WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 PROTECTIVE FOOTWEAR 5 RELATED APPLICATIONS This application claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. provisional patent application number 61/410,832, filed on November 5, 2010, entitled PROTECTIVE DANCE FOOTWEAR, the content of which is hereby incorporated by reference as if 10 recited in full herein for all purposes. BACKGROUND The inventive subject matter relates to a thin, flexible item of protective footwear that is particularly suited for ballet and modern dance, generally. The footwear could also be used in exercise or athletic applications. 15 With the development of modern dance and ballet, and an ever-present impetus for greater ranges of artistic expression, dance has evolved from traditional movements to movements that push the edge of athletic and artistic ability. For example, in ballet, movements include dance steps inspired by running, jumping, and leaping. Often the movement requires coordinated physical interaction between two or 20 more individuals. The performer's feet are harshly treated during such performances. Not surprisingly, the pursuit of perfection and creativity in modern dance and ballet goes along with a significant incidence of foot strain and injury. Indeed, the problem can be so serious that few performers are able to practice their profession into middle age. 25 Footwear has adapted to enable such unnatural movements as rotation on a toe, walking and landing on the toes, and the like. Such footwear, in addition to enabling such dance steps, also has the salutary effect of protecting the feet by spreading out the force of a landing, or the pressure resulting from support of the body over a wide area of the outside surface of the foot, thus reducing the incidence of injury WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -2 and strain. However, footwear also has the effect of reducing control under certain circumstances. In many forms of dance, the visibility of the shoe is regarded with disfavor. In fact, in modern dance a barefoot-look is required for many pieces. Given the fact that 5 modern dance builds upon classical ballet and thus takes from classical ballet dramatic movements at the edge of human endurance and ability, the attempt to implement this measure of control and exaggeration without protective footwear significantly detriments the modern dancer. Nevertheless, so vigorous is the requirement for dancing without the protection of the classical ballet slipper, dancers subject their feet 10 daily to the punishment of impacts, pulls, twisting, and abrasion. As the dancer moves through several movements, the big toe plays an important role in supporting the dancer and injuries to the padding of the big toe are common. Moreover, the big toe joint is a complex joint allowing motion to take place in an up and down direction. Injuries to this joint occur to the bones, cartilage, tendons or 15 ligaments around the joint region. Some protective footwear attempts to address these problems. For example, US Patent No. 6,018,888, which is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes, discloses an article of footwear that has a number of interconnected straps for securing the article to a foot. Other examples of protective footwear for dance movements are 20 US D559,504; US D558,957; US 200710006486; US 2006/0288609; US D551,430; US 7,051,457, US 7,673,396 and US2008/0110045. Examples of foot coverings that provide a covering for the individual toes are described in US 5,774,898; US 5,906,007; and US 5,623,734, however, these foot coverings are unsuitable for performing dance movements. 25 Similar protection of the foot may be desirable in other applications as well. For example, in some exercise applications, such as Pilates or yoga workouts, a barefoot appearance allows the instructor to visually assess postures in alignment exercises.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -3 Additionally, some practitioners may prefer to cover their feet as a matter of personal hygiene or for warmth. Pilates or yoga exercises may be performed on a smooth surface or on exercise equipment where it may be desirable to have grip and non-slip protection. 5 None of the existing footwear provides the optimal protective features required for foot movement applications that benefit of protection of critical anatomical areas at the ball of the foot, the creases between the ball of the foot and the toes, and at the big toe. In view of the foregoing, there is a need for protective footwear that offers a 10 solution to one or more of the aforementioned problems. SUMMARY In certain possible embodiments, the inventive subject matter is directed to a foot covering for compliably conforming to a foot of a wearer including a body portion 15 having a proximal end adapted to be disposed in an area between about the metatarsal heads and a midfoot of the wearer, and a plurality of toe sleeves coupled to the body portion and each adapted to receive and extend over a single toe of the wearer to secure the foot covering to the foot at a distal end. One of the toe sleeves may have an elongated portion covering at least a portion of the big toe, and the length 20 of the toe sleeves may decrease from a medial side to a lateral side of the foot covering. In the foregoing embodiment, the plurality of toe sleeves may further have at least one toe sleeve that has a length corresponding to about 33 percent, about 50 percent, or about 75 