Update: on March 1, 2012, "Stem Footwear" became "Lems Shoes" and then in 2013 they shortened their name to Lems!
What's the change mean for you or for the usefulness of this review? Well, nothing — they're still the same shoes, just branded with a different name and logo!
Recently, Tim reviewed the men's Lems Shoes Primal shoe. Tim's take was pretty positive and for good reason: Lems Shoes is manufacturing an exciting product that has been making waves in the "barefoot" or minimalist shoes movement for its comfort and overall foot friendliness. That they fit a niche of a foot-healthy shoe for casual wear (and even running for some), makes them all the more attractive for consideration as an addition to your min-shod closet.
Since I previously did an initial review a pre-production pair of Primals, I wanted to do a quick follow-up review on these shoes, but using the Primals as an example — so you can see what another pair of Lems Shoes look like in different colors! And since I can't help myself, I'll do a quick round-up of my take on these shoes ... with a host of photos ... after the jump!
Leming Primals Review
In a nutshell, Leming Primals shoes provide for a neutral heel-to-toe sneaker with a large toe box — one that can accommodate wearing Correct Toes if you're into that sorta thing.
One thing I really like about Leming's Origins design is that they square off the toe box nicely so that it doesn't look so much like a fin (The VIVO BAREFOOT Aquas have a fin-look to my eye). Just check out this toe box:
If you want to be able to stretch your toes while still wearing shoes, you need a large toe box, and here Leming delivers.
All Leming Origins shoes (including the Primals) have a lightweight, flexible upper that tops a flexible, fairly structure-less foam sole. The sole has a waffle-like pattern to it and is foot-shaped, if not a bit too wide at the heel. More on this in a minute. For now, here's some sole-food and an indication of their total flexibility:
You get quality ground feel with the Lems Shoes thanks to the sole not being too stiff as with hard rubber but the Leming sole is not cushy either. I'd almost peg it as being somewhere between the New Balance Minimus Life, which uses EVA foam (and has a 4mm heel-to-toe differential and is also a bit thicker soled overall), and the Altra Adam (review coming soon), meaning that it's less ground feel and slightly softer than the Adam but more ground feel and harder than the Life. I'd also say it's better ground feel than you get with VIVO BAREFOOTS that have their insoles in place (note: better ground feel is something you may or may not want, so "better" is somewhat relative here).
For me, I'd say the Leming's sole function and feel is "just right" but for one thing that I've noticed, and that's the heel. The Leming's sole is very rounded at the heel — as you can see via the picture at the right. What I've noticed in wearing them around is that this rounded nature makes me feel a little wobbly (left and right) at the heel. It also seems to focus the pressure somehow to the middle of my heel. It's no dealbreaker and isn't annoying per se, but it's noticeable. I have no idea if a flatter heel would make more sense and eliminate this problem or if it's something to do with the sole material. Just something to note.
Bareskin Feel and Aesthetics
The original Lems Shoes lack an insole and have a casual, earthy aesthetic. In the case of the Primals dark bark brown, I'd say you could almost pass them off in a business casual environment with khakis. My one main gripe with the Primals aesthetic (one that can be generalized) is the use of the roots at the heel and the printed slogans that are embossed around the shoes. Fortunately, I think most people who see your shoes aren't likely to read their fine print or notice the detailing, so this isn't a huge issue at all — it's a nit in an otherwise fantastic first offering from Leming.
All the details pretty much fade away when the Primals are worn with a pair of jeans. See for yourself:
I'll wrap this mini-review with one final comment about how I like to wear them — with socks. I love wearing shoes without socks and it's by far my preferred way to wear a pair of shoes these days. The skin on my feet just likes to breath and socks inhibit that process. That said, the original Leming's would be perfect for barefoot, sockless wear but for one thing, which is the material where the tongue ends. There's some overhang of this material and it just bugs the top of my bare foot. Thankfully, not only do socks cure this problem, I don't mind wearing socks with my original Leming because they're such a great shoe overall, that the socks don't detract much from the experience.
Leming is getting a good bit of press here on BirthdayShoes and while I've pointed out a few nits above in this review, my overall take on these shoes is glowingly positive: if you're looking for a casual mono-toed barefoot/minimalist shoe, the Lems Shoes are worth serious consideration. And that you can get'em $15 off their $89.99 pricetag using bday15off (until 2/15/2012) makes them all the more worth your attention.
For more on the Lems Shoes you've seen here (in Earth Brown — originally the "Stem Footwear Primals") including thoughts on sizing, photos of the Primal Origins, and more, I encourage you to check out Tim's review of his Lems Shoes here. If you just can't wait any longer, hop over to LemingFootwear.com.
Questions, critiques, or your own thoughts on the Leming shoes (whatever the "model"), comment below!