Yearly Archives: 2013

Lems Shoes Mariner Review

Casual Boat Shoe Look with Classic Lems Shoes Feel
Lems Shoes has added yet another model to their fantastic line-up, the Mariner, with a casual boat shoe look but undeniable Lems Shoes characteristics including great ground feel, lightweight feel, and an anatomical foot fit. Excellent construction and high-quality materials make the Mariner an ideal additional to any minimalist footwear collection.

Quick Details
Price: $105 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 9.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 6 oz or 170 grams
Insole: Removable; 5/8 ounces or 18 grams
Sizing: 37–48; Full sizes only; Check Lems Shoes website for sizing
Category: Casual, Boat Shoe

Comfort & Fit
Upon first donning the Mariner, I was once again pleased with how comfortable these Lems Shoes felt on my feet considering their wonderful width and anatomically foot-shaped last. However, my first walk outside in them turned out to be disappointing as the skin on the back of my Achilles only lasted 10 minutes before succumbing to the sharp edge of the heel cup, even through a pair of thick wool toe socks. I contacted Lems to ask about the issue and was told that, indeed, the Mariners are known to rub the back of the heel initially, but after breaking in, the offending area softens and no longer causes pain. This issue does not affect all wearers, however, as a fellow minimal shoe reviewer friend of mine had no such issues whatsoever (you can check out her Mariner review here). I am extremely happy to report that after healing, another walk in the Mariners, with socks of course, did not yield the same hole in my skin. The leather really does soften with wear so if you like their look and find them comfortable in every other way, I am confident in reporting that they do require a break in period and afterwards feel even more comfortable.

One of my favourite features of the Mariner is the design of the midfoot upper. The cushiony soft, padded tongue feels wonderful against the skin and the three-hole eyelet lacing allows for a customizable fit across the top of the foot for a great range of widths. From a narrow to a wide foot, this design allows for a perfect fit while preserving the width of the toe box. Along with an extra long throat, these shoes are super easy to slip on and off but feel solidly in place with the laces tied just right. Although initially sharp, the heel cup is also a great height to maintain a good hold on the heel without slipping.

The Mariner comes with a removable, moisture-wicking, 3.0 mm Lems insole, which is a wonderful option for those who prefer a snugger fit and may want less ground feel. I like extra volume to my shoes and maximum ground feel so wear the Mariners without the insole. The footbed is perfectly comfortable alone and the seam joining the upper is unobtrusive.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The Mariners feature the same outsole as the recently reviewed Lems Sweet Janes, reviewed here. The injection rubber outsole may seem thick at 9.0 mm but it is fantastically flexible for its thickness. Small rocks will not be felt through the material but the shoe easily bends around ground contours. Hardcore barefooters may dislike the muted ground feel but I think this makes for a great introductory minimalist shoe as the flexibility will increase foot muscle strength and agility. Their anatomic last easily allows for natural foot movement.

Weighing in at 6 ounces or 170 grams (for the size 39), they are well within the range of lightweight for a minimalist shoe. The design and choice of materials also lends to a well balanced feel between the upper and the outsole.

The Mariners have amazing traction on both wet and dry man-made surfaces. In addition, you could easily wear these on dry or slightly damp light trails. Their great grip make them an ideal travelling shoe where ground conditions may be varied.

Upper Qualities
The Mariner upper is made of mostly leather and a bit of mesh at the midfoot of both sides. The leather appears to be of excellent quality, was a bit stiff brand new but has softened with wear. To improve the longevity of the leather, I would recommend a good quality leather shoe protector. They are not water resistant despite their boat shoe design; your feet will get wet on deck. As mentioned above, a break-in period is essential for this shoe with ample heel protection. Once the leather in the heel cup has softened, they are far more comfortable in this area. I did find the rest of the shoe perfectly comfortable and not needing a break-in period but they have become softer in other areas as well.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of 9.0 mm LemsRubber™ injection rubber with a zero drop design. The lateral corner of the heel features a denser rubber material for increased longevity, which is a fabulous design feature. Although slightly less flexible in the very outside edge of the outsole,  this adds considerable durability to the high-wear area. The rest of the outsole is wonderfully flexible with a great traction pattern and 3.0 mm grip depth. As with all Lems Shoes products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe.

Overall Quality
Both the materials and manufacturing appears to be of the highest quality; there are no flaws in either of the review pairs. With a good leather protector, I suspect this shoe will last a very long time with its high quality leather and sturdy construction. The outsole will also a last long time as after a number of testing walks on high-abrasion surfaces, there still is no sign of wear at all on the rubber outsole.

