Patent application title: SHOELACE REPLACEMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD
Julian Clayton (Salisbury, NC, US)
IPC8 Class: AA43C102FI
Class name: Buckles, buttons, clasps, etc. drawstring, laced-fastener, or separate essential cooperating device therefor having eyelet type directing means
Publication date: 2010-12-30
Patent application number: 20100325849
A shoelace substitute approximates the look and function of a shoelace and
includes a length of elastic material and two barbs. The barbs are each
placed at and contain one of the ends of the elastic material, being
crimped around the end of the elastic material to form a T. The barbs are
sized to be inserted through eyelets of the shoe to connect opposite
eyelets in the same manner as a shoelace. An associated method allows for
replacement of the shoelace with a number of such shoelace substitutes,
each connecting a pair of eyelets. The color and shape of the elastic
material may be varied to coordinate with various kinds of shoes. The
effect is to create a "slip-on" shoe from a "lace-up" shoe.
1. A shoelace substitute for approximating the look and function of a
shoelace in a shoe, comprising:a length of elastic material having first
and second ends; andtwo barbs each disposed at and containing one of the
ends of the elastic material, each of the barbs being crimped about its
respective end of the elastic material to form a T;wherein each of the
barbs is sized for linear insertion through an eyelet of the shoe and
rotation whereby the barb is prevented from withdrawal from the eyelet
and respective eyelets are connected by the elastic material.
2. A shoelace substitute according to claim 1, wherein the elastic material is substantially flat to approximate the appearance of an athletic shoelace.
3. A shoelace substitute according to claim 2, wherein the elastic material defines a plane, and the barb is linearly oriented substantially orthogonal to the plane of the elastic material during crimping.
4. A shoelace substitute according to claim 1, wherein the elastic material is substantially round in cross-section to approximate the appearance of a dress shoelace.
5. A shoelace substitute according to claim 1, wherein the length of elastic material is selected to resist casual separation of the respective eyelets to prevent the shoe from being easily dislodged from a wearer's foot during use.
6. A shoelace substitute according to claim 1, wherein the elastic material is colored to match the shoe.
7. A shoelace system for approximating the look and function of a shoelace in a shoe, comprising:a plurality of shoelace substitutes, each comprising a length of elastic material having first and second ends and two barbs each disposed at and containing one of the ends of the elastic material, each of the barbs being crimped about its respective end of the elastic material to form a T;wherein each of the barbs is sized for linear insertion through an eyelet of the shoe and rotation whereby the barb is prevented from withdrawal from the eyelet and respective eyelets are connected by the elastic material; andwherein each of the shoelace substitutes is disposable to connect opposite eyelets of the shoe to prevent the shoe from being easily dislodged from the wearer's foot.
8. A shoelace system according to claim 7, wherein each of the lengths of elastic material is substantially flat to approximate the appearance of an athletic shoelace.
9. A shoelace system according to claim 8, wherein each of the lengths of elastic material defines a plane, and each of the associated barbs is linearly oriented substantially orthogonal to the plane of the respective elastic material.
10. A shoelace system according to claim 7, wherein each of the lengths of elastic material is substantially round in cross-section to approximate the appearance of a dress shoelace.
11. A shoelace system according to claim 7, wherein each of the lengths of elastic material are long enough to permit the shoe to be easily donned by elongating the elastic material and short enough to prevent the shoe from being easily dislodged from a wearer's foot during use.
12. A shoelace system according to claim 7, wherein the elastic material is colored to match the shoe.
13. A method of replacing a shoelace in a shoe having a plurality of eyelets disposed sequentially in pairs along left and right sides of an upper portion of the shoe disposed along and above a tongue, the method comprising the steps of:(a) providing a length of elastic material having a cross-sectional profile approximately the same as that of the shoelace, the length being selected so as to traverse the distance between one of the eyelets along one of the sides and a corresponding eyelet along the other of the sides under slight elastic elongation, and each end of the elastic material being provided with a barb disposed to form a T with the elastic material;(b) inserting one of the barbs through the one of the eyelets to dispose the barb between the eyelet and the tongue;(c) elongating the elastic material; and(d) inserting the other of the barb through the corresponding eyelet to dispose the barb between the corresponding eyelet and the tongue;whereby the eyelets are joined by the elastic material to approximate the look and function of the shoelace.
