Are you a long-time fan of Lems and love minimalist shoes? Well, I’ve got some good news and bad news.

The good news: Lems has a new shoe called the Trailhead and it looks great!

The bad news: it’s a fairly significant departure from Lems previous shoes and if you’re a long-time Lems wearer, these might not be for you.

BirthdayShoes readers know that I’ve been a fan of Lems (Formerly known as Leming Shoes and before that Stem Footwear). The company founded some 7 years back has put out some of my favorite minimalist shoes that I still wear to this day. I’m talking about the Nine2Fives and the Mariners (Boulders are pretty great, too). Both the Nine2Fives and the Mariners have stayed in my regular rotation of shoes since I first reviewed them, which says a lot given how many pairs of shoes I have.

So what’s up with the Trailhead? And why don’t I think long-time Lems fans might struggle with these?

Before I get into it, take a look at the Lems Trailhead via these photos. They look pretty sweet:

I got the Sequoia colorway and I dig it. The materials appear high quality and the design details are really nice. (I also really like the new Lems branding — e.g. “Mountain to Town.”)

So if it’s not the looks that give me pause, what it is it? Well, it almost completely involves the sole …

The sole design is cool—that's not the problem.
The sole design is cool—that’s not the problem.

That Trailhead Sole …

The Trailhead sole is stiff. Really stiff. Back to this in a second.

According to the Lems website, the Trailhead has a 21mm stack height at the heel and a 17mm stack height at the front. So it has a 4mm “drop” from heel-to-toe. I believe this is the first time Lems has had any drop in their shoes and candidly, 4mm is so little that it doesn’t phase me. I still, to this day, wear my old NB Minimus Life shoes from 2009. Those shoes have a 4mm drop. The drop is no big deal.

And the stack height on the Trailhead, while not insignificant, doesn’t bother me much, either. Sure, 21mm isn’t minimal, but these are intended to function as a sort of minimalist-minded hiking shoe. By comparison to other Lems, the Trailhead’s stack is a full 8mm taller than the Lems Boulder Boot (which is 13mm including the insole).

It’s the rigidity of the Trailhead that just can’t get used to. Perhaps it’s the rock plate built into them. Or maybe it’s the new rubber sole. I can’t really say. What I can say is that when you try and bend the shoes in your hands, they push back a lot.

It feels as though the sole forces me to walk a certain way. It’s like a lever to my feet so that if I put the outside edge of my foot to the ground, I feel the shoe wanting to fall linearly to the ground—as opposed to being flexible enough to roll. This also occurs from back to front, so that when you put your rear heel down, it feels like the shoe rapidly wants to bring your foot to the ground. A little hard to explain, but it doesn’t feel quite natural and is a definite departure from other Lems—and other minimalist shoes.

The toe box

It’s also worth pointing out that the last on the Trailhead seems a smidge narrower than other Lems—more pointy. Not a problem for me, personally, but it’s certainly something you’ll notice.

The Looks and Materials

What I like about the Trailhead is it’s look. I dig the colorway they sent me and the overall design, which apparently was conceived to be reminiscent of a 90s sneaker, is great.

The materials used also seem like they are of good quality. Given I haven’t taken them to the trails and beaten them up, it’s impossible to comment on their durability at this time.

Sidenote — I really like Lems new branding!
Sidenote — I really like Lems new branding!

What else is there to say?

This isn’t a full review and given the sole is clearly not for me, this is probably going to be all I have to say about the Trailhead.

For those of you who like the looks and don’t mind a stiffer sole, you should give the new Lems Trailhead a shot—they are MSRP’ing at $130 on Lems website—and let us know what you think.