Style
These shoes have a distinctive boat shoe look to them with their exposed raised seam along the vamp, minimal midfoot enclosure, and large throat. They have a classic, casual appeal and come in both a light beige Sand as well as a rich brown Caramel colourway for both men and women.

Uses
The Mariners are ideal for errands around town or long walks exploring new places. Their solid construction, great traction, compressible packability, and good looks make these an ideal choice for urban adventures, especially while travelling. They are a casual shoe so not quite suitable for running but short hikes on light trails would suit these quite well.

Value
At $105 USD, they are priced in the mid-range of minimalist shoes overall and the low end of the high-quality leather minimalist shoe range. Both the upper and the outsole are of the highest quality of materials and construction, and will likely last a long time making these a great value for their price.

Summary
One of five Lems Shoes models, the Mariner is their boat shoe-styled casual option available for both men and women. Offered in two colourways, these sturdily constructed shoes are made of the highest quality leather and Lems injection rubber, zero drop, flexible outsole. Although this model does require a break-in period, particularly in the heel area, the leather does soften with wear for a comfortable and individual fit. The wonderfully wide toe box and exceptionally designed enclosure system with minimal lacing eyelets allows this shoe to fit a wide range of foot widths comfortably and well.

As an aside, if you would prefer a more vegan-oriented casual shoe, the Mariner will be available in this option of upper in 2014.

For more information or to purchase the Mariner, you can check out the Lems Shoes website.

Lems Shoes Sweet Jane Review

High quality leather meets adorable styling
I’m not much of a fashionista and I prefer my footwear functional over fashionable but when the Lems Shoes Sweet Janes arrived, my first thought was how amazing they look! I have lamented in the past about how few attractive, truly minimalist footwear options there are for women but now there are the Sweet Janes to brighten our closets and cute outfits. These not only look great but are also made of a thick but pliable, high quality leather ensuring a long-lasting durability.

Quick Details
Price: $95.00 USD
Width: Average to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 9.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 5 5/8 ounces or 160 grams (size 39)
Insole: Removable; 5/8 ounces or 18 grams
Sizing: 36–43; sizes only; Check Lems Shoes website for sizing
Category: Women-specific Casual

Comfort & Fit
The Sweet Janes are one of those shoes that get more comfortable the longer you wear them. Although I found them comfortable right out of the box, I have noticed that the leather has softened a bit in the heel and the toe box making them even more form-fitting. On my first walk in them, I noticed that the heel felt a bit high against my ankle bones but the more I wore them, the less I felt it. Another aspect of this shoe I noticed is that the warmer they became, the more pliable the leather felt. They do feel a bit stiff in cooler temperatures but as the leather warms from the heat of my feet, it’s like they feel no longer there.

These shoes are wonderfully wide in the toe box and accommodate my wide feet well. The midfoot strap and Velcro attachment allow a customizable fit across the top of the foot. This shoe will work well for average to extra wide feet but narrow feet might feel a bit swimmy in them.

Most of the inside of the shoe is lined with a moisture-wicking polyester that feels super soft and helps to keep sockless feet dry and protected. With extremely sensitive skin, I often get blisters on the tops of my toes from enclosed shoes but the lining of the Sweet Janes felt luxuriously soft for every sockless walk.

The heel of the inside of the shoe is lined with suede rather than polyester. I think that the change in material allows the heel to have a little better grip on the skin and keeps the heel of the shoe from slipping while walking. It does feel well attached to my heel despite only the single strap across the top of the foot. My only suggestion for improvement of this shoe is to wrap leather around the edge of heel somehow rather than have the joining seam between the inside and outside of the shoe at the heel. Although I did not experience any blistering of my heels in the Sweet Janes, in colder temperatures when the leather is stiffer, and for individuals whose heels might not fit the shape of the shoe exactly, I can see how this joint may feel sharp and cause a rubbing hot spot or blister. If this is a concern, wearing the shoes with socks for a break-in period will definitely help soften the leather with some wear.

The Sweet Janes come with an optional removable 3.0 mm moisture-wicking foam insole. I’m not a fan of the bumpy texture and I prefer the extra shoe volume so I choose to remove mine. The footbed of the shoes is a smooth polyester and the stitching attaching it to the upper, although visible, is unobtrusive to the bottom of my feet.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The injection rubber outsole may seem thick at 9.0 mm but it is fantastically flexible for its thickness. Small rocks will not be felt through the material but the shoe easily bends around ground contours. Hardcore barefooters may dislike the muted ground feel but I think this is a great introductory minimalist shoe as the flexibility will increase foot muscle strength and agility. Their anatomic last easily allows for natural foot movement.

