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BAREFOOT IN ARIZONA BLOG REVIEW

Leming Primal Origins Review - by John, from the blog ‘Barefoot in Arizona’.

Long before I got into minimalist running, I was already dissatisfied with my shoe options. I was an active, outdoorsy kid growing up and my successive transformations into a reclusive bookworm, brooding musician, and disgruntled law student never completely erased the part of me that enjoyed feeling the ground under my feet. It never made sense to me that running shoes felt as cumbersome as they did and was frustrated that most sneakers weren't much better. From at least my early teens I always had an eye out for a pair of comfortable, minimal shoes. The closest thing I found was some approach shoes which I wore to death in high school and college. After switching to minimal running shoes I began the search anew but still couldn't find anything I really liked. Most good minimalist running shoes aren't particularly comfortable to wear all day (such as Merrell's Trail Glove), while most shoes that are comfortable aren't very minimal (such as New Balance's MT10).

So you can imagine my excitement when the kind folks at Leming agreed to provide a pair of their shoes for me to review. After all, they basically set out to make the exact shoe I had been looking for. The only question was, did they succeed?
Oh, the suspense...
Did they ever. These shoes are the ultimate minimalist casual shoe. It would be accurate (though a bit melodramatic) to say that this is the exact pair of shoes that I have been looking for for the last twenty years. I have more ridiculously effusive things to say about these shoes, but I should probably get on with the review.

The Basics
Lets start with the name. The current name of the company is Leming, not to be confused with lemming, an adorable arctic rodent with terrible connotations.
Emily was heartbroken when the "pair of Lemings" I got in the mail turned out to be shoes
However, you may know the company as Stem, which was the name they were making shoes under until this March when they changed their name due to a trademark issue. Leming is a partial acronym which stands for "Level, Extra wide toebox, Minimal sole", which explains why it is sometimes (but usually not) spelled "LEMing" on the website. Just in case you weren't confused yet, the company is apparently planning to change its name yet again in the near future. (Maybe Invisible/Xero Shoes is starting a fad).

Leming currently makes just one model of shoe, the Primal Origins (although five more are in the works for 2013), which retails for $89.99 and comes in five colors for the ladies and four for the men (black, brown, green and grey, with the ladies getting two flavors of grey). I chose brown.
The shoes come with a removable 3mm insole.
The Leming website lists the weight at 6.3 ounces and the stack height as 7.5mm (both numbers are without the insole). The shoe is zero drop (doesn't have a raised heel). The materials are 100% vegan.

Fit
The website indicates that men's shoes run true to size but women's run a size small. They only come in whole sizes. I'm a size 10 in most shoes (9.5 in Merrell Trail Gloves, 42 in FiveFingers) and the size 10-10.5 fits me just fine. It might make a bit of a difference how you plan to wear them: with socks and the insole in, they just fit, while without socks or the insole I have to tighten the laces a lot to keep them from moving around. Not a problem in my case, but if you are between two sizes it might be something to consider.

I found the fit to be excellent. The toebox is luxuriously wide (and feels even wider because the upper stretches with your toes), but somehow doesn't have that clown shoe appearance that some minimalist shoes have (you know who you are). The rest of the shoe fits well and keeps the foot from moving around.

Comfort
Comfort is another big plus. These are about as cushy as a pair of sneakers comes, and the flexibility of the sole really enhances the cushiness so that the shoes almost feel like a pair of bedroom slippers. What's kind of cool about this (aside from the fact that it feels like I'm walking around town in bunny slippers) is that my feet don't even notice that none of that cushioning is under the feet.
Insole in (left) and out (right)
The website describes the insole as "optional." Although the insoles are fine, they are completely unnecessary and I usually don't use them.
Flush stitching = happy feet
The shoe is designed to be worn without the insole, with or without socks (the website actually recommends going sockless), and all of those combinations work well since there aren't any raised seems to bother your feet.

Performance
The Primal Origins are the type of shoes that make you feel like moving. They're incredibly light and they really let your feet function the way they're supposed to. Groundfeel is very good and is balanced by just the right amount of protection, meaning you can feel the ground well enough to have good proprioception without looking like an idiot walking over gravel. The standout feature, though, is the shoe's flexibility, which is off the charts for a sneaker.
And adding the insole doesn't make that much of a difference.
With insole (left), without insole (right)
Running
Leming doesn't specifically market their shoes for running, so I could conceivably just declare the shoes a success and end the review here. However, given that this is a running blog, and that I'm a curious guy, and that virtually the first words out of my mouth when I started wearing the shoes were "You know, you could run in these," that's obviously not going to happen.

Although I haven't logged a tremendous number of miles so far, I've done enough running to be confident in saying that the Primal Origins is a very capable road running shoe. In fact, I prefer them to the majority of the minimalist running shoes I've tried, and plan to continue running in them. All of the factors I've discussed are pluses here: groundfeel, proprioception, flexibility, comfort. I've run with and without socks without a problem, although I haven't done a long run in them yet. There's enough protection for roads and light trails. Anything more and I'd prefer another shoe, although I suspect there's very little you couldn't do in these if you wanted to.

Which leads me to this: if you are new to minimalist running and/or footwear and are looking for one all-purpose shoe that you can both run in and wear casually, I would seriously consider the Primal Origins. Compared to many other shoes I would normally recommend, they are more minimal, more comfortable, better looking, and cheaper.
It's something to consider
Conclusion
All of this adds up to a minimalist casual shoe that is (and I am choosing my words very carefully here) perfect. Seriously, this is the first shoe I have ever tried where I couldn't come up with a single thing to complain about. This is the shoe we've all been looking for ever since that time our wives refused to let us wear our FiveFingers to dinner. They look great, they feel great, they work great, and they're great for your feet. 

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