14. A method according to claim 13, comprising the further step of:(e) repeating steps (a) through (d) for each of the pairs of eyelets.
15. A method according to claim 13, wherein the color and shape of the elastic material are selected to coordinate with the type and color of the shoe.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present relates generally to a replacement system for shoelaces, and more particularly to an elastic shoelace substitute and method that effectively converts lace-up shoes into slip-on shoes.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The problems associated with lace-up shoes are numerous and well known to the shoe-wearing public. Shoelaces can be difficult to insert into shoes. They can suffer from breakage or knotting. They can become soiled easily, necessitating their removal, cleaning, and replacement. Their ends can become frayed. They can come untied easily, exposing the wearer to a tripping hazard. Identifying the appropriate size of shoelace for replacement purposes can be difficult.
For such a common and everyday article that virtually everyone has had some experience with, shoelaces pose an enormous number of relatively trivial problems. Those problems become more significant when viewed through the eyes of a person who has a mobility disability, a temporary injury, or another disabling condition that makes lacing up shoes difficult.
Various solutions to these problems have been proposed and are well known. The slip-on shoe is perhaps the most common; slip-on shoes obviate the problem of shoelaces by eliminating them entirely. However, slip-on shoes pose their own problems. Depending upon the size and shape of the wearer's foot, slip-on shoes may be too tight to put on easily or too loose to keep on easily. Moreover, slip-on shoes are not always readily available for purchase, especially in athletic varieties.
Another solution to the problem of shoelaces has been to replace them with an alternative connection method, such as through hook-and-loop strap connections, buckles, or zippers. Each of these methods also pose their own problems, such as lack of availability, or merely replace one problem associated with laces with a similar problem. For example, both laces and buckles require fine motor control.
Moreover, these alternative methods may be deemed unattractive or unfashionable.
Additionally, none of these alternative methods have heretofore been available to retrofit existing shoes. A person who develops a back condition that prevents him or her from readily bending over to tie shoelaces might be faced with the necessity of replacing all of his or her shoes with non-tying models.
What is needed is a system for binding up shoes that replaces and approximates the look of conventional shoelaces, that avoids the myriad problems associated with shoelaces, and that can retrofit existing lace-up shoes.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with the aforementioned and other needs, the present invention includes a shoelace substitute for approximating the look and function of a shoelace in a shoe. The shoelace substitute includes a length of elastic material that has first and second ends. At each of the ends, the elastic material is provided with a barb, which has been crimped around and contains the end of the elastic material to form a T. The barbs are sized so that they can be inserted linearly through an eyelet of the shoe, whereupon they may be rotated in order to prevent them from being easily or casually withdrawn from the eyelet. Each end may be similarly inserted into corresponding eyelets to connect them via the elastic material, thereby approximating the look of a shoelace.
In another aspect, the present invention includes a shoelace system for approximating the look and function of a shoelace in a shoe. The shoelace system includes a number of shoelace substitutes, substantially as described above, with the number being selected to connect all, or substantially all, of the eyelets of the shoe. The group of shoelace substitutes together more fully approximates both the look and function of a fully laced shoe, but because the material joining or connecting the eyelets is elastic, the shoe may be easily "opened" to allow the insertion of the foot. The elastic action of the "laces" draws the eyelets back toward each other to provide a fit that is similar to that of a conventional shoelace, preventing the shoe from being easily dislodged from the wearer's foot.
The chosen elastic material may be substantially flat, in order to approximate the appearance of an athletic shoelace. In such an arrangement, the elastic material may be said to define a plane, and the barbs will be linearly oriented so as to be substantially orthogonal to that plane. Alternatively, the elastic material may be round, in order to approximate the appearance of a dress shoelace. In either case, the color and texture of the elastic material will be selected to match or coordinate with the shoe.