Weighing in at under 6 ounces or 160 grams (for the size 39), they are well within the range of lightweight for a minimalist shoe. The design and choice of materials also lends to a well balanced feel between the upper and the outsole.

A fabulous feature of this shoe is its traction. I’ve noticed that grip is something often overlooked in casual shoe design, especially in the women-specific department. The Sweet Janes have amazing traction on both wet and dry man-made surfaces. In addition, you could easily wear these on dry or slightly damp light trails, although I wouldn’t want to because my great-looking shoes might get dirty and I like them for fancier casual outfits.

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of 100% genuine leather with suede accents. Although the leather itself is not breathable, the open design and moisture-wicking polyester lining help keep feet dry. The leather is relatively thick and can use a break-in period for added pliability, which can be easily accomplished by wearing socks in them for a short time. They also get softer as they warm up to foot temperatures.

As with any leather footwear product, you can increase their longevity by using a good quality leather shoe protector.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of 9.0 mm LemsRubber™ injection rubber with a zero drop design. The lateral corner of the heel features a denser rubber material for increased longevity, which is a fabulous design feature. Although slightly less flexible on the very outside edge of the outsole, the material adds considerable durability to this high-wear area. The rest of the outsole is wonderfully flexible with a great traction pattern and 3.0 mm grip depth. As with all Lems Shoes products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe.

Overall Quality
The quality of the manufacturing is impeccable as all three pairs of Sweet Janes that arrived are flawless in their seams and construction. One of the review pairs, some of the first production units, had a flaw in the leather and, upon discussing with the company’s president, I was informed that steps have already been taken to improve the leather quality. This is a company that cares about their customer service and I’m confident will help consumers in any way they can if unexpected issues like these arise.

The thickness of the leather, the quality of the lining materials, and the quality of the rubbers used in the outsole construction inspire a firm belief that this is a durable and long-lasting product. If you live in damp environs, a good quality leather protector will prolong the life of the leather as well.

Style
The Sweet Janes have one of the most attractive designs of any of the women-specific casual shoes on the minimalist market. They have a high quality look with their genuine leather upper and flawless construction. The asymmetric suede accents are gorgeous and the punched flower design on the forefoot is lovely and feminine. I love everything about the style of these shoes!

Uses
As a women-specific casual shoe, the Sweet Janes can be used for everything from errands around town to date night dinners. They are comfortable enough for long walks with the dogs and stylish enough for office-appropriate attire. They are currently available on the Lems Shoes website in a beautiful burgundy Cordovan colourway and a rich brown Caramel. They will be available in October in an all black version as well.

Value
At $95 USD, they are competitively priced in the casual minimalist market as well as the high quality, all-leather footwear category. These shoes are going to last a long time and I think are definitely worth their price point.

Summary
The Lems Shoes Sweet Jane is a casual mary jane-styled shoe with tons of flare and character. I can’t say enough wonderful things about their style but they are also more than that; they are also comfortable, durable, and functional with their anatomic last and flexible, minimalist outsole. These shoes will also get more comfortable the longer you wear them as the leather will soften with wear and heat. The hardest decision will be picking which colour to get (or you could try them all ;) ).

For more information or to purchase the Sweet Janes, you can check out the Lems Shoes website.

Rocket Pure Natural Foot Deodorant Spray Review

This review is a bit of a departure for me from my usual minimalist shoe reviews, but when the owner of a new company called Rocket Pure contacted me to write a review of his new Natural Foot Deodorant Spray, as a runner and a spouse of a runner, I just couldn’t refuse. Who doesn’t need some freshening foot and shoe spray from time to time?

To provide a little information about Rocket Pure, they’re a new company based out of Bellingham, WA, USA. Their goal is to make healthy and natural body care products for athletes. They are a company of runners, for runners.

Their first product, Natural Foot Deodorant Spray is a natural mint spray that deodorizes feet and shoes. It is ideal for not only runners, but also cyclists, rock climbers, hikers, or any athlete who gets stinky feet and/or shoes. You can spray it into shoes or directly onto the skin. It comes in a 4 fl. oz. or 120 ml spray bottle, that after a summer of weekly use, still sprays well with no clogs.

Rocket Pure Natural Foot Deodorant Spray FrontRocket Pure Natural Foot Deodorant Spray Back

The Natural Foot Deodorant Spray ingredients are all-natural and include: water, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus leaf oil, thyme oil, and a few natural preservatives (to keep the all-natural ingredients from growing bacteria of their own). Most importantly, this product DOES NOT contain toxins or chemicals including parabens, sulphates, petroleum, synthetic fragrances, or dyes.

