Terminator 2, Aliens, X-Men 2, Evil Dead 2, and The Dark Knight. All films that are arguably better than their predecessors. And yet, as most movie fans know, it is rare that the sequel lives up to (or exceeds) the hype of the original. Apparently this is not the case in the shoe world. This year has already seen the introduction of many solid (or improved) sequels from companies like Merrell (the Trail Glove 2/Road Glove 2) and Brooks (the Pure Flow 2/Pure Connect 2). With this review, I’m happy to announce that Lems (AKA Stems/Lemings), has also come out with a sequel shoe, the Primal 2, that allows them to retain their title of King of the minimalist casual/easy hiking shoe arena.
Name: Primal 2
Color Options: Men’s – Black/Slate/Brown, Women’s – Black/Sky/Brown/Frost
Stack Height: 8mm
Positive introduction aside, to be honest, when I first opened up my Primal 2s, I hated them. I 100% disliked everything about them, because it seemed like all of the updates made to the new model were focused on adding more structure and padding to areas that didn’t need padding. Even after getting them on my feet the first time, I still couldn’t seem to get behind the changes. But after wearing them a few times, putting them on with jeans, and walking around for 12 hours a day at Universal Studios with them on, I realized that the extra structure added to the sequel only improved the insane levels of comfort provided by the previous model.
From what I can tell the things that were kept the same are as follows:
- Stack height
- LemsLast – Their shape is still the same, which offers ample space for toes to splay out and an anatomical design which makes the shoe look less bulky in the toe box.
And some of the major changes are:
- Removed the vine graphic on the heel cup.
- Added rubber around the heel cup to improve the structure and durability.
- Extra padding around the achilles area.
I’ll admit that going for a run in these is not really something I’ve been able to get behind. Although incredibly comfortable, the Primal 2 is a minimalist shoe that was clearly designed for casual wear, walking, and lighter hikes. Not that you couldn’t run in them, it’s just that the fit doesn’t quite conform to your foot in a way that lends itself well to running and the upper doesn’t breathe like a running shoe.
I think my biggest complaint in the performance department is regarding the insole. The insole is totally out of place. Lems should make a decision as to whether or not they want that extra 3mm of padding and either attach it or remove it, because the insole will not stay put. My favorite thing about the previous model was how easily I could slip them on and go, but now, with the bulky insole, I find myself having to stop and spend the time to position it in a way that it doesn’t bunch up and ruin my experience. To make matters worse, what’s left under the removable insole is an exposed seam and an easily stainable white fabric. I find that if I want to slip them on quickly I have to wear socks (which I only rarely wore with the original model), and if I want to go without socks, I have to use the insole, so neither experience makes me perfectly happy.
Wow, wow, wow… As Meagan mentioned in her review of the original Primals, the new version is also a dream to wear. The sole is designed in some magical way that adds cushion, but retains flexibility and ground feel. You can feel almost every texture your feet encounter. You’ll find yourself easily recognizing the difference between the texture of pebbles versus salt crystals on the sidewalk during the winter. Regarding flexibility, they are equal to the original in that they can still be twisted, folded, packed, and rolled up into a variety of different ways.
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of simplicity when it comes to aesthetics for shoes. My friends, family, and co-workers have grown used to me wearing all kinds of crazy shoes from FiveFingers to Sockwas, when casual, or, when dressed professionally, I’m normally sporting wing-tips. When wearing either my original Primals in gray (slate) or my Primal 2s in black, I don’t find them as appealing, only because I tend to like to pick shoes that are noticeably different than everyone else’s. That said, some people may actually find the simplicity preferable, because so many minimalist shoes only come in super bright colors with all kinds of strange shapes/designs.
- LemsLast – Anatomical fit, wide toe box, conformed heel cup.
- Sole – Cushioned with amazing ground feel.
- Aesthetics – Simple, great with any outfit.
- Between me and you, I’m glad to see that little vine graphic leave the heel of the shoe.
- Insole – My suggestion, for the Primal 3, would be to forego the removable insole and attach an extra 1mm of seamless padding to the bottom for us on the go people who have no need for socks!
- Aesthetics – Included in both pros and cons, because the color-ways are so simple that they could be seen as a little dull to the more adventurous shoe-wearer.
With the Primal 2s, Lems capitalized on what made the previous model so good. Extreme comfort coupled with miraculous ground feel makes this the best walking shoe I’ve ever owned. If Lems can manage to figure out the insole issue, and add some more exciting color-ways, they’ll have themselves an unstoppable shoe to lead their entire line-up.
Steve is an Executive Recruiter at Robert Half Executive Search in Madison, WI with a business degree in Information Systems and E-Commerce from the University of Toledo. Steve loves spending his time away from work; running, gaming, watching movies, checking out new social networking tools/sites/start-ups and blogging.