Lems Primal 2 Review

I’ve been a fan for low to zero drop shoes for many years and was frankly unaware that they were even a thing. This included a rotation of shoes from Vans and Chuck Taylor’s from Converse.

Whenever forced to wear shoes such as high heels or clunky sport shoes (minus my bitchin’ Rebeccas Lobo’s edition Reebok shoes in middle school) I generally reverted back to my beloved, and oh so unsupported flat shoes.

This trend kept on for awhile into my adult hood. I then had worked a number of retail jobs that had me wearing “fashionable” ballet flats and other shoes that seemingly destroyed my feet after spending 8-12 hours on my feet and walking just about everywhere.

I eventually moved to wearing things like Keen sandals, which are ok, but I’ve since moved away from them as they are difficult to keep from smelling terrible and I was sick of spending a lot of money on really nice sandals only for them to smell terrible no matter what methods I tried (washing machine, hand washing, baking powder pastes, shoe sprays, vinegar, the list goes on and on.)

I eventually moved to more conventional running shoes as well as supportive hiking shoes from a plethora of brands such as Brooks, Pearl Izumi, Merrell, and Patagonia. I didn’t mind those shoes so much, but as I started working out more I realized I was missing my flat shoes.

I tried Vibram Five Fingers for some time. Besides the often odd looks and sometimes shaming received for wearing them, I quite enjoyed them. The only downside is they aren’t a quick shoe to put on and sometimes my feet would be sore after wearing them (I do know there’s a break in period for your feet to get used them.)

KSO Original 4 square
Vibram’s Unique Looking Shoes (Photo: property of Vibram’s Website)

I still use them today, but mostly for stand up paddle boarding to protect my feet.

CrossFit shoes have been a welcome new genre of shoe for me. Nike’s Metcon 3’s were my first pair and after destroying them by wearing them for some workouts at the park on dewy grass, they were shortly replaced with some Reebok Nano 6’s I found at Dick’s Sporting Goods on sale for $20! Yes, you read that right, 2-0! This was before Reebok wised up and realized they could essentially continue to make their OG shoes, but in a million different colorways and “limited editions” to get the CrossFit community to keep on buying them.

OG Nano Colorway before the re-issue

After the Nano 6’s came a pair of custom Reebok Nano 8’s, the Nano 7’s were garbage. Fight me on this, I dare you. I’ve never had a pair of shoes actively hurt my feet so badly during a workout. I even tried two different sizes which one was way too small and one was way too large and both were what should have been within my natural shoe sizes.

Anyway, I tried on the Nano 8’s and they were one of the most comfortable shoes I’d ever worn. Shortly after came the Metcon 4’s which quickly became my go-to workout shoe and still is til this day, although I will rotate my shoes depending on the day.

Yes, I realize this is a very long lead up to the subject of this blog, don’t worry because I’m getting there. All of these shoes are great, but the thing is that they get really quite beat up with working out 3+ times a week, so I wanted to find a shoe that wasn’t a CrossFit specific shoe per se, but still had the qualities that I liked about a CrossFit shoe which is low drop, wide in the toe box for my Midwestern clod hoppers, and narrow in the ankle.

After my foray into Vibram land, I knew I wanted something LIKE that shoe, but not with the toe separation business as I needed it to be a quick on and off. After doing some research on low profile shoes and shoes that supported natural gait and strengthening feet, I stumbled upon Lems.


I had been interested in the Primal 2 for a couple of years before I actually bought a pair. The thing is, I’m a bit of a shoe hoarder. I mean, did you read the above where I listed four different pairs of CrossFit shoes alone? Oh wait, five because I also bought a pair of Adidas lifters that were on sale and bright magenta.

That doesn’t even hold a candle to my cycling shoe collection! I have two pairs of DZR branded casual cycling shoes, a pair of 5.10 flat pedal shoes, three pairs of mountain bike shoes including a pair of older Pearl Izumi’s (one of my favorites), a pair of Liv Vlora shoes (leftover from my ambassador days), and my newest and current favorite Giro Cylinders. Oh I also have a dank pair of Liv road shoes that are the ultimate chef’s kiss road cycling shoes.

I also have a few sets of dress shoes which are now almost all flats except one pair of heels that I can stand wearing, a couple of pairs of fashion boots, and an assortment of casual shoes.

