As much as I try to stay aware of what’s going on in the world of minimalist footwear, every now and then a company kind of sneaks up on me. Such is the case with Somnio.
The small company from the small coastal town of La Selva Beach, California has dabbled in traditional training shoes for a little while, and until very recently had distinguished itself by creating an adjustable component system which creates a customizable fit for each user. This year, they set that strategy aside in order to test the minimalist waters – and for a first-time entry, they’ve done a fairly remarkable job.
The product in question is the Nada, which - depending on who you ask – stands for No Anterior Drop Applied, or is the Spanish word for “nothing”. Both descriptions are accurate, as the Nada is a zero-drop trainer that is so lightweight that it feels like there’s almost nothing attached to your foot.
Weighing in at just 3.5oz (the official spec is for women's size 8; my size is closer to 4oz), the Nada is clearly one of the most lightweight running shoes on the market. With a midsole height of only 6mm in the heel and forefoot, it’s also one of the lowest to the ground. Its construction features some of the basics you’d find in road racing shoes, and a few design elements that make it barefoot-friendly. The only drawback I have is that it’s strictly a road shoe, with poor crossover potential for use on trails, largely due to the outsole.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves … so let’s go back and start at the top.
Uppers of the Nada consist of a very breathable stretch mesh that’s ideal for hot days, but still insulates well with a good pair of socks. TPU overlays help secure the upper against the midfoot area, and there’s plenty of width in the toebox for natural splay at foot strike. Laces are asymmetric and do a great job of maintaining tension through the midfoot and across the top.
The heel collar area is extremely thin as well, and wraps very securely around the ankle. The sockliner is a soft fabric that’s comfortable against sockless feet if that’s your preference. There’s a thin layer of “roadblock rubber” at the heel and tip of the toebox for additional abrasion resistance.
Specs through the midfoot are simple: 6mm of compression-molded EVA in the heel, and 6mm in the forefoot. It’s a flat platform, just low enough to the ground to be authentically minimalist, but providing a tad bit of cushioning for comfort.
Nada’s outsole is fairly simple as well; it’s primarily a 2mm extension of the midsole material with some token traction lines cut into it for gripping the road. The good news about this design is that with a resultant height of 8mm (6mm midsole plus 2mm outsole), the Nada is only 1mm higher than the shoe I consider the gold standard for road minimalism: Vibram’s FiveFingers Bikila, which has a 4mm insole plus 3mm outsole. The bad news is that there’s very little grip to the outsole, making the shoe practically ineffectual for any off-road use. Obviously as a trail runner this is a major drawback for me, but dedicated road runners shouldn’t have a problem with it.
If traction of the outsole is the main limitation, here’s its main strength: complete flexibility to allow natural foot function. There’s nothing about this construction that will prevent your foot from moving the way it wants to. Combined with the barely-there weight of the shoe, the Nada might be the closest you’ll come to feeling barefoot while wearing something resembling a traditional running shoe.
To their additional credit, Somnio recognizes the caution that goes along with venturing into minimalist running, so each purchase of the Nada also comes with a training DVD developed by Phil Wharton, a renown musculoskeletal therapist who has an ideal resume to help people safely transition to running with less shoe. The DVD includes form drills and strengthening exercises designed to address running efficiency and prevent injury.
Considering that this is their first effort with minimalist running shoes, Somnio has done a commendable job of incorporating the important elements of natural foot motion along with a bare minimum of traditional design aspects. I'd love to see them develop a trail version in the near future, but in the meantime, the Nada is a solid choice for minimalist road running.
*Product provided by Somnio
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