CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
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This application is a division of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/079,748, filed Nov. 14, 2013, which application is a continuation of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/413,233, filed Mar. 6, 2012, which application is a continuation application of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/236,742, filed Sep. 20, 2011, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,266,749, issued Sep. 18, 2012, which is a continuation application of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/879,517, filed Sep. 10, 2010, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,042,288, issued Oct. 25, 2011, which is a continuation application of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/032,995, filed Feb. 18, 2008, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,814,598, issued Oct. 19, 2010, which is a divisional application of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/791,289, filed Mar. 3, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,347,011, issued Mar. 25, 2008, each of which applications are being entirely incorporated herein by reference.
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1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to footwear. The invention concerns, more particularly, an article of footwear incorporating an upper that is at least partially formed from a textile material.
2. Description of Background Art
Conventional articles of athletic footwear include two primary elements, an upper and a sole structure. The upper provides a covering for the foot that securely receives and positions the foot with respect to the sole structure. In addition, the upper may have a configuration that protects the foot and provides ventilation, thereby cooling the foot and removing perspiration. The sole structure is secured to a lower surface of the upper and is generally positioned between the foot and the ground. In addition to attenuating ground reaction forces and absorbing energy (i.e., imparting cushioning), the sole structure may provide traction and control potentially harmful foot motion, such as over pronation. Accordingly, the upper and the sole structure operate cooperatively to provide a comfortable structure that is suited for a wide variety of ambulatory activities, such as walking and running. The general features and configuration of the conventional upper are discussed in greater detail below.
The upper forms a void on the interior of the footwear for receiving the foot. The void has the general shape of the foot, and access to the void is provided by an ankle opening. Accordingly, the upper extends over the instep and toe areas of the foot, along the medial and lateral sides of the foot, and around the heel area of the foot. A lacing system is often incorporated into the upper to selectively increase the size of the ankle opening and permit the wearer to modify certain dimensions of the upper, particularly girth, to accommodate feet with varying proportions. In addition, the upper may include a tongue that extends under the lacing system to enhance the comfort of the footwear, and the upper may include a heel counter to limit movement of the heel.
Various materials may be utilized in manufacturing the upper. The upper of an article of athletic footwear, for example, may be formed from multiple material layers that include an exterior layer, an intermediate layer, and an interior layer. The materials forming the exterior layer of the upper may be selected based upon the properties of wear-resistance, flexibility, and air-permeability, for example. With regard to the exterior layer, the toe area and the heel area may be formed of leather, synthetic leather, or a rubber material to impart a relatively high degree of wear-resistance. Leather, synthetic leather, and rubber materials may not exhibit the desired degree of flexibility and air-permeability. Accordingly, various other areas of the exterior layer of the upper may be formed from a synthetic or natural textile. The exterior layer of the upper may be formed, therefore, from numerous material elements that each impart different properties to specific portions of the upper.
An intermediate layer of the upper may be formed from a lightweight polymer foam material that provides cushioning and protects the foot from objects that may contact the upper. Similarly, an interior layer of the upper may be formed of a moisture-wicking textile that removes perspiration from the area immediately surrounding the foot. In some articles of athletic footwear, the various layers may be joined with an adhesive, and stitching may be utilized to join elements within a single layer or to reinforce specific areas of the upper.
Although the materials selected for the upper vary significantly, textile materials often form at least a portion of the exterior layer and interior layer. A textile may be defined as any manufacture from fibers, filaments, or yarns characterized by flexibility, fineness, and a high ratio of length to thickness. Textiles generally fall into two categories. The first category includes textiles produced directly from webs of filaments or fibers by randomly interlocking to construct non-woven fabrics and felts. The second category includes textiles formed through a mechanical manipulation of yarn, thereby producing a woven fabric, for example.
Yarn is the raw material utilized to form textiles in the second category. In general, yarn is defined as an assembly having a substantial length and relatively small cross-section that is formed of at least one filament or a plurality of fibers. Fibers have a relatively short length and require spinning or twisting processes to produce a yarn of suitable length for use in textiles. Common examples of fibers are cotton and wool. Filaments, however, have an indefinite length and may merely be combined with other filaments to produce a yarn suitable for use in textiles. Modern filaments include a plurality of synthetic materials such as rayon, nylon, polyester, and polyacrylic, with silk being the primary, naturally-occurring exception. Yarn may be formed of a single filament, which is conventionally referred to as a monofilament yarn, or a plurality of individual filaments grouped together. Yarn may also include separate filaments formed of different materials, or the yarn may include filaments that are each formed of two or more different materials. Similar concepts also apply to yarns formed from fibers. Accordingly, yarns may have a variety of configurations that generally conform to the definition provided above.
