Andrew Rademacher

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Levi's Review of STEM Primal Origins

Posted by on 6/3/2011

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Today we have the darkhorse of this review series:  a shoe called “Primal Origins” from a brand new company (these shoes don’t even exist yet but are available for pre-order now) STEM Footwear.

I had never heard of these shoes, nor had I heard of the company “Stem” before.  However, as I started to research them, everything I could find I liked and decided to give it a shot.  My assumption was that I would review a concept shoe and provide feedback for a ton of tweaks and that maybe in a year or 2, after several revisions, they might be someone putting out a decent shoe, who knows.  I was wrong.  Dead wrong.
First impressions weren’t good, they weren’t great, they were “oh my gosh what am I holding and how did I get this” kind of great.  The shoes had a pink sock liner (yes, I said pink) and were about a size to a size and ˝ too big, and yet I Loved them.

The look fantastic, like a really nice pair of casual dock shoes that you would buy at any nice retailer.  Then you pick them up and they weigh virtually nothing (6 oz) and feel like they have no solid substance at all.  Here’s a summary of what I found and my conclusions at the end of testing.

  • As stated, the shoes look great – best looking (obviously opinion based here) minimalist shoe I’ve seen.
  • Very light weight (coming in at a stated 6 oz)
  • The lace system is wide and non-binding and ends in a zip cord type “cinch” (like on a rucksack) instead of tying.  This was actually one thing I wasn’t a big fan of (preference) and I actually cut the cinch off and just converted them into a traditional tie lace.  To me it hung down too far (dangled) but I would imagine that part of that was from the shoes being so big on me.
  • The shoes are cool (temperature wise), vented well, and didn’t cause undue sweat.  I did not get them wet, now that I think about it, so can’t emphatically comment on that but the fact that the upper is vented and there is no insole tells me they would be at home pretty well with water.
  • Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.  The flexibility was honestly second to none.  Though the sole feels solid and showed no sign of wear during my testing, it moves like a sock – not a single spot of solidity to be found
  • Great toebox:  the shoes are wide throughout with great room in the toebox for toe splay (completely rounded front end – no point).
  • These shoes had a ground feel that, for me, was second to none in a shoe.  Let’s face it, all of the above is great, but ground feel is what sells me and most minimalist minded shoe patrons.  The ground feel is simply superb, by the far the best I’ve had in a shoe.

So I tried these shoes expecting nothing from them, the sock-liner was baby pink (“lavender” as the box said), and they were a size to a size and ˝ too big for me, and yet they are a “best of” in this review series already, hands down.  My shoes, er hat, off to the guys at Stem… this sample that they sent me, not even a production shoe yet, is absolutely superb.  Well done, A+

- Levi

Author of "Second Wind: the running coach you never had but always needed"
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