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  • barefootshoereview

Episode 60: Lems - Primal Zen

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

The Primal Zen feels like a direct upgrade from their previous primal version, the Primal 2, with a bit more cushion, a slightly more rugged sole, and even feels a bit roomier. Right off the bat, the suede aesthetic of the primal Zen lured me in, I knew I found that perfect shoe for when I’m craving a bit more sole thickness. The primal Zen comes in 3 colors and was released along with the Lems Outlander.

They look like a normal sneaker, are very roomy in the toe box, and are great for those transitioning to minimalist footwear. They seemed very durable and I immediately took them hiking, running, and to the gym. True to their looks, they are a solid all around sneaker to add to your arsenal. They also sit very very well on the foot and feel like an extension of your foot without being too snug or stiff.

They are available Woodland ( seen in pictures), Asphalt (black) and White Sand (releasing later in year).

Priced at $120, these boots will be an excellent investment to add to your sneaker collection or everyday casual footwear. Their ruggedness will allow you to to take them hiking as well.

Lems is one of the most loved and renowned companies in the barefoot community, and has not long branched out to provide their customers additional models to their existing models - the much loved Boulder, Mariner, Primal 2 and Nine2Five. They have recently added a slip on the Drifter as well as a casual sneaker the Chillum, in addition to a mid height Boulder boot, as well as a waterproof, and a leather version.

Click here for the Lem's Site

Disclaimer: These shoes were given to me to review, however my opinion is my own. This page uses affiliate links, and by purchasing from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission which doesn't cost you anything. Thank you, and enjoy the read!

Company Overview:

"In 2008, Lems’ creator, Andrew Rademacher, reached his end point searching for shoes that fit the natural shape of the foot. Starting out by dissecting his favorite running shoes and cutting out the extra, unnecessary material, Andrew decided to learn the art and science of shoemaking in his own way. He studied shoe fitting, last construction, and pattern making so that he would be able to design his shoes to fit like no other on the market.

Andrew began to realize that the big shoe brands had it all wrong. Shoes should be built around the natural shape of the human foot, and not the other way around. This meant that a shoe should be widest at the forefoot and toes, while allowing for full flexibility and unrestricted movement.

After three years of research, countless hours of design and dozens of prototypes, Andrew’s unwavering focus finally paid off. In September 2011, Lems released its first product – the Primal. Though the company has come a long way since that original design, Andrew continues to study his art while staying true to his mission of making naturally fitting footwear that allows your feet the freedom to be just as nature intended."

This shoe I suspect is the primal model mastered, as the name implies “the Primal Zen”. Sounds like Andrew found his inner Zen with this one.

Manufacturing and Sustainability:

"As a product that thrives most when used in nature, it is of vital importance to Lems to also promote the wellbeing of nature in everything we do. Sustainability is a driving force in every decision we make, from our packaging to our physical product. We promote sustainability in the following ways:

Vegan Materials: While all of our shoes are not 100% vegan, we aspire to use vegan materials as often as possible. We currently produce five fully vegan styles, and plan to continually increase that number.

Recycled Product: To combat the creation of new materials, we perpetually seek to integrate recycled materials into as many of our shoes as possible. The Chukka Canvas is our newest and most eco-friendly shoe!

Soles4Souls: "Soles4Souls turns unwanted shoes and clothing into opportunity, by keeping them from going to waste and putting them to good use - providing relief, creating jobs and empowering people to break the cycle of poverty." - Giving our shoes a second life with those who are most in need is one of the contributions we are most proud of. Not only do we donate unused pairs, but we encourage the Lems community to donate to this impactful nonprofit as well.

Everyday we work towards the mission of being a fully sustainable company, and are constantly in search of ways to further that goal. At Lems, we take full advantage of all that nature provides, and we feel it’s critical to return that favor." See more here

Shipping and Returns:

U.S Shipping (5-10 business days) We offer free domestic ground shipping!

Canada Standard Service (10-16 days)

International Standard Service (14-28 days)

Please note that during the holidays, we will continue to offer a 90-day return policy on all purchases!

Returns for your UNWORN shoes for a full refund on the retail price only, minus $8.00 for the return shipping label. Please note, shoes returned with any wear and tear, including dirt, scuffs, scratches and other signs of wear will not be refunded, exchanged, or credited and will be returned to the customer.


Return shipping labels are only valid for US customers.

If you are an international customer, please request a return on our site (in the form below), and return your shoes to us at the address provided via the automated return confirmation email and return the shoes at your own cost.

First Impressions:

  • Love the brown rugged aesthetic

  • Sits very well on foot, not too snug but sits very well around heel.

  • Less ground feel than I’m used to.

  • Upgrade to Lems previous soles and a bit more grip.

  • Light

  • Very flexible

  • Very normal looking.

  • Breathable

  • Quality

Sizing and Fit:

**I'm generally a men's size EU 42 and a US 8. My foot length is 26.1 cm and width is 10 cm, high volume feet.**

The sizing for Lem's shoes are a bit funky, so I would recommend choosing a size based on their sizing chart. I'm wearing the Lem's mens 9.5 and they fit me perfectly. I followed their sizing chart exactly and found it very accurate with the Primal Zen, Previously I would size up with them, but I suspect they have changed their sizing chart for the newer models.


I feel that this shoe is the perfect step to transitioning into true minimalist footwear. It sits at 11mm with an added cork insole option. It has decent traction for a sneaker and I was able to both hike with it and use it in the gym. Additionally, I found it really lightweight, breathable and roomy. It has a slipper like feel especially in the heel where it sits really comfortably. The ground feel is not amazing, but since I spend most of my life barefoot and have been dealing with some peroneal pain, the added cushion was a nice change of pace. I also found it great for exercises that need grip when I did not want to wear a proper hiking boot or heavier duty boot.


  • Last: Lems Natural-Shape™ Last

  • Upper: Microfiber & air mesh

  • Lining: 100% Polyester

  • Outsole: 9.5mm LemsRubber™ (air-injection rubber)

  • Insole: Ultra-thin 0.8mm cork top layer with 3.0mm PU under layer

  • Stack Height: 11.0mm (not including 3.0mm insole)

  • Drop: 0.0mm (Zero-Drop)

  • Weight: 6.8 oz (Men's 8)

  • Cost: $120

  • Sizes available: 4.5-15

Future Improvements:

Perhaps my aspirations are too high, but I would love this shoe as a water proof shoe with a ever so slightly grippier sole to be the ultimate lightweight shoe for every terrain and every weather.

It feels like a lot sturdier version of the primal 2, but I'm curious if this style of durable shoe can be made with a much thinner sole.

Where and How to Wear:

I wore this to hiking, I wore this to the gym, I wore it when taking a nature stroll in the botanical gardens, and I wore it to work. Its pleasing and very normal looking aesthetic and just kind of works with everything casual.

It's essentially a sneaker with a sole that has good traction and can flow with anything casual and I absolutely love the brown suede aesthetic.

Click here to purchase the Primal Zen


Overall, the sole thickness makes this sneaker a helpful transition after other much thicker brands like Altra while still providing enough cushion. If I am in the mood of wearing a thicker sole this is the shoe I am reaching for. Because it sits so well on the foot and is a quality make, I think it is a good and popular choice for me and others. It's a very 'normal' looking and comfortable shoe that I would highly recommend for anyone buying their first pair of barefoot shoes or any minimalist who just wants to enjoy a barefoot shoe with a thicker sole.

Charlie thinks so too.


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