The various techniques for mechanically manipulating yarn into a textile include interweaving, intertwining and twisting, and interlooping. Interweaving is the intersection of two yarns that cross and interweave at right angles to each other. The yarns utilized in interweaving are conventionally referred to as warp and weft. Intertwining and twisting encompasses procedures such as braiding and knotting where yarns intertwine with each other to form a textile. Interlooping involves the formation of a plurality of columns of intermeshed loops, with knitting being the most common method of interlooping.
The textiles utilized in footwear uppers generally provide a lightweight, air-permeable structure that is flexible and comfortably receives the foot. In order to impart other properties to the footwear, including durability and stretch-resistance, additional materials are commonly combined with the textile, including leather, synthetic leather, or rubber, for example. With regard to durability, U.S. Pat. No. 4,447,967 to Zaino discloses an upper formed of a textile material that has a polymer material injected into specific zones to reinforce the zones against abrasion or other forms of wear. Regarding stretch resistance, U.S. Pat. No. 4,813,158 to Brown and U.S. Pat. No. 4,756,098 to Boggia both disclose a substantially inextensible material that is secured to the upper, thereby limiting the degree of stretch in specific portions of the upper.
From the perspective of manufacturing, utilizing multiple materials to impart different properties to an article of footwear may be an inefficient practice. For example, the various materials utilized in a conventional upper are not generally obtained from a single supplier. Accordingly, a manufacturing facility must coordinate the receipt of specific quantities of materials with multiple suppliers that may have distinct business practices or may be located in different regions or countries. The various materials may also require additional machinery or different assembly line techniques to cut or otherwise prepare the material for incorporation into the footwear. In addition, incorporating separate materials into an upper may involve a plurality of distinct manufacturing steps requiring multiple individuals. Employing multiple materials, in addition to textiles, may also detract from the breathability of footwear. Leather, synthetic leather, or rubber, for example, are not generally permeable to air. Accordingly, positioning leather, synthetic leather, or rubber on the exterior of the upper may inhibit air flow through the upper, thereby increasing the amount of perspiration, water vapor, and heat trapped within the upper and around the foot.
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The present invention is an upper for an article of footwear, the upper incorporating a textile element formed with a knitting machine, for example. In one aspect of the invention, the textile element has edges that are joined together to define at least a portion of a void for receiving a foot. In another aspect of the invention, the textile element has a first area and a second area of unitary construction. The first area is formed of a first stitch configuration, and the second area is formed of a second stitch configuration that is different from the first stitch configuration to impart varying textures to a surface of the textile element. The knitting machine may have a configuration that forms the textile element through either warp knitting or weft knitting.
Another aspect of the invention involves a method of manufacturing an article of footwear. The method includes a step of mechanically-manipulating a yarn with a circular knitting machine, for example, to form a cylindrical textile structure. In addition, the method involves removing at least one textile element from the textile structure, and incorporating the textile element into an upper of the article of footwear.
In another aspect of the invention, an article of footwear has an upper and a sole structure secured to the upper. The upper incorporates a textile element formed with a knitting machine. The textile element is removed from a textile structure that includes an outline of the textile element, and the textile element has edges that are joined together to define at least a portion of a void for receiving a foot.
The advantages and features of novelty characterizing the present invention are pointed out with particularity in the appended claims. To gain an improved understanding of the advantages and features of novelty, however, reference may be made to the following descriptive matter and accompanying drawings that describe and illustrate various embodiments and concepts related to the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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The foregoing Summary of the Invention, as well as the following Detailed Description of the Invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a lateral elevational view of an article of footwear having an upper in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a lateral elevational view of the upper.
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the upper.
FIG. 4 is a rear elevational view of the upper.
FIG. 5 is a bottom plan view of the upper.
FIG. 6 is a first cross-sectional view of the upper, as defined by section line 6-6 in FIG. 2.
FIG. 7 is a second cross-sectional view of the upper, as defined by section line 7-7 in FIG. 2.
FIG. 8 is a plan view of a textile element that forms at least a portion of the upper.
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a textile structure that incorporates two of the textile element.
FIG. 10 is a plan view of another textile element.
FIG. 11 is a plan view of yet another textile element.