The Trailhead came about from a need for a shoe that can do it all; walking, hiking, biking, traveling, and even light running. I designed it for a different reason than the Boulder Boot. The Boulder Boot was designed to be a shoe for kicking around town and not for high intensity activities. I wanted to create a shoe that could take you further than the Boulder Boot ever could; a shoe that could handle rocky terrain and stand up to the abuses of nearly anything that you could throw at it, so it needed to have a full rubber outsole for traction on all surfaces, and an EVA midsole for cushioning and comfort while tackling such uneven ground. The fit also had to be slimmer than the Boulder Boot, with the ability to lace it tightly when needed, in order to prevent your feet from sliding around when walking up and down steep slopes. Lastly, I wanted it to fit in with the mountain environment as well as the urban culture. My ideas came together and I set out to create the Trailhead. Here is an in-depth look into my design process, and how the Trailhead came to be.
INTRODUCING THE MOUNTAIN-TO-TOWN SERIES
When this idea came to me, there wasn’t an all-around shoe suitable for trail and road use or a defined category for this particular style of footwear, therefore, we needed to create one and named it the Mountain-to-Town collection. The Trailhead is the first of many styles to come within this particular line of products.
Since our office is located in Boulder, Colorado, the mountains have influenced me tremendously. So I took that inspiration and set out to design a line of products that met the needs of outdoor enthusiasts who spend equal time in the great outdoors as they do in the city. These shoes needed to be rugged and durable, but also stylish enough to feel at home in an urban setting. This is where I faced my first challenge. The outsoles on most trail shoes tend to have deep lugs that provide excellent traction on trails but are insufficient when it comes to longevity on paved surfaces. Road shoes, on the other hand, have very flat lugs that provide excellent durability on pavement, but poor traction on trails. Not accepting this compromise, I studied all-terrain tires and determined how the tread patterns were ideal for both on and off-road use. By utilizing interlocking pieces, much like a puzzle, I created a low profile lug pattern that has the best of both worlds. Also, outsoles of shoes don’t abrade evenly overtime, considering we all have different gaits, so I studied the common high wear areas and increased the size of the rubber lugs in those specific areas to improve its longevity. Made from a full-rubber compound, this outsole proves to be the ideal combination of traction, flexibility, and functionality suitable for almost any activity.
A WORLD TRAVEL SHOE
One major reason I designed the Trailhead was because I was looking for a single shoe that I could feel confident in traveling the world. I couldn’t find anything on the market that could be worn day after day, constantly on the move, touring cities and sightseeing. Packing light when traveling is liberating, and keeping it to a single backpack feels even better, so bringing two pairs of shoes is out of the question. So with that in mind, the Trailhead is my one stop solution - a pair of shoes that could excel in all adventurous activities, but wouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable for a night on the town.
CUSHIONING & DROP
Our Origin Series (Boulder Boot, Primal 2, Mariner, and Nine2Five) feature minimal cushioning because they are designed to bring your foot closer to the ground. However, in order to utilize the Trailhead for long-distance hikes and even light trail running, it needed cushioning. Our Origin Series is just comprised of an outsole, with no midsole, and the little cushioning that those styles do have lends from an injection blown rubber compound featured in that outsole. Since the Trailhead has a solid rubber outsole, I needed to include an EVA midsole for cushioning. The midsole not only provides ample cushioning, but it also creates a ‘body’ for the shoe. I’m not an advocate of soft, spongy midsoles, or as I like to call them, ‘marshmallows’. Many people are under the assumption that this type of cushioning is better for absorbing impact, healthier for the foot, and more comfortable on hard surfaces, however, it’s not the case. A midsole can be compared to a mattress: a softer mattress might feel great at first, but can leave you with pain and discomfort by morning because they don’t provide enough support for your spine. As with mattresses, midsoles should be firmer to better simulate the hardness of the natural ground, while also providing the support that your foot needs.
Unlike the design of our previous styles, the Trailhead is made with a 4mm drop platform, which means it’s not a zero-drop shoe and here is why. Firstly, drop is an industry term that is used to describe the height of the heel. Traditional running shoes and hiking shoes are usually 12mm of drop, so the heel is 12mm higher than the forefoot. Our Origin Series is zero-drop, meaning the heel and forefoot are on an equal plane. I do believe in keeping your foot level in order to avoid improper heel-striking and to keep your body in natural alignment, but after much use, the Trailhead heel area will begin to compress with wear and added weight. Therefore, overtime that 4mm will become 3mm, then 2mm and so on. So for the Trailhead, 4mm is as close to neutral as you can get, while still being a “low drop” shoe.
SIZING & FIT
If you are used to wearing the Boulder Boot or Primal 2, please know that the Trailhead fits differently from our Origins Series. To start, the Trailhead is on US sizing, not EU or LEMS sizing, so select your US size based on what you normally wear in athletic shoes. I am working to effectively switch all of our shoes to US sizing, so I apologize for the confusion at the moment. Secondly, because I’ve built it to be a more active fit in order to keep your foot secure, the Trailhead has a slimmer toe box than our Origin Series. Finally, the Trailhead has a gender-specific fit, so the women’s shoes are going to be more narrow than the men’s. If you are a woman with a wider foot, then I suggest ordering the men’s product. For example, if you are a women’s size 8.5 and a wide width, then the Men’s size 7 will give you a better fit. It will be the same length as the women’s 8.5, but will provide you with some extra room on both sides of the toe box. And I suggest for both men and women that, if you feel you could use even more room in that forefoot area, then try removing the insole for added volume. The insole is designed to be removable, therefore we have added a lining on top of the footbed so the shoes can be worn with or without it.
To give you an overall idea of how the shape of Trailhead differs from our Origin Series, have a look below.
Please note that this diagram is not to scale, and is simply used to demonstrate the differences.
THE FUTURE OF OUR PRODUCT LINE
Some of you may be wondering: where is Lems heading with these new shoes? Will the company be moving away entirely from zero-drop and ultra-wide designs? Put your worries to rest because Lems will continue to expand upon our Origin Series. Our company is simply diversifying the product line to offer options to those customers who want a more substantial shoe. Lems will continue to stay focused on our original mission; making healthy shoes that are designed around the foot, and allow you to move naturally. Stay tuned for our expanded Mountain to Town line, as well as some added styles to the Origins Series. In the meantime, get out there and Discover More with Less.
- Andrew Rademacher, Founder & Designer