Needless to say I didn’t really NEED new shoes, but actually I really did. Especially because I had developed wicked plantar fasciitis in my right foot. All the materials out there basically state that you should wear the bulkiest, most supportive, orthotic geriatric shoes along with your physical therapy to make it go away. Um…no.

The issue folx have with plantar fasciitis is often week feet and arches. I knew that I should wear a supportive insole as I have relatively high arches, but I knew going with a bulky, soft shoe or even a bulky, really firm shoe just wasn’t for me.

It’s not what my feet were used to, nor do I enjoy not feeling the actual ground underneath my feet. It has never felt natural to me.

This is when I made my decision to FINALLY buy that pair of cute, grey Lems Primal 2s. I also decided to buy a set of Correct Toes (review to come) while I was at it as a lot of natural leaning podiatrists believe plantar fasciitis can also be causes by having worn footwear that restricts and clusters the toes. There’s a plethora of other information as to what can and does cause plantar fasciitis, but I’m not a medical professional and there’s a lot of great resources out on the interwebs to learn more.

If you really look at shoes out in the world, you will notice a trend of narrow or pointy toes. Heels of any kind on boots or high heels also put your foot in a terrible position. Many sneakers are made with cheap foam that compresses and doesn’t actually support your foot at all.

It all started to make sense to me. It was the reason I found most of the CrossFit shoes so comfortable. They are wide and flat and provide enough space for my feet to actually splay.

I ordered my Lems in my regular size which is a 7.5 US women’s. The fit feels good and if you want to use Correct Toes, I would encourage anyone ordering to stay true to their regular shoe size.

Fresh out of the box! You can see the difference in the width of the toe box.

Besides the width of the toe box, the first thing I noticed was the insole included in the shoes. They have raised bumps that at first felt odd, but I soon grew to really enjoy them and wish all my shoes had them.

Unique footbed.

The shoe is also incredibly flexible and light. They are pretty great for traveling as they pack up nicely and are unnoticeable when tossed in a bag. The flexibility of their sole is by design as it allows for an incredible nature foot feel and connectivity to the ground.

Light and packable.

I brought these with me on my bike camping trip as well as my trip to Boulder this summer. These shoes have hiked trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, have come with me to the CrossFit Gym, have been one my feet for long work shifts, and are often the shoes I grab to take my dog on walks.

The Primal 2 is a very versatile shoe, which is why I think so many people like them, myself included. They don’t look like a fitness shoe or even a special no drop hippy-dippy shoe that screams, I EAT PALEO. For some reason people seemed to like to assume that about me when I wore Vibrams. I love how easily the shoes are to put on. There’s a generous finger loop on the back for pulling it over your heel.

Shh…Don’t tell anyone that I’m wearing shoes for Primitive Performance. Let me sip my kombucha in peace, my friends!

There are a few things that the Primal doesn’t work well for and that comes down to times where I really need, not a tight fit per se, but a foot hugging fit where the shoe isn’t going to allow my foot a lot of side to side movement or slippage.

While these shoes are amazing for doing lifts at the gym including power lifts and Olympic lifting. I wouldn’t recommend them for running, handstand pushups, rope climbs, or rowing. The width is sometimes a downfall and I’ve found especially while rowing the heel tends to slide off the back and become an annoyance. There’s also nothing protecting the outside of the shoe for rope climbs, and the heel is just too tacky for doing handstand push ups. My heels were dragging so hard against the wall it made it very difficult to perform the movement.

Running for some may be fine for some, but they weren’t my favorite. I also wasn’t super keen on hiking with them. I hiked the Gem Lake Trail with them in Colorado and found on the way down, my foot would slide side to side when trying to traverse downhill and actually caused some hot spots. I hiked with them again on a local trail where it was mostly grass and it wasn’t too much of an issue until again, going down hill wasn’t very enjoyable. A quick note about hiking with them is that the soles performed quite well. They gripped well in everything from sand to granite rocks. I can somewhat remedy this by wearing thicker socks and really pulling the laces tight, but I would probably opt for another shoe if I know I have a day of hiking ahead of me.

The sole is grippy and a nice thickness to protect your feet.

Which is an excellent segue to another shoe I’ve been dying to try and that is Lems Trailhead V2! According to Lems the trailhead is more narrow than that Primal 2, which upset some people, but for me I think that would solve the issues I was having while hiking. The shoe still has a wide toe box and a lot of great features that make it a Lems shoe, but seems designed with hikers in mind and knowing that having too much movement of the foot inside the shoe can cause discomfort.

