Background of the Invention
Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to athletic footwear. More
particularly, this invention relates to athletic footwear used in soccer or other
sports which require kicking and/or dribbling of a ball with the wearer's feet.
Soccer shoes are used by a wearer to dribble, kick and pass a ball. In
each function, it is beneficial for the wearer to be able to handle and control
the ball easily and effectively with the soccer shoe. It is also beneficial to
have a soccer shoe that enables the wearer to impart spin and increase power
to the ball as it is kicked. Further, a soccer shoe that improves a wearer's
ability to control and kick the ball as environmental conditions become
adverse, such as when it is cold, wet and/or muddy, is crucial to a wearer's
In light of the above, numerous attempts have been made over the
years to incorporate into a soccer shoe some type of ball handling surface
attached to the shoe upper that provides a wearer with better grip and purchase
of a ball. In U.S. Patent No. 3,191,321 to Brutting, rubber projections were
inserted through holes in the toe portion and medial and lateral vamp portions
of the soccer shoe upper to form a ball control surface. This arrangement
attempted to address problems of prior shoes of this type i.e., unsatisfactory
shape of projections, construction and method of securing the projections to
the upper. Whereas the rubber projections of the shoe of U.S. Patent No.
3,191,321 are such as to perhaps improve ball contact and control, they may
have the adverse effect of dampening a wearer's power kick due to the
compressibility of the material contacting the ball.
The design of the soccer shoe in U.S. Patent No. 5,437,112 to Johnston
includes rubber formations applied over flat and/or concave ball contact areas.
The effectiveness of the ball contact areas of U.S. Patent No. 5,437,112 is
premised on the "squaring-off" of the toe box so that the shoe has increased
surface area on the inner medial and lateral shoe vamp. The rubber formations
on the ball control surface are comprised of either thinner, flexible rubber to
provide flexibility and feel to the wearer for improved dribbling and ball
control or of rubber of sufficient thickness to remain stable for power kicking.
In order to get both effects in one shoe, it is necessary for a wearer to secure a
harder, thicker kicking attachment to a "dribbling" shoe. Thus, the design of
the shoe does not readily accommodate a soccer player's need for a soccer
shoe that will aid the wearer in dribbling and controlling the ball as well as
power kicking and passing the ball.
Summary of the Invention
Accordingly, what is needed is a soccer shoe which incorporates a ball
control system that includes a means to provide adequate dribbling and
controlling features to the wearer and means of applying or increasing power
or influence over the ball during kicking and passing. In addition, the ball
control system must be integrated into the soccer shoe in such a manner as to
not impede a player's speed by being too heavy or cumbersome.
To achieve the foregoing and other objects, and in accordance with the
purposes of the present invention as embodied and broadly described herein,
the article of footwear of the present invention comprises a ball control and
influence system. The system of the present invention includes a ball control
region that is comprised of three interrelated materials serving three different
functions that is disposed on an outer surface of a soccer shoe upper.
The soccer shoe of the present invention enables the wearer to control
the ball while dribbling and to achieve rapid control of the ball upon receipt of
a pass. The soccer shoe also provides means of applying or increasing power
and influence over the ball while power kicking and passing. Due to the
relative movement between the ball control region and the outer surface of the
upper upon contact with a ball and the composition of the ball control region,
the soccer shoe allows the wearer to impart spin or other forms of induced
movement of the ball so as to selectively vary the flight of the ball.
The soccer shoe of the present invention includes a ball control region
attached to an outer surface of the upper. The ball control region is comprised
of a series of raised geometric protrusions constructed of three layers of
interrelated materials. The material of each layer is chosen to perform a
specific function so that in unison the three layers allow a wearer to impart a
variety of desired effects on the ball.
The outer layer is comprised of a soft and pliable rubber that deforms
easily and provides grip when in contact with a ball. The gripping nature of
the outer layer acts like tentacles to both attract and slow down the ball when
receiving it and then keeping it steady when preparing to shoot. The outer
layer is tactile so that the wearer is able to feel the ball to effectively dribble
and carry it down the field under any environmental condition.
The inner middle layer is comprised of a harder, more resilient rubber
compound than that of the outer layer. The inner middle layer in conjunction
with the outer layer deforms around the outer surface of a ball to enhance or
over-emphasize the particular effect that the wearer wants to achieve with the
ball. Thus, a wearer can more effectively make short passes and/or maneuver
about other players by applying greater force between the ball control region
and the ball surface and deforming the inner middle layer of material.
