The Lems Primal Pursuit (men’s and women’s) is billed as the perfect mashup between the barefoot style Lems Primal 2 and the bulkier Lems Trailhead v2 / Lems Mesa. The Pursuit is positioned as a shoe which splits the difference between minimalist zero drop shoes and a more protective shoe built on a rugged sole but still zero drop from heel to toe.

I was excited to get my hands on a pair of Primal Pursuits because Lems shoes have proven to be durable, stylish and highly practical shoes to own. Initially, it seemed the Trailhead v2 was close to the perfect shoe, but then I tried the Lems Mesa and have ended up liking it best of all. All of the shoes are quality made and have held up nicely.

Lems Primal Pursuit Shoe Construction

Lems markets the Primal Pursuit as a lifestyle shoe, this is undoubtedly true. But is it good for running?

Pick up any pair of Lems and it’s immediately obvious the shoes are well constructed. The materials seem high quality, durable and have nice little flourishes of detail. I had an uncle who worked for Red Wing Shoes for years and he seemed to believe their shoes were better quality than the mass market options — that the average consumer was getting ripped off by the big brands. I have no idea if he was right, but Lems shoes may have the kind of quality he admired.

Lems Primal Pursuit Shoes
Lems Primal Pursuits in the wild

As with the Trailhead, the Lems Primal Pursuit has fun little flourishes like the texture of the fabrics, the overlapping layers and speckled heel design. These shoes look great for almost any occasion from office to trail. I find myself wearing Lems around the yard, on errands, road trips, hikes and to the coffee shop. They look good with everything and work well.

The printed topographic insoles make me smile everytime I slip on the shoes. This attention to detail is nearly unrivaled.

Outsole and Tread

What isn’t to love about the Lems gum soles on any of their shoes? They are stylish, sticky, and aggressive enough to handle the trail and commute. I’ve tested the soles around town, the yard, up and down trails and even along wet shorelines and snowpacked corridors. They work and are very cool looking. Why more trail running shoes don’t have tread like this is beyond me.

Lems Primal Pursuit Sole
I’m a sucker for these soles.


It will take extra effort to demolish a toe thanks to a nice gum sole bumper and protective wrap over the toe of the shoe.

Lems Primal Pursuit toe protection
Between the gum sole and fabric overlay, Lems has toes covered.

Primal Pursuit Comfort

When I first slipped on the Primal Pursuits, I was relieved to see the size 14 fit my normally 14w foot nicely. They were a little more snug than the Trailheads and Mesas in the toe box, but it worked for me.

The first thing I noticed on a test walk was a firm heel. The heel has very little taper or bevel to the edge and has a higher stack height than some other zero drop shoes. I had just been testing the Xero Shoes HFS and Mesa Trail which are very low to the ground — the Lems Primal Pursuit feels tall by comparison and I couldn’t help but notice the outside of each heel would hit the ground and roll my foot inwards with each step. This is largely due to my goofy, hitched gait but it was initially concerning.

Comparing the Primal Pursuit to the Primal 2, notice the heel flare on the Primal 2 and the blocky effect on the Pursuits.

A break-in period helps.

After more extended use, as with the Trailhead v2, the shoe broke in and I stopped noticing the heel roll effect though it does persist mildly due to my gait. The Mesas heel taper is superior.

Apart from the heel, I’ve found the shoes to be quite comfortable. They are stiff at first, but this is a plus because they are durable and break in nicely. There’s no slushiness — the shoe is tough and durable on the outside but comfy on the inside.

Primal Pursuit Hiking with Dog
Catching up with Ruby the pup on a lazy Sunday


Shoes with more materials tend to be less breathable and it is true these shoes don’t breath as well as featherweight racing shoes, but they do breath adequately for lifestyle shoes. At the end of the day, the shoe can seem a little steamy when stepping out of it, but I don’t notice feet overheating during the day. The mesh-like fabric on the uppers breathes well.


Firstly, the Primal Pursuit is another excellent shoe from Lems. Here are some highlights:

  • High quality
  • Durable
  • Stylish
  • Versatile
  • Original
  • Zero drop

You really can’t go wrong when looking for a “do anything” daily lifestyle shoe.

The one disconnect I have with these shoes is the marketing positioning of sneaking a run in between obligations. It’s true, a person could jog around in the Pursuits, but I wouldn’t choose this shoe for a serious run. The blocky heel and taller stack height feel like a liability for full on trail running.

Even though Lems markets the Pursuit as an in-between shoe, in my opinion, the Lems Mesa does an admirable job of splitting the difference between the Primal 2 and Trailhead v2 in terms of feeling athletic. It has a sock-like upper and just feels more responsive than the Pursuits.

Basically, don’t buy the Primal Pursuit with running in mind. Get it if you want a shoe which is capable of hiking and light jogging alongside many other day-to-day activities. Lems shoes make wonderful travel shoes because one shoe can do many jobs!

If you need a great lifestyle shoe, consider the Lems Primal Pursuit with confidence. Available in mens and womens. The women’s Morning Dew color version is especially nice!