Barefoot Shoes

Lem Primal 2 Review–A Fantastic, Casual Barefoot Shoe

Lems not only recently released their “barefoot shoe boot” ? a.k.a. the Lem Boulder boot (reviewed here) ? they also updated their original shoe, the Primal Origins with the “Primal 2.”

You can read my original review of the Primal Origins* here or…

Lems not only recently released their “barefoot shoe boot” ? a.k.a. the Lem Boulder boot (reviewed here) ? they also updated their original shoe, the Primal Origins with the “Primal 2.” You can read my original review of the Primal Origins* here or check out Tim’s review here! If you’re wondering, “What changed?” I’ll speak to that below, as well. The TL;DR though is simple enough: the Primal 2 is a fantastic, casual barefoot shoe that you can wear for all day comfort thanks to a super-flexible sole and lightweight build married to healthy-foot design?zero drop from heel to toe with no arch support and generously sized toe box! You can get them for $95. Full review of the Primal 2 after the jump!

The Primal 2

The Lems Primal 2 features the following characteristics:
  • Lightweight weighing about 7 oz (size 43 is 6.9)
  • “Zero drop” or neutral in the stack height of the sole from heel to toe
  • No arch support (gasp!)
  • Super flexibly soled thanks to the 8mm injection rubber sole
  • Removable, thin insole; you can wear with or without the insole
All of the above combine to capturing the essential qualities of a minimalist or “barefoot shoe” (More on “barefoot shoes” here). You can expect the Primal 2 to let your foot be a foot and get out of the way of how your feet function sans shoes. Wearing the Primal 2s all day is a breeze, which is good since the Primal 2 is geared towards everyday, casual wear. For the purpose of this review you can see it in the slate colorway though it’s also available in black or brown for men! Women get the Primal 2 in “Frost” or brown or black, too (There are some photos of the women’s Frost color in the gallery below!).

The Lems Primal 2 Experience

Barefoot/Ground Feel ? with only an 8mm stack height (without the insole, which adds another 3mm of foam to the stack height), the Primal 2 passes on a ton of ground feel. One way I tend to notice ground feel is how it feels when you skid your shoe against a rough surface like asphalt?how close that sensation comes to doing the same thing barefoot. I guess I have that on my mind because I did that today and was surprised at just how much sensory feedback I got from this misstep. It’s a bit alarming (though of course my feet weren’t harmed by skidding the ground and the Lems soles were fine, too). Sole flexibility ? the Primal 2 sole is very flexible. While it’s not as flimsy as a 4mm Xero Shoes huaraches sole, a Merrell Vapor Glove, or most FiveFingers, it’s still incredibly flexible. I’d go so far as to say it’s less rigid than most all of the Vivo Barefoot TPU soles. This is why Lems is able to do all their cool roll-up photos (for example, here). Walking in them ? being neutral from heel to toe with no bulky heels or soles, walking in the Lems Primal 2 feels natural and similar to a barefoot gait. The one thing I’ll note (and I believe I noted this in my original review) is that the Lems Primal sole has a rounded-out sole at the heel. I notice this ball-like design from time to time. It makes me feel like I can roll laterally on my heel in the Primal 2s (Note: not in a dangerous, roll-your-ankle way, but just a subtle ability to rock laterally). Anyone else who has worn the Primals noticed this? Toe box! ? The Lems Primal 2 has a plus-sized toe box that allows you to spread your toes out quite comfortably. You can even wear the “toe braces” (Correct Toes) in them if that’s your thing. Other things to note?
  • The Primal 2s feel plenty grippy on a variety of surfaces though I’ve not taken them running or to the trails.
  • They can be worn with or without socks. I wore them almost exclusively without socks because I hate wearing socks. Yep.
  • They can be worn with or without the insole. The insole (seen here) adds a little bit of cushion to the Primal 2 ride, but at 3mm thick and a super foamy build, the insole doesn’t really do much, if anything, to diminish the almost-barefoot ride. I kept the insole in the shoes for most of my testing. Without the insole, some stitching is exposed (pic) though my feet don’t seem to be able to detect the stitches. My one beef with the insole is that my foot tends to want to pull the insole out of the shoes when I take them off. This is due both to the super flexiblity of the soles and the super flexibility of the insoles ? the bending of the shoe lifts the insole up and out with my foot (and I don’t usually untie the Primal 2s to take them off or put them on!).
  • They’re a nice shoe for grabbing/going. I just keep mine tied and slip them on/off.

Wearing them

With a dark brown, a black, and the slate-grey colorways, you can pick a Primal 2 that matches your warddrobe best. I tested the slate Primal 2s and wore them almost entirely with jeans of various kinds. They fit in just fine in with a casual style. I have to say, while I’ve not seen the brown or black Lems in person, both look very sharp to my eye. I really like the suede-like material Lems uses for the Primal 2. It isn’t leather but it has a soft, nice look to it. On the other foot, I’m still on the fence about the Primal 2s mesh, which has a slight sheen to it that I wish was more muted. Anyway, aesthetics are always a little difficult as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Here are some more shots of them with jeans.

