Biomimicry in Sportswear: Drawing Inspiration from Nature

Sometimes, an industry’s greatest breakthrough comes from observing the world around us. Sportswear is no exception.

The same principle has existed for years with soccer cleats. However, in 2008, a leading shoe company (NIKE) took it a step further, and developed shoes with small blades, which gives the runner a better grip on the ground.

The shoes stood up to the test in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when the Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell won the 100 metre run while wearing them on a wet track.

“Inspiration is don't get trapped in reading and watching too much. Get out.’' - Arnold Arre

In order to gain an edge and optimise their designs, many pioneers in the sportswear industry have turned their attention to animals and nature in order to innovate and find solutions.

Here are a few examples of brands that have drawn inspiration for their sports shoes from unexpected places.

1. New Balance

William J Riley, a 33 year old Englishman, set up ‘New Balance Arch Support Company’ in Boston, 1906. Initially manufacturing shoe supports to improve the fit of footwear, the company’s unique feature was their use of 3 distinct support points in the insole.

Interestingly, this 3 support point concept was inspired by a chicken’s perfect balance, which results from it’s three clawed feet.

New Balance logo
New Balance logo

Riley took pride in the inspiration, even going so far as to keep a chicken foot on his desk to explain the idea’s origins.

In 1960, the same company manufactured the ‘Trackster’, which was the world’s first running shoe with a ripple sole. Now, New Balance is a household name, selling footwear and apparel in over 120 countries worldwide.

NIke logo
NIke logo


Kihachiro Onitsuka a former Japanese soldier, had a passion for sport and a desire to revolutionise the basketball shoe.

His breakthrough came in 1949 as he was enjoying an octopus salad and observed the way that the tentacle gripped the side of the bowl.

ASICS logo
ASICS logo

Drawing inspiration from this, Onitsuka created a basketball shoe with a suction cup sole that allowed the wearer to make fast and sudden stops.

ONITSUKA Co. Ltd, which in 1950 had four employees and was valued at 300,000 yen, later changed its name to ASICS, an acronym for the Latin expression "Anima Sana In Corpore Sano" ("healthy mind in a healthy body")

ASICS continues to grow and contribute to a healthier lifestyle through intelligent sport technology worldwide.



One of the qualities that makes the cheetah the fastest terrestrial animal is the motion of its feet. The cheetah runs with its claws drawn out, sticking them in the ground, thus providing it with a better grip, enabling it to surge forward.

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