Barefoot Shoes

Lems Shoes Primal (Earth Brown) Quick Review

Stem is getting a good bit of press here on BirthdayShoes and while I’ve pointed out a few nits above in this review, my overall take on these shoes is glowingly positive: if you’re looking for a casual mono-toed barefoot/minimalist shoe, the Stems are worth serious consideration.

Update/Note: on March 1, 2012, “Stem Footwear” became “Leming Shoes” and then in 2013 they shortened their name to Lems! What’s the change mean for you or for the usefulness of this review? Well, nothing — they’re still the same shoes, just branded with a different name and logo!


Recently, Tim reviewed the men’s Lems Shoes Primal shoe. Tim’s take was pretty positive and for good reason: Lems Shoes is manufacturing an exciting product that has been making waves in the “barefoot” or minimalist shoes movement for its comfort and overall foot friendliness. That they fit a niche of a foot-healthy shoe for casual wear (and even running for some), makes them all the more attractive for consideration as an addition to your min-shod closet. Since I previously did an initial review a pre-production pair of Primals, I wanted to do a quick follow-up review on these shoes, but using the Primals as an example — so you can see what another pair of Lems Shoes look like in different colors! And since I can’t help myself, I’ll do a quick round-up of my take on these shoes … with a host of photos … after the jump!

Leming Primals Review

In a nutshell, Leming Primals shoes provide for a neutral heel-to-toe sneaker with a large toe box — one that can accommodate wearing Correct Toes if you’re into that sorta thing. One thing I really like about Leming’s Origins design is that they square off the toe box nicely so that it doesn’t look so much like a fin (The VIVO BAREFOOT Aquas have a fin-look to my eye). Just check out this toe box:
If you want to be able to stretch your toes while still wearing shoes, you need a large toe box, and here Leming delivers. All Leming Origins shoes (including the Primals) have a lightweight, flexible upper that tops a flexible, fairly structure-less foam sole. The sole has a waffle-like pattern to it and is foot-shaped, if not a bit too wide at the heel. More on this in a minute. For now, here’s some sole-food and an indication of their total flexibility:
You get quality ground feel with the Lems Shoes thanks to the sole not being too stiff as with hard rubber but the Leming sole is not cushy either. I’d almost peg it as being somewhere between the New Balance Minimus Life, which uses EVA foam (and has a 4mm heel-to-toe differential and is also a bit thicker soled overall), and the Altra Adam (review coming soon), meaning that it’s less ground feel and slightly softer than the Adam but more ground feel and harder than the Life. I’d also say it’s better ground feel than you get with VIVO BAREFOOTS that have their insoles in place (note: better ground feel is something you may or may not want, so “better” is somewhat relative here). For me, I’d say the Leming’s sole function and feel is “just right” but for one thing that I’ve noticed, and that’s the heel. The Leming’s sole is very rounded at the heel — as you can see via the picture at the right. What I’ve noticed in wearing them around is that this rounded nature makes me feel a little wobbly (left and right) at the heel. It also seems to focus the pressure somehow to the middle of my heel. It’s no dealbreaker and isn’t annoying per se, but it’s noticeable. I have no idea if a flatter heel would make more sense and eliminate this problem or if it’s something to do with the sole material. Just something to note.

Bareskin Feel and Aesthetics

The original Lems Shoes lack an insole and have a casual, earthy aesthetic. In the case of the Primals dark bark brown, I’d say you could almost pass them off in a business casual environment with khakis. My one main gripe with the Primals aesthetic (one that can be generalized) is the use of the roots at the heel and the printed slogans that are embossed around the shoes. Fortunately, I think most people who see your shoes aren’t likely to read their fine print or notice the detailing, so this isn’t a huge issue at all — it’s a nit in an otherwise fantastic first offering from Leming. All the details pretty much fade away when the Primals are worn with a pair of jeans. See for yourself:
I’ll wrap this mini-review with one final comment about how I like to wear them — with socks. I love wearing shoes without socks and it’s by far my preferred way to wear a pair of shoes these days. The skin on my feet just likes to breath and socks inhibit that process. That said, the original Leming’s would be perfect for barefoot, sockless wear but for one thing, which is the material where the tongue ends. There’s some overhang of this material and it just bugs the top of my bare foot. Thankfully, not only do socks cure this problem, I don’t mind wearing socks with my original Leming because they’re such a great shoe overall, that the socks don’t detract much from the experience.


