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April 3, 2011

Somnio Nada Running Shoe Review

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.

Somnio Nada

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.

Breathable mesh upper with protective coating at toes

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.

Thin heel collar and barefoot-friendly interior

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.

6mm midsole at heel

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.

EVA outsole suitable for road use; definitely not for trails

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.

Super flexible outsole!

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.

The Somnio Nada is a unisex model that retails for $80 from the company website as well as other online vendors.

*Product provided by Somnio
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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JimDog 4/4/11, 6:44 AM  

Great review! For me personally, you can pry my NB Minimus trail shoes out of my cold, dead hands...but for a 100% road shoe I could easily see these replacing my Asics Piranhas SP3s.

Eric 4/4/11, 6:49 AM  

I've had my eye on these for a while & really just waiting to read a bit more about them. My only real concern had been the sole material, the kind of traction it provided & its long term durability. These don't seem to be as long lived as the typical VFF. How many miles do you think it would take to chew down that EVA sole?

Ray,  4/4/11, 7:13 AM  

Donald, how would you compare these to the Bikila's? i.e. If you had to choose a road-only shoe, which would it be?

Donald 4/4/11, 7:31 AM  

Eric: I have the same concern about the midsole. I have about 70 miles on my pair, and there's not too much indication of wear yet ... but I'd be surprised if they get over 500 miles.

Ray: The Bikilas are still my favorite, but if it's too cold for them (I wear them sockless, and Vibrams are generally colder anyway) then the Nada would be a solid backup choice to keep my toes warmer.

Tim,  4/5/11, 7:10 AM  

I have had an awful experience with the NADA. First off it runs huge...after I discovered that it took me weeks to get my right size. Somnio customer service is not very good. Secondly (and more important) I have blown out the outsole and the upper is already starting to rip! The DVD is cool...but you can get the samething by a simple google search. This was a waste of money!

Donald 4/5/11, 1:31 PM  

Tim: Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear your experience with Somnios. The company website mentions the sizing discrepancy, but I'm not sure if all other vendors do. As far as durability goes, mine have been OK so far (see comment above), but I'll definitely continue to monitor.

Ameer The Trail Running Shoes Lover 4/5/11, 8:02 PM  

I really got surprised how easily you have folded that shoe in your hand. When the out sole is so thin you can't expect it to be hitting the trails.

Matt Mahoney 4/6/11, 11:58 AM  

I agree the Somnio runs large. I normally wear size 13 but there was 1 inch of space in the toebox. A size 11 fits me perfectly.

Angie Bee 6/26/11, 1:38 PM  

I have really loved my Nada's. There seems to be at least one spot on one of my feet that shoes rub the wrong way depending on the shoe and that is not the case with the Nada's. I wear them sockless. I heeded their warning about them running large and mine fit great.
So far, since they are so lite, they are my favorite road shoe and the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo's come in a close second and only due to the weight.

Anonymous,  7/26/11, 6:53 PM  

I've had the Somnio Nada for about a month. I love the lightweight feel but have one complaint. They seem to be rather narrow in the toe box. Compared to traditional running shoes they are probably normal but for a minimalist shoe they aren't as roomy across the toes as I had hoped. When you look at the shape of the sole on the bottom you can really see how it narrows at the toes. The shoes work for me with shorter runs but over 10 miles at a time I start getting problems with rubbing against my big toe. I tried a 17 mile jog and developed a nasty blood blister. Would love to see these with a wider toe box. I've been wearing the Osma Feelmax shoe for over a year and I think my feet have gotten used to the wider toe box on that shoe.

Donald, I wonder how the toe box on the Nada compares to other minimalist options you've reviewed.
Thanks for the reviews! Good to hear about different options.

Anonymous,  9/9/11, 5:08 AM  

Somnio is going out of business. Ordered a pair of Nada's on 23 August and received a refund on 8 September. They haven't shut down their site and are still processing credit card orders

Donald 9/9/11, 10:30 PM  

Anon: very strange. It appears that they're trying to launch a rebranded company called Nada, with shoes that are almost the same as the model I reviewed here. Check out nadasports.com.

Anonymous,  9/14/11, 1:20 PM  

On the end of August a person that was working for Somnio told me that the company went out of business and had to find a new job.

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