Anyone at Lems out there? Hi, can I review your shoe? Pretty please?!

Overall I think the Primal 2 is an excellent shoe and I would purchase it again. Maybe even in a different colorway just to try a new look, although I think the grey is my favorite and I hope they stay with the sort of gum colored sole. It gives the shoe a really nice look. It makes an excellent traveling shoe, especially if you don’t really know what activities you may be doing. It works well for walking around cities, it can manage some hiking, you can workout in it minus a couple of specialized movements, but it’s capable of doing a little bit of everything.

It’s a great minimalist shoe not only in being no drop, but for packing for travel. It’s so easy to fit them into a bag or suitcase and they take up almost no space whatsoever.

Full disclosure: I paid for these shoes with my own money and signed up for Lems e-mails in order to take advantage of the 10% off. I was not contacted by or paid by Lems, this is my full honest review.

The Primal 2 retails on their website currently for $105. I know they also sell at outdoor retailers and I believe REI just picked up a few shoes in their lineup as well if you want to try them on before committing. I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did!

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Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.

Hiking the Spring Green Preserve

October is what we deem “Leafer Season” here in Wisconsin, meaning on the weekends our country roads, small towns, farm stands, and orchards are packed with people flocking to see the change in foliage.

I’ve lived in this state my entire life and yet I still find myself falling into the seasonal shenanigans. (ooh! Alliteration and a pun! Get it…FALLing.)

One of my favorite pilgrimages is to the small town of Spring Green, WI. Famously known for the original Taliesin building created by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. They are also known for American Player’s Theater, one of the best Shakespearean theaters in the world. It’s a quaint and quirky town of less than 5000 people, yet it manages to boast an economy of restaurants, coffee shops, several artisan studios, and specialty shops.

I grew up in a town not far from Spring Green, but spent much of my life there and had friends whose parents lived there. It feels more like home to me than my actual home town in a lot of ways and I think that’s because of the overall artsy, hippy culture that thrives behind the farms, local branch of Culver’s, and the kids wearing River Valley Blackhawks gear (the high school mascot).

Spring Green boasts a lot of beautiful places to enjoy nature, beyond sitting in the woods watching Macbeth or A Mid Summer Night’s Dream. It’s nestled right on the Wisconsin river with not only the river itself, but the bottoms and many ponds that surround it. There’s even Tower Hill State Park, a small but interesting natural area that has an original shot tower still on the premises.

While we had plans of visiting the park, I had actually wanted to explore a slightly lesser known natural area called the Spring Green Preserve. It’s a parcel of land run by the local branch of the Nature Conservancy. The reason this place is so special is that there are very few like it in our state. It’s a mix of desert and black oak barrens in an entirely un-glaciated region, meaning it is in the same state it has been for thousands of years. You can see cacti and lizards along side cranes, deer, and other wildlife. It’s truly unlike anywhere in the area, minus a couple of untouched areas of Lone Rock, WI which is very tiny town located just down highway 14 from Spring Green.

The last time I had visited the preserve was my senior year of high school for my AP Environmental Science class. I had remembered enjoying all the new natural areas I had not realized were in places I drove past on a regular basis. This is one that for those who know, really enjoy visiting it and for those who don’t, it’s just a pretty ridge off in the distance.

My partner and I took some back roads to Spring Green from Madison to get in the beautiful rolling hills covered in trees starting their annual turning into yellows, oranges, and fiery reds. It’s not peak turn at the moment, so there was still a fair bit of green. Nonetheless it’s still a gorgeous drive.

The driftless region of Wisconsin runs deep for those of us who have lived here a long time. It’s untouched by the ancient glaciers that manipulated so much of our state. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in the rolling hills of Kentucky in some areas of the state. Not quite mountains, but there are some really breathtaking views in the driftless that make you appreciate the quiet beauty of Wisconsin. Something many don’t appreciate as they consider the Midwest to be flyover territory.

That’s ok, we’ll keep it our own little secret.

Upon our arrival to Spring Green our first stop was the Spring Green General Store. A hippie haven with a great cafe, an ever changing mural on its side, and a nice shop with eclectic offerings. I always seem to find a little something there that I love. This trip it was a natural toothpaste I like that comes in a glass jar rather than in a tube. It’s difficult to find and only a couple of stores in Madison carry it and they don’t always have it. That’s the magic of the Spring Green General store, it just knows.

