Tuesday, February 15, 2011

mzungo exclusive: The Somnio Nada

Some people may say that “minimalist running” is a turn towards the golden age of injury free running. Others may say that it is just the latest fad in the world of setting one foot in front of the other. However, no matter where your beliefs lie, a new trend always brings something that the staff at Mzungo HQ likes: exciting gear. That one moment when you open the box with the new toy in it, that moment when you put it on and hope, dream and even believe that it will change your hobby forever, that very moment is priceless, no matter what happens thereafter. Ripping open a box with the brand new SOMNIO NADA was easily one of those moments.

You see, we here at mzungo.org don't limit our belief in running to a minimalistic approach. We simply love running in all its forms. I, personally, run in unsupported, light and usually only lightly cushioned shoes. But I, too, have my moments where I, beaten up by too many miles, retreat to the plush softness of – say – a Nike LunarTrainer.

So, where does the SOMNIO NADA come into play? If you can run racing flats quite comfortably and a 10 miler in Nike's Mayfly is just how you roll, then the NADA throws a number at you that makes you stop mid step. That number is 3.5.

Ounces, that is. Yes, that's correct, 3.5oz. Existing lightweights like Asics Piranha come in at 4.7oz. Nike's Mayfly weighs 4.0oz. and Mizuno's Universe 3.6oz. While the Universe is indeed close enough to the NADA to be called equal, the NADA is definitely amazingly light.
According to SOMNIO though, the NADA is not made for racing. It's claimed to be a training tool to strengthen the lower limbs. So much so that SOMNIO is concerend about runners ditching their clunky trainers to run miles after miles in the NADA. And then they get injured. And, of course, it would be the poor shoe's fault.

Hence, the NADA comes with a manual in the form of a DVD. The happy buyer now hopefully watches said DVD and understands that he needs to strengthen his lower limbs with various exercises. And for these, so the claim, the NADA is the perfect tool.

I totally agree to that. A light, comfortable, flexible, flat shoe with an unusually wide toe box? That almost screams plyometrics. And active stretching. But that doesn't excite the Mzungo nerds. We want to run in gear like that. Run hard. Hence, I headed out the door for a 6 mile loop in Central Park.

Running in light shoes is something I just loooove. The SOMNIO NADA felt superb from the first step. I ran past my local Starbucks and it seemed like everyone was looking at my new shoes. Of course, no one did but sometimes perception is more important than reality. Speaking of reality, although the shoes made me feel light and zippy, it became very clear quickly that they are made for a purpose. And that purpose is not running fast. At least not for me.

They are simply too roomy in the toe box. That's not the shoe's or the engineer's fault. They're like that for a reason. Kara of SOMNIO explains: “The wide toe box is on purpose. It is there so that your toes can ‘splay’ naturally (as they say in the barefoot running world). It's something that is great for foot strengthening.”

She's absolutely right. That's exactly what they feel like. You see, I've seen shoes before that were made for something other than running but they just looked like they could be excellent for it. And they were. The SOMNIO NADA is light and seems like a tool to run fast. They're not though.

Not for anyone? Actually, they may be a revelation for runners with wide feet. Racing flats tend to have a very tight, small toe box. So, if you have unusually wide feet and, hence, always struggled to find a true racing flat, the NADA might actually be something to look into.

For everyone else, SOMNIO's NADA fulfills all promises. Low to the ground – check. Soft interior for barefoot use – check. Light as a feather – check. Flexible – check. Hence, if you're looking for a shoe to strengthen your lower limbs with specific exercises or short jogs but shy away from the looks of a Five Finger shoe, don't look any further.

Or look at www.somnioshoes.com to find out where to get them.