Lems Waterproof Boulder Boots are a great option for minimalist travelers or barefoot enthusiasts looking for a barefoot hiking boot.
|Fully waterproof||Not great traction|
|Look like regular boots for the most part.||Weird rash happened on my leg near the top of the boot|
|Pretty comfortable, can walk for hours in them.||Can’t resole, decreasing longevity|
|Wide toe box and barefoot boot style|
- You’re looking for a solid pair of boots that travel well.
- You’re in the market for minimalist boots because there aren’t too many options.
- You want something waterproof that won't let you down.
Don’t buy if…
- You want heritage quality boots; these aren’t them.
- You don't want to pay some $$ for boots that can’t be re-soled.
Based in Colorado, Lems has been making barefoot shoes since around 2011. Their story is similar to other barefoot and minimalist shoe companies; not many people were making shoes like this at the time.
Interestingly, their website is a bit less environmentally focused than other barefoot shoemakers out there, such as Vivobarefoot or Earthrunners. Still, they offer a few different vegan styles if you want to get away from the leather.
Out of the box, I was very impressed by Lems Waterproof Boulder Boot. It looked and felt like a boot. This might sound obvious, but often with these minimalist and barefoot shoes, there’s something a bit off about them: nice leather, chunky laces, and moc toe silhouette.
That said, there were two very much not boot-like qualities. First was the weight, these shoes are light! I compared them to a pair of Woolrich boots I’ve had for years, and the difference was pretty crazy. The official weight of these is 15.9oz compared to 22.36oz for the Woolrich boots.
Secondly, it’s easy to notice the lack of traditional boot stitching. Rather than using a conventional Goodyear Welt construction on the sole, the sole is glued onto the boots. I’m assuming they did it for weight purposes? I’m not quite sure. I haven’t come across a barefoot boot that uses a more traditional Goodyear Welt method, to be fair.
Lems recommends going a size up on these, so I went with a 12.5 (for reference, I’m a 12 in Nike). It was definitely a good call; the 12.5 fits me perfectly.
Like most barefoot shoes, the wide toe box might catch you by surprise. The goal of the wide toe box is to let your toes spread out while you’re walking instead of cramming them together like in traditional shoes. Because of this, you might feel a ton of extra room near your toes, which is totally normal!
One weird thing to note after about 2 weeks of arduous wear (hiking or walking for a while each day); I ended up getting a rash/irritation on my leg near the top of the shoes. I was even wearing mid-calf socks for the entire time, so I’m not sure what is causing it. I don’t think it’s a big cause for concern since breaking in a pair of shoes generally takes some time. I’ll update this review if it persists after a few more weeks.
I took these as my sole pair of shoes on a two-week-long trip to Iceland. On the trip, each day consisted of a few hours of walking/hiking on dry volcanic surfaces and wet, mossy areas.
The Lems Boulder Boots handled all the hikes pretty well. The waterproofing held up, even as other reviews had found them to be more “water-resistant.” But I mucked around in some rivers and never got wet.
The grip isn’t the best, though. I didn’t feel the most surefooted on wet surfaces, and it wasn’t much better on gravel. Granted, it was pretty dry and loose rock, but I’d imagine my Vasque hiking boots would’ve held up considerably better. But for a minimalist hiking boot, I’d say these did the job well enough.
That said, you’re talking about some every day barefoot boots that are doubling as hiking boots. So, all in all, they held up considerably well. I’m not sure if they are the first hiking boots I’d reach for. Still, they won’t let you down either, especially in a travel situation where you need a pair of shoes that can handle multiple environments.
I even had a mishap at the gas station and spilled a bunch of gasoline all over the boots, and it all came off pretty quickly. I’m assuming this type of shenanigans will only be a problem for me, but it can’t hurt to mention it.
The Lems Boulder boot is probably one of the best-looking minimalist and barefoot shoes/boots I’ve ever seen. Outside the lack of heel drop and stitching, you wouldn’t even notice these are barefoot shoes.
The classic moc-toe design is excellent and can be dressed up or down. I feel equally comfortable mucking around in the woods as I go to a nice restaurant with these things (just give them a nice wipe down).
The one minor knock on the looks and style of these boots is back to that stitching. Since the sole is glued on, the discerning eye can quickly tell these aren’t your heritage boots. So, if you’re a boot snob or care what boot snobs think of you, that might be good to note. If you have no idea why I keep rambling on about stitching, I wouldn’t worry about it.
I love traveling in boots. There’s something to boots that just screams wanderlust. They make me feel like a traveler, meandering my way through the world. Ready to take on whatever comes at me.
But there are a few issues when traveling with boots. First off, you pretty much have to wear them in transit at any given time if you’re a minimalist packer. That shit does not fit into a backpack.
Secondly, if your traveling indefinitely, they don’t always navigate each season well. Fall and winter are obviously fine, but it starts to get a bit too warm for large boots when you get into spring and summer.
Finally, sometimes they can be a bit heavy on foot. There’s a saying for hikers that “one pound on the feet is five pounds on your back.” This absolutely holds true with traveling too. Walking around a city for miles can be pretty exhausting.
Lems has solved a good chunk of these issues with the Boulder Boot. They are light and pack incredibly well, so you can probably even squish them into a backpack (though they’d still take up a good amount of space). And as mentioned above, they can take you from hiking to a fancy restaurant, so you can rely on these as the only pair of shoes for an entire trip.
Oh, and last but not least, since there isn’t any heavy-duty metal in these, they won’t trip out the airport metal detectors. Every now and then, my other boots will, which is SUPER frustrating.
The Lems Waterproof Boulder Boot will definitely have a spot on my minimal packing list. I think the comfort level makes them pretty compelling as a travel boot, especially if you only plan on bringing one pair of shoes. If you need a shoe that can travel with you through multiple climates and styles, then give these a shot. My only big gripe is the stitching (queue eye roll). If they were to come out with a pair that could be re-soled, that might just make them perfect.
January 29, 2023: After damn near TWO years of pretty consistent use, these things are still going pretty damn strong. It's actually quite impressive. Admittedly, they are starting to look a little worn in:
But rightfully so, these things have been through it all with me: hiking in the PNW, climbing volcanoes, one-bag traveling through Europe - you name it. And to be entirely honest, I haven't really taken much care of the leather, so I imagine they could look much better.
After two years, I still can't imagine a better one-bag travel shoe than the Lems Waterproof Boulder Boot.