Friday, January 10, 2014

Lems Primal 2: The Go Anywhere, Conquer Anything Shoe


Introduction
You may remember from my review of the original Primal Origin that I was a big fan. It was my first minimalist shoe so there is some history there as well.  If you have not checked out my review of the prequel to this shoe you may want to refresh yourself because the new flagship shoe from Lems builds largely on the foundation of the previous iteration. The updated sequel called the Primal 2 is a step in the right direction for this shoe and this company. (Disclosure: These shoes were media samples provided free of charge to Vagabond Running by the manufacturer.) 



The Good
After lacing up the shoe for the first time, I immediately noticed that shoe had a more constructed, higher quality feel, than it's predecessor. Visually, the shoe is more appealing as well. The stitching is uniform and tight. I thought the original Primal Origin looked great but the Primal 2 makes the original Primal Origin look sloppy by comparison. The open mesh portions of the upper are wider and noticeably more breathable. The Primal 2 builds off of the same durable 8mm injected rubber outsole of its predecessor and features no midsole. This shoe is truly minimalist and succeeds in creating a near barefoot experience. It maintains an anatomical last which is a Lems hallmark at this point. I honestly wish all shoes were shaped this way. The most functional update for me was the loop attached to the heel. The original design was very small and almost not functional. I did not quite realize the shortcoming on the original until I had the update in hand.

The sock liner update is in step with the other updates as well. It is now textured, more structured and feels higher in quality. I was a little worried that the bumpy texture on the top would not feel as nice as the original sock liner or that it might cause an issue with blistering. After wearing the shoe for only a few hours I soon realized that the new sock liner raised to no issues. The sock liner, like the original, is totally optional. With it in you get a slightly softer feel underfoot and might be a good option if your foot is on the narrow side. Without it you get a more barebones minimalist experience.
It's also safe to say, that everything I praised the Primal Origin for, still applies to the Primal 2.

The Bad
I had to wear this shoe for a long time before I could think of a suggestion for improvement. The only thing I would change would be the heel cup. The outsole rubber wraps the shoe from the back of the heel, up toward the achilles and creates an slight dimple or crease along the logo that is etched into the heel cup, but only when the shoe is worn. It's worth noting that the all-black version of this shoe does not have the logo etched into the heel cup and therefore no strange dimple. The slate-grey shoe (my personal favorite and the one pictured) does have the logo.

The shoe will not keep you very dry in wet weather, but this is not so much a complaint as it is full disclosure because the Primal 2 makes no pretense of being an all weather shoe. If you do happen to get the shoe wet, it will dry out rather quickly. I usually just put the shoes in front of a fan for a couple hours or over night and I have nice dry shoes.

With a $95 price tag, these shoes are priced a little steeply. I purchased Lems shoes originally because they were making a shoe that lined up with my values and that is as good of a reason as any to spend a little extra. Further, because there is no midsole to worry about, the shoe will be totally functional until you walk a hole in them (which will be a very long time). That being said, I think if this shoe could get closer to the $80 neighborhood, that would be a significant benefit and could open the door to a larger customer base. 

Stats

Here's what Lem's has to say

"We here at Lems Shoes don't always wear shoes, but when we do we choose the Primal2. If lightweight (6.9oz), flexible, breathable, foot-shaped, and flat are all characteristics that you look for in footwear, than look no further than this shoe. "

Last:  LemsLast™ foot-shaped
Upper:  Microsuede + open-weave mesh (100% vegan)
Sole:  8.0mm LemsRubber™ injection rubber
Insole: Optional removable 3.0mm MoistureWick foam
Lining: 100% Moisture-wicking polyester
Stack Height: 8.0mm (without removable insole)
Drop: 0.0mmWeight: 6.9oz (size 43)
Width: 4.2-4.4" (size 43)

Conculsion

The Primal 2 can take you to a coffee shop, for a run, on a hike, and is my go-to casual shoe. When I bought my first pair of Lems shoes I wanted a minimalist experience that was not going to draw the unwanted, gawking attention to my feet that toe shoes were sure to incite. To the contrary many people, unprompted, have complemented me on the look of these shoes. This update also builds my faith in Lems as a company. The Primal 2 is everything an update should be i.e. they took was working and what was iconic about their product and left it untouched. Then they looked very hard for where there could be improvements and added quality through simplicity, not glitz and glam.

I live in Boston and walk this city up and down in comfort. The biggest advantage of the Primal line remains its accessibility and versatility. This is a shoe that can function at almost any level you want it to, whether you are a seasoned barefoot runner or are just scratching the surface of minimalism in general the Primal 2 can meet your needs. It can be a trainer, an everyday casual shoe, on or off road active shoe, and is a worthy investment for some of that money you got back from returning unwanted holiday presents.


Disclaimer: Minimalist shoes are not for everybody. Transitioning to minimalist shoes should be done slowly and responsibly. Information contained in this post is not a substitute for advice from a physician.

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