Our verdict

The Lems Primal 2 is more than just a minimally cushioned shoe - it is an embodiment of the brand's foot health philosophy. Having tested hundreds of thick-foamed shoes, the Primal 2's sensitive ground contact felt so alien to us! It's like the shoe encouraged us to take slower and more conscious steps, embracing the more natural (and healthier) walking pattern. Its extra-wide toebox made sure that our toes were not pressured in any way while the uber light, flexible, and airy design made it feel like the shoe was not even there! But the Primal 2 is not a pure barefoot shoe because it comes with a little more underfoot protection which makes it a great option for those who are new to the whole minimalist shoe trend.

Pros

  • Great transition shoe (for first-time minimalists)
  • True zero-drop offset
  • Featherweight design
  • Ultra-wide toebox
  • Extremely flexible
  • Fantastic breathability (hot summer approved)
  • Highly durable outsole
  • Solid grip for city and light trails
  • Well-padded tongue
  • Vegan materials

Cons

  • Thin mesh is easy to tear
  • Rounded sole edges compromise stability
  • Non-gusseted tongue

Audience verdict

96
Superb!

Who should buy

We can confidently recommend the Lems Primal 2 to someone looking for:

  • a minimalist zero-drop shoe that provides a heightened sense of connectedness to the ground
  • a nice transition shoe to the minimalist shoe realm (if you don't want to go all barefoot)
  • an extra wide toebox in a minimalist option

Lems Primal 2 who should buy

Who should NOT buy

The rounded sole edges of the Primal 2 may be concerning to those who seek ultimate stability and connection to the ground. We recommend the flatter base of the Lems Primal Zen as an alternative.

And if you are an experienced wearer of minimalist shoes, you may want to check out the Merrell Vapour Glove 6 or the Vibram FiveFinger V-Trek for the most barefoot-like feel.

Breathability

We experienced the most fabulous airflow in the Lems Primal 2! Its ultra-thin mesh panels with large ventilation pores allowed for unhindered air circulation inside the shoe.

Our smoke-pumping machine test helped us visualise the Primal 2's ventilation capacity and compare it to other shoes in our lab. Giving Lems the highest breathability score (5 out of 5) was a no-brainer!

In our transparency check above, you can also see how large and thin the shoe's mesh panels are.

Lems Primal 2 Breathability microscope

A sneak peek through our microscope also revealed that the shoe's open-weave mesh has some of the largest cells and thinnest threads we've seen in walking shoes.

Lems Primal 2 Breathability mesh closeup

Test results
Primal 2 5
Average 2.8
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Unfortunately, that sort of mesh is not meant to last very long.

Slashing it against concrete, asphalt, rocks, and such will soon result in a glaring hole. You might as well want to keep your toenails trimmed so that the fabric doesn't start tearing from the inside.

Our concerns were backed up by the shoe's poor performance in the toebox durability test.

We put all shoes through the exact same testing conditions using a Dremel with a sandpaper tip. The drilling lasts for 12 seconds as the speed is set to 5K RPM and the pressure remains at 3.2N.

Lems Primal 2 Toebox durability damage

Such conditions turned out to be fatal to the Primal 2's mesh dropping the shoe's toebox durability score to only 2 out of 5.

Test results
Primal 2 2
Average 3.1
Compared to 23 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Gladly, the soft microfiber lining inside the Lems Primal 2 happens to be much more resistant to abrasion.

Having applied our Dremel to the inner side of the heel cup for 4 seconds at 5K RPM speed, we nodded in approval. The scuffing was so minor that we confidently rated the shoe's heel lining durability with 5 out of 5.

Lems Primal 2 Heel padding durability damage
Test results
Primal 2 5
Average 2.3
Compared to 22 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

At first glance, the shoe's rubber outsole doesn't seem very convincing durability-wise. It looks minimal and slender, just like the rest of the Primal 2.

Lems Primal 2 Outsole hardness

But great was our surprise when we pressed our hardness-measuring durometer against the rubber...The tool showed an impressive firmness of 85.0 HC!

This is notably higher than the average walking shoe, promising a longer shelf life as well.

Test results
Primal 2 85.0 HC
Average 76.0 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
50.1 HC
Outsole hardness
92.0 HC

Outsole durability

But we don't make assumptions until our ruthless Dremel touches the shoe surface.

We ramped up the tool's speed to 10K RPM, boring the rubber outsole with sandpaper for a longer time period of 22 seconds.

Lems Primal 2 Outsole durability damage

And the Lems Primal 2 did not disappoint! With a mere 1.1 mm of damage, it turned out to be more wear-resistant than the average walking shoe outsole!

Test results
Primal 2 1.1 mm
Average 1.5 mm
Compared to 22 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

On top of its hardness and immunity to abrasion, the shoe's rubber outsole also happens to be significantly thicker than average at 7.0 mm!

Lems Primal 2 Outsole thickness measurement

Our calliper measurement differs from the officially stated 8.0 mm by a milimeter.