Leming is getting a good bit of press here on BirthdayShoes and while I’ve pointed out a few nits above in this review, my overall take on these shoes is glowingly positive: if you’re looking for a casual mono-toed barefoot/minimalist shoe, the Lems Shoes are worth serious consideration. And that you can get’em $15 off their $89.99 pricetag using bday15off (until 2/15/2012) makes them all the more worth your attention. For more on the Lems Shoes you’ve seen here (in Earth Brown — originally the “Stem Footwear Primals”) including thoughts on sizing, photos of the Primal Origins, and more, I encourage you to check out Tim’s review of his Lems Shoes here. If you just can’t wait any longer, hop over to


Questions, critiques, or your own thoughts on the Leming shoes (whatever the “model”), comment below!

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.

20 replies on “Lems Shoes Primal (Earth Brown) Quick Review”

I agree with just about everything Justin had to say. These are great casual minimalist shoes. Personally, I don’t mind the design on the outside of the heel. It isn’t noticeable unless you are really looking at them.

For me, the best thing about the Stems is the comfort. I’ve never had a pair of shoes that felt so good on my feet.

I have had mine for a week and have done two runs in them (total of 8 miles) in addition to wearing them to the office. I think they are great for running, especially in cooler temps.

I really hope Stem will come out with a running version with more ventilation and maybe some more durable rubber on the sole. I haven’t seen any noticeable wear on mine thus far, but I’m sure it will come with continued wear.

For those who don’t care for the current colors, they will have an all black version (including the sole) in March. The all black looks a little “orthopedic” to me, but I’m sure they will be exactly what some folks are looking for.

I wear these lovely ones for 3-monthes now, and I hardly take them off my feet.

If I don’t need a Biz shoe (Where I wear the Merrell Tough Glove), I am almost with the Stems on me ALL the time. Sock-less..

I have no idea about the heel thing, you describe, I wear 13US.

These shoes are addictive, and addictions happen over time, not over night.

I wear them as shoes, as *socks*, as *slippers*, they play just about any role excluding Biz Shoes. I wore them in hot/cold weather (again, sock-less) and they preserved my feet very very well..

I love these Stems, more than I ever expected.

I was hooked and all set to get myself a pair until I read the fitting info on their site: not for narrow feet. Thanks. Such a shame, as my biggest problem is finding shoes that fit my narrow, below average length feet (8-8.5 C width [ideally]). I’d prefer to go more minimalist in my shoes, but when not even they can guarantee fit in shoes that look half way normal… its a sad day.

Thanks for the detailed review Justin (even the part about the socks!)I shied away from vibrams because they were so loud but in person the stems are very under the radar. You can walk down the street in them they don’t scream “hey look at my weird shoes”

Am much enjoying my ‘Origins’. Since I’m in my sixties I may not return to running, but I do get in plenty of walking. Today was my first day on a hill trail with plenty of small rocks. Great massage for the feet. For me, it’s a comfortable feeling of near-barefootedness without the “Ooh! Ah!” walking-on-eggshells dance. (All depends on the surface, of course.)

I wore through a pair of KSO Treks and haven’t replaced them. My lower ankles at the top of my feet seemed to stay swollen. (Product of flat feet?) Also I wasn’t getting the kind of big toe alignment which Correct Toes are better at achieving.

Though skeptical about Correct Toes eventually bringing my big toes back in line on their own, I use them in my STEMs. Very comfortable. Worn barefoot with Correct Toes, the STEMs feel great, with no chafing or blisters. Like slippers.

Particularly enjoyable is attempting to soften my gait, the feedback from footfalls being so much more obvious. I can’t say it’s ‘the way,’ but the video linked below gives a sense of one overall feeling I sometimes play with. Yes, it’s hilarious caricature, but I think there may be something to it. It’s very short:

I am curious about how durable the STEM soles will be. (Must be very challenging to choose a rubber which yields enough for feedback and won’t wear quickly on pavement.) I don’t imagine my cobbler will be able to resole the STEMs. Will probably need a new pair.

