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.

10 Must Haves for New CrossFitters

It’s been only eight months since stepping into my first CrossFit gym, but I’m at the point of where I have my gear bag pretty dialed and ready for any WOD that comes my way.

I wanted to share 10 things that have been vital to my success in the gym.

10. High Quality Workout Clothes

This may sound like common sense, but if you’re dedicating three, four, or even five days a week to working out- you’re going to want clothes that can take a beating. Try investing in clothing that are well made. Look at the materials, stitching quality, and read reviews.

My wardrobe is made up of pieces that came in at various price points. You don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars at high end places like Schmu Schmu Schlemon, but it doesn’t hurt to add some higher end pieces in the mix. I’ve collected some pretty inexpensive items from big box stores, but made sure to try the items on and inspect their quality before investing.

I wash my workout clothes every time I have worn them to the box. You’re spending a lot of time on equipment and flooring that other people have sweat on. It’s also not good for your skin to wear dirty, dead skin riddled clothing.

9. Shoes Meant for Weight Lifting and Cross Training

I started out training in running shoes at the box. They were fine for a beginner, as I wasn’t sure if I would stick to CrossFit, but as I started getting more dedicated I realized I was going to need better shoes for the type of movements we were doing. Running shoes are designed with a curved platform for the forward running motion and have a lot of cushion for the repetitive motion of your feet hitting the ground. Great for propelling you forward, but not so great for keeping you stable during a heavy deadlift.

CrossFit shoes were designed with flat, stable bases for lifting weight. They are made with light materials and often even some type of protection and grip on the sides/mid-soles for things like rope climbs. They also to tend to have good flexibility for agility training.

There are many wonderful options on the market. My recommendation is try on some different brands and purchase whichever feels the most comfortable on your feet. I have some personal preferences on what I look for in a shoe, but I’ll cover that in another post.

8. Grips for Hand Protection

If you are new to weightlifting or doing gymnastic movements such as kipping pull-ups, you will be putting your hands through a lot of stress. It takes time to build up calluses that protect the hands from movement on the bar, so learning to lift and do gymnastics with grips is a good idea.

Your grip strength will improve and you are less likely to create friction and tears on your hands that can be painful.

There are a plethora of grips on the marketplace. Some of heavy duty textured leather, some are a sort of light neoprene. My personal favorites are made of a stretchy almost cut up Ace bandage material that holds chalk well.

It takes time to get used to grips, so it’s a good idea to slowly incorporate them into your workouts. I primarily broke mine in will doing barbell movements and then started using them for gymnastics such as working on the rings and pull ups.

7. A Hand Care Kit

Everyone tears a callus. I would say it’s sort of a right of passage when you become a CrossFitter. It’s something that all of us would like to avoid and if you can avoid it, that’s better than having a painful, open tear on your hands.

Kits can be purchased from a number of reputable CrossFit outfitters. Mine consists of a pumice stone, light hand lotion, some athletic tape, and a stick that can be rubbed on open tears to help heal as well as protect any open tears on my hands against infection.

When grips aren’t enough or if I get a tear, I use tape to cover things up and help try to keep the flap of skin in tact. I also plan on doing a post talking more about how to handle a tear, so stay tuned for that.

6. Knee Sleeves

A good investment if you love your joints. There’s lot of lower body work that is being done in the box. Squats, box jumps, wall balls, lunges, running, lifting, and everything in between.

Knee sleeves will help provide protection during those movements. They may not be necessary for all workouts and some people refuse to use them, but I personally think they are worth the investment to keep your knees healthy and happy.

5. Wrist Wraps

In the same vein as knee sleeves, wrist wraps add a layer of support and protection during overhead movements. There are several different types on the market. Some offer more support than others, but they all serve the same purpose.

It may be a good idea to experiment with a couple of different styles and see what works best for your workouts.

4. Epsom Salt
Anytime you start a new fitness routine, you’re bound to have some aches and pains. Particularly if you are starting from square one and don’t have any base fitness. An Epsom salt bath or scrub down helps ease the pain of sore muscles.

There are many brands available and some offer aromatherapy or additional muscle soothers. Be sure to check if Epsom baths may have any health implications for you before adding it to your recovery routine.

3. Active Hydration/Recovery Aids

When putting your body through the ringer, it is important to stay hydrated. Your body loses not only water, but electrolytes that come out in the form of a salt like substance on your skin.

You may notice that your clothes or skin show a white crystal like residue. That’s a sign that you have exerted yourself and likely need to replenish.

I prefer to use active hydration with electrolyte tablets in my water. That way I know I’m not going to get the sort of workout hangover feeling when I have pushed myself hard. It also helps ensure that I won’t get painful muscle cramps.

Along with that is recovery aids. Some people will use both active hydration a recovery product to aid their body in building muscle and flushing out toxins. Research any companies you are interested in purchasing supplements or recovery aids from.

It may also be a good idea to work with a physician or nutrition expert before deciding to add supplements to your daily intake.

I often will chose what combination of items to use based off how I feel after a workout. I sometimes will use a protein shake with some probiotics as a meal replacement or as a go to between meals on a workout day.

Recovery aids are very personal to your body, so what may work for someone else may not be for you.

2. Mobility Tools

Recovery isn’t just done via supplements. Mobility tools such as foam rollers or pressure point balls help target muscles that are sore or have limited flexibility. Breaking up stiff muscle tissue promotes blood flow and keeps muscles, ligaments, and joints loose.

It’s important to do some research on how to properly utilize these tools, so as to not cause tissue damage. When used correctly, they can do a world of good and help your body feel better between workouts.

It’s not always like getting a deep tissue massage, I will admit it hurts often to use them. It’s still great to have them on hand though.

1. High Quality Jump-rope

Double Under Wonder make great starter jump-ropes that can be customized to your style and height!

Using the jump-ropes provided at your box isn’t the worst thing to have to do, but it’s nice to get a jump-rope tailored specifically to your level of skill and your height.

There are many a speed-rope on the market. I decided to go the custom route and purchase a rope that I could get at an exact length. Having messed around with adjustable ropes left me frustrated with setting the hardware. I also had to fuss with it to get the length just right and if you have too much excess rope or cut the rope too short, you are SOL.

There’s not a lot of opportunities to try different rope models unless you maybe go to an expo or an event like a CrossFit competition with vendors on site. I recommend doing some research online, reading reviews, and getting a feel for what type of rope suits your needs. You can graduate to an extremely high speed and high quality model once you have mastered the art of the double under. Usually you can find a decent quality rope in the $20-30 range to start.

That’s it for my list and I plan on elaborating on each of those items in future posts. I’ll discuss the products I have chosen, why, and do some reviews. It can often be confusing or difficult to know what exactly you need when you step into a CrossFit box, but hopefully this will help guide you.

Starting any new sport or activity is always in investment, but it’s an investment in yourself and your health. If you think about how many times in a year you use a particular item, you will often come to find it is literally pennies a day you are spending per use of that piece of gear.

Remember that cheapest is usually not going to be the best option, but buying the best of the best isn’t necessary either. Try to find items that fit your budget and will perform to your standards.

Thank you for reading if you like fitness and nutritional content please give a follow to @twowheelfitness on Instagram or if you’re more into the cycling and outdoorsy content and want to see what’s going on live please follow @spokehaven

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Disclosure: While I always encourage people to buy products locally and support small business. If you see something linked in an article, it’s because it’s something I’ve used myself and approve of. Purchasing from any of the embedded links helps maintain the website and keeps me producing regularly scheduled content.