Test results
Primal 2 7.0 mm
Average 2.8 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
7.0 mm

Weight

Considering its minimalist design, we are not surprised that the Primal 2 is one of the lightest walking shoes on our roster.

Lems Primal 2 Weight

Tipping the scale at only 7.8 oz (220g), this Lems shoe is about 2 ounces lighter than the average! It feels weightless on foot!

Lems Primal 2 lightweight

We must mention, however, that the Primal 2 is not as light as stated by the brand itself. The official stats show 6.9 oz in a men's US 10 which cannot be true considering that we weighed our shoe in a men's US size 9!

Test results
Primal 2 7.76 oz (220g)
Average 9.74 oz (276g)
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
6.17 oz (175g)
Weight
14.25 oz (404g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

We discovered another discrepancy between the official specs and our own measurements in the shoe's heel stack.

Lems Primal 2 Heel stack caliper

Our calliper showed 14.3 mm of platform thickness in the heel which is a bit higher than the stated 9.0 mm.

Even though it is still within the minimalist range, we felt that the ground contact was less sensitive in the Primal 2 than some might expect. The shoe has more underfoot protection than true barefoot walkers like the Merrell Vapour Glove 6 (7.6 mm) or the Vibram FiveFingers V-Trek (9.9 mm).

On the flip side, the slightly taller stack of the Primal 2 makes it a nice transition shoe for those who are new to minimalist footwear. Radical changes in your shoes' stack height can do more harm than good as your muscles and tendons need to adapt to the new foot positioning and biomechanics.

Test results
Primal 2 14.3 mm
Average 32.1 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
11.2 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

We also measured the shoe's stack height in the forefoot. At 14.0 mm, it is nearly the same as the shoe's heel stack.

Lems Primal 2 Forefoot stack caliper

Considering that the average forefoot thickness is 21.6 mm, you should expect a much more intimate contact with the ground in this Lems sneaker compared to the typical cushioned walking shoe.

Test results
Primal 2 14.0 mm
Average 21.6 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
5.5 mm
Forefoot stack
31.2 mm

Drop

We applaud Lems for staying true to its zero-drop promise in the Primal 2.

With a height difference of only 0.3 mm between the shoe's heel and forefoot stack heights, the foot indeed sits flat inside the shoe.

Lems Primal 2 Drop

If this is your first time experiencing a zero-drop shoe, you are going to feel quite a difference! That's because the average heel-to-toe drop of walking shoes comes in at over 10 mm!

According to Lems, a zero-drop offset provides a myriad of benefits such as encouraging a midfoot strike (when the middle portion of your foot touches the ground first, not the heel) and even correcting your posture! However, we haven't found any scientific studies that would support those claims...

But we did find a great emphasis on the necessity of a transition period for this type of footwear. Starting slowly, strengthening your feet, and wearing toe separators will all help in the process.

The shoe itself cannot fix your posture or foot health. But it does help to engage your muscles and build strength (as long as you are careful and don't push too hard in the beginning).

Test results
Primal 2 0.3 mm
Average 10.5 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.3 mm
Drop
21.4 mm

Insole thickness

As a minimalist shoe, the Lems Primal 2 does not have a dedicated midsole. But it does have a padded insole to help the foot feel more comfortable inside.

Lems Primal 2 Insole thickness

Measuring its thickness with a calliper, we got 4.0 mm in the heel. It is not as cushy as the average walking shoe insole but it creates a welcome buffer between the rubber outsole and the foot.

Test results
Primal 2 4.0 mm
Average 6.1 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
3.5 mm
Insole thickness
16.9 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

As a rule, minimalist shoes are synonymous with stability because they are the most grounded type of footwear. And they normally feel the same as if you were standing barefoot.

But Lems made it a bit more complicated by rounding the edges of the Primal 2's sole which, in our opinion, harmed the shoe's lateral stability.

Look how much side-to-side movement is encouraged by the shoe! It felt pretty extreme to us even though have medium foot arches and neutral pronation.

We are not quite sure if the benefits of the rounded sole shape are really worth losing stability for.

Notice how much the shoe rocks side-to-side instead of falling flat on the sole.

Torsional rigidity

There is not a hint of arch support in the Lems Primal 2 either. It is a highly flexible, minimal shoe that bends and twists to your foot's desire. You can even curl it up into a ball!

Assessing the shoe's torsional rigidity in our manual test, we had no choice but to give it the lowest stiffness score of 1 out of 5.

The flexibility of this Lems shoe will make your feet and legs work much more than they would in a well-cushioned walking shoe.

Test results
Primal 2 1
Average 2.7
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The Lems Primal 2 feels a lot like a sock around the heel. It's there but it doesn't give a lot of ankle support or heel hold.

Assessing the shoe's heel counter with a push-and-squeeze test, we gave it a pretty low stiffness rating - 2 out of 5.

But this shoe is supposed to feel as natural around the foot as possible.

