Best Shoes for Bunions

Published on March 10th, 2021 | by Kirsten Borrink


Lems Shoes : Living Easy and Minimal in Foot-Shaped, Zero-Drop Footwear

Lems Shoes - Primal 2

Lems Primal 2

Kirsten wears the Lems Primal 2

Lems shoes originated in the curious, creative mind of a college athlete back in 2010. Disenchanted with confining, injury-causing footwear, Andrew Rademacher set out to create a kinder, gentler shoe. Andrew spent the next three years dedicating himself to the art and science of shoemaking. He arrived at the belief that footwear should be built around the natural shape of the foot–widest at the forefoot and toes to allow for unrestricted movement and flexibility. After dozens of prototypes and much blood, sweat and tears, the original Primal sneaker was released by Lems shoes in 2011.

I’m honored that the kind folks at Lems reached out to see if I’d review one of their top-sellers. I chose the Primal 2, a casual sneaker with a low profile silhouette–perfect for walks on our local prairie path, running errands and participating in my favorite NIA classes at the gym. The Primal 2 features the natural, foot-shaped toe box that defines Lems shoes. My toes are free to spread out without fear of being cramped together like sardines. You know the feeling of having the king-sized bed to yourself? It’s like that–sweet freedom (especially for those pesky bunions, hammertoes and neuromas). The rest of the shoe follows the natural shape of my foot, skimming my mid-foot and tapering to a snug fit at the heel.

Lems Shoes - Natural Shape Toe Box

Read more about Lems Natural Shape toe-box here

If you like feeling one with the earth’s surface, you’ll enjoy the ride in Lems shoes. My Primal 2s (along with the rest of the Lems collection), are built on a zero-drop platform. The thought here is that traditional footwear elevates the heel .5-1.0 inch throwing off the alignment of the spine. Zero-drop, on the other hand, places the forefoot and heel at the same ground level correcting posture and promoting a more natural gait. In fact, there’s research out there that recommends flat, flexible footwear for decreasing the load (force) on osteoarthritic knees. Lems shoes to the rescue!

Lems Review

Lems Corduroy Chukka Boot

Some of you are wondering by now, “But what about the arch support?” As you can imagine with minimalist footwear, it’s…well, minimal. The insole isn’t built up in the arch, however there is a natural upward curve in the outsole that follows the arch, so that’s something. But keep in mind this is a roomy shoe with a removable insole which makes it accommodating of your favorite insole to enhance arch support. I added my favorite Tread Labs with no problem.

Lems Shoes

Lems Primal 2

Lems shoes are incredibly lightweight, weighing in at 6.9 ounces (the same weight as a hamster in case you’ve held one of those). I’ve been looking for a super-lightweight, barefoot-feel shoe to wear at the gym for NIA classes (a shout out to NIA which incorporates free-flow dance, martial arts and yoga-inspired moves–so easy on the joints). Most members go barefoot, but I need something between my feet and floor, but a traditional fitness shoe is too thick. Enter the Lems Primal 2!

Lems Chukka Boots

Lems Chukka Boots

More things to love about the Lems Primal 2:

  • The upper is made of soft microsuede and breathable open-weave mesh (great for feeling the wind between your toes).
  • You can hand-wash the Primal 2 by taking the insoles out and giving them a bath in luke warm water and mild soap (and if you need replacement insoles, they’re available here).
  • The Primal 2 is vegan from top to bottom.

A word on sizing: I’m wearing a Lems size 43! I know that sounds impossibly huge, but a women’s size 10-10.5 equals a Lems size 43 (instead of my usual euro 41). I do find the Primal 2 to be a tad roomy, but that’s because I’m on the smaller size of 10.  The Lems Primal 2 is available in women’s sizes 4.5-12.5 (37-45) for $105 with free shipping. Check out Lems men’s footwear here.

Lems Shoes - Nine2Five oxford

Lems Nine2Five oxford

Lems Chukka Boots

If you like the concept of zero-drop minimalist footwear with a wide toe box but need an office-appropriate style, consider the new Lems chukka bootLems Nine2Five leather oxford or the slightly more casual Lems Mariner boat shoe. While you’re at it, take a peek at Lems “other gear” for super soft t-shirts, Correct Toes toe spacers, and cool beanies! Still have questions? Check out their exhaustive FAQ page.

Do you know about Lems shoes? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment and LEMme know.

Lems Shoes

Harley and the Lems

About the Author

26 Responses to Lems Shoes : Living Easy and Minimal in Foot-Shaped, Zero-Drop Footwear

  1. Gail Zwaagstra says:

    I have been considering Lems Shoes. I suffer from chronic plantar fasciitis and I was wondering if you had any difficulty with the break in period.

  2. Bette says:

    I love my Lems Primal 2s and, like you, wear a 43. I didn’t believe the size chart and bought 42s, which I promptly sold on ebay! The Lems are fabulous, and my feet have never felt better.

  3. Katie Capelli says:

    Thank you for sharing about these. I am a Nia teacher myself and it’s nice to have something to recommend to some of my students who need a little something on their feet. I look forward to trying them!

  4. Kirsten Borrink says:

    Hi Katie! I love Nia–so good for my joints (I have rheumatoid). I’m going to wear them again tonight with my Dancesocks (they go over the shoe to help with pivoting and keeps shoe from sticking to floor). I’ll report back!

  5. Jane says:

    I have a pair of Lems and love them. They’ve lasted a long time and are high quality and comfortable. Their advertising is aspirational and fun. I just hate that they only show white people as though they don’t sell shoes to people of color or something. Wish they would change that.

