FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to disposable footwear in general, and in particular to a disposable shoe for short-term use for indoor activities, such as bowling.
By some estimates nearly 60 million people in the United States and over 100 million people in 90 countries worldwide bowl at least one game per year. A good portion of these participants, namely “players” or “bowlers”, do not own their own bowling shoes, and so they must rent shoes when attending at the bowling alleys. From the bowlers' perspective, renting shoes that have been previously worn by numerous other players over time are undesireable for several reasons. Sharing footwear is generally not hygienic, and the sanitary condition of rental shoes in particular is often suspect. Shared shoes can transmit foot diseases between users, such as toe fungus, warts (e.g. Verruca Plantaris) and “athlete's foot” infection. Further, rental shoes are often tattered and fit uncomfortably.
From the perspective of bowling alley operators, maintenance and upkeep of rental shoe stock is time consuming and costly. Disinfectants must typically be sprayed into the shoes after each rental, resulting in the annual use of millions of cans of polluting spray. The shoes must be repaired, requiring the purchase of glues, insoles, shoe laces, and the like. Rental shoes are typically disposed and replaced every 2 years or so, at cost to the operator and the environment. Further, operators must deal with theft of rental shoes, some of whom incur the expense of installing shoe tracking devices in an attempt to combat the problem.
Some solutions have been proposed. In U.S. Pat. No. 4,120,103 (Colby) a disposable bowling shoe is proposed which appear to address some of the above-noted issues of rental shoes. However, the Colby shoe suffers from several disadvantages. It is provided to a user in several discrete pieces which must be assembled with an array of pointed plastic tabs, toothed tongues and strips of adhesive. Once assembled, the shoe is mounted on the user's foot and secured with straps and buckles. The assembly of the shoe and its mounting to the user's foot is needlessly complex and time consuming, and the manufacture of the many intricate pieces of the shoe is needlessly involved and expensive. At least portions of the shoe are made with durable materials, such as plastic, which are not biodegradable, and hence not environmentally friendly upon disposal.
In U.S. Pat. No. 6,041,443 (Pas et al.) a liner sock is proposed to be worn inside rental shoes. Although the sock addresses some of the earlier noted hygiene issues, the other drawbacks associated with use of rental shoes remain.
- SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
What is therefore desired is a novel temporary or short-term use bowling shoe which overcomes the limitations and disadvantages of rental bowling shoes and the above discussed prior art. Preferably, it should be mountable on a user's foot without the need for complex assembly and adjustment, and should be capable of remaining on the foot without the use of additional straps, buckles and the like. It should be of a very simple, inexpensive construction, and be substantially made of biodegradable materials for disposal in a more environmentally friendly manner than prior art bowling shoes. The shoe construction and materials should be durable enough to allow for use as a bowling shoe at least during one typical visit to a bowling alley, but yet temporary or fragile in nature so that the shoe deteriorates shortly thereafter to avoid its use as long term or “permanent” footwear. The shoe should provide a sole capable of sliding along a bowling lane, and at least one shoe surface adapted to display desired indicia, such as designs, advertisements, notices, and the like.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES
In one aspect the invention provides a short-term use bowling shoe having an upper portion stitched to a sole portion using cotton thread, an elasticized heel, and be substantially biodegradable to reduce or avoid pollution to the environment upon disposal.
Embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1a is a plan view of a temporary use bowling shoe according to the present invention showing indicia thereon depicting typical bowling shoe laces and design;
FIG. 1b is a side view of the shoe of FIG. 1a;
FIG. 1c is an end view of the heel of the shoe of FIG. 1a;
FIG. 2a shows a sole or bottom portion of the shoe of FIG. 1a;
FIG. 2b is a cross-section showing the layered construction of the sole of FIG. 2a;
FIG. 3a shows a cut-out pattern of the upper portion of the shoe of FIG. 1a (with a modified pattern of indicia) prior to assembly with the sole of FIG. 2a; and,
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 3b is a cross-section view showing the layered construction of the upper portion of FIG. 3a.
The figures show a temporary use bowling shoe (generally designated by reference numeral 10) according to the present invention, which may also be referred to as a short-term use or disposable shoe. The shoe 10 has a sole or lower portion 20 secured to an upper portion 30. Construction or assembly of the shoe requires minimal cutting in that only two material cut-out patterns are required for any given shoe size, namely a pattern for the sole shown in FIG. 2a and for the upper portion shown in FIG. 3a. The shoe is constructed by stitching the peripheral edge 32 of the upper portion to the peripheral edge 22 of the sole. The rear edges 34 of the upper portion should also then be joined, as by stitching, to in essence complete a basic version of the shoe structure.
In the preferred embodiment, several additional features are added, namely an elasticized heel 50 and edging 36 made of cotton or other natural fiber(s) stitched to the inner periphery 35 of the upper portion to avoid premature fraying and for aesthetic purposes. The elasticized heel 50 is typically added by omitting rear portions 33 (the cut-off edges being indicated by the dashed lines) of the upper pattern 30 and by adding, as by stitching, an elasticized biodegradable material in place. The elasticized heel provides a more snug (i.e. secure) and comfortable fit about the back of the user's foot.
