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Lems Primal Zen Review | Good Daily Wear Minimalist Shoe for Beginners?

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The Lems Primal Zen is designed to be a comfortable daily wear shoe for the minimalist shoe lover. As a fan of other Lems shoes, I was excited to put the Lems Primal Zen to the test and get a review on them.

More specifically, I was curious how the Primal Zen would differentiate from the comfortable Primal 2 which is a more active-biased minimalist shoe from Lems. For casual wear, I’ve enjoyed the Lems Primal Zen performance.

This shoe feels casual, has a fairly nice aesthetic, and is comfortable for standing and walking for long periods. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite barefoot shoes for warm-weather daily wear contexts.

Lems Primal Zen Review

Who Should Invest In the Lems Primal Zen?

The Lems Primal Zen is a great minimalist shoe for casual wear and even light working out and hiking. This shoe delivers a simplistic construction and has a comfortable fit for those in need of daily wear minimalist shoes.

The Primal Zen features Lems’ features the WIDEST fit for their Natural-Shape last construction. If you have wide feet and you’re not wanting to go extremely minimalist with your shoes, then the Primal Zen should resonate well with you. 

Lems Primal Zen Flexibility

On that note, I could see the Lems Primal Zen as a good in-between shoe for those transitioning to barefoot shoes with super minimal stack heights. For context, the Primal Zen’s stack height is 11mm and there’s an optional 3mm insole you can use.

This higher stack height gives this model a little more cushion when being on your feet all day and protection when wearing them outdoors. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wearing my Primal Zen for long dog walks and even casual hikes.

Lems Primal Zen for Walking

Outside of these use cases, I also like that you can use the Lems Primal Zen for casual strength training. If you want a minimalist shoe or all-day wear with some working out blended in here and there, then this model should match your needs.

Who Shouldn’t Invest In the Lems Primal Zen?

The Lems Primal Zen is a comfortable shoe for casual use, but it will have its limitations. If you’re in the market for a barefoot shoe for dedicated working out, then you’ll want to find something more specific.

While the Primal Zen can work for more casual strength training sessions, I wasn’t the biggest fan of its rounded(ish) outsole for heavier training and athletic-style work, and this is similar to how I felt in the Lems Primal 2.

Lems Primal Zen Outsole Construction

Outside of training, the Primal Zen may also be a miss for anyone wanting a minimalist and barefoot shoe with a super lock stack height. The 11mm stack height with the additional 3mm insole may be a little too much for those wanting a true minimalist feel.

If you want a stack height that is as low as possible, then you may wish to explore shoes like the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3, which has a stack height of around 5mm, or the Vivobarefoot Primus Asana, which also has a stack height of around 5mm without its insole.

Lems Primal Zen

$120

Lems Primal Zen Product Shot
4.5
Stability
4.4
Versatility
4.5
Durability
4.5

Best For

  • Day-to-Day Wear
  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Casual Working Out
  • Light Outdoor Activities

Falls Short

  • For Thicker Feet
  • For Winter/Cold Weather

Lems Primal Zen Pros

Across my wear testing with the Lems Primal Zen, I’ve found multiple pros and things to enjoy with this model.

  1. Comfortable for All-Day Wear and Standing
  2. Good Warm Weather Minimalist Shoe
  3. Decent Option for Transitioning to Minimalist Shoes

The first thing to like about the Lems Primal Zen is that I think it delivers on its “Zen” name in that this shoe is a comfortable and easy option for casual wear. This is a solid minimalist shoe for all-day wear in the context of standing and long walks.

If you want a minimalist shoe for standing all day for work or running errands and taking the dogs on long walks, then you’ll enjoy the overall performance of the Lems Primal Zen. This shoe’s outsole feeds well into these contexts.

Lems Primal Zen

This shoe features Lems’ IBR outsole which is constructed with LemsRubber and has a thickness of 9.5mm. It offers enough flexibility to let your feet easily articulate and it has a good level of protection for a wide range of daily wear contexts.

I also like that the 3mm thick insole that is built with a cork material is removable and the internal construction of the shoe is finished. I like this because it gives you a little variance in the cushion and feeling that you get with this model without beating up the internal shoe construction.

Another thing to like about the Lems Primal Zen is that I see it as a good warm weather-friendly minimalist shoe. If you’re looking for a shoe that you can wear on hotter days without the feet getting too hot, then you should enjoy the Lems Primal Zen’s breathability.

Lems Primal Zen Upper Construction

The microfiber and mesh upper through the midfoot and toe box create a nice level of ventilation and I think this shoe can be a great option for wearing with and without socks for warm weather days.

I also see this as a good shoe for doing some casual hikes as the rubber outsole tread is aggressive enough to provide grip on light to moderate terrains. This is a perk for adding to this shoe’s range in the context of warm weather use.

The last thing to like about the Lems Primal Zen is that I think they can be an excellent shoe for anyone wanting to transition to minimalist shoes for daily wear use. If you’re used to wearing thick shoes every day, you’ll want a shoe that is “minimal” but still provides some cushion when making the switch to minimalist shoes.

