My Stem Primal Origins, which are the original shoes made by Lems (before they were even called Lems), remain one of my favorite shoes I have tested for Technically Running. They have held up remarkably well considering the hundreds of walking and running miles I’ve put on them. You can imagine, then, that when I heard Lems was going to be making a minimalist boot, I was over the moon. As a geologist, and as someone who just likes to be outdoors in general, I spend a lot of time camping and hiking, so a minimalist boot for hiking or just hanging out around camp has been on my wish-list for a while. Of course, there were a few options available that pre-dated the release of the Boulder Boot, but as soon as I heard Lems was making a boot, I just knew they would be the ones to do it right and make it worth the wait. Luckily, I was right! Much like my Stems, as soon as the Boulder Boots entered our apartment, they became one of my go-to shoes, and, despite being a boot, I expect to get a lot of mileage on them wearing them casually, as well as for hiking/camping.
Brand: Lems (Live Easy & Minimal)
Name: Boulder Boot
Color Options: Brown (tan) available now for Men & Women; Black available October 2013
Weight: 9.9 oz
Drop/Stack Height: 0 mm/9 mm
Other: Materials — water-resistant nylon + full grain leather upper, LemsRubber injection rubber sole; optional 3 mm-thick moisture-wicking insole; Black colorway will be vegan-friendly
The Boulder Boot is really versatile. It is comfortable for walking around town, but it is also rugged enough to handle (light) hiking (more below) or other outdoorsy activities. The boot is water-resistant, so it does pretty well in the snow and rain, although the snow will require you to wear a thicker pair of socks to keep your feet warm enough. That said, the sole is thick enough to keep the cold from coming up through the bottom of the shoes, and the water-resistance has kept my feet mostly dry, even when I stepped in a couple pretty substantial puddles (at which point water only came in at the seams around the top of the toe box). Although I do tend to prefer a waterproof boot for hiking or in the snow, I understand its absence in the Boulder Boot, as a waterproof liner would take away a lot of breathability and flexibility. For now, the water resistant coating seems to be holding its own, although I don’t have any information yet as to how often I’ll have to reapply it.
What really makes the Boulder Boot stand out to me is how incredibly lightweight it is (only 9.9 oz!). It’s pretty incredible considering how sturdy the construction of the Boulder Boot seems to be. I expect that the canvas-like nylon and leather used to make the upper, as well as the injection rubber used for the soles (which I already know to be incredibly durable based on my experience with the Primals), will be able to take a beating. Yet they weigh barely anything! It’s especially amazing when I consider that my Sorel winter boots weigh a whopping 34 ounces (2.125 pounds!). Of course, they were made to withstand sub-zero temperatures and deep snow, but walking around in them is exhausting, and unless we’ve had a snowstorm, not really necessary. Even my regular hiking shoes, which weigh in at 1 lb 13 oz, feel heavy on my feet (and my toes feel super cramped) since I made the switch to minimalist shoes. The Boulder Boot feels almost like I’m wearing nothing at all (weight-wise), and the flexibility that Lems are so famous for makes it even better.
One thing I want to note is that there are certain limitations that come along with choosing to use a minimalist boot for hiking. Steep slopes or rocky, unstable trails are probably still going to require a hiking boot that gives your feet and legs more stability in the form of a thicker sole and more ankle support. However, for light hiking, a minimalist shoe should be just fine for most people. That said, I’ve done a pretty intense 8 mile hike up to a mountain peak in Xero (formerly Invisible) Shoes, so, to some degree, it’s all about what you think your feet are up for. Because the Boulder Boot is so lightweight, it could easily be brought along on a backpacking trip as a second boot option, either to wear for bumming around camp at the end of the day, or to use when the trail is dry and/or tame enough to allow for a more minimal sole. I would also caution people to consider that the Boulder Boot sole does not offer quite as much traction as a traditional hiking shoe, but, it wasn’t necessarily designed to be a hiking shoe, so I can’t really complain.
As you might expect from a shoe from Lems, the Boulder Boot is definitely comfortable. Plenty of room for the toes, and, as I mentioned above, the sole is very flexible relative to pretty much every other boot out there. One minor complaint I have in terms of comfort is that I hoped the interior would be a bit more cushy than it is. The plaid liner is actually just a thick cotton fabric, not fleece, which is what I expected (although it is pretty clearly noted to be cotton on their website), and there is an exposed seam along the back that rubs on my heel a bit. For someone with wider feet, for whom the boot might fit a bit more snug, I don’t think this will be an issue, and for those with narrower feet, a pair of thicker socks will keep your heel from sliding around and prevent this issue from coming up. I also expect that the canvas and leather used to make the uppers will soften over time, so this seam probably won’t be noticeable after a while and the interior will feel more fitted to my foot. Another minor issue I have with comfort (that I also expect will disappear once they soften from wear) is that the leg opening can feel a bit pinchy and tight when you lace them all the way up to the top set of lace holes. So, for now, I only lace them up to the second to last set of holes, which alleviates my discomfort.
At 9.0 mm, the stack height of the Boulder Boot is only 1 mm higher than the Primal 2s (Lems’ sneaker), but there is a noticeable difference in ground feel and flexibility. It’s even more dramatic when I compare them to my original Stems, which are a bit more flexible than the most recent version (the Primal 2s). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Sure, I love flexibility and intense ground feel, but when I choose a boot, I want one with a bit more substance, and it is great that Lems managed to achieve this in their design of the Boulder Boot, without sacrificing its minimalist/barefoot roots. If you really think about it, these boots are kind of a paradox in the way that my feet feel completely secure and protected (as that they should when I’m wearing a boot), but they also feel light and free.
Aesthetically, Lems remain a bit of an oddball in the minimalist shoe world. Whereas most minimalist shoe companies go for bright, or even neon, colors, Lems continues to offer neutral, natural colors and non-gender specific designs. I actually really appreciate this because my feet are too big to fit into their women’s sizes, so it’s great that I don’t get stuck with a very manly shoe instead. The Boulder Boots are pretty basic, and I feel like I’ve seen traditional boots that look very similar to these many times before, although the Boulder Boots are definitely not as clunky and huge as some traditional boots. This is part of what makes them so versatile, and since plaid shirts are so popular right now, canvas/leather boots work perfectly!
To wrap things up, I really want to reiterate my statement that the Boulder Boot is a shoe paradox, but in the best way possible for fans of minimalist shoes. It is rugged, yet lightweight and comfortable. It is perfect for outdoor activities, yet also great for casual wear. It is definitely minimalist, yet it offers great protection and security for your feet. The Boulder Boot is everything I hoped it would be, and I can’t wait to take it out west with me for fieldwork this summer. Lems may still be one of the small guys, but they are bringing big things to the minimalist shoe world, and if the Boulder Boots are any indication of the direction they’re headed, we should all be excited to see the rest of their new styles coming out this summer!