  6. Renee V says:

    I have suffered from chronic plantar fasciitis too and was miserable for several years until I discovered LEMS. It took a little getting used to being flat and not having really thick cushioning (I do add Dr. Scholl’s type insoles to make them cushier), but not a break-in period. I basically ONLY live in LEMS now. They aren’t perfect for my feet (because my feet are far from perfect), but they are by far the BEST option I’ve found and the only thing that lets me walk more than a few feet without being in pain and agony and limping.

  7. Mary Anne says:

    I love my Lems Primal 2’s. I have spent years in orthotics recommended by my Dr for flat feet, heel spurs, bunions etc. The best thing I ever did was find research from a podiatrist named Dr Ray McClanahan. He recommends Lems and other flat flexible shoes. Also found foot strengthening exercises on his website. I now have a strong arch, no flat feet and never wear orthotics, all in less than 6 months, no more achy feet ever!

  8. Kirsten Borrink says:

    Wow, Mary Anne! THat is great news. Thanks for the tips and info on Dr. McClanahan. I’ll see if I can find a link to his practice and link up your comment.

  9. Andria says:

    There’s also the Natural Footgear website. They have a expanding collection of minimal type, zero drop shoes. And a tremendous amount of info on a variety of foot ailments, including specific exercises for each. Their approach to foot health is different than most podiatrists.

  10. Gail says:

    Do you have personal experience with the natural approach? I am going down a rabbit hole with chronic PF and am seriously considering minimal shoes.

  11. Gail says:

    Hi Renee! Did you start wearing Lems while you were suffering from PF? Should I just dive in and start wearing them full time?

  12. Mary Anne says:

    Gail, yes I have been doing the minimal approach for almost a year now. I also used the Natural Footwear website and also Northwest Foot and Ankle website. My feet have never felt better, it does take some time to get used to minimal shoes though. I spent 2 weeks hiking and walking around 3 national parks in my Lems Primal 2s and no foot pain at all. I have had aching feet most of my life, flat feet, PF, heel spurs, etc. Give it a try you have nothing to lose.

  13. Anne Thorpe says:

    I got my new bright red size 44 Lens Primal 2s today and they are perfect! Put my orthotics in and can’t believe that I can’t feel my bunions. So light and comfortable. I’m normally a 42-43 but appreciated everyone’s advice on size – thanks. I would never have bought them if it weren’t for this blog and your comments.

  14. Kirsten Borrink says:

    This is great news, Anne. The fact that you can wear them comfortably with orthotics is a huge win. I’ll make sure the company sees this comment 🙂

  15. Linda says:

    They also don’t show old people or fat people or short people.

  16. Barbara Bland says:

    Two words imbalance and radiculopathy. Lost about 80 to 90% of feeling in my left foot. I need a perm black sole without foam maybe a roll bar. At my wits end!

  17. Barbara Bland says:

    Firm flat sole

  18. Julie says:

    Just ordered a pair of Primal 2’s. I’ve had great results from wearing the Altra zero drop walking shoes, so I’m hoping these continue the trend. Zero drop really helps me PF, with way it stretches out my calf muscles. Seems counter intuitive when I have high arches, but there you have it. I also love the wide toe box, and Lem’s have that as well. Fingers crossed that these will be good running- around shoes.

  19. Julie says:

    Gail- I found that doing deep yoga stretches to loosen up my hamstrings and calves really helped with my PF. I had terrible flare ups and my massage therapist recommended that approach. It’s helped me tremendously, as well as wearing zero drop walking shoes and not walking around the house barefoot (which I love to do ☺️). Hope you find some relief soon!

  20. Kirsten Borrink says:

    Altras are wonderful–love the zero drop and great cushioning. Lems certainly have less cushioning, but I hope they work for you.

  21. Julie says:

    Hi Kirsten-

    Reporting back in! I’ve now worn my Lems Primal 2 several times while running errands and gardening/ yard work and they are great. No problems with cushioning and my not a peep from my PF. And the shoes are super cute. They are probably not what I would wear for a day of walking around the city, but for running around and being on uneven grassy ground they are perfect.

  22. Kirsten Borrink says:

    Good to hear, Julie. Thanks for the feedback.

  23. Claire says:

    Can anyone provide the width in inches of these? (at the widest point) My short but wide (4″) Frankenstein feet usually require a W or D in sizing, but I am hope-hope-hoping that although the Lems primal 2s don’t come in a wide size per se they might still fit because of the shape.

  24. Janet Frame says:

    Hi Claire, I have a size 10 N foot. I have the grey Lems Primal 2 in size 43. Pay attn to the recommended sizing and go by it. I measure them to be 4 in across at the widest part. They may be a tad narrower in a much shorter size. Go to the Lems website. I believe they are considered to be an E width in the toe box. Because of this, I was afraid to order them (due to my narrow feet) even though I needed a shoe that would not compress my misaligned little toes . Found a health food store in my area that had them and they fit me fine. They are very soft and lace right up. The heal is soft and holds onto my narrow heal as well. I do put extra padding in the shoe both for cushioning and to take up a bit of space. I also now wear the toe sox recommended by Dr. McClanahan. Regular sox compress the toes and work against you if you want a bunion or tailor’s bunion to relax. I have read that some people with very wide feet still find the Lems to not be as wide as they would ideally like, but they do find the shape helpful. I prefer these to Altras. Somehow, Altras make me overpronate and then my feet start to hurt. These really are as close as it gets to barefoot. My foot sits correctly on the ground but with a bit of protection. You can easily add a cushion or orthotic without the shoe affecting how it fits. Also, these come in more neutral colors so you can wear them with more things. The low profile keeps them from looking too clunky. Perhaps not as dainty as Keds, but I need toe space now and these are pretty darn good.

  25. Kirsten Borrink says:

    Thanks for your thorough review, Janet.

  26. FRANK MOONEY says:

    send me your catalogue

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