Primal 2 vs. Primal (Original)

Since some of you may have picked up the original Stems/Leming Primal Origins or Survival Origins (or whatever you want to call them!), you might be wondering: what’s different about these new Lems Primal 2s? There are a bunch of subtle improvements. The biggest overall change is that the Primal 2s just have a nicer build quality to them. The zig-zag stitching of the original has been eliminated. The painted-on roots at the heels have been taken away. A heel tab has been added to make them easier to put on. The heel, itself has an additional material wrapping it that makes it a little less flimsy. The tongue of the Primal 2 is sewn on completely at the base and the laces have eyelets now. The only things that seemed to change that I don’t totally care for were felt on the inside of the Primal 2s. For one, the addition of a removable insole in lieu of a sewn-in insole just doesn’t feel quite as nice and soft to my bare foot?that is with or without the insole of the Primal 2. Secondly, the fabric on the insides of the Primal 2s just feels less soft than the originals. It’s not abrasive but it’s different. Without trying them on side by side I’d totally have missed this comparison.


The Primal 2 is a fantastic, casual barefoot shoe that is worth consideration if you’re looking for a shoe to wear all the time or all the time away from work. With a super low stack height and all the qualities you could want in a minimalist/barefoot shoe, it’s hard to go wrong with the Prmial 2. As for the all-important question of sizing, my feet are 10 7/8″ long which puts me right between a size 44 and a size 45 in the Primal 2. Andrew (Lems founder) advises that you should size up in the Primal 2 from your original Primal size; however, that’d mean I should be a 45 in the Primal 2 but I guess I’m right in between because a 44 seems to fit me just fine. I do notice that the 44 Primal 1s are ever so slightly larger than the 44 Primal 2s. Go figure. All in all, if this is your first time ordering, take the measurements and consult the official sizing chart below:
Did someone say coupon code? Well, Andrew has extended the coupon/promo code FREEWORLDWIDE to run until Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 11:59pm. That means you can get the Primal 2s for $95 shipped free to you where ever on this planet you may be! That’s it for now ? if I missed anything or you have any questions, do let me know and post your comments below! * Written back when Lems was Stem Footwear, which was before they became Leming ? They went through quite the branding saga!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

12 replies on “Lem Primal 2 Review–A Fantastic, Casual Barefoot Shoe”

These still look pretty nice. When my original STEMs finally wear out, I will definitely be picking up a replacement pair.

The first Primals are the best shoe hands down I ever owned (and I have a lot of FFs and Merrells also!). My feet love them! It has been my main running shoe the past 2 years. I know they are not advertised as running shoes but they are incredibly comfortable to run in. For speed work they are a little loose so I prefer now my Vapor Gloves. I was too late to get the boots for the winter but will get them for next winter. I have used the Primals winter and summer. Wish they were a bit more water repellent but then again they would not be so good summertime since they breathe so well.

There is not much sole but there must be some cushioning there since they are so comfortable on long runs. Running and walking in the Primals is just something you must try. You might think I sell them but I am just a fan and got all my friends and familiy to buy these ;.)

I’m afraid that I still prefer the original Stems. While I do think that the look of the latest version is more polished, the upper also feels like it has more structure. It’s not uncomfortable, exactly, but I feel my feet bumping up against it more, unlike in the Stems, which were super flexible and fit like a glove.

Hey Jacob,

it’s funny that you should ask about that particular comparison as I just bought my Vapor Gloves on Wednesday and just received my Primal 2′ on Friday! 🙂

The Vapor Glove has WAAAAAY more ground feel and flexibility than the Primal 2’s; after wearing the Primals on my left foot and the Vapors on my right foot, I set out to do my “Ground feel” test and I think the Vapors make the Primals feel like regular shoes in comparison, and that’s with the cushioned inserts taken out of the Primal 2s!

Justin, you did mention that the Primal 2’s didn’t have any arch support in them, which is fine, but I feel like because of their design, the shoe is not friendly to people with flat feet, like myself. The design reminds me of The Dancing sneakers made by Bloch; A sole for the balls of your foot and a sole for the heel of your foot with nothing but the material of the shoe connecting the two soles. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I know the minute I put the Primals on, my feet were like “What the… GET THESE THINGS OFF OF US!”

I’m leaning towards returning these shoes, but I thought I take them to work and try them out, where the floors are nice and clean so i don’t get the shoes dirty.

I’ll let you know what comes of my test.

I have a bunion and flat feet from a previous injury. I would like to start the correction process, but am also afraid to buy a pair of shoes that will hurt every time I wear them. Do you think this would be a good shoe for me?

Just got them. I really like them, but I wish there wasn’t a “fake heel” on the outside. I want the world to know I have a zero drop heel dammit, lol.

Just bought a pair of these. Unbelievably tight in the midfoot for what is billed as a “wide” shoe. The sole silhouette maybe be wide but the upper sure ain’t high volume. Will they stretch out and loosen up with wear…or should I eat the return postage and send them back?

Received my Primal 2 yesterday.
The heel cup issue might be a deal breaker.
Everything about this shoe seems great, the upper, zero drop, roomiest toe box I’ve ever tried, but the heel… awfully painful.
I walk barefoot a lot, so it’s not an issue of give-it-some-time-and-get-used-to-barefoot-walking.

hi, I just ordered a pair of primal 2. you said you often dont wear socks with then. how do you prevent odor in the shoes while not wearing socks?

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