The present invention also includes a method of replacing a shoelace in a shoe, in which there are eyelets placed sequentially, in the usual manner, along left and right sides of the shoe upper along and above a tongue. The method includes a first step of providing a shoelace substitute substantially as described above, with the length selected so that the shoelace substitute traverses the distance between one of the eyelets on one of the sides and the corresponding eyelet on the other side, when the elastic material is somewhat elongated.
At the next step, one of the barbs of the shoelace substitute is inserted through one of the eyelets so as to put the barb between the eyelet and the tongue, and the barb is drawn into contact against the eyelet by the elastic action of the elastic member. The elastic material is then elongated to allow the next step, at which the other barb is inserted through the corresponding eyelet in a like manner.
Through this method, the eyelets are joined by the elastic material to approximate the look and function of the shoelace.
The present invention may also include the further step of repeating the above steps for each of the pairs of eyelets. As indicated before, the color and shape of the elastic material may be selected to coordinate with the type and color of the shoe.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Further features, embodiments, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description with reference to the drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is an environmental view depicting shoelace substitutes in a system according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a detail view illustrating a preferred embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2A is a partial detail view of a precursor of the preferred embodiment as in FIG. 2;
FIG. 3 is a detail view illustrating both the system and method of the present invention; and
FIG. 4 is a detail view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Referring now to the drawings, the present invention is illustrated in an environmental view in FIG. 1. A user or wearer 10 is wearing an athletic shoe 12 on his or her foot. A conventional shoelace, as used (not depicted), a single length of lace material would be threaded in a criss-cross pattern through an alternating sequence of eyelets 14. Because a conventional shoelace is a single length of material, each segment of the shoelace (the term "segment" being defined as the portion of the shoelace between any two eyelets) operates dependently with the other segments.
For example, when conventional laces are used, the shoe cannot be truly loosened except by increasing the amount of lace material between each pair of eyelets, an operation that requires the entire lace to be shifted through successive eyelets. Additionally, when a conventional lace is used to lace up the shoe, great care must be taken to keep the lace ends even as the shoe is laced, lest the wearer be left with one end longer than the other or, in an extreme case, run out of lace before all of the eyelets have been used.
In the present invention, however, the single-lace arrangement has been eliminated by providing the wearer with a set of shoelace substitutes 20, which link successive pairs of eyelets 14 to keep the eyelets 14 drawn somewhat together and to keep the wearer's shoe on his or her foot.
As can be seen in FIG. 2, in which a single shoelace substitute is depicted, the shoelace substitute 20 includes a segment 22 of elastic material having ends 24,26, which ends are each contained inside a barb 30. The barbs 30 are crimped about the elastic material ends 24,26 in order to secure them in place. The barbs 30 themselves are disposed horizontally with respect to the line of the elastic material segment 22, so as to form a T. This arrangement allows the barb 30 to be inserted linearly through an eyelet 14 of a shoe 12, then rotated or otherwise released so that the elastic recoil of the elastic segment 22 draws the barb 30 flat against the eyelet 14, allowing the elastic segment 22 to exert a tightening force upon the eyelets 14 through which it is placed.
The construction of the shoelace substitute 20 begins with the selection of a length of elastic material 22. This length will vary somewhat depending upon the particular shoe to which it will be applied, and different shoes may require a series of different lengths for various eyelets. An additional variable for consideration is the elasticity of the elastic material 22; depending upon the application, stronger or weaker elastic, or elastic having larger or smaller stretching capacity, may be indicated. For example, if what is contemplated is the conversion of a lace-up shoe to slip-on shoe for a person with back difficulties that make it difficult to bend over to lace shoes, then weak elastic with considerable stretching capacity may be chosen. Alternatively, if a firmer, tighter feel is preferred, stronger elastic might be chosen.
In order to form the shoelace substitute 20, once the length and strength of the elastic material segments 22 is selected, it is necessary to attach the barbs 30 to the ends 24,26. In a preferred embodiment, as can be seen in greater detail in FIG. 2A, the barb 30 begins as a flat oblong piece of metal such as aluminum, which is readily malleable. The end 24 of the elastic material segment 22 is laid against the flat barb 30, and the elastic material segment 22 is arranged so that it extends perpendicularly, in the case of a flat lace replacement, from the barb 30.