percent of the elongated portion of the big toe sleeve. In the 25 foregoing embodiment, the foot covering may have fastener at the proximal end oriented transversely to the foot of a wearer. In some embodiments, the fastener may include a slip resistant material. In the foregoing embodiment, the foot covering may WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -4 include ventilation holes. In the foregoing embodiment, an upper of one or more toe sleeves may include an elastic material. In some embodiments, the body portion may include a relatively inelastic material and at least one fastener may include an elastic material. In the foregoing embodiment, the plurality of toe sleeves may have a length 5 that covers at least the creases at the base of the toes of a wearer. In the foregoing embodiment, the foot covering may include a gripping material, for example and elastomeric material, such as natural or synthetic rubber. In the foregoing embodiment, comfort zones may be disposed below the ball of the foot, in the transition zone below the ball of the foot and the toes, and/or below the big toe. In 10 some embodiments, the comfort zones may include a gripping material. In another possible embodiment, a foot covering may include a body portion having an elastic upper and a sole compliably conforming to a foot of a wearer, a plurality of toe sleeves extending from the body portion and each adapted to receive and extend over a single toe of a wearer, one of the toe sleeves having an elongated 15 portion covering at least a portion of the big toe, a plurality of comfort zones integrated with the sole, and a layer of gripping material disposed on portions of a ground engaging surface of the sole. In the foregoing embodiment, at least one comfort zone may is disposed below the ball of the foot, in the transition zone below the ball of the foot and the toes, and/or below the big toe. In the foregoing embodiment, one comfort 20 zone may be disposed below the heel of the foot. In the foregoing embodiments, at least one of the comfort zones may have a layer of the gripping material. The foregoing is not intended to be an exhaustive list of embodiments and features of the inventive subject matter. Persons skilled in the art are capable of appreciating other embodiments and features from the following detailed description in 25 conjunction with the drawings.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -5 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The following figures show embodiments according to the inventive subject matter, unless noted as showing prior art. FIG. 1 shows a bottom view of a first embodiment of a foot covering on a left 5 foot of a wearer. FIG. 2 shows a top view of the foot covering and foot of FIG. 1. FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of an upper of the foot covering of FIG. 1, as the foot covering is turned inside out. FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of the inside surface of the foot covering of 10 FIG. 1, as the foot covering is turned inside out. FIG. 5 shows a simplified view of the foot covering of FIG.1 illustrating different comfort zones and stitching pattern on the sole, as the foot covering is turned inside out. FIG. 6 shows a pair of foot coverings worn by a user. 15 FIG. 7 shows the foot covering of FIG. 1 with a cross-sectional cut showing the layers of a comfort pad underneath the ball of the foot. FIG. 8 shows the foot covering of FIG. 1 with a cross-sectional cut showing the layers of a comfort pad underneath the big toe. FIG. 9 shows a schematic representation of possible varying lengths of toe 20 sleeves for another embodiment of a foot covering. FIG. 10 shows a schematic representation of a cross-section of a comfort pad provided with a gripping material. FIG. 11 shows a bottom view of another embodiment of a foot covering. FIG. 12 shows a top view of the foot covering of FIG. 11. 25 FIG. 13 shows a perspective view of the foot covering of FIG. 11 when worn by a user. FIG. 14 shows a top view of the foot covering of FIG. 11 when worn by a user.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -6 FIG. 15 shows a bottom view of the foot covering of FIG. 11 when worn by a user. FIG. 16 shows a side view along the lateral side of the foot covering of FIG. 13. FIG. 17 shows a side view along the medial side of the foot covering of FIG. 13. 5 DETAILED DESCRIPTION Representative embodiments according to the inventive subject matter are shown in Figs. 1-17. The inventive subject matter is directed to protective thin, flexible and 10 lightweight footwear, devoid of bulky midsole or outsole material typical of athletic footwear, that securely and comfortable attaches to a wearer's feet. Advantageously, the inventive subject matter may achieve this and other objectives while leaving the foot in a substantially natural appearance and protecting one or more of the ball of the foot and the padding of the big toe. In some embodiments, part of the toes, rearfoot, 15 and part of the midfoot are left exposed. In other embodiments, the foot covering may span the entire foot, leaving only the tips of the toes exposed. As used herein the terms "foot covering," "protective footwear," and "foot glove" are generally used interchangeably. These terms refer to a thin, flexible foot compartment that conforms compliably to a foot of a wearer, provides low visibility 20 impact, and may span the foot partially or entirely, while leaving a portion of one or