The core layer is comprised of a very thin layer of high tensile metal or
plastic. This area provides a wearer with the means of applying and/or
increasing power and influence to the ball. A wearer is able to achieve an
extra belt of power and effect when the three layers of the ball control region
are deformed in unison during hard contact with the ball.
In another embodiment of the present invention, the ball control region
is comprised of a series of raised geometric protrusions of various sizes that
are arranged on the soccer shoe upper in a manner that allows the wearer to
impart a variety of desired effects on the ball, such as imparting more spin to
the ball. Each geometric protrusion is made of a single rubber material,
however the type of rubber compound used for the geometric protrusions
varies with its placement on the soccer shoe upper. Thus, the rubber material
selected for the geometric protrusions around the throat of the upper has a
different density/hardness than the rubber material selected for the geometric
protrusions which cover the lateral and medial sides of the soccer shoe upper.
The invention also provides a ball control surface for sports footwear
having gripper or ball teeth made of rubber and/or compounds designed in
combination with specific geometries that bite into a ball as it is kicked
forward. The control surface may comprise a series of raised pyramids spaced
equidistantly, and constructed of three different but interrelated materials
having different functions.
Preferably, the outer surface is of a very soft and pliable rubber that
deforms easily and has the property of acting like tentacles to both attract and
slow a ball down when receiving it and then keeping it steady when preparing
for a kick. It is very desirable for the ball to stay in contact with the ball
control surface for as long as possible. The "tentacles" have properties which
make this possible.
The inner material is of a harder and more nervous rubber or other
resilient compound which acts in conjunction with the outer rubber to deform
around the surface of the ball and to then enhance or over emphasize the
particular effect that the player wants to achieve with the ball.
The core material is made of a thin but high tensile metal or plastic.
This part effects energy and nervousness which can give a critical brief
(milliseconds) belt of extra power and effect.
Brief Description of the Drawings
Further features and advantages of the present invention, as well as the
structure and operation of various embodiments of the present invention, are
described in detail below with reference to the accompanying drawings.
The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated herein and form
part of the specification, illustrate the present invention and together with the
description further serve to explain the principles of the invention and to
enable a person skilled in the pertinent art to make and use the invention.
FIG. 1 is a lateral side view of one embodiment of an article of
footwear in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of a geometric protrusion of FIG. 1.
FIG. 2a is a cross-sectional view taken along line 2A-2A of Fig. 2.
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a series of geometric protrusions of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3a is a cross-sectional view taken along line 3A-3A of Fig. 3.
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a series of geometric protrusions of
FIG. 1 in a relaxed state.
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a series of geometric protrusions of
FIG. 1 wherein an outer layer is deformed under soft contact with a ball.
FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a series of geometric protrusions of
FIG. 1 wherein an outer layer and an inner middle layer are deformed under
hard contact with a ball.
FIG. 7 is a medial side view of a second embodiment of an article of
footwear in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 8 is a lateral side view of the article of footwear of FIG.7.
FIG. 9 is a top view of the article of footwear of FIG. 7.
Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments
FIG. 10 is a top plan view of the ball control region (shell?) of FIG. 7.
A preferred embodiment of the present invention is now described with
reference to the figures where like reference numbers indicate identical or
functionally similar elements. Also in the figures, the left most digit of each
reference number corresponds to the figure in which the reference number is
first used. While specific configurations and arrangements are discussed, it
should be understood that this is done for illustrative purposes only. A person
skilled in the relevant art will recognize that other configurations and
arrangements can be used without departing from the spirit and scope of the
invention. It will be apparent to a person skilled in the relevant art that this
invention can also be employed in a variety of other applications.
A lateral side view of soccer shoe 100 in accordance with the present
invention is shown in FIG. 1. Soccer shoe 100 has upper 102 and sole 104
provided with studs 106. Upper 102 may be made of leather. In another
embodiment of the present invention, upper 102 may be made of any suitable
synthetic material, including a combination of fabric and plastic. Sole 104 and
studs 106 are integrally formed of plastic in an injection molding process. In
another embodiment, sole 104 and studs 106 may be formed separately and
attached one to the other in any means apparent to a person skilled in the
relevant art given the present description and application.