KJ posing for me in front of the infamous graffiti wall.

We ordered up lunch. I with a vegetarian chilly, deluxe with all the accoutrements. My partner ordered a vegetarian burrito. Both delicious and warm and just what we needed to fuel up for our hike.

A literal cornucopia displayed outside the General Store

Before we made our way to the preserve, we stopped in a couple of artsy shops across the street. There’s a little mall of shops and cafes on Albany Street. We saw some lovely pieces and I kept mental notes of things for the holiday season.

Shortly after we hopped in our car and made our way to the preserve. On the way there we ran into a closed rode due to flooding. It seems the area around the preserve that was developed either for farming or housing had been a couple of feet under water. So much so that a gaggle of geese seemed to have claimed it for their own. We had to brave a somewhat gnarly puddle to drive into the preserve, but the land on the preserve was oddly bone dry.

I guess that’s nature’s way of telling us humans, hah, told you you shouldn’t have messed with me. It’s true. If we leave the land untouched or manage it properly, it will take care of us. When it’s not, we have hell to pay.

We got suited up and started on our trek. The trail is primarily sandy almost all the way up until the oak barren. My partner had never seen a natural area like this in Wisconsin. I pointed out the prickly pear cacti that were growing alongside the trail. No lizards were sighted, but I know from experience they are there as are painted box turtles and other cool creatures.

Mushroom! Mushroom!

The trail was pretty overgrown with tall foliage. I was happy to have grabbed my trekking poles. I went so long without using them, but when we had hiked Gem Lake over the summer when we visited Rocky Mountain National Park, I realized that my active person’s left knee wasn’t going to take the abuse it once did. Too many snowboarding and cycling crashes. So, I’m getting used to using them and learning how to utilize them to take the pressure off the knees.

The protectors of knees.

Grasshoppers were in abundance. We tried our best not to step on any, but there may have been a few casualties along the way. (Eek, sorry!) There were also many small red dragonflies about. We don’t see many red ones near us as the lakes usually have blue or green ones. My guess is that’s a biological thing. A red dragonfly would likely draw more attention to itself on the water and get eaten much faster than one that blends in with the colors of the water. Out in the prairie, red things tend to blend in more.

Making friends on the trail

The hike itself is only 3.2 miles, an out and back. There are no other trails in the preserve. That is, legal trails. Plenty of stupid human traces of people not respecting the land and cutting down the bluff.

The first half of the hike is all uphill. It’s a gradual climb up until the oak barren and then it’s a moderate incline up until you get to the top of the bluff at a beautiful overlook. We were dressed for much colder weather as it hasn’t been over 50 degrees all week. Of course we pick the day where it got nearly to 70 out to be dressed in layers and have wool socks on. It got sweaty fast, but we pulled a layer off and ended up being ok. The trail on All Trails is listed as Moderate difficulty. I guess I could agree with that as it was quite overgrown when we went and it’s sandy, but in comparison to other, more challenging stuff I’ve hiked I would say it’s an easy trail. I don’t think anyone who is fully capable of climbing up a hill would find it all that challenging. It’s probably actually easier in the summer when they do more trail maintenance. Not a humble brag or anything of the like, just in comparison to hikes in places with actual mountains, it’s not as challenging.

Not quite turning all the way, but the birches were ready.

My hikes generally take much longer than they would because I enjoy nature photography and videography, so I annoyed my partner by stopping for a bit every so often to snap a photo off here or there. Eventually I could tell it was time to go, so we hustled back to the car and of course stopped at the Midwestern fast food mecca, Culver’s. We don’t eat there often, so when we do car trips, it’s kind of our special treat. The spicy chicken sando and cheese curds with diet root beer is where its at!

I would highly recommend checking out the Spring Green Preserve if you are in the area and have a couple hours to kill. The hike is not very challenging and the view at the top is totally worth it. You get to see a unique micro-climate that is becoming harder to find in Wisconsin and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the area is.

Dry, sandy trail.

Thanks as always for reading. If I can get enough footage, I’ll likely get a short video up on the Spoke Haven YouTube so you can see a bit of the hike and the Spring Green General Store. Please follow, like, subscribe, and all that good stuff.

For up to date photos and glimpses of adventures in real-time you can follow @spokehaven on Instagram and @twowheelfitness for more health, wellness, and fitness related content.

A view from the top. Although I realized I left my polarizing filter for my lens at home. Damnit!