Brand: Lems – Live Easy & Minimal (formerly Leming Ancestral Footwear, originally Stem – see note at the end of this review for an explanation)
Name: Primal Origins
Color Options: Moss Green (shown to right), Slate Grey (see gallery), Frost Grey, Earth Brown, and All Black
Weight: 6.3 oz
Drop: 0 mm heel to toe
Other: Sole made from special air-infused rubber; machine washable; collapsable and packable; Vegan – No animal leather used in materials
Price: $89.99 (Primal 2’s are $95.00) [UPDATE: Use the code “tech10off” at checkout to get $10 off your order! Valid through 5/15/2012.]
My initial impulse when writing this review was simply to say that there are no words that can describe how much I love my Lemings and leave it at that. However, for your sake, I’m going to try to put some of that love into sentence form. Lemings are, without a doubt, my new favorite shoes. I think I knew that they would be from the first moment I put them on. You see, there’s no “break-in period” with a pair of Leming shoes. The insane level of comfort provided by these shoes is there the second you put them on. The Leming sole, made from a special kind of air-infused rubber, is also crazy flexible, so ground feel and foot movement in these shoes is fantastic. If you are interested in a minimalist shoe for both casual and sport use, I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up a pair of Lemings. Even if you already have a minimalist shoe for casual/sport use, you should buy Lemings. Seriously. They will change your life*.
*Ok, so maybe I’m getting a little carried away, but when was the last time you had a pair of shoes that you were genuinely excited about putting on in the morning and a little sad about taking off at night?
Since I got my Lemings in the mail a few weeks ago, I don’t think there has been a single day where I haven’t had them on my feet for at least some part of it. I’ve gotten a chance to wear them both to run and walk on all kinds of surfaces, and I can attest that, except in the snow (they are not waterproof), these shoes perform amazingly well in all situations. They are very light, and the softness and comfort of the vamp make it easy to forget you are wearing them at all sometimes. The soles of these shoes are remarkably flexible. Considering how much they look like a “regular” shoe, I could hardly believe how flexible they really are, even though I had seen pictures of them in various curled up positions before I got them. This flexibility and lightness, in combination with the wide toe box and zero drop sole, make for an excellent running or walking shoe (or anything shoe, I imagine). They allow your foot to move naturally and easily through every foot strike. As far as durability goes, I can’t foresee any problems with these shoes in the future. The stitching is solid on the vamp and even after almost constant wear over the past few weeks, the soles still look practically brand new, minus the dirt.
In case you haven’t caught on already, these shoes are amazingly comfortable to wear, and they can be worn comfortably with or without socks. They also offer really great ground feel, which was surprising at first because the soles of the shoes don’t look like they are thin enough to offer as much ground feel as they do. I’m sure I look a little crazy when I have them on, because I go out of my way to step on different textured things to see how it will feel (like those bumpy metal traction things in the sidewalk at road crossings–free foot massage!). That being said, the flexibility and lower density of the air-infused rubber soles do give these shoes a little more cushion than some of the other minimalist shoe options out there. However, many people express wanting a little more cushion when wearing minimalist shoes if they are on their feet all day, tackling a particularly long run (or a particularly rough trail), or when recovering from a long run. Lemings will provide that extra cushion and comfort, but will do so without sacrificing ground feel or the benefits of the barefoot experience for the wearer. Personally, I was sold on the extra “squish” when, even after doing a long run in these shoes, I was still eager to put them back on right after I showered to go run errands for the remainder of the day.
Lemings have a relatively casual appearance, which is great because they don’t look out of place wearing them with a pair of jeans, but they also do not stand out as odd if you take them out for a run or hike. Men’s and women’s Lemings are identical in form and design. The only differences are the sizing and color options available for each sex. Leming has done a really great job with the design of these shoes. Some minimalist shoes start to look a little like clown shoes because of the extra wide toe box, but Leming has designed the shoe so that while the toe box is extra wide and comfortable, it is not super noticeable. If anything, the slightly wider toe box makes these shoes better looking, as it gives the illusion that your feet are slightly shorter than they actually are, which is great for someone like Steven who wears a Men’s size 12.
Both the men’s and women’s colorways are very attractive. Leming has stuck to very neutral and/or natural-looking colors and except for the pink in the women’s Primal Origins in Frost Grey, the colors are fairly gender-neutral. This was great for me because my feet were too big for the women’s size 11 (Leming’s women’s shoes tend to run a half to full size short). It was nice not to have to go with a manlier-looking shoe just because my feet are on the larger size for women. On the other hand, the color choices for men were initially a concern for Steven because he felt that the men’s shoes, when coupled with the root- or plant-like design on the heel, were not masculine enough for him. However, his worries quickly disappeared upon seeing his Slate Grey Primal Origins in person, falling in love with how comfortable they are, and realizing that his jeans would cover the design on the heel.
- Comfortable as all get-out
- Super flexible sole
- Just the right amount of ground feel & protection
- Well-constructed & aesthetically pleasing
Cons (It was hard to think of these, so these are really “Conditional Cons”)
- Men’s colorways not overtly masculine, so might turn some people off (they just don’t know what they’re missing!)
- A little more “squish” in the sole than some might want in a minimalist shoe
- Currently only available in one style/model
Leming Ancestral Footwear is still a relatively young company, but I can easily see them becoming a cornerstone of the minimalist shoe world. I am so excited to see how this company evolves and I hope to see them release additional styles in the near future (a waterproof winter boot would be great for the fall!). If you are a runner, walker, hiker, stander, or just a shoe-wearer in general, you should invest in a pair of Lemings. These shoes are comfortable, well-made, nice-looking, and are a great option for those who are new to the minimalist footwear scene or minimalist fans who are looking to round out their collection with a more casual or more cushioned option. Let us know what you think if you decide to pick up a pair!
**Note: Leming Ancestral Footwear (originally Stem Ancestral Footwear) has now become Lems Shoes, and has released an updated version of the Primal shoe line, the Primal 2, as well as a minimalist boot! The photos used in this review are of shoes made while Lems Shoes was still Stem Ancestral Footwear, so the labels and soles say Stem. The fit and feel of the Primal 2’s are the same as the original Stem Primal Origins, so this review still applies, but details like the materials and stitching have been changed (for the better!).
Meagan is a geochemistry research lab manager, runner, Netflix binge-watcher, and Mom to a rescue dog, a bunny, and a human child. She started running in May 2011 and ran her first half marathon in October 2012, followed by her first marathon in October 2013. In July 2018, she joined the triathlon world and completed an Olympic-distance race. After an extended break (pregnancy/maternity leave), she is making a long-overdue return to running and is preparing for a high-elevation half marathon at Crater Lake National Park in August 2020.