Barefoot Shoes

Lems Chelsea Waterproof & Boulder Summit


Lems recently released two new leather waterpoof variants of their popular boots: The more casual Chelsea Waterproof and hiker-oriented Boulder Summit. Featuring their widest last and shape to date and the combination of waterproof membrane and oiled full-grain leather (though a vegan option is available on the Boulder Summit), these boots are more conventional-looking, but also among the most capable in their lineup.

What Lems Says

Chelsea Waterproof: Fans of the Primal Zen will be stoked because the Waterproof Chelsea is here; featuring the same outsole you know and love, meaning this boot ticks all the right boxes: super lightweight, zero-drop, and ultra wide.

Boulder Summit: This fully waterproof boot draws inspiration from the original Boulder Boot, but now combines the rugged outsole of the Outlander to offer a more secure grip.

The Full Rubber (FR) Sole on the Boulder Summit


The Chelsea Waterproof and the Boulder Summit offer a comprehensive showcase of the latest advancements in Lems’ sole technology.

In the case of the Chelsea Waterproof, it features the injection blown rubber (IBR) sole, renowned for its smoothness and lightweight construction. Originating from the Primal Zens, this sole has undergone refinements and optimizations, ensuring enhanced performance and durability in challenging conditions.

On the other hand, the Boulder Summit is equipped with the Full Rubber (FR) sole, which boasts a more robust and lug-heavy design. Initially introduced with the Outlander model, this sole has garnered acclaim for its exceptional traction and durability, making it a preferred choice for rugged outdoor adventures.

Together, these two models epitomize the breadth of Lems’ sole offerings, catering to diverse preferences and requirements. Whether seeking agility and comfort or durability and traction, wearers can find their ideal match within Lems’ innovative sole technology.

Lems’ journey began with a single shoe, the original Primal, accompanied by their lightweight IBR sole. Over time, their repertoire has expanded significantly, now offering a diverse array of sole options tailored to various needs and preferences. From the sleek and featherlight IBR sole to the robust grip of their hybrid rubber models and the aggressive traction provided by the FR full rubber soles, Lems now caters to a broad spectrum of footwear requirements.

The evolution of Lems’ sole offerings is emblematic of their commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction. The IBR and FR soles featured in models like the Chelsea Waterproof and the Boulder Summit represent the culmination of this evolution, providing users with versatile options designed to enhance performance across different terrains and activities.

Among Lems users, the IBR and FR soles of the Chelsea Waterproof and the Boulder Summit stand out as some of the broader selections available. These soles offer not only durability and traction but also a comfortable platform for extended wear, ensuring that Lems enthusiasts can tackle adventures with confidence and ease.

Lems soles have established a reputation for durability over the last decade of operations, standing as a testament to the brand’s commitment to crafting footwear that endures. The latest iterations of Lems’ soles not only maintain this durability but also showcase advancements in lightweight design, making them a standout feature of their shoes.

The IBR sole of the Chelsea Waterproof exemplifies this balance between durability and weightlessness. Despite its 11.5mm total stack height, it retains a smooth and lightweight feel. While Lems shoes might not always boast the thinnest profile in the minimalist market, their use of IBR soles compensates for this, offering a combination of support and flexibility that sets them apart.

Having tested Lems shoes extensively over the past decade, I can attest to their exceptional durability and impressive grip. Yet, I believe Lems is somewhat modest in their promotion, as they should emphasize their durability as much as their lightweight design in their advertising materials. When compared to other soles on the market, even those that are denser rubber, the IBR sole remains very durable, light, and comfortable.

the edges of the IBR sole are more aggressive, but still smooth and comfortable

One of the remarkable characteristics of these soles is their composition of air and rubber, which not only keeps them lightweight relative to their stack height but also provides a noticeable bounce and resilience.

Walking with the IBR sole found in the Chelsea Waterproof is a genuinely enjoyable experience, akin to gliding effortlessly over various surfaces. What sets this sole apart is its thoughtful design, featuring numerous small channels strategically placed to facilitate the swift dispersal of water from beneath your feet. This characteristic not only enhances grip on wet surfaces but also imbues the sole with a distinctive resemblance to that of a rain tire, ensuring stability and confidence in inclement weather conditions.

Moreover, the sole’s construction offers a delightful balance between traction and agility. Compared to Lems’ previous IBR iterations, this sole boasts enhanced traction, thanks to reinforced edges and meticulously crafted channels. These subtle yet impactful modifications result in a sole that not only grips surfaces with tenacity but also allows for greater maneuverability, courtesy of its slightly rounded edges.

In essence, this IBR sole represents an advancement in Lems’ footwear technology, promising wearers a blend of performance and comfort. I hope that it will set a new standard as the go-to choice for Lems’ future offerings.

I prefer this sole over the standard IBR soles of the Primal 2, Chillems, and Drifters…and I love those shoes! While those shoes are wonderful designs, I do feel that it would be a good idea to make newer iterations with this IBR sole featured first in the Primal Zen and now in the Chelsea Waterproof.

The Boulder Summit takes Lems’ commitment to performance even further by featuring the Full Rubber sole from the Outlander model. This sole is equipped with a winter traction outsole adorned with 4mm lugs and zig-zag siping, making it Lems’ most capable and aggressive design to date.

