A model is developed to describe the reversible nature of gecko dry adhesion. The central aspect of this model is that the seta can be easily peeled away from the contacting surface by a small moment at the contact tip. It is shown that this contact condition is very sensitive, but can result in robust adhesion if individual setae are canted and highly flexible. In analogy to the “cone of friction,” we consider the “adhesion region”—the domain of normal and tangential forces that maintain adhesion. Results demonstrate that this adhesion region is highly asymmetric enabling the gecko to adhere under a variety of loading conditions associated with scuttling horizontally, vertically, and inverted. Moreover, under each of these conditions, there is a low energy path to de-adhesion. In this model, obliquely canted seta (as possessed by geckos) rather than vertically aligned fibers (common in synthetic dry adhesive) provides the most robust adhesion.

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