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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

First Below Freezing Commute of the Winter

Winter has been seemingly non-existent over the last year or so, but mostly due to the lack of snow. The cold is still there though and boy did I feel it today! Commuting in the winter sounds a lot more extreme than it seems. With the right clothing and layering techniques you can ride through event negative temps.

I’ve become extremely dedicated to checking the weather either the night before or the morning of a commute. Smartphones now all come with some type of weather app that gives you a good idea of what to prepare for. I consider winter commuting to pretty much be anything 50 degrees or cooler. 50 is a warm for these parts, but for some folks that’s what their winter is.

What I wear at 40-50 degrees is long unlined running tights, a technical long-sleeve shirt, technical fabric bike jersey over the long shirt, mtb shoes, a cycling cap, and a helmet. Depending on if it’s a windy day I may bring a wool hat, gloves, and a hi-vis vest with me. A good rule of thumb is to start your commute cold as you will warm up once you get going. I’ve made the mistake several times of layering up and being warm from the start. That usually ends up in a hot, sweaty mess or having to stop and take time to peel layers off.

30-40 degrees I will wear something similar, but with fleece lined tights, a wool jersey, definitely a hi-vis vest, gloves, wool beanie, sunglasses, wool socks, commuter spd shoes, and I’ll bring a light jacket like the Patagonia R1 with me if I find I get too chilly. The R1 is nice because it adds a layer, but is breathable so you don’t over heat.

The next level is a little tricky. Today is was 28 degrees and I decided to go with thermal or fleece lined tights, a technical long sleeved shirt, wool jersey, Shower’s Pass Portland jacket (basically a soft shell with lots of reflective bits), gloves, a wool beanie, wool socks, commuter spd shoes, sunglasses, and of course a helmet (I always wear one when I ride). I did pretty well with this, but my legs and toes got cold when I was nearing mile 4 of my 5 mile commute to work. I had wished I grabbed a balaclava, no not the delicious Greek dessert, but a partial face mask/hat combo you wear to protect your face while in windy conditions. Goggles may also become an addition on days that get any colder than 28.

I’m guessing adding a balaclava, Seal Skin socks (a brand, not made out of actual seals), and a pair of woolie thermals under my tights would probably keep me warm at 15-28 degrees. Anything below or hovering at 15 I will probably have to pull out the big guns adding rain pants over the tights as a vapor barrier (look up how vapor barriers work, it’s pretty neat), wear my down jacket with a shell over it or pair a wool hooded sweatshirt to keep nice and toasty.

I will sometimes use my wool Chrome Pasha hoodie that I’ve had for a few years to add a nice layer of toasty to the mix. Wool is expensive, yes, but as long as you treat it well it will last a LONG time. Benefits are that wool doesn’t harbor bacteria like tech fabrics do, so you don’t stink as much and the clothes will stay fairly fresh after a few uses. I used to wear beanies made from all sorts of fabric blends, but they’d always end up smelling like dirty hair even after I washed them. With wool beanies I never have that problem. I’ll freshen them up every so often with a wash, but it’s never a necessity out of smelliness.

Becoming a bike commuter will turn you into a wool lover. Actually if you do any activity outdoors and start experimenting with adding wool to your collection, you’ll probably enjoy it. I have two wool undershirts, two wool beanies, loads of wool socks, and a wool hoodie. I plan to keep adding to my collection as I can afford it. Working in the industry has its benefits, but it’s still pricey even if you have access to purchase items at a discount.

My next wool purchase will probably be a Buff (neck gaiter if you will) or some woolie tights or a long sleeved shirt. What can I say? I drink that kool-aid!

For any of you who are curious I’d like to give a general overview of some of my favorite cool/cold weather commuting items by brand. I’m not getting paid by these folks. These are all items I’ve purchased on my own and have used for a few seasons so I know they are worth the money.

-REI brand Wool Socks
They make an awesome gift. REI’s socks are warm, durable, comfy, and downright awesome. They are often on sale in store as they have bins and bins of them.
-Smartwool Beanies
I have two of these as I thought I lost mine one day when I was out visiting dealers. Turns out it was in my laundry pile and I now have two highly functional beanies. One is reversible and the two can be combined to make a super warm and comfy hat for extra chilly days.
-Pearl Izumi Thermal Gloves
In all honesty I don’t know what series of gloves I have, but I like them and they keep my fingers pretty toasty on the bike. I don’t think there is a current version of what my gloves have feature wise. Mine have zips on the side and built in reflective material on the top of the glove. There’s fleece on the thumb and the side palm of the gloves so you have plenty of places to wipe your nose (kind of gross I know) or you glasses.
-Shower’s Pass Portland Jacket
I’ve had this jacket for a few years and I always end up forgetting that I have it when cold weather shows up. Then when I open my closet and discover it’s still around I get excited to wear it again. The jacket is basically a nice soft shell that repels rain, has nice reflective piping and other details on it that make for a great commuting jacket. Pit zips, adjustable sleeve openings and side openings are a nice touch. My only beef with the jacket is that I wish it were a half inch longer. When I layer under the jacket it can have the tendency to ride up a little.
-Chrome Pasha Hoodie
I can’t even start to describe how much I love this piece of clothing. The Pasha was a definite splurge that ended up being one of my best clothing decisions to date. The hoodie is made out of merino wool, has a nice length, has thumb holes, good side, and rear pockets. I wear this on and off the bike as it makes for the perfect match under my down jacket. I would definitely buy this hoodie again.
-Patagonia R1 Jacket
I believe this is technically a men’s jacket, but I got a branded one from work that seems to fit me just right. It’s not great for super cold days, but for days in that 37-50 zone it works so well. It’s breathable, but warm enough to keep you going. My jacket is black so when I wear it I put a hi-vis vest over it.
-Bontrager hi-vis packable riding vest
I’m not sure the exact model of vest I have, but I’m sure if you walk into any Trek dealer you’d be able to find one. I used a $50 gift card I had to purchase the vest. It’s super lightweight, packable, breathable, and has nice reflective points. There’s a few different companies who make similar products so I’m not here to push Bontrager more than anything else, but it’s the brand that I have.
-Running Tights
I love using running tights or workout tights for my commutes. They stretch like regular bike shorts/knickers would but cost a lot less and work well for my 5 mile (one way) commute. Currently I have a pair from Moving Comfort that aren’t lined and a pair from Target that I found and thought I would give a try. It’s nice to try an purchase all name brand stuff from shops, but when you need to take your wallet into consideration there are some good alternatives. I’ll probably look into purchasing an actual cycling full length tight with chamois in the next month or so and see how those work. They’re pretty expensive, so I’m not quite ready to take that plunge. Again, even working in the industry doesn’t always mean things are always cheap!

That’s pretty much it for the clothes chat. I’ll most likely do a follow up with lighting and other items that make winter commuting more pleasant and of course safe for everyone! For more info on winter commuting and winter events visit www.bikewinter.org or learn about the winter Fat Bike culture over at Fat-Bike.com

-Cassandra