more toes exposed. FIGS. 1-8 show a foot glove 2 including a body portion 4 with a proximal opening 32 generally positioned at about and surrounding an instep or midfoot region for a foot, and open-ended sleeves 24 for each toe at a distal end 10 of body portion 4, 25 including an elongated sleeve 26 for the big toe. The elongated cover 26 for the big toe leaves only a tip portion of the distal phalanx of the toe exposed. The covering for WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -7 each toe, which may also be provided for one or more of digits two to five, may have varying lengths, but covers at least the creases at the base of the toes. In some embodiments, the foot glove leaves the rearfoot and portion of the midfoot visibly exposed. In other embodiments, the foot covering extends over the 5 heel of the foot. The foot covering may be formed of a combination of materials. In some embodiments, the foot covering may include a combination of relatively inelastic and elastic portions. Generally, thin plies of material are used to construct the covering, such as natural and synthetic leathers, woven, knitted or other non-woven textiles, 10 which are all well known to persons skilled in the art. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, foot covering 2 includes a thin, compliant upper 54. For example, upper 54 may be made of a mesh material that stretches. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-8, upper 54 is made of a single layer of mesh material that is fastened, for example by stitching, along the sides of foot covering 2 to a sole 70 to form body portion 4. 15 The elongated sleeve provided for the big toe allows for protected and unimpeded movement of the foot. The sole of the toe sleeve may include padding below the big toe. The stretchy mesh material hugs and supports the sole and toe padding. Individual openings for each toe allows for a dancer to find equal weight distribution throughout the foot and to flex, pointe, and use full range without being 20 compromised by any tightness or resistance of the foot covering. In contrast, some of the prior art foot coverings have toe holes that are very tight or have binding which prevent the dancer from getting a full range of movement right away. Proximal end 12 of foot covering 2 includes a fastener, such as elastic fastener 30, that holds the proximal end of the foot covering in place in an area between about 25 the metatarsal heads and the midfoot of a wearer's foot. For example, foot covering 2 may be held in place with an elastic fastener 30 located at the instep of the foot just behind the ball of the foot. In some embodiments, elastic fastener 30 at proximal end WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -8 12 may be an elastic band 52 that encircles the foot and follows a V-shaped path at the upper of the foot. For example, FIG. 2 shows proximal end 12 provided with an elastic band 52 following the "V shaped upper and attached to mesh upper 54. Such a "V shaped binding design creates a visual effect of continuing the line of the dancer's leg. 5 In other embodiments, any other suitable fastener may be used. The elastic band 52 is fastened to the mesh material at the upper of foot covering 2, for example by stitching. Elastic band 52 continues to the ground engaging side 6 of foot covering 2 where it is attached to the sole or footpad material. In some embodiments, the open ends of the fastener may be joined at the tip of the V-shape, 10 for example by stitching together the ends of the elastic band. Optionally, elastic fastener 52 may be provided with a lining of a slip-resistant material at the foot facing side of the fastener. For example, in the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-8, elastic band 52 is provided with a strip 56 of a silicone material that runs along a foot facing side of elastic band 56 and that is in direct contact with the 15 skin of the dancer's foot. Such a silicone liner keeps the foot glove in place even if it becomes moist, e.g., as the dancer sweats. At the distal end 10 of foot covering 2, body portion 4 includes a distal fastener in the form of a plurality of toe sleeves 24, each adapted to receive and surround at least a portion of a single toe of a wearer. Toe sleeves 24 are open at the end and 20 leave the distal phalanges of one or more of the second to fifth toes exposed. Toe sleeve 26 of the big toe is generally longer than the sleeves of the second to fifth toes. At the big toe only the tip of the distal end of the toe is exposed. In some embodiments, the toe sleeves have some elasticity that allows comfortably receiving and conforming to the toes of a wearer. FIGS. 1-8 show toe sleeves formed of an 25 elastic upper and a inelastic, wear-resistant sole of a suede material or other natural or synthetic leather material, stitched together to form a sleeve. In some embodiments, a separate piece of mesh material may be attached between the toes, for example by WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 -9 stitching an insert 84 of mesh material in between the toes. Such inserts may be inserted as an additional strip of mesh material or a V-shaped material covering the sides of the toes and in between the toes. In some embodiments, a stretchable mesh may be stitched to the mesh upper and suede sole to form the wall of the sleeve in 5 between toes. Toe sleeves 24 may be finished at the distal end by an edge stitch and/or folding the sleeve material and holding the material in place with a stitching pattern, for example as may be accomplished by a serger or overlock machine. FIG. 8 shows an example of finished edges 82 of toe sleeves 24 and 26. In other embodiments, the sleeves may be formed entirely out of elastic elements. 