Lems Primal Zen Insole

The 9.5mm thick sole and 3mm thick insole are great because they give you a nice level of cushion for all-day wear without making this model uncomfortable, but while also still feeling flexible and minimal.

In addition, with their zero-drop construction, I think the Lems Primal Zen can be a very viable transitional shoe for barefoot/minimalist shoe beginners. It’s similar to how I feel about Lems Primal 2 as being an okay option for transitioning to minimalist shoes for working out.

Lems Primal Zen Cons

While I like the Lems Primal Zen’s performance and comfort for casual wear, there are a couple of cons that I’ve noticed with this shoe.

  1. Not the Best Cold Weather Shoe
  2. May Lack Depth for Some Anatomies
  3. Good Generalist, Not the Best Specialist

The first drawback of the Lems Primal Zen revolves around its ability to perform in cooler settings. In my opinion, the Primal Zen will be a 3-season shoe working best in the spring, summer, and fall.

Lems Primal Zen for Winter Use

This model’s microfiber and mesh upper don’t provide the most warmth on cool days. I tested these on a wintery day here in Colorado and noticed right away that my feet were getting cold even with relatively thick socks.

On top of not being the best for cold weather contexts, you’ll also want to avoid wearing the Lems Primal Zen on damp days so whether it’s raining or a little snowy, these shoes will not be the best at navigating these environments.

The second drawback that I could see some having with the Lems Primal Zen is that it may lack the depth for some foot anatomies through the midfoot. While I like this shoe’s gusseted tongue, I could see it feeling restrictive for thicker feet.

Lems Primal Zen Boot Construction

Even with the 3mm thick removable insole out, I’m not convinced that the gusseted tongue will work for some so if you’re regularly having to battle shoes and their fits around the midfoot, then you’ll want to consider this before investing.

My last drawback with the Primal Zen isn’t necessarily a huge knock on this shoe’s performance, but more so, understanding where this shoe will excel and where it will fall short to avoid any letdowns.

Lems Primal Zen In Depth Review

If you’re wanting a shoe for serious training or outdoor activities, then you’ll want to explore other models. This is not the shoe that I think can “pull off” working here and there for these contexts despite not being designed for them.

For example, despite a minimalist shoe like the Feelgrounds Highrise Knit which is not designed for training and is more so for casual wear, it can work well for some serious training sessions here and there.

Performance Assessment

To break down the performance of the Lems Primal Zen, I’ll discuss how these shoes perform in a few different categories. I’ll cover their performance for light working out, casual wear, and seasonal use.

Since this model is designed mostly for day-to-day wear, I wanted to primarily test them for that, but add a few performance-focused tests as well to see what their range was.

Lems Primal Zen Performance Breakdown

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for Working Out

When it comes to working out, the Lems Primal Zen works best for easier lower-body days and bodybuilding-style days. To elaborate on the “easier lower-body days”, I think if you’re doing movements like lunges, split squats, and goblet squats, the Primal Zen will work.

These are not my favorite minimalist shoes for back squats and deadlifts and that’s because their sole has a slightly rounded construction and I find it hard to ground the feet with them, but for general leg days, they work fine.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for working out

For powerlifting and strength athletes wanting a minimalist shoe for heavy lifting, I’d suggest exploring shoes like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III or the Tolos Archetype 2.0. These will get you closer to the ground and have flatter soles.

That being said, if you’re planning to buy the Lems Primal Zen and wear them casually to the gym here and there and you’re not super specific with your squats and deadlifts, then you should be okay with this model.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for strength training

They have enough flexibility to give you a comfortable fit with a nice level of articulation and their toe box should be wide enough for most folks as well to splay the toes and let the feet do their thing.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for Daily Wear

For day-to-day wear, the Lems Primal Zen should excel for most who want to use them for long walks, standing, and all-day wear. This model excels in this context for three key reasons.

First, while the outsole isn’t the best for training, for daily wear, I like that it has little rounding to it because it gives this shoe a nice natural feeling. Plus, I think it makes walking a little more comfortable, especially for anyone new to minimalist shoes.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for daily wear

Second, the breathability of this model’s upper is also a nice perk for warm weather daily use. This shoe feels easy to wear without socks and it keeps the feet relatively cool, which is great for warmer environments.

Third and lastly, the removable insole and slightly higher stack height can be great for those that want a little variability with their cushion and a little more protection for different use cases. This is why I recommend this shoe as a great transition shoe as well.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for breathability

That being said, this model isn’t going to deliver the most “minimalist” feel on the market so if you’re after that feeling or build style of minimalist shoe, then you may want to look into other models.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for Multi-Season Use

When it comes to the seasonal use of the Lems Primal Zen, I think this shoe will serve as a 3-season shoe. This model will excel for spring, summer, and fall when the weather has a warmer bias to it.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen for cold months

That’s not to say the Primal Zen can’t work for winter, but I think there will be a threshold in which they’re comfortable for some feet. For example, wearing these on 25-degree (Fahrenheit) days in Denver I found my feet getting a little cool in them.