Most of this information is available on the Rocket pure website, however, for a review to be more informative than available online data, I think people want to know how the product works. Therefore, I whole heartedly proclaim that this product WORKS! Over the last several months, my spouse has been using the Natural Foot Deodorant Spray in all his stinky shoes. For an idea of how stinky his shoes were, he would put several of them outside as they were too toxic to be in the house. In particular, his bike shoes, that he wears sockless several times a week for multi-hour rides, were downright unbearable. When he started spraying the Rocket Pure deodorizer in them after rides, whether they were wet or not, when they were dry, they no longer smelled like bacteria-ridden cesspools but minty freshness instead. I honestly cannot think of a better test for a deodorizing product than this!

In addition to his bike shoes, he also sprays it in his running shoes, sandals, and any other smelly footwear. He finds that it is so effective, he also started spraying his leather motorcycle gloves when they started being whiffy.

Neither of us have used the product on our skin directly because we don’t find the need (we do shower often, especially after exercising), so unfortunately I can’t comment as to how effective the product is on stinky feet.

Why might I review such a product on a website called “Natural Runner” that reviews mostly minimalist footwear? I have heard and read countless stories of people with stinky Vibram FiveFingers or other minimalist shoes that are worn without socks. This product is a FANTASTIC SOLUTION to this problem! Can’t afford the time to wash and air dry your shoes? Are you travelling, don’t have access to laundry facilities, and have a very limited number of shoes with you? This product is the ANSWER!

Rocket Pure’s Natural Foot Deodorant Spray is $15.95 and ships (sadly only) currently within the U.S. only. For more information or to order some of this wonderfully smelling spray, please check out the Rocket Pure website.

** For a 10% discount on Rocket Pure products, you can use the coupon code “NatRunnr” on either www.Amazon.com or www.RocketPure.com. **

Also, the company has informed me that Rockey Pure products will be available in Canada in a few months and I will keep you updated with this information as it becomes available.

Lems Shoes Mariner Sneak Peek

Growing from a company that produced a single model to now producing four models in a variety of colours, Lems Shoes has been an interesting and exciting minimalist footwear company to watch through their development. Their latest innovation, the Mariner, is a lightweight boat shoe with the same air-infused rubber outsole as their Sweet Jane and Boulder Boot. The company provided two pairs for review, one in Camel and the other in Sand, and I thought I would share their photographs in a sneak peek before I write the full review in a few weeks’ time.

Womens Mariner Camel

Womens Mariner Sand

My first impressions upon opening the box for these shoes is how surprisingly light they are. They are made of high-quality 100% genuine leather and they weigh so little for a fully enclosed shoe. The Lems-designed air-infused rubber outsole is so light that it balances out the weight of the shoe well between the outsole and the leather upper.

Upon wearing the Mariners, I was impressed with the quality of both the materials and the build. The leather upper is so soft and pliable that they can easily be worn with or without socks. I also noticed how adjustable these shoes are in the width of the midfoot. With only a small amount of material wrapping the sides of the foot and three lace eyelets, these shoes can be spread ultra wide or cinched tightly for a narrower foot. I’m confident that these shoes will easily fit a wide range of foot widths.

The Mariners come with a 3.0 mm foam insole which can be left in or removed. I prefer to wear mine without the insole for added proprioception and volume. The footbed is soft and the stitching is unobtrusive to the bottoms of my feet.

These shoes are one of those special products that get more comfortable the longer you wear them. Although I find them comfortable right out of the box, I know that the soft leather will form-fit to the shape of my feet over time. I’m looking forward to wear testing these over the next few autumn weeks and seeing how they may change.

The Mariners in Camel and Sand are available now on the Lems Shoes website for both men and women. Stay tuned for a full review of this leather boat shoe in the coming weeks.

ToeSox ULTRA Sport Review

I must admit that I have a bit of an obsession with toe socks. My feet are happiest when my toes can spread as wide and as freely as they can, and with toe socks, they can do this best. ToeSox is a footwear manufacturing company specializing in products that allow our feet and toes to spread as freely as they can. They make a number of toe socks products including ToeSock with grip, half ToeSox with grip, and ULTRA Sport ToeSox with no grip. Each of these products come in a number of heights and colours. They recently sent me three pairs of their ULTRA Sport ToeSox in three different weights or thicknesses. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wearing and testing these new socks and am ready to share my new toe socks discoveries.

