimeter sole, where it clasps the blade.

It circles the foot and covers the blade (the central part of it that would otherwise bare).

It is ordinarily both flexible and elastic, but there are other embodiments where it's under the upper altogether. In this latter case the upper is long on the sides, traveling down the outside of the perimeter sole during loading and unloading in shoe action.

It allows breathability for the shoe, and ultimately the foot.

The material of the sleeve could match that of the shoe, in both looks and functions; the specific environmental conditions expected are a part of the design brief.

It's up against the blade, but is not glued to it, or attached to it. The sleeve can have a variety of designs.

In many commercial embodiments the upper's leading edge is covering the mid zone of the blade, thus hiding the sleeve. When movement occurs the upper will travel over the top of the perimeter sole (as also mentioned just above).

Manufacturing:

Our footwear does not require it to be built on a last. Each of the components of the illustrated embodiments can be configured to be produced on a production line. When they are assembled, there will be little need to have a lot of people handling them. Much of it may even be done at point-of-sale, because, for many, the shoe is something that is fitted to their exacting requirements, both for functional and aesthetic reasons. Many will still want the appearance of the pre-assembled; so for these cases there can be a sort of 'dummy' shoe that would only need the drivers inserted (with a special hand tool, designed just for this purpose), and some sort of trial period during the fitting stage.

So, yes, it can be pieced together, like on an assembly line.

The perimeter sole can have a segmented configuration, either in short pieces, or in whole chunks covering a major portion of the shoe (the forefoot, say). Another segmentation might be 'soft' areas between harder ones, where the 'joint's' might act as couplings, similar to what lies between train cars. Or, we could have the perimeter sole just a narrow version of what's already present in shoe soles, depending on the flexibility to interact with the blade and body combined. If it was segmented it could be snapped together. The blade could then be inserted, and the energy return devices, with ties, could be placed with the rail system, already attached to their respective parts.

In another embodiment, our footwear is configured to shift what a show can do. The shoe and associated technology are configured to extend to analysis, identify and tracking.

The travel zone / region of our footwear is where the tie that is connecting the upper and cradle together, moves through the energy return system. In an adult shoe there are (likely) 24 places of vertical travel.

When we monitor this vertical travel zone with a method that follows every incremental movement of each and every tie as they go downward in the cut-out zone and back up again, we will get a rich level of data. We might mark the travel using a feedback loop, transducer, etc. By doing so we have a data output of a large magnitude. All that is needed is some form of counter that marks the increments as they occur. Like a ruler, each point of vertical travel must be designed for capture, with calculated references. In the shoe each travel zone, within the cut-outs, can be noted to have, for instance, 300dpi. This collected information, as the ties moved along, at every travel zone is collected and sent to an A/D converter/chip that would be best seen in one side of the shoe. The information can then be sent, wirelessly, to a central location with software, to analyze the generated data for various applications. Many applications will have this location within their smart phone. Others will have it within a station in a secured area for instance.

If we can think of every travel zone as having 10 places (theoretically like notches) of definable travel, and you multiple that by 24, you would get 24 to the power of 10 in possible mathematical outcomes in every given instance of one's foot cycle. That is one instance; when you take that amount of data and multiple that over a period of seconds or minutes, the richness of data output would be more than adequate for most all of our pictured applications.

With this richness of data, and once all of the noise and variables are logarithmically figured out, the data can be utilized for various applications.

With this data we will be able to locate, pinpoint and define patterns of walking and general movement. Once this occurs our footwear will then generate a behavioral biometric identity, based on the cadence of a stride. The users electronic ID in other words. But this is only the beginning. So many of these are possible, coming from the same collection of a person's travel, that they can have an ID that is different for one application than it is for another. Plus, this multiplicity of identifying numbers allows one to discard one, and then another one; anytime there is a chance for a compromise in the system they are sending it to.

This information will also be used to interpret activity recognition, with gait analysis / sport performance analysis. There are a huge number of applications where human factors information can be used, say in health services, with older people, and anyone really who presents with their feet; for pathological reasons amongst others.

The software associated with the management of this data will need to identify patterns for identification reasons, different human scale analytical reasons, and whatever other reason that will come up.

The software must take into account correlations between different domains in the footwear.

In one embodiment the software must be able to predict, with some accuracy, the next step based on the previous one, and then somehow link the existing footstep with what was predicted. This would allow for positions that can correlate with mapping software. If the data was applied over an existing map that was digitally inputted into the software, there would then be a new type of location based service. One that would work indoors, underground, etc. It would be able to extend on what the GPS does, adding to it (it's called LPS, for Local Positioning System, in our work).

As there are many travel zones, there is a good chance for energy harvesting from our shoes (one example, piezoelectric units). This energy could be used for the A/D converter, and also housed to re-energize a battery.

For our digital shoe to work, every component of the physical shoe must have a 'built in' code that can be registered in an accessible (to the user) database. This allows for the correlation of information, for instance when one component is exchanged for another, as the shoe is customized by the user. Even third party components would have to be registered. The chain of information could then be kept intact.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that specific embodiments of the invention have been described herein for purposes of illustration, but that various modifications may be made without deviating from the invention. Additionally, aspects of the invention described in the context of particular embodiments may be combined or eliminated in other embodiments. Furthermore, while advantages associated with certain embodiments of the invention have been described in the context of those

embodiments, other embodiments may also exhibit such advantages, and not all embodiments need necessarily exhibit such advantages to fall within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is not limited except as by the appended claims.