If you want barefoot shoes for casual wear that’s a little better for colder weather months, you may want to explore shoes like the Icarus Ascent or the Wildlings Chestnut.

Lems Primal Zen Sizing

For the Lems Primal Zen, I think most should be safe going true to size in this shoe. Their length fits true and since this shoe features Lems’ Widest Natural-Shape last, I think most foot width should be safe in this model.

I have a neutral-width foot width and I’ve enjoyed the fit of the Lems Primal Zen in my true to size. I can wear them with or without socks without feeling limited which I also enjoy.

Testing the Lems Primal Zen sizing

In addition, Lems recommends doing true to size with this model on their site. This shoe does feature a removable insole with a fair amount of upper volume, and it has a finished internal construction so it could also be a viable option for anyone with thin orthotics and inserts.

I think the only exception or sizing in the Lems Primal Zen is for exceptionally wide feet. If you have notably wide feet, then you may want to size up a half to full size.

  • Lems Primal Zen: True to size for most.

Lems Primal Zen Sizing and Fit Assessment

If you have additional questions about the Lems Primal Zen and their sizing and fit, drop a comment below and I can help you out.

Construction Details

The Lems Primal Zen has a few unique and cool construction details to note about it. Below are the key construction features to know about this shoe that can influence its performance and durability.

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.80 oz (for my size 10)
  • Removable Insole: Yes (with finished internal construction)
  • Stack Height: 14mm (with the insole in)
  • LemsRubber Outsole
  • Microfiber and Mesh Upper
  • 100% Polyester Lining
  • Gusseted Tongue
  • 5 Core Eyelets with a 6th for Lace-Lock

If you have additional construction-related questions about the Lems Primal Zen, drop a comment below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Do the Lems Primal Zen fit true to size?

A:
The Lems Primal Zen should fit true to size for most. Their length fits true and this model features the widest last construction that Lems uses in their shoes.

Q:
What are the Lems Primal Zen best for?

A:
The Lems Primal Zen can be a great minimalist shoe for warm weather wear, long walks, and standing, and it can be a good transitional shoe for those wanting to get more into barefoot and minimalist shoes.

Takeaway Thoughts

Overall, the Lems Primal Zen has been a stronger performing minimalist shoe for day-to-day wear. This model has a good amount of breathability, and comfort, and has a nice wider toe box.

I think if you’re wanting a minimalist shoe for more casual settings that you can also use for light working out, then the Primal Zen can be a good option to explore. In addition, this model could also be a good transitional shoe to more minimalist models.

I think the main drawbacks of this model revolve around how you plan to use them. This model is a good generalist, but it’s not going to be your minimalist shoe for specific use cases like training, hiking, or exceptionally wide feet.

If you have additional questions about the Lems Primal Zen, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

5 thoughts on “Lems Primal Zen Review | Good Daily Wear Minimalist Shoe for Beginners?”

  1. Hello Jake and thank you for this great, thorough review for the Primal Zen. I just bought a pair and am wondering if I got the size right, as my feet have been changing somewhat. I have read differing size recommendations in different places on the web and even in the Lems size chart I got a hold of.
    My foot length measures 26.4 cm, on both feet, using the 2nd toe as my longest toe. I am a small woman. What shoe size do you think I should get in this?
    Thank you very much and have a great day!
    Ann

    1. A lot of its personal preference! If you’re not experiencing heel slip or sliding around a ton while you’re using the Primal Zen for your intended activities, then your sizing is likely fine. Tbh, I wouldn’t overthink it if you’re not having any issues atm as sizing can be so individual and it’s nearly impossible for one review to contextualize sizing for everyone so it makes sense seeing the conflict (I usually encounter the same when buying new models for review + personal use!).

  2. Hi Jake,
    Thanks for the helpful review.
    I have crazy wide feet across the ball (due to pointy bones/joints at both sides), yet can wear a normal neoprene watershoe (because it stretches I know), so reviews are great but we don’t always get width in millimetres.
    EG on Reddit and barefoot running, I’m told Lems Primal Zen is wider than Vivo Primus, or Anya says Be Lanka is second widest after Softstar but she puts a Freet wider than Lems, which ain’t true because I did order a Freet and they were Vivo narrow.

    Millimetres aren’t always accurate of course because I can be a 105mm straight across yet need a 117 across the ball, and sure, volume and stretch of the upper materila can help too.

    So, can you please say what the widest points measure on the Lems Primal Zen and do the uppers stretch out with use and time?

    Many thanks

    1. Hey, Will!

      For my size 10 Zen we have measurements of 120mm (forefoot upper), 108mm (forefoot of insole) and 72mm (midfoot of insole). The upper does stretch a bit but not a ton since it’s mostly a leather-esque material!

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