The stitching material should be one that wears out within a desired time so that the shoe is temporary in nature. In the preferred embodiment, a cotton thread is used since testing has shown that the present bowling shoe will withstand at least 8 hours of continuous use, which is more than adequate time for a player to finish a typical set of bowling games during a single visit to a bowling alley. With further use of the shoe, say if the shoe is taken home from the bowling alley, the cotton threads then begin to wear out, resulting in eventual failure of the shoe, typically by the sole separating from the upper portion. In the preferred embodiment glue is not used in addition to the stitching, as in typical shoe constructions, to avoid prolonging the life of the shoe 10 beyond the desired time frame and to avoid needless additional manufacturing steps and expenses.
The shoe's upper portion 30 and sole 20 should be made of biodegradable materials for disposal in a more environmentally friendly manner than prior art bowling shoes. Referring to FIG. 2b, the sole 20 has a middle layer 24 of high density foam (about ⅛ inch, or about 3 mm, thick) sandwiched between upper and lower layers 26 and 28, respectively, of pressed paper, such as a bristle board. The upper layer 26 is optional, and may be omitted so that a user's foot rests directly on the comfortable foam layer 24. Manufacturing and materials costs are also reduced. The bottom surface 29 of the lower layer 28 provides a slick or slippery surface on which the user can obtain the desired slide (akin to a traditional bowling shoe) on the bowling alley's playing surface, which is typically polished wood.
Referring now to FIG. 3b, the upper portion 30 has a middle layer 38 of natural foam rubber (about ⅛ inch, or about 3 mm, thick) sandwiched between outer and inner layers 40 and 42, respectively, of a non-woven cotton material. This form of the upper portion has been found to provided adequate flexibility for a user to comfortably enter and remove the shoe, and enough foot support for bowling purposes. In addition, the outer layer 40 provides an outer surface 41 which is capable of carrying various desired indicia, such as the lace design 44 to make the shoe 10 resemble a contemporary bowling shoe. The outer surface 41 may simply be the surface of the non-woven cotton material, or may comprise a thin film of material placed over the outer layer 40. It will be appreciated that various designs and colors may be provided, allowing the shoe 10 to be decorated in a desired theme, to provide advertising, notices, and the like. The indicia is preferably printed or placed on the outer surface 41 prior to assembly of the shoe when the upper portion 30 is still flat, as shown in FIG. 3a. However, decals and other material may be added after assembly.
Some of the many advantages of the shoe 10 of the present invention may now be better appreciated.
The shoe is easy and inexpensive to manufacture, requiring only two principle cutouts (FIGS. 2a & 3 a) and stitching to complete the basic shoe structure.
The one piece shoe structure is merely slipped on and off the user's foot without the need for complex assembly or adjustment by the user or bowling alley operator.
The shoe 10 stays mounted on the user's foot without the need for straps, buckles, shoe laces or the like. An elasticized heel provides a comfortable and secure fit about the back of the user's foot. The user need only choose a size of shoe 10 comparable to the user s usual shoe size for proper fit.
All or substantially all of the shoe is made of biodegradable materials for disposal in a more environmentally friendly manner than previous bowling shoes.
The shoe's construction and materials are durable enough to allow for its use as a bowling shoe at least during one typical visit to a bowling alley, but yet temporary in nature so that the shoe deteriorates shortly thereafter to avoid its use long term. In particular, the cotton stitching begins to wear out and gives after about 8 hours of use of the shoe.
An occasional bowler need not purchase expensive “permanent”, or contemporary, bowling shoes, nor rent such shoes, but may simply buy a pair of inexpensive temporary use shoes 10. This option is more hygienic than wearing rentals, by avoiding transmission of foot diseases.
The shoe, although temporary, is still capable of sliding along a bowling lane akin to contemporary bowling shoes, by having a slippery bottom surface 29.
The shoe's outer layer 40 is adapted to display desired indicia, such as designs, advertisements, notices, and the like, to provide a bowling alley operator with an additional source of advertisement and/or income stream. Optionally, the shoe's inner layer 42 and the sole's upper and lower layers 26, 28 may also be adapted to carry indicia.
The shoe 10 allows the operator to avoid the time and expense of maintaining a rental shoe stock, such as purchase of sprays, repairing the shoes, replacing worn out and stolen shoes.
By reducing rental shoe stock, the shoe 10 should also reduce the amount of disinfectant sprays and other harmful chemicals released into the environment, and the number of contemporary, less-biodegradable bowling shoes deposited into landfills.
The above description is intended in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense, and variations to the specific configurations described may be apparent to skilled persons in adapting the present invention to other specific applications. Such variations are intended to form part of the present invention insofar as they are within the spirit and scope of the claims below.