An overview of the recent progress in the development of gecko-inspired synthetic dry adhesives is presented, with particular emphasis on two major structural elements of nanohairs and nanotubes. With the advance of nanofabrication techniques, recently developed dry adhesives made of nanohairs and nanotubes show excellent adhesion strength, smart directional adhesion as well as rough surface adaptability by better mimicking gecko foot hairs. After a brief description of the requirements for high-performance artificial dry adhesives, a variety of synthetic adhesives are described based on materials and structural features of the gecko-inspired nanostructures. In addition, current challenges and future directions towards an optimized synthetic dry adhesive are presented. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.