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How we made the Primal 2 a versatile and vegan-friendly shoe

Lems new Primal 2 is the evolution of a product line 10 years in the making. With our standard zero-drop platform and weighing in at an airy 6.9 ounces, this lightweight companion is not only super versatile, but also a shoe that is vegan friendly.

Lems commitment to living a little light on the Earth made founder Andrew Rademacher want to design with the planet in mind. That means bypassing any animal hides, often chosen for durability, in the making of the Primal 2.


“Making a shoe vegan means that we’re not harming any animals in the process,” he says. Using leather for shoes makes a big footprint. Not only are animal hides wasteful because not all of the material can be used, but leather-tanning processes are also harmful on the environment—and people.

“The chemicals are really strong so people working on leather products are exposed to harmful elements that can hurt their lungs,” says Rademacher, who has visited some of these factories in the U.S. and overseas. “To soften up the hides to make them pliable enough for shoes, they put it a large spinning drum that off puts pollution.”

The vegan alternative that we use on the Primal 2 leverages some pretty slick advancement in fiber technology to make it strong and durable. The manmade material has come a very long way in the last decade. The new microfiber on the outside of the Primal 2 is under 1 millimeter thick, but is still as strong as a 1.5 millimeter material. The leather equivalent could require up to 1.8 millimeters of thickness.

“Athletic shoes have really turned to quality manmade synthetic materials because they’re lighter weight than leather, but also more eco-friendly, breathable and quick to dry,” he says.

Synthetics are made by the yard in a big sheet. A leather hide comes in the shape of a cow, which includes lots of waste—arms, belly, fat wrinkles. (Sorry TMI, but true.) “So where you might make only five pairs of shoes from one leather hide, with a synthetic at 54 inches wide and infinity in length, you can make hundreds, thousands, of shoes,” Rademacher says. 

Primal 2 red - Vegan Shoe

Likewise, the Primal 2’s outsole is also made to stand up to the elements, but also for the earth. The bottom of the shoe, which must wear well, is a sturdy combo made from injection-blown rubber and a lightweight foam called EVA.

“The process is more sustainable than traditional rubber, because it’s actually expanded in the machine,” he says. “ So you’re starting with a lot less material and it is introduced to expand and then shrink to fit the shoe.”


We can all feel good that Lems Primal 2 shoe is vegan and follows a more eco-friendly manufacturing process than many footwear brands out there, but what about where you can wear these ultra-light, minimalist treads?

How about everywhere.

The Primal 2 can easily last as long as a traditional running shoe—six months plus or some 700 miles—depending on how often and how hard you wear them. Some customers have gotten two years out of a single pair, partly because the there’s no compression-molded midsole in our zero-drop design. That’s the cushioned part of running shoes that break down so quickly with impact and sweat.

The point is people do wear Primals just about everywhere because they’re so comfortable, easy to pack and cross over to so many different activities. Rademacher says it’s all intentional. He wanted to design an athletic-like shoe that was breathable, packable and could be worn nearly year-round in many climates.

“When people were wearing toe-spreading shoes around town, I thought about what design would look cool but could also go to the gym, fit into pack, go with you on the plane and allow your feet to spread apart and relax, like slippers,” he says.

Of course we’re bias, but we think he nailed a versatile and vegan friendly shoe with the Primal 2. Find your favorite Primal 2 color-way today. 

Lems Vegan Primal 2 Shoe

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