I have been wearing my stems for about 2months now and have only great things to say about them. I have reccommended them to a bunch of my friends as well. Though I wouldn’t go running in them these make some fine every day wear shoes; especially avoiding the, as one commenter put it, the “hey look at my crazy shoes” you msometimes get with the vffs.

P.S. I think the date is wrong on the %15 promotion. You have the year listed as 2011.

I am new to the barefoot/minimalist movement and I am running in new balance minimus shoe for the most part and moving slowly into my stem Primals. I love the stem shoes, I think they are great. At 265lbs, and having had two prior knee surgeries this is the best have have felt running in a very long time. This post is the second post I have written on birthday shoes that indicate that the stem shoes are more of a casual shoe and not a running shoe. I am not attacking either review, I am purely seeking information and knowledge. Wouldn’t the very soft and pliable construction of the shoe be more in line with a pure barefoot experience than a shoe that offers more structural support. If you have been in the barefoot/minimalist game longer than my 3 months, I would certainly welcome any helpful insite.

Hey all,
This is Andrew, the creator of Stem Footwear. I appreciate all the positive comments above. It’s a pleasure to work on this for about 2 years and see that people enjoy our shoes. The ALL BLACK will be available on March 1st along with a few other slight changes. We have more styles coming out In late Fall 2012, so stay in tune. Signup for our newsletter if you would like to be the first to know. Thanks again!

I love, love, LOVE my STEMs! I’ve had them for about a month and I wear them for everything, walking, running, and everything in between. They are super comfortable and offers a minimal shoe that looks good too. My husband is so jealous and now he wants a pair too! I can’t wait to see more from this company…my top requests are for kids shoes and a dress shoe line for men and women. Everyone should try them if you get the chance!

I finally got mine today (delayed because of bad weather) and was absolutely blown away by how comfortable they are. I also got the Correct Toes, and they work just fine in them (in my Trail Gloves and Vivobarefoot Neos too). At last a comfy, non-flashy, affordable minimalistic shoe that lets me fly under the radar at work!

I read the preliminary reviews and bought a pair. I have wide feet and was looking for a “barefoot” shoe that I could wear casually. I tried the NB lifestyle but too tight. I tried the NB minimus mt20 in a 2E and still tight, so saw these here on this site and decided I wanted to check them out. I have had them for about a month and they are awesome. They fit like a glove and love the shoes. I just have one question, after wearing them for the whole day, the heels of my feet hurt a bit. Is this due to my not being used to walking with a zero heel shoes and have to get used to it or could it be the heel design?


Take it easy on the first few takes some getting used to such minimal shoes.

Wear them 3-4hrs a day.
If u start feeling pain, u can reverse back to supportive shoes for a opulent days to let your feet rests it, before going for another adoption period.

2 month or so & u will be good to go 🙂

jem, i would also suggest learning how to walk correctly in minimal shoes. we are so accustomed to regular shoes with heels, we tend to heel strike and take long strides when walking. try taking shorter strides and land on the mid-foot instead of your heel. vivobarefoot has a good video on their site.

I got these Stem shoes and am wearing them with Correct Toes for my bunions. I’ve been wearing them for a few months, went running in them today and got a blister underneath my foot near the bunion. 🙁 Did you have any blisters? I thought after a few months both of would have been broken in.

I’ve been using the light grey stems for about a month now. Good shoes. Very comfortable. My only comments is on the terminations, like the stitches on the right and left shoe in the front are of different widths. And the mall bump on the front of the right show. In the photo that you have up there the difference in widhts can be appreciated. Other than that, the shoes are excellent. And their customer service is second to none.

PLEASE Hugo…no more killings over shoes! Here’s a code that is good through 5/15/2012 for $10 off — “tech10off”

Hi, i was wondering if you guys and Justin in particular have any info on the sizing of the Leming. I usually wear a 10.5 in Nike (11 in Nike Free 4.0) and i really dont know what to order in Leming, a little confusing on the site when they say 10-10.5 (43 Euro)or 11-11.5 (44 Euro)
I’m from Europe so these Euro sizes really confusing me, any input here?

I’m looking for a wide shoe so i can wear it together with Correct Toes.

Thanks a lot!

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