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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.

MINIMALIST VEGAN SHOES VERSUS LEATHER SHOES

“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.”

VERSATILITY WHEN AND WHERE YOU NEED IT 

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. 

Additional Articles

I Made The Switch to Minimalist Shoes - I'll Never Go Back!

Like most people, I didn't think much about my feet or what footwear I wore day in and day out. I wore standard dress shoes that squeezed my toes together during the work week, and a pair of rugged hiking boots for the most part on the weekends. The hiking boots had tons of ankle support and a bullet proof rock plate, but were painful to take off after a day of hiking, and I would never even imagine driving to and from the trail in them. But this was normal, right? For me, I thought so. Sacrifice some foot discomfort for fashionable kicks. With that being said, a career change earlier this year led me to Lems Shoes as I made the move from Cleveland, Ohio to Boulder, Colorado. On day one, I walked into the office with my ordinary dress shoes and soon after was given a pair of Lems Boulder Boots and Primal 2 shoes. Without hesitation, I removed my leather dress shoes and slipped on the Lems Boulder Boots. 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This connection allows your feet and your brain to better communicate and work together as though you're walking barefoot. It's a rewarding and gratifying experience feeling what's beneath your feet while walking or hiking in Lems. Compare this to my previous experiences of  hiking in heavy duty boots of stomping over any terrain with little to no sensation, to now feeling even the most minuet of surface changes. Low Heel Drop Upon my start at Lems, I immersed myself in learning as much as I could about minimalist style footwear. From medical articles and videos to blogs on user experiences, it became very clear to me that traditional shoes simply are not healthy or made for the human foot to function and walk properly. One of my favorite articles, Why Shoes Make "Normal" Gait Impossible by Podiatrist Dr. William A. Rossi highlights the flaws in modern footwear and their effects on our gait and body. Generally speaking, most shoes have a heel on them making the heel higher off of the ground than the forefoot. Minimalist shoes typically will have a drop of 4mm or less, where as standard shoes will typically have 14-24mm or greater in heel drop. This uneven heel drop causes your legs and back to attempt to align in an unnatural position, creating back pain, an unnatural heel strike and even shortening tendons in your legs in some cases. The reason for this backward design is simple, this is how the design has been since the 19th century and footwear designers have maintained this tradition of fashion over function and creating a shoe that makes your foot look smaller and  your appearance taller. Natural Shape / Wide Toe Box As stated above, most shoes are made to make the foot look smaller. In turn, the toe box of these shoes are more narrow than should be in the toe area, squeezing your toes together and deforming the foots natural shape. This can cause some pretty serious problems from bunions to hammer toes and a whole other array of foot ailments. Next time you're around an infant take a look at their feet. Their toes are the widest part of their foot. It's only after wearing narrow toe box shoes for years does your foot become deformed. But don't worry, you can reverse some of these effects with a simple yet effective product called Correct Toes. Correct Toes help splay or spread your toes back out to their natural form and all of the Lems Origin Series shoes have a wide enough toe box to accommodate wearing Correct Toes. Lightweight The Boulder Boots weigh in at a mere 9.9 ounces or the equivalent weight of nine grapes! A couple of ounces may not seem like much at first, however if you average 10,000 steps per day this adds up quickly and fatigue often results. Packability Due to the minimalist flexibility of Lems, you can roll up any of the Origin Series shoes or boots into the size of a coffee mug or squish them flat at the bottom of your bag. Pair this space efficiency with their lightweight feature and Lems Shoes make great footwear to travel and backpack with.   Comfort Combine the features of an ultra lightweight shoe or boot with a wide toe box and flexible sole, and you have footwear that feels as comfortable as your favorite slippers. If you haven't yet, give Lems a try, but be warned you may never want to take them off. - Kyle Schindler

Heel-to-Toe Drop: What You Should Know About Zero-Drop Shoes & Boots

One of the most essential things to understand in natural footwear design is a term known as drop. In fact, we could argue that zero-drop is the whole point of wearing minimalist shoes.