I’ve long admired the Full Rubber sole since its debut on the Outlander model, and I had hoped to see it integrated into a more streamlined style like the Boulder boot. My dreams were answered with the Boulder Summit, which combines rugged durability with sleek aesthetics, making it a versatile choice for outdoor adventures.

Noticeably, the FR sole is decidedly more stiff than other Lems boots, especially the base Boulder that was the first boot from Lems, but it is still more flexible than your average boot, especially a hiker’s waterproof boot.

In fact, these are both on the slightly heavier side, but the Boulder Summit is obviously the chunkier of the two. The Chelsea Waterproof weighs 9.8oz (Men’s 10) and the Boulder Summit: 14.8 oz (Women’s 11.5). The non-summit, non-waterproof version of the Boulder weighs 4 oz less than this more heavy-duty variant.

The more casual, but understatedly handsome Chelsea Waterproof
The robust Boulder Summit

Aesthetics and Materials

In my view, the Lems Chelsea and Boulder Summit stand out as the most aesthetically pleasing models in Lems’ lineup.

Lems shoes have historically leaned towards a more understated appearance. While the original Boulder model boasted a touch of rockstar flair with its lightweight nylon construction, many other shoes in the range tended towards a simpler aesthetic. However, the Chelsea Waterproof and Boulder Summit build upon the original Boulder’s edge, elevating it to new heights. The Chelsea epitomizes high-end casual wear, while the Boulder Summit exudes a more substantial presence.

Both boots feature high-quality oiled full-grain leather uppers, which imbue them with character and depth of color. The Boulder Summit’s leather leans towards a rich amber hue, with an oil treatment designed to achieve a “lived-in” aesthetic, whereas the Chelsea offers a more consistent coloring. Over time, these boots will develop a unique patina, aging gracefully with each wear. To maintain their appearance and waterproofing, applying a leather conditioner like Obenauf’s is recommended, as it can rejuvenate and protect the leather effectively.

the layered construction of the Chelsea gives it an interesting and polished look

The Chelsea Waterproof strikes a perfect balance between style and functionality. Its premium waterproof materials, including the aforementioned oiled full-grain leather upper and waterproof membrane, ensure protection from the elements without compromising breathability. While the elastic side panels and pull tab contribute to a comfortable fit, some may find the fit slightly less snug than desired.

Visually, the Chelsea Waterproof appears more substantial than other Chelsea boots, thanks to its layered construction and leather uppers. This multi-dimensional aesthetic not only enhances its appearance but also adds to its functionality.

The two pulltabs and stylized elastic bits of the Chelsea Waterproof. I feel like maybe there is an opportunity to add a folded crescent of leather that can protect this area from water in a future model

The elastic panels, while providing flexibility, could be a potential weak point in terms of waterproofing. However, they are well-designed, with smaller, angled sections made from durable elastic materials. Adding a folded leather addition over the elastic could potentially enhance water resistance without sacrificing flexibility.

The inclusion of two different materials for the pull tabs adds a rugged element to the Chelsea’s design, though for consistency and longevity, using the same material for both tabs may be preferable.

The Boulder Summit is more substantial looking, but still is sleeker than most hiking boots

Conversely, the Boulder Summit embraces a more rugged aesthetic with its robust silhouette and layered construction. Its high ankle height and padded collar offer protection and insulation, making it suitable for various outdoor activities. While it may lack the spunky character of lighter Boulder models, its workmanlike simplicity and durability make it an attractive and functional choice.

I think that another benefit would be to have the top two lacing eyelets be open eyelets, so it would be quicker and easier to take off the boot. Having closed eyelets requires a bit more time to tie and untie the boot.

In terms of a waterproofing test, we hiked through snow whenever possible, went sledding, and I even tried to use the Chelsea Waterproof with a snowskate on a mountain. I performed terribly on the snowskate, the but boot was excellent. I stood in some puddles and our feet remained dry. The Leather did eventually get wet, but the oil treatment turned out to be quite water resistant, especially against snow. All the while, the waterproof membrane did its job and we encountered no leaks.

Overall, both the Chelsea Waterproof and Boulder Summit exemplify Lems’ commitment to combining style with performance, offering footwear options that are as functional as they are fashionable.

Future Improvements

For a future version of the Chelsea Waterproof, I would love to see both pulltabs be made of full grain leather to match the rest of the boot and the rear pulltab to be more integrated into the layers of the back of the boot. I think it may be possible to add a leather fanning section over the elastic bits, but I am aware that this may change the look of a classic Chelsea.

For the Boulder Summit, I think the addition of open metal eyelets at the top of the lacing section would be helpful for tying and untying.


We have been fans of Lems for over a decade now. The remain a small company with big ambitions to present their interpretation of minimalism to the world, with an emphasis on zero drop, lightweight shoes. With the Boulder Summit and the Chelsea Waterproof, they continue to branch out to new ways to play and be minimal.

These boots are an excellent addition to the Lems lineup and providing more options with high polish is great for any minimalist runner. I look forward to other new models, as some of their earlier shoes can are due for a refresh or replacement. Perhaps a new Primal and nine2five in the future?

Review by Dr. Jarvis Chen and Dr. Jingyi Qian

Shoe samples provided by Lems in exchange for an honest review

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

Associate Dean

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

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