Running shoes can be really damn ugly. And that’s fine, because you’re only supposed to wear them when you run (not when you go to the airport or the grocery store). When we buy running shoes, function is what we care about: we want shoes will keep our rickety knees from feeling pain; we want shoes that make running mildly enjoyable; basically, we want shoes that aren’t so awful that they provide another excuse not to run.

Also, we want shoes, not rubber socks. We’re just not ready.

But this is not to say we don’t appreciate a pretty running shoe when we see one. Especially one designed by a Chicagoan. Enter the Chicago version of Nike’s Lunarglide +3 (the shoe in the slideshow above). This running shoe was designed by Chicago artist Tara D., a.k.a. Lil’ Brown Bird, a.k.a. a 27 year old who originally hails from California but has been living in Chicago the last 10 years. Stylizing shoes is not her typical art project – she has a wicked mobile art gallery that house some of her paintings – but she wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to work with Nike.

The Chicago Lunarglides Tara designed have a distinctive Chicago color scheme, most noticeably the Lake-Michigan blue shoelaces (our favorite aspect) and red-star soles. Those colors show up in the mural she created for Nike, which is printed on limited edition Nike running shirts and on the tongue and sides of Chicago Lunarglide. To celebrate the launch of these shoes, Nike teamed with up with Akin in Lincoln Park and the Chicago Blogger Network to throw an in-store party on Saturday. Attendees had a chance to see the new shoes, meet Tara D., and for those that stuck around, check out Tara’s mobile art gallery the HotBox.

These shoes are part of the Nike Lunarglide +3 City Pack, which features specialty Lunarglides designed for Beijing, Berlin, Boston, London, New York, Rio, San Francisco, Tokyo and of course, Chicago. For each city shoe, Nike teamed up with local artists. The Chicago shoes are $100, and we’re guessing the other ones are too. We couldn’t get Nike to reveal how limited these shoes are – sorry shoe collectors who like to tell people just how limited their limited edition kicks are – but it’s safe to assume these aren’t being mass produced. Chicagoans looking for these shoes should check out Niketown on Michigan Ave. or Akin in Lincoln Park. For out-of-town collectors looking purchase the shoes online, we’ve been told they should eventually be available on Nike’s online shop, but at the time of this posting, we couldn’t find them on the Nike site. Our advice would be to call Niketown or Akin and go from there.

As for Tara D., you can check her out online at and follow her on Twitter, @letshotbox.

Finally, we should note: buying running shoes because they look cool is dumb (unless you’re a collector and never actually wear your shoes).  When buying running shoes for the purpose of running, you should find a pair that’s best for your foot and running style. You should familiarize yourself with the word pronate. After weighing your options, you might find the best shoe for your foot is the very stylish Chicago Lunarglide +3. Or you might end up with the ultimate ugly running shoe that feels perfect around your feet. If the latter is what you end up with, don’t worry, but also, don’t wear those shoes in situations where your feet are still enough for people to inspect your sneakers.