10 FIG. 9 illustrates how in some embodiments the relative length of the toes sleeves may vary from one toe to another. For example, the length of each toe sleeve 24 may be defined by its length relative to a base line L at the base of the toes. Relative to this base line, the length of the elongated sleeve 26 for the big toe may have a length A. The toe sleeves of second to fifth toes may have a length between A 15 and B. In the example shown, the length progressively decreases from the big toe to the fifth toe. In some embodiments, toe sleeves may have a length B which is variable, for example being 1/3, %, or % of length A, or anywhere in between. In further possible embodiments, length A of the big toe sleeve may be about two times length B of the adjacent toe sleeves. In other possible embodiments, the individual toe sleeve 20 may vary in length relative to each other, for example, following a sloped line S, as indicated in FIG. 9, with the length of each sleeve gradually increasing from the pinky toe towards the big toe. In yet another embodiment, the length of the sleeves may gradually slope down towards the base line from the elongated sleeve for the big toe towards the pinky toe and the sleeve for the pinky toe covers the crease of the pinky 25 toe and the ball of the foot. The foot covering may further have an anatomically structured protective material at the bottom side of the covering, for example in the form of a sole or a WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 10 footpad 70. Sole 70 has a ground engaging side 6 and foot engaging side 8. In the embodiments shown, sole 70 substantially covers the ball of the foot and the ground engaging side 6 extends over the crease of the toes. Sole 70 further covers the padding of the big toe. Sole 70 is joined to the mesh upper 54 to form body portion 4, 5 for example by stitching a suede footpad to the mesh upper at lateral and medial sides of the foot glove and between the toes. In some embodiments, additional footpad material may extend underneath the proximal and intermediate phalanges of the second to fifth toes and proximal and distal phalanges of the big toe. Some embodiments may have a sole including three distinct comfort zones or pads. The 10 comfort zones may be characterized as having more cushioning material relative to surrounding or adjacent areas. These zones bear the majority of the dancer's weight while balancing on the forefoot. Each pad may be shaped to hold and support the sole of the dancer's foot, and may be reinforced with stitching. In some embodiments, the sole may have a distinctive stitching pattern reflecting underlying zones of cushioning 15 or support material. For example, in the embodiment shown in the FIGS. 1-8, there are three distinctive comfort zones 60, 62, and 64. A first zone 60 is defined by a double stitching pattern following the outer contours of the ball of the foot. Optionally, the stitching pattern may curve inward proximally at a center portion of the foot. 20 A second zone 62 may be a transition zone between the ball of the foot and the toes. FIGS. 1-8 show a transition zone having a pattern defined by a transverse stitching line that is curved at the proximal end and that has a wavy line 50 at the distal end of the transition zone. Wavy line 50 may be defined by a stitching pattern where the tip of each wave extends towards the toe. The distal ends of this transition zone 25 cover the crease between the ball of the foot and the toes, where it provides additional support to the wearer. In contrast, the existing foot coverings do not extend across the creases of the toes.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 11 A third zone 64 may be provided underneath the big toe, in particular covering the padding of the big toe. In the embodiments shown, the stitching pattern defines a half oval shape with the rounded portion facing the open end of the toe sleeve and the cross line of the oval towards the transition zone of the foot covering. 5 In other embodiments, these support zones may have any suitable shape or combination of shapes, for example, the footpad may have oval-shaped or hemispherical shaped zones. The outer protective material 94 of the sole may be formed of a suede material or other material that provides a firm grip zone to the dancer. In some embodiments, 10 the entire ground-facing surface of foot covering 2 may be made of a single piece of material. Such one-piece sole blends the coverage of the entire bottom portion of the forefoot and toes into a single unit. In the existing foot coverings the crease between the foot and toes is usually exposed, causing the dancer to lift up the toes and interfering with the dance movements. In contrast, with a foot covering including a sole 15 as provided by the inventive subject matter, the dancer tends to keep the forefoot and toes flat on the floor. Additionally, the dancer has a better feeling of the dance floor because the suede material provides the feeling of working with the floor. Such coverage prevents friction between the dance floor and the skin of the dancer's foot along the ball of the foot, creases of the toes and under the pad of the big toe. In some 20 embodiments, the toe sleeves of the second to fifth toes may leave the toe pad exposed. In other embodiments, the coverage of the toe sleeve for the big toe continues to provide padding at the ground facing surface of the toe sleeve and the mesh upper of the foot glove may continue over the nail bed of the big toe whereas the nails of the second to fifth toes remain exposed. 