Epizoochory is a type of dispersal system in which seeds are carried away from parent plants when they attach themselves to the feet or fur of animals. This is the phenomenon replicated by Kiki Grammatopoulos in her bold running shoes that ‘sow’ seeds while the wearer runs.
‘Urbanisation has had a range of adverse effects on ecosystem functioning, including the disruption of plant-dispersal processes across the landscape,’ Grammatopoulos, a masters graduate of Central Saint Martins art school in London, explains. To remedy this, she looked to fashion and sport to engage people in ‘rewilding’ – restoring ecosystems and reversing biodiversity declines by allowing wildlife and natural processes to reclaim areas.
A vital part of urban rewilding is the human component of the process: ‘Footwear is our connection to the ground and our environment. Inspired by animal hooves and fur, this project proposes that our outsoles could promote biodiversity and further cultivate ecosystems by mimicking the behaviour of keystone species [organisms that help define an entire ecosystem, holding it together].'
Grammatopoulos’s ‘Rewild the Run’ shoe employs hooked and tangled plastic soles that mimic epizoochory, and are ideal carriers for plants and seeds. The bulky look and split-pattern design of the soles are inspired by the hooves of bison, a keystone species that has been extinct for over a century in the UK and Europe. Bison facilitate the movement of other animals in the forest by creating pathways as they tread through the woodlands, and when they graze, their hooves aerate the soil, promoting plant growth, while also dispersing native seeds to sustain a thriving and harmonious ecosystem.
Grammatopoulos hopes that the product will be 3D-printed or injection-moulded in a performance rubber in the future. Currently, she is conducting tests on her designs alongside Run the Boroughs, a running community based in London.
Photographs: Kiki Grammatopoulos.