Ball control region 108 is attached to upper 102 and is comprised of a
series of geometric protrusion 110 formed in rows. In another embodiment of
the present invention, ball control region 108 may be formed integrally with
upper 102. Each geometric protrusion 110 is generally pyramidal and of
substantially equal dimensions. The geometry and size of geometric
protrusion 110 provides multidirectional performance for the wearer. Ball
control region 108 wraps around the outer surface of upper 102 below
fastening portion 112 such that a ball may be controlled about this entire
region. In another embodiment of the present invention, geometric protrusions
may be of various shapes and dimensions and formed about the ball control
region in any suitable arrangement in keeping with the present description and
As shown in FIGs. 2, 2A, 3 and 4, ball control region 108 may be
formed of three distinct and interrelated layers. Outer layer 202 is formed of a
soft and pliable rubber that deforms easily and has the property of acting like
tentacles to both attract and slow the ball down when receiving it and then
keeping it steady when preparing to shoot. (It is very desirable for accuracy of
the kick that the ball stays on the foot for as long as possible, the outer layer
has properties to make this possible.) One preferred material is a rubber
compound having a Shore hardness of between 60A and 64A. Inner middle
layer 204 is formed of a much harder and more resilient rubber compound
than outer layer 202. One suitable material is a rubber compound having a
Shore hardness of between 49A and 53A. As shown in FIGs. 5 and 6, inner
middle layer 204 acts in conjunction with outer layer 202 to deform around the
surface of ball 502 to enhance or over-emphasize the particular effect that the
wearer wants to put on the ball. Core layer 206 is formed of a very thin high
tensile metal or plastic. Core layer 206 creates the real energy and resiliency
of ball control region 108 that during a kick gives a belt of extra power and
effect while imparting spin on the ball.
Although the above-described embodiment suggests the use of three
separate materials for geometric protrusions 110, it may be possible to use a
single material with a density that varies from a less dense outer region to a
denser inner region. It is also envisioned that for some applications, two
materials may be used to accomplish some of the same goals as the three layer
geometric protrusion of ball control region 108. Similarly, the ball control
region can be tailored for particular functionality by utilizing a fourth material
FIGS. 7 through 10 show an alternate embodiment of the present
invention. Soccer shoe 700 has upper 702 and sole 704 provided with studs
706. Ball control region 708 is attached to an outer surface of upper 702 and
is comprised of geometric protrusions 710 that are generally conical. Conical
protrusions 708 vary in height from 3 mm to 7 mm and in base diameter from
3 mm to 6 mm, as represented in FIG. 10.
Ball control region 708 is arranged such that it defines ball pockets 712
on the outer surface of upper 702. Shorter conical protrusions 710 are
arranged directly adjacent ball pockets 712 with taller conical protrusions 710
positioned in step fashion about ball control region 708 such that the curved
surface of the ball is accommodated within ball pockets 712.
Conical protrusions 710 of ball control region 708 are each formed of a
single rubber compound. However, the properties of the rubber compound
used to produce the conical protrusions varies with which region of ball
control surface 708 the conical protrusions are to be placed on soccer shoe
upper 702. As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, ball control region 708 is comprised
of a throat region 714, a medial region 716 and a lateral region 718 wherein
the rubber compound used to manufacture the conical protrusions thereon
varies from region to region. Particularly, the rubber used for the "U-shaped"
throat region 714 of ball control region 708 is of a harder rubber material, such
as PGM 44 with a Shore hardness of 50A, which allows a wearer to increase
the power and influence over the ball when the ball is kicked from within this
region of the shoe. In contrast medial and lateral regions 716 and 718 of ball
control region 708 are made of a softer rubber material, such as PGM 50 with
a Shore hardness of 62A, which slightly deforms around the surface of a ball
to allow the wearer to enhance or over-emphasize the particular effect that the
wearer wants to achieve with the ball, by keeping the ball on the wearer's foot
Ball control region 108 may also be removable from the upper to allow
ball control regions having different characteristics to be interchanged on a
single upper. For example, the ball control region could be attached with
snaps, a hook and pile fastener or in any other convenient manner. Individual
geometric protrusions might also be replaceable so that an individual soccer
player may tailor his/her ball control region to suit his/her individual needs or
While various embodiments of the present invention have been
described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way
of example, and not limitation. It will be apparent to persons skilled in the
relevant art that various changes in form and detail can be made therein
without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus the present
invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary
embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following
claims and their equivalents. All cited patent documents and publications in
the above description are incorporated herein by reference.