25 In further possible embodiments, the ground engaging side 6 of covering 2 may include a layer of gripping material. The gripping material may be added as a layer over one or more of the comfort zones of the outer protective material of the sole so WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 12 that the gripping material faces the ground. As shown in FIG. 10, the gripping material may be a coating or a thin layer 42 of an elastomeric material that is applied to the suede outer layer. The layer 42 may have a thickness of about 1 mm. Examples of gripping materials include silicone, natural or synthetic rubber. Other suitable materials 5 may include PVC, vinyl, latex rubber, and neoprene coatings. The layer of gripping material may be applied by heat transfer, spray coating or any other suitable technique. The layer may be added below the ball of the foot, in the transition zone below the ball of the foot and the toes, and/or below the big toe. The elastomeric layer provides slip resistance, which may be beneficial in gymnastics or physical exercise 10 methods such as Pilates or yoga. For example, during Pilates exercises, a foot covering according to the inventive subject matter allows curling of the toes and arches, and flexing of the toes, while also providing a secure feeling of the floor or work out apparatus. In some embodiments, the material(s) used may be adapted to enhance grip of 15 the covering to a work surface, for example the outer gripping material may be adapted to interact with a mat or surface of exercise equipment. In other possible embodiments, the outer protective layer or sole of the covering may be made entirely of an elastomeric material, such as rubber, or a blend of rubber and another material, e.g., the rubber may be impregnated in the other 20 material. In further possible embodiments, the sole may include a combination of gripping materials. For example, some comfort zones in a given covering may include a suede material, which allows for sliding or spinning moves, while other zones include an elastomeric material that is more grippy. Optionally, different materials may also be combined within a single zone. The combination of materials may be used to optimize 25 slip resistance of the covering and the design may be adapted to a specific activity. For example, in some possible embodiments, the foot covering may be provided with a gripping material in the transition zone only to cover the creases of the foot.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 13 Either way, with gripping material added to or replacing the outer protective material, the foot covering is pliable and conforms to the foot. The foot covering protects the big toe and other toes, the area of the foot between the metatarsals and the toes, as well as the area below the ball of the foot. 5 The sole of the foot covering may further have a cushioning material underneath at least a portion of the sole, for example as shown in FIGS. 7-9. These figures show layers of material of foot covering 2 underneath the ball of the foot and underneath the pad of the toe. The padding material, such as a layer 90 of foam-like material, may be positioned between an outer layer 94 and an inner layer 92 of foot 10 covering 2. This padding material cushions and supports the foot and increases the comfort to the wearer. In some embodiments, the inner layer 92 may be a soft cloth material, for example cotton, that is attached by the same stitching pattern that holds the support material. In other examples, it may me a thin layer of polymeric foam, such as EVA or PU. 15 The sole of the foot covering may include ventilation holes or breathing holes. These ventilation holes provide maximum breathability in addition to the mesh upper. As shown in the figures, ventilation holes may be grouped in zones. For example, FIGS. 1-8 show breathing holes 36 at the medial side of the ball of the foot, three holes in the transition zone towards the big toe, and five holes within the oval area 20 below the big toe. In some embodiments, the ventilation holes may be provided in areas where the majority of the dancer's weight is supported maximizing breathability in these areas. In some embodiments, the ventilation holes may extend through the outer layer of the sole, for example as shown in the figures. In some embodiments, the layer of gripping material may cover the ventilation holes. In other embodiments, the 25 ventilation holes may extend to the layer of gripping material as well. In another possible embodiment, the foot covering may have an extended body portion that runs from the heel to the toes of the foot while leaving a portion of the toes WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 14 exposed. For example, as shown in FIGS. 11-17, afoot covering 102 has an upper 108 and a thin and flexible sole 170 forming a body portion 104 that compliably conforms to a foot of a wearer. Upper 108 may be made of an elastic material, as described above. In the 5 embodiment shown in FIGS. 11-17, upper 108 extends from a sole upward to cover the forefoot 116, lateral and medial sides, and the heel