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Somnio Enters Comfort Race

The brand, which launched a line of customizable running shoes in 2009, is debuting a line of comfort-casual shoes for fall '10.

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NEW YORK — Somnio was running before it could walk.

The brand, which launched a line of customizable running shoes in 2009, is now targeting the comfort market.

According to Sean Sullivan, founder and president of the La Selva, Calif.-based company, a collection of comfort-casual shoes was developed after numerous requests from customers and dealers. “We knew the technology behind our [running] shoes would [work] in the comfort shoe world,” he said.

Sullivan said sales of comfort products could account for as much as half the brand’s total sales this fall. For spring ’11, he predicted, the comfort category could outgrow the running side of the brand’s business. “There are just so many more comfort stores,” Sullivan said.

Set to hit stores in September for $170 to $235, Somnio’s comfort products will feature the brand’s proprietary running technology, called the F.E.A.T. system (Functionally Engineered Adaptable Tricomponent). Developed with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, the technology uses interchangeable components to provide a gait-efficient fit. An easy-to-measure tool tells retailers the most appropriate components, creating a customizable shoe. Components include a footbed based on arch height, cushion inserts determined by weight and preferred usage, and the Tunable Varus wedge inserts that address a runner’s particular biomechanical needs.

Somnio’s running styles, which retail for $130 to $160, are available in 150 stores, including the eight-unit Luke’s Locker chain in Texas; Pacers in Washington, D.C.; and TC Running Co. in Eden Prairie, Minn. The line is also carried in select Z-Coil franchised stores.

Tish Mendick, the business development director for Somnio, also owns three Z-Coil stores that carry the line. She said the shoes appealed to athletic customers who found the Z-Coil running options too heavy. “Somnio was a fantastic alternative,” she explained.

“People expect to be custom fitted and helped with their problems, [such as] foot pain,” said Mendick. “As a retailer, [the F.E.A.T. system] drives consumers into the store.”

Based on the success of the running looks, Mendick will stock Somnio’s comfort casuals in her stores this fall.

Following her lead is New York’s Eneslow, which has placed orders for the comfort line for fall.

Bob Schwartz, CEO and president of Eneslow, said, “The customizable cushion insole system is something we currently do, so to have it in a ready-made pair of shoes is special.”

In addition to offering the customizable looks, Eneslow also will take advantage of Somnio’s gait evaluation software system, which allows retailers and consumers to compare multiple shoes or Somnio shoe set-ups, and examine an individual’s biomechanics. All that is required is an in-store treadmill that works in conjunction with the software.

“The gait software allows us to look at shoes with the customer and help them better understand their options,” said Schwartz. “We plan to use the gait assessment system to increase medical referrals for our medical director.”

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