ToeSox

ToeSox ULTRA Sport in General
The feature I’ve enjoyed the most from this brand of socks is that they are so SOFT. Of all my toe socks (and at this point, the number is substantial), these are made with the softest thread. All the models are made with a Perf Dry™ moisture management system using channeled synthetic fibers that pull moisture away from the skin for fast evaporation. I always wear my ToeSox with either shoes or slippers and my feet have never been noticeably wet or sweaty so I would say that their performance drying technology works quite well.

The ToeSox ULTRA comes in six different sizes from XXS to XL with a very helpful sizing chart on each package. As I generally fit a U.S. size 8, I chose the small (S) size and they fit quite snugly, as toe socks should. The material is quite stretchy so if you are on the edge of a size, I am confident that a half size on either side is easily forgiven in the stretch alone.

After several months of occasional wear, the ULTRA Sport toe socks have kept their shape extremely well. They fit as well now as they did right out of the package. The material has not pilled at all but has developed a little more fuzz on the outside. All ULTRA Sport models are machine washable and can be dried on low heat (although I hang all my toe socks to dry so I haven’t tested if the dryer changes the shape of the socks at all).

In terms of construction quality, I would say that ToeSox are on par with Injinjis. They both have the occasional thread that sticks out from the sock but nothing major on either brand. I have noticed that the Ultra Lite sock has developed one hole in each sock during this testing period which is not related to wearing through the material but due to a thread construction intersection losing some integrity. They are small holes and after two washes, have not spread any further.

ULTRA Sport Ultra Lite No Show
The Ultra Lite is the thinnest of the ULTRA models. They are made of 90% polyester and 10% spandex. ToeSox recommends that they are ideal for running, cycling, and climbing. They are  definitely a very thin interface between your feet and the ground or the shoe of your choice. The No Show height is great for running as there is no extra material up the ankles but still provides blister protection from skin rubbing against a shoe. The heel tab with its embroidered logo is perfect for Achilles protection and a little extra material for pulling on and off. The collar is super stretchy and keeps the sock in place well, which is also aided by an elastic arch band that gently hugs the foot. The heel is articulated and holds its shape well while hugging your foot. This sock has never bunched in a shoe and is extremely comfortable to wear even with snug footwear. They are the least durable of the three weights but I think that is to be expected with a thin sock, toe sock or not.

The Ultra Lite is available in No Show ($10 USD), Ankle ($10 USD), and Crew ($11 USD) heights in up to 9 colour options.

ULTRA Sport Light Weight Ankle
The Light Weight is a slightly thicker, mid-range width toe sock that is also made of 90% polyester and 10% spandex. ToeSox recommends them as best for walking, running, and functions as their general all-around, all-sport toe sock. They also have a super stretchy collar, articulated heel, and arch band for a snug, unbunching fit. They are a little warmer and more durable than the Ultra Lite, which probably makes them a better value if you are looking for a longer lasting, all-purpose toe sock.

The Light Weight is available in Ankle ($12 USD) and Crew ($13) heights in 6 colour options.

ULTRA Sport Medium Weight Ankle
The Medium Weight is padded, toe sock bliss. Although I’ve had padded conventional socks before, this is my first pair of padded toe socks and they are amazingly comfortable and soft. This model is made of 45% polyester, 45% nylon, and 10% spandex. ToeSox recommends they are best suited for walking, running, and hiking. They also have the same snug fitting features as the Light Weight and do not bunch inside of footwear. The padding is only on the sole of the sock and extends from the upper heel to the toe pockets. They are considerably warmer than the Ultra Lite and Light Weight so are probably better suited for colder temperatures. Despite their added thickness, they are not that hot for socks because of the vented knit top that helps to regulate foot temperature. For colder temperatures, this will definitely be my sock of choice.

The Medium Weight is available in Ankle ($15 USD) and Crew ($16 USD) heights in 4 colour options.

Summary
It has been a pleasure reviewing the ToeSox ULTRA Sport socks. It is great that the company recognizes that different thicknesses are needed for different activities and temperatures. Although my favourite feature of these socks is their extreme softness, they also fit incredibly well, don’t move around or bunch in a shoe, and have excellent drying technology inherent in their channeled synthetic fibre construction.

For more information on the ToeSox ULTRA Sport products, or to learn more about some of their other toe socks products with grip, you can check out the ToeSox website.

To purchase ToeSox products in Canada, you can find retailers by calling 1-888-756-7798 or email info@toesox.ca. ToeSox is exclusively distributed in Canada by Kloz.