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A Review of Lems

In my most recent post about shoes and my personal shift to modern barefoot options, I noted the following:

I have one additional shoe in the mail from Lems: the Primal Pursuit Mid in Juniper. As noted about the Lems Boulder Summit, these were too big for me at 13, so I exchanged this hiking boot for a 12.5 to try. If they work, these will suit me for a variety of use cases: a three-seasons casual shoe, a waterproof hiking boot, and a potentially winter-friendly casual shoe. Stay tuned.

Lems, Primal Pursuit Mid Waterproof, Juniper

Well, I have those Lems in hand and have been wearing them, so let's talk about it.

Note: If you haven't read my previous post, it is necessary for context, so read it here.

I started my barefoot-style, minimalist shoe journey with a pair of Asolo hiking shoes with a wide toe box. The elements that made this shoe great for me were: waterproof, low cut, comfortable in almost any context, able to be resoled, and with a great warranty from an Italian company that stands by its products. These elements in a single package make for a difficult find in the modern barefoot shoe movement. For one thing, waterproof and low cut aren't frequently paired; there is a wrong-headed assumption by too many brands that the low cut negates the reason to waterproof something. Even outside of the barefoot shoe brands, this is a rare convergence. Additionally, the ability to resole a barefoot-style shoe is basically non-existent.

I am a person who doesn't really need the ankle stabilizing of mid or high boots (and I don't care for high cut boots anyway), but I do want to make sure that if I step in a puddle on a hike, my socks remain dry. In any case, I would prefer waterproof for a hiking shoe, so you live within your self-determined and prioritized requirements: enter the Lems Primal Pursuit Waterproof Mid.

As noted previously, I have tried shoes from the following barefoot-focused brands: Vivobarefoot, Xero Shoes, and Lems. I was attempting to find a shoe that could be used cross-context. Xero has one waterproof hiking boot (the Xcursion Fusion), but I don't love the colorways. Vivobarefoot... well.1 Lems on the other hand has a lot of options in the waterproof category, though not in low cut.

So I decided to try to Lems, while getting my wife a pair as well. They have two colorways and both have a distinctive look; I wasn't sure I could pull off Mercury Rising (while my wife can and now does), so I went with Juniper. I am happy with the fit and finish of the shoe and have been able to wear them in a few different contexts so far.

From the start, I noted that the Lems shoes designed for harder hitting use cases like hiking are very different shoes than the Xero brand. They have more cushion and are less flexible, largely due to a higher stack height. The stack height is likely to mirror the two layers of outsole of its cousin, the Boulder Summit, a full rubber layer and an injection blown rubber layer. Given my list of barefoot shoe elements, these are still in the category and may provide a good transition point for hiking and winter weather in barefoot shoes.

I wore them to work yesterday in the rain. This should indicate two things: multiple contexts and a waterproofing test. These shoes should successfully suit four or five of my needed use cases mentioned in my previous post: casual shoes, hiking boots, casual work appropriate shoes, workout shoes, and winter-friendly waterproof shoes in Wisconsin. I have worn these boots now in both snowy conditions and rainy conditions; in both situations, my feet stayed comfortable and dry.2

In all, I am feeling close to having the perfect set of shoes for all my use cases and preferred styling options. As a minimalist, I prefer to own fewer, higher quality things and between the Xeros I inventoried previously and the Lems I now have in hand, I feel like I can stop perseverating on the transition to barefoot shoes and focus on living in them. While I still have a few needs that may not be satisfied by the current inventory, those things can wait for another day.

At this point, if you're still lost on what I am talking about, click here.

  1. As noted in my previous post, I really like Vivobarefoot. Their construction, styling, sizing consistency, and eco-friendly approaches and materials are all great. However, if they aren't the right fit or style, it is onerous to ship the shoes back and forth across the pond. Plus, their waterproof options are all hiking boots that really look like tactical hiking boots, so lacking in cross-functionality. This led me to take a pass on their admittedly great options.

  2. A notable caveat to a generally comfortable shoe is a gusseted tongue that I noticed sits (and therefore rubs) on my ankle bone on only the right shoe, so I am trying to crease and reposition it through use.