A 3D-Printed Shoe Outsole Can Help Your Neighborhood Grow

Many people love running outdoors because it helps them connect with nature—and now a new 3D-printed shoe outsole will take that to the next level.

Kiki Grammatopoulos, a master’s student at Central Saint Martins in London, is the designer behind Rewild the Run. This bright blue outsole attaches to your running shoes and is covered in small loops that work as hooks, nabbing dirt, seeds, and other outdoor debris as you run.

The loops on the outsole mimic how some seeds attach to animal fur, while the bottom is shaped like a bison hoof. Bison are a keystone species, meaning they play a vital role in maintaining their environment. Their feet also aerate the soil as they graze and press down seeds in the ground, which is the action the Rewild the Run outsoles mimic.


George Downham

Grammatopoulos says the idea behind the outsole is that spreading the seeds will help with rewilding, allowing nature to restore itself with minimal human interference.

“Living in London, I felt very disconnected from our local environment and our nature,” Grammatopoulos told CNN. “So I started thinking about ways that I could replicate keystone species in London because obviously, I can’t really bring in bison or wolves into King’s Cross.”

Grammatopoulos used two seed types for inspiration when it came to the design of the loops: the cocklebur and the grapple plant, or devil’s claw. “The cocklebur has a straight spike, and the grapple plant has a slight curve,” she said. “I tried to incorporate them both.”

You may be familiar with another product that the cocklebur inspired—Velcro. “Before I did any 3D modeling, I’d cover my shoes in Velcro to just have a look at what my shoe would pick up and over what areas of the shoe,” Grammatopoulos said.

The outsoles will pick up smaller seeds when worn during a run and disperse them to other areas as the activity continues. Your regular running shoes may also pick up a seed or two, but fewer than the loop system used by the Rewilding outsoles. However, Grammatopoulos isn’t marketing them just yet. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to run in these as they are right now,” she said, “It’s more about exploring…the environment you’re running in, and also to allow people to feel a bit more comfortable in running in greenery and not be scared of it.”

She says she is interested in working with rewilding experts and different production technologies to develop the idea further but isn’t sure if the final product will be an outsole or a standalone shoe. So, if you want to rewild your local trails, you may be stuck applying velcro to your shoes for now.

Headshot of Laura Ratliff

Contributing Writer

Laura Ratliff is a New York City-based writer, editor, and runner. Laura’s writing expertise spans numerous topics, ranging from travel and food and drink to reported pieces covering political and human rights issues. She has previously worked at Architectural Digest, Bloomberg News, and Condé Nast Traveler and was most recently the senior editorial director at TripSavvy. Like many of us, Laura was bitten by the running bug later in life, after years of claiming to “hate running.” Her favorite marathon is Big Sur.

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