Test results
Primal 2 2
Average 2.2
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The Primal 2 also has a very moderate sole width which follows a standard foot shape and width.

Lems Primal 2 Midsole width in the forefoot

Measuring its sole in the widest area of the forefoot returned a fairly standard measurement of 110.0 mm.

Test results
Primal 2 110.0 mm
Average 111.6 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
98.8 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
124.1 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The Primal 2 also showed a narrower-than-average reading in the widest part of the heel.

Lems Primal 2 Midsole width in the heel

At 79.7 mm, it is about 10 mm narrower than in most walking shoes. But it shouldn't come as a surprise considering that the shoe is only meant to follow the natural foot shape without adding much to it.

Test results
Primal 2 79.7 mm
Average 89.9 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
75.6 mm
Midsole width in the heel
104.0 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Did we already mention that you can make a cinnamon roll out of the Lems Primal 2? This shoe is unbelievably flexible.

Measuring how much force it takes to bend it to a 90-degree angle, our force gauge showed a tiny reading of 7.2N. Believe it or not but that's 183% less than it takes a walking shoe on average!

In addition to having a thin sole, the shoe's entire outsole is lined with deep flex grooves that keep the shoe so bendy.

Lems Primal 2 flex grooves

We didn't feel as though the shoe needed any effort on our end to keep flexing with our foot.

Lems Primal 2 Stiffness foot bend
Test results
Primal 2 7.2N
Average 20.4N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1.1N
Stiffness
52.7N

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

The Lems Primal 2 doesn't have lugs as such but its outsole is lined with vertical and horizontal flex grooves creating a bit of a traction pattern.

Lems Primal 2 Lug depth tread

We found the shoe's grip to be totally competent for urban surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and tiles, and it also worked well on light trails.

However, for dedicated hiking, we strongly recommend that you opt for the Primal Pursuit or the Trailhead. These Lems shoes have a more rugged design and toothier lugs to tackle off-road situations.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Lems' philosophy of healthy footwear is not only about the zero-drop offset. The company also preaches the need for a sufficiently roomy toebox that provides enough space for the toes to take up and feel at ease inside the shoe.

This has also been the cornerstone of brands like Altra and Topo Athletics.

Lems Primal 2 size and fit

Our medium-width feet thoroughly enjoyed all the toe room they got in the Lems Primal 2. But at the same time, it didn't feel excessive or as if there was any "dead space" left.

According to the brand's website, the shoe features the company's Widest Natural-Shape Fit which is indeed THE widest in their lineup. We can confidently recommend the Primal 2 for wide-footed folks for that reason. We also believe that people with bunions are going to feel at home in this Lems shoe.

Lems Primal 2 Toebox width at the widest part

Measuring the shoe's toebox in the widest part of the upper, our calliper showed 104.6 mm. That's over 5 mm wider than the average and is certainly roomier than the standard D-Medium width.

Test results
Primal 2 104.6 mm
Average 99.2 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
110.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

As you can see, the Primal 2 has a rounded non-tapered shape at the tip of the toebox.

Lems Primal 2 Toebox width at the big toe

To compare the shoe's forefoot dimensions against the average, we repeated our calliper measurement at the end of the big toe.

With a whopping 90.7 mm width, it is nearly 12 mm wider than average! A toebox like that can fit a tonne of different foot shapes except for narrow feet. These guys and girls may want to toe their way towards a more form-fitting shoe. The Lems Mesa and Trailhead have a more form-fitting Medium Natural-Shape Fit, for example.

Test results
Primal 2 90.7 mm
Average 78.8 mm
Compared to 24 walking shoes
Number of shoes
73.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
94.3 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The tongue of the Primal 2 is not gusseted which means that it's not attached to the rest of the upper on the sides. This resulted in a slight tongue shifting throughout our walk.

Lems Primal 2 Tongue: gusset type

If having a gusseted tongue is a must for you, check our the Lems Primal Zen instead.

Test results
Primal 2 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

Even though it is a minimalist shoe, the tongue padding of the Primal 2 cannot be called minimal.

Lems Primal 2 Tongue padding caliper

We measured its thickness at 10.4 mm which is double the average! It helps the Primal 2 feel less spartan than most other minimalist kicks.

Test results
Primal 2 10.4 mm
Average 5.2 mm
Compared to 29 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.3 mm
Tongue padding
11.5 mm

Heel tab

A small pull tab was added at the back of the shoe to assist in the on-and-off action.

Lems Primal 2 Heel tab
Test results
Primal 2 Finger loop

Removable insole

If you are lookig for a more barefoot-like experience, you have the option to remove the stock insole.

Lems Primal 2 Removable insole

However, replacing it with your own orthotic might be tricky given the insole's unconventional shape and width.

Test results
Primal 2 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

The Lems logo on the lateral side of the shoe lights up in the dark.

Test results
Primal 2 Yes

Vegan

According to Lems, the Primal 2 is made of vegan-friendly materials.

Lems Primal 2 Vegan