Customizing footwear is not exactly a new concept. One-off custom orthotics are a standard item at places like the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, though they can cost hundreds of dollars.
Or, go to any established running shop and your stride can be assessed in minutes on a treadmill. From there, Nike, Brooks, Asics, and other companies have long offered shoe types to correct pronation and other stride issues, marketing models made for stability, motion control, or neutral stances.
A Somnio fitting employs similar assessment techniques, including foot size, arch-height measurement, cant, and pronation. The shoe builder then notches in the Somnio heel and forefoot cushions, adds a varus wedge, and inserts the footbed to make one of the possible 648 shoe types to, in theory, fit your foot like a glove.
My initial test included a couple miles of running on a treadmill. The custom shoes felt good on my feet, and my strides were quiet as I paced along on the conveyed rubber mat.
But over the next few weeks, where I’ll start using my Somnios outside on training runs, the true nature of these shoes will come to light. Somnio’s patented product seems like a neat evolution for footwear. The company has an impressive system for fit. Now, I need to pace out a few dozen miles to see how the company’s prescribed fit works for me.
Update, July 6, 2009: I have eased off my use of these shoes over the weeks since I first tested them. The fit makes for an easy stride, though a stride that I would describe as feeling controlled or manipulated. Each foot placement still feels a bit forced or steered. Another point: If you’re not used to a shoe with a substantial midsole (which I am not) the Somnios may seem overly padded. Also, in a size 13 men’s shoe — my test shoe size — each foot weighs more than 15 ounces, which is heavy. My opinion at this point is that I am not the best candidate for this shoe. Maybe training in the Somnios has affected my stride in a subtle way. But I never felt that my stride was too far off to begin with. My running shoe of choice, at this point, is still a minimally-padded shoe from the likes of Inov-8, mostly for trails, or the “controversial” Newton Running Men’s Neutral Trainer model, which I use most weeks for training when running on the road.
—Stephen Regenold writes daily on TheGearJunkie.com.