Once the elastic material segment 22 has been suitably arranged, the barb 30 may be crimped, in the direction of arrows A, around the end of the elastic material 22 to produce the generally cylindrical barb 30 shown in FIG. 2. The elastic material segment 22 may be arranged so that it protrudes from approximately the center of the cylindrical barb 30 (as in FIG. 2A) or may be offset (as in FIG. 2) without departing from the scope of the invention. When the elastic material segment 22 is offset from the center of the cylindrical barb 30, it is preferable, if not necessary, to have the elastic material segment extend out from the cylindrical barb 30 at some distance from the end of the barb, in order to enable to user to prevent the barb from easily slipping back through the eyelet 14.
In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A, it should be noted that the effect is to produce a shoelace replacement 20 in which the elastic material segment 22, being of a flat cross-section, is arranged so that it is perpendicular to the line of the barb 30. If the goal is to make them parallel, the barb 30 may be partially crimped and the elastic material segment 22 rotated a quarter turn before the barb 30 is fully crimped.
Referring now to FIG. 3, a shoelace replacement system and method are illustrated in a general perspective view. The barbed shoelace replacement 20 is inserted, barb 30 first, from the outside of the shoe upper 11, through the eyelet 14, and placed between the eyelet 14 and the tongue 15. To insert the other end, the user will elongate the elastic material segment 22 and insert the other barb 30 (not shown) through a corresponding eyelet in the same manner. As the stretching force is released, the elastic material segment 22 will contract, providing the support required to keep the shoe 12 in place when it is worn. The process will preferably be repeated for each pair of eyelets 14.
Those skilled in the art to which the present invention relates will recognize that although it is generally preferred that the barbs be disposed under the eyelet, between the eyelet and the shoe, it would be equally possible to arrange a device according to the present invention with the barb on the outside of the eyelet. Moreover, although the embodiment in FIG. 1 shows each shoelace substitute 20 connecting directly opposite eyelets 14, it would be equally possible to criss-cross the shoelace substitutes 20 (by swapping eyelets 14 on one side, sequentially) to produce a different effect that looks even more like conventional shoelaces.
In FIG. 4, an alternative embodiment is shown, with like numbers representing like elements as described before, except that the shoe 12 is a dress boot, whereas the previous embodiments illustrated athletic shoes. For more formal footwear, shoelace substitutes 20 may be constructed and used as described above, but will preferably be colored and shaped to replicate more formal laces, such as the round laces that are more typical of dress footwear. Whether round or flat, or with some other cross-sectional profile, the principles of construction are essentially the same.
The present invention thus presents notable advantages over conventional shoelaces, particularly including the advantage of making it easier for the wear to put on or take off shoes that use the present invention. Because the "laces" of the present invention are elastic, they may be stretched with relative ease to aid in putting them on, only to tighten automatically once the foot is in place. The effect is to convert a lace-up shoe to a slip-on shoe, while retaining the look of a lace-up shoe but not the difficulties associated with lacing shoes. Because there are no ends to tie, the user need not worry about tripping on an untied shoelace, and the shoelace substitutes of the present invention may be easily removed for cleaning and replaced.
In view of the aforesaid written description of the present invention, it will be readily understood by those persons skilled in the art that the present invention is susceptible of broad utility and application. Many embodiments and adaptations of the present invention other than those herein described, as well as many variations, modifications, and equivalent arrangements, will be apparent from or reasonably suggested by the present invention and the foregoing description thereof, without departing from the substance or scope of the present invention. Accordingly, while the present invention has been described herein in detail in relation to preferred embodiments, it is to be understood that this disclosure is only illustrative and exemplary of the present invention and is made merely for purposes of providing a full and enabling disclosure of the invention. The foregoing disclosure is not intended nor is to be construed to limit the present invention or otherwise to exclude any such other embodiments, adaptations, variations, modifications and equivalent arrangements, the present invention being limited only by any claims appended hereto and the equivalents thereof.
Patent applications in class Having eyelet type directing means
Patent applications in all subclasses Having eyelet type directing means