of the foot. In other embodiments, the upper may be shaped differently, for example, extending upward to the ankle or lower leg. The upper has a foot entry opening that is lined with an elastic band 152. Elastic band 152 attaches to the mesh upper and loops around the upper 10 foot. Elastic band 152 is formed of a strip of elastic material, and may be of a similar material as the elastic band described in the embodiment above. The ends of the strip of elastic material come together in an upper forefoot section. Figs. 12-14 show a strip of elastic material for enclosing the foot and with the ends meeting in a V-shape in the upper forefoot section. The ends to the strip may be coupled, for example by stitching 15 or other suitable means. Foot covering 102 has a plurality of toe sleeves 124 extending from body portion 104 at the distal end 110, for example similar to the embodiment described above. Each toe sleeve 124 is adapted to receive and extend over a single toe of a wearer. One of the toe sleeves has an elongated portion 126 covering at least a 20 portion of the big toe. The toe sleeves may be formed similar to the toe sleeves described above, and may be finished, for example, with a stitching pattern 182. Foot covering 102 also includes a plurality of comfort zones that may be integrated with the sole. In some embodiments, a layer 142 of a gripping material may be disposed on portions of the ground-engaging surface 106 of the sole. In the 25 embodiment shown in FIGS. 12-17, a first comfort zone 160 is disposed below the ball of the foot, a second comfort zone 162 is disposed in the transition zone below the ball of the foot and the toes, and a third comfort zone 164 is disposed below the big toe.
WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 15 Comfort zones 160, 162, and 164 may be configured similar to the embodiment described above. A fourth comfort zone 166 is disposed below the heel of the foot. As described above, comfort zone 162 may be curved at the proximal end and have a wavy line 150 at the distal end of the transition zone. Wavy line 150 may be 5 defined by a stitching pattern where the tip of each wave extends towards the toe. The distal ends of this zone 162 cover the crease between the ball of the foot and the toes, where it provides additional support to the wearer. In some embodiments, each comfort zone may be provided with a layer of gripping material 142, as described above. FIGS. 12-17 also show strips of gripping 10 material disposed longitudinally in an area 168 corresponding to the arch of the foot. In the embodiment shown, the arch area 168 does not have the padding material of the comfort zones. In other embodiments, padding may be present in the arch area, as well. FIGS. 11 and 15 show how five longitudinal strips of gripping material extend in a midfoot area 118 from about the metatarsal heads to a rearfoot section 120 and in 15 between the first and fourth comfort zones. In other possible embodiments, strips of gripping material in the midfoot area may interconnect and/or connect to adjacent comfort zones. In the embodiment shown, each strip is distinctly shaped with the longest strip running about along a longitudinal axis and two generally parallel strips along each side of that strip. The location, shape, and direction of areas of gripping 20 material may vary depending on the application of the footwear. For example, foot coverings for Pilates exercise may have different configuration than foot coverings used in dance. Configurations may also vary depending on the exercises that the foot covering is used for, for example variations in configuration based on the equipment used. 25 In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 12-17, layer 142 of gripping material is disposed directly on an outer layer 140 of the sole 170. Except for the toe endings, the outer layer is generally shaped to follow the outer contours of a foot. Similar to the WO 2012/058725 PCT/AU2011/001413 - 16 embodiment described above, outer layer 140 may be formed of a suede material or any other thin, flexible wear resistant or protective materials. The fourth comfort zone 166, disposed at the proximal end 112 below the heel of the foot. The fourth comfort zone may have a cup shape with rounded contours 5 following the edge of sole 170 and an inwardly curved section facing midfoot area 118. The curved section is generally symmetrically curved along a longitudinal axis, and complements the shapes of the longitudinal strips. Comfort zone 166 is also provided with breathing holes 136 in the suede material. In some embodiments, breathing holes may extend through the layer of gripping material. 10 The inventive subject matter disclosed herein also contemplates manufacturing of the protective footwear by assembling parts in the manners disclosed. The inventive subject matter further contemplates a method for making such protective footwear and a method for using such protective footwear. Persons skilled in the art will recognize that many modifications and variations 15 are possible in the details, materials, and arrangements of the parts and actions which have been described and illustrated in order to explain the nature of the inventive subject matter, and that such modifications and variations do not depart from the spirit and scope of the teachings and claims contained therein. All patent and non-patent literature cited herein is hereby incorporated by 20 references in its entirety for all purposes.