SoftStar Shoes expands upon their PRIMAL line with a new Chukka Lifestyle Shoe. With the widest toebox of any leisure boot, the Sawyer aims to be the most splay-happy casualaashoe for urban adventures.

Click through to read my review of the Soft Star Primal Sawyer!

Overview

First off, here’s what Soft Star has to say about the Primal Sawyer:

The Primal Sawyer is not your average casual footwear. Its minimal design, innovative toe box, impossibly lightweight feel and seriously soft materials will make you forget you’re even wearing shoes!

Made with our extra-wide toe box, this fun, lightweight shoe easily transitions from work to play, carrying you through your day in comfort and style.

 

Weight

5.96 oz (Size 9U – Mens 9)

Total Stack Height

Roughly 8mm with a 6mm zero-drop Vibram Pyramid Sole

Barefot Scale

The Sawyer is one of SoftStar’s most flexible casual shoes. The Primal Sawyer provides a relaxed level of flexibility, packs away easily for a camping trip and is very lightweight.

Ideal Uses

Everyday casual use; Around town; Light trails; Farmers markets; Hanging out with friends

Sizing

Runs slightly small. Interior height is on the smaller side. SoftStars provides a good sizing guide online. Suggesting ½-1 size up.

Price

$125

Pros

  • Enjoyable flexibility and movement
  • Excellent laces and materials
  • Lace and color combinations
  • Soft Nubuck leather upper
  • Wide toebox
  • Lightweight
  • Packable

Cons

  • Toebox angle is a bit aesthetically aggressive
  • Interior volume is tighter than expected
  • Shoe opening is on the smaller side
  • Toebox is not for everyone
  • Limited treading on sole
  • Thin pulltab

Take a spin around the Soft Star Primal Sawyers in this photo gallery:

Aesthetics

The Primal Sawyer is made from beautiful materials. SoftStar really does not get enough praise for their materials and attention to detail. I have never received a shoe from them that did not look like it was put together with pride and care. The Sawyer is no different. The suede nubuck leather gives the shoe a very soft and premium look to it. There are a number of color and lace combinations for you ro customize a bit and the uppers catch and reflect light in a way that only quality suede can; it gives the Sawyer a multi-dimensional look to them that is very pleasing to the eye.

 Sawyer chukka its older brother, the Primal Running Shoe
Sawyer chukka its older brother, the Primal Running Shoe

Much like the Runamoc Primal Running Shoe I previously reviewed, the Primal Sawyer’s claim to fame is its incredibly wide toebox. Anatomically, this should fit many wide feet and are very comfortable with my toes. However, while the Primal had some lines to mask the wideness of the shoe, the minimalist aesthetics of the Sawyer makes the toebox more apparent. Some may say that it gives them a bit of a “clown-shoe”-esque look and that has been an issue with wide-toebox, anatomically-correct minimalist shoes for years, but it is something that Sawyer is not immune from.

In my opinion, the wide-toe look can be mitigated with a slightly less aggressive horizontal swipe at the front of the toes. If the shape of the shoe was slightly more forward, then the super-wide look would not be so apparent. Also, like the with Primal running shoes, if some lines were added to break up the shape of the shoe, it would appear more sleek and less wide.

Sole

Unlike the Primal Running shoes (which used Vibram Gumlite soles), SoftStar opted for a more casually-oriented 6mm Morflex Pyramid sole for the Sawyer.

(This is the same 6mm Vibram Morflex pyramid sole as last year’s Shamma Chargers [review])

Morflex is a microcellular material, which conforms to your feet over time, is flexible, but not as floppy as some other sole materials made of denser rubber,

This sole is a Jack-of-all-trades kind of material and is very versatile.

Morflex is an excellent all-around sole for everyday enjoyment, but it can also handle more activities. As seen in my previous review of more running-oriented shoes and sandals featuring morflex, it is also great for road running and trails. Obviously, since this is a casual boot, you may not be running in them, but the sole can handle it, in a pinch. In fact, my favorite sole for nearly all outdoor activities is Morflex. That being said, if you wanted to take your leisure boots for a hike, you can certainly do so. It will not have the best grip on wet surfaces or muddy hills, but you can certainly go for a nice dog walk in the woods or a trail hike with friends to watch the sunset and play board games.

Fit and Materials

As mentioned earlier, the Sawyer has a very premium suede leather upper. This material is soft, but also on the thinner side. I would not expect to do a lot of bushwhacking with this shoe, but that is not was it was designed for. Minimalist lines and a simple appearance makes for a handsome shoe that can be appreciated by many.

The laces get an honorable mention as they are thick, plush, and have very nice, durable aglets (the tips of the lace). They are a step up from the excellent laces featured in the Runamoc Primal and also have a reflective pattern that looks great.

There is a small strip of brown that shows between the sole and the uppers and is very attractive. This is where the uppers are attached to the sole. They are folded in and have that classic moccasin chukka shape.

Because of this shape, the interior height of the boot is a bit tight. The toebox is wide, but my toes are a bit cramped in the front. This can be alleviated by ordering a size up for maximum comfort.

One feature I champion in every shoe is a strong, usable pulltab. SoftStar added a suede tab on the back of the Sawyer made from the same material as the uppers, but it’s a bit too thin for me to recklessly yank, so I have to be somewhat careful with it. I appreciate it being there, but I feel that it could have been made from a more reinforced material for extra confidence.

Speaking of putting on the shoe, the opening of the Sawyer is a bit on the smaller side and requires quite a bit of unlacing before I can get my foot inside, Your experience will vary from mine, but I think that it could be made a bit wider for easier ingress, especially given the thin pulltab.

the pulltab is very useful, but I wish it was a bit tougher
the pulltab is very useful, but I wish it was a bit tougher

Overall, everything about the shoe is attractive. Like all SoftStar shoes, materials and craftsmanship are always a priority and it shows. There are many other minimalist shoes that have attempted the formula that the Sawyer is going for—an easygoing everyday minimalist boot—but many have stumbled with an overly dense sole, mismatched materials, or too high of a price. I believe that the Sawyer strikes a good balance on most points and is only held back by its interior volume, and the on-and-off experience.

Future Improvements

The SoftStar Primal Sawyer is an excellent addition to the Primal line and SoftStar’s stable in general. It leapfrogs many other casual boots in its class in terms of design, weight, and materials.

For a version 2.0, I would certainly expect a tougher pulltab, a more forward toebox and maybe some purely aesthetic choices to give it a sleeker appearance.

Regardless, the boot is certainly a keeper and I hope many will enjoy SoftStar’s attention to detail for their own adventures.

Summary

The Primal Sawyer casual boot from SoftStar Shoes is a fantastic everyday chukka for casual needs and some adventure. With excellent materials and a well-made package, they did a wonderful job with this shoe. I hope that they continue to expand the line with more shoes and choices splay-happy comfort.