Can the Right Shoes Help in Rewilding the Landscape?

An ambitious prototype could change urban landscapes

Turns out a shoe can take cues from cockleburs.
MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When I played youth soccer as a kid, sometimes I’d come home at the end of a practice and find burrs stuck all over my shoes and socks. It was an early lesson in the way that some plants adapted their seeds so that they could be carried all over the landscape — though I’m pretty sure the ones I picked up at practice just ended up in the trash. But what if a shoe and a burr ended up having more in common than anyone anticipated?

That’s the gist of a new project from designer Kiki Grammatopoulos called Rewild the Run. A recent article at Dezeen explored the genesis of the project, which currently exists in prototype form — and draws design inspiration from cockleburs and similar plants. The gist of Grammatopoulos’s design is that it embraces the way that shoes can pick up seeds and doubles down on sneakers’ potential use as a distribution mechanism.

“Urban rewilding seeks to equip cities and towns to support wildlife and cater to diverse ecosystems within urban constraints,” Grammatopoulos wrote on Instagram. “The city is an entirely man-made construct and demands intuitive thinking to integrate natural spaces within it.”

The designer went on to tell Dezeen that she also drew inspiration from the hooves of animals like bison in creating the size and scale of the prototype — which, in this case, was created to work with a New Balance shoe.

As Dezeen’s Rima Sabina Aouf points out, Grammatopoulos is now working with London’s Run the Boroughs to see how this prototype works out in the field. (Or, in this case, out in the city.) Interestingly, Run the Boroughs has collaborated with New Balance on a few occasions to celebrate the London Marathon — making it an open question whether urban runners might be taking a few more cues from the natural world in the years to come.

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