Lems Drifter & Lems Chillum Review


Are these our new favorite casual shoes from Lems?

Well, yes! After celebrating over ten years of making shoes, Lems releases our favorite everyday models yet!

From the Manufacturer

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The Lems Chillum

The Chillum is a minimalist lace-up, kicking-around-town, and enjoying-a-drink-with-good-friends kind of shoe!

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The Lems Drifter

Feeling lazy and don’t want to bother with laces? Then the Drifter is the answer!


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The 9mm Injection Blown Rubber Lemsrubber sole that is lightweight, comfortable, and durable
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This sole is comprised of a mix of air and rubber, which helps it to be incredibly lightweight even with the thickness of the sole. This technology has been present in Lems first shoes from over a decade ago and we now have enough longitudinal data to demonstrate its durability and comfort.

According to Lems: “Injection blown rubber is a mixture of air and rubber that makes shoes incredibly lightweight. Used for the outsole, this material creates a lighter and more flexible shoe, but does compromise some of the durability compared to shoes with outsoles made using full rubber.

What that means is that shoes with IBR outsoles are more likely to wear down quicker than their counterparts. Depending on your preferences and activity level, you may prefer super lightweight shoes made with IBR vs a more durable rubber.”

However, they are actually quite modest! They are actually very durable soles!

Silly Lems! Stop being so modest!

While they may say that their injection blown rubber soles are less durable compared to full rubber soles (their Mesa and Outlander shoes feature full rubber, for example), my experience with ten years of Lems shoes from the original Primal to the newest iterations have proven to be incredibly durable. Constant wear in urban and natural environments, walking, jumping, and even running have shown that while this rubber is reportedly “less durable,” I find that Lems soles are actually among the most durable soles on the market.

This could be because the soles are lighter and have some bounce, or resiliency, or some sort of Lems magic from Colorado. They are more durable the casual soles from Feelgrounds and Xero Shoes, among other manufacturers.

The Drifters have been our favorite and most-worn shoes for the better part of a year and we see very minor wear on the sole, despite our best efforts to use them for everything from light hiking, hopping around New England beach rocks, and even some running.

These are some of the most comfortable shoes we have tested. The combination of wide toebox, a lightweight sole, and smooth lugs makes these shoes a breeze to wear and enjoy.

Great job, Lems!

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The soles are 9mm thick, but they feel much lighter than expected because of this mixed rubber and air-injected sole. Unlike a pure rubber sole, there is a slight give when pressed, and this translates to comfort when walking and doing other activities. If you are working on your running form, an injection blown rubber sole is wonderful because it provides the extra thickness provides good protection and the give of the sole prevents landings from being too jarring. It makes skipping the escalator and taking the stairs sound like a fantastic idea, and we routinely run with these soles, despite the shoes being billed as casual shoes.

Overall, I appreciate a humble company, but I really need to highlight the durability of the Lems sole.

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The Lems LemsRubber sole features grooves that resemble a car tire, with channels following the bones of the foot for water and dirt to move away from underneath your foot (think rain tires!), small rock-like textures on most surfaces (an homage to the rocky mountains of Colorado), and a cross-hatch texture at the heel. This does a good job of giving some traction on less intense surfaces, but dirt does easily get into the channels. I believe that this relatively smooth lug design contributes to the longevity of the sole because there is less to get worn away from use.

If you are looking for a more aggressive sole, the full rubber soles from Lems have longer and sharper lugs.

These new designs are a wonderful addition and are our favorite Lems shoes to date! We appreciate an American company with humility, I even backed their first Waterproof boots on kickstarter!

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These are some handsome shoes!

While Lems have always had a workman appearance, these new models are slicker and have a more grown-up casual appearance. Both models feature cotton canvas, but the Chillum adds suede around the edges of the shoe and wool on the cowl.

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The Drifter is simple, understated and handsome

If you are interested, you can use waterproofing wax (typically made from bees wax) to add some water resistance to the shoes. This would work especially for the Drifter because its upper is all cotton. The non-cotton sections of the Chillum may not take to wax as well.

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The Chillum uses a great mix of materials and colors for a very attractive everyday shoe

The heel of the Drifter features a very nice microfiber material that is flexible, durable, and easy to collapse and pull to for a quick fit.

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3mm removable footbed with 0.8mm of cork

Lems uses a 3mm removable footbed with 0.8mm of cork. You can add and remove this sole for either more protection or a better fit. If the shoe is too tight, remove the corkbed, or if your foot has less interior height (more flat), add it in!

Cork is a wonderful material for a footbed because it is anti-bacterial, durable, and temperature regulating. It feels cooler on hot days, and we routinely wear our shoes without socks because the cork is so comfortable.

Both the Chillum and Drifter use the same excellent 9mm LemsRubber injection blown rubber sole that is also shared with the Boulder boot, Chukka, Kourt, and Nine2Five.

We personally prefer the look of the Drifters with their swooped top sections and more uniform materials, but the Chillum sets a new standard for Lems laced shoes. Their choice of materials, colors, and the general silhouette of the shoe really demonstrates the growth of the company’s designs.

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Future 6mm model, Lems? Please?

Future Improvements

We would actually like to see Lems make a thinner sole with the same materials and technology. I believe that most people will enjoy this 9mm sole, but a more minimalist design might be an excellent compliment to Lems comprehensive lineup.

I also think that while the removable footbed is a great comfort feature, it is not always usable for someone with high arches or a tall foot for the best fit. Perhaps adding a cork footbed inside the shoe will allow everyone to enjoy the benefits of cork without requiring the removable insole.

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Lems has been incredibly consistent and have a strong lineup of shoes for all kinds of activities and needs. I believe they do sell the durability of their injection soles a bit short, so I want to highlight that they are wonderful, tough, and comfortable!

The Drifter especially is my pick for favorite minimalist casual shoe and the Chillum is great for folks who want laces and a little more dynamism in their materials.

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Husband and Wife Lems
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Fun fact. I wore the Drifters during our wedding! (you can see the Lems Logo in this shot!)

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

I hold a PhD in Political Science.
You can follow my photography adventures at and Instagram at

4 replies on “Lems Drifter & Lems Chillum Review”

Thanks Jarvis!
One more question, is the canvas in the Drifter breathable or does it get hot in the summer?

Hi Ante,

The canvas is quite breathable, so it is best for spring to fall wear, but I would wear thicker socks in the winter. Excellent for summer, but I would recommend keeping the insole in during the summer for maximum moisture control. Removing the insole is helpful for changing the interior volume of the shoe, but will also increase the life of the shoe because the naked interior (minus insole) is more likely yo wear our from moisture than the insole.

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