My FiveFingers

A fan site all about Minimalist Running, Barefoot running, and Healthy Living!

Join the Community


Size – It really matters! Stem Gets It Right With Its Primal Origins

by Keriann » on Jan 24, 2012 0

I’ll admit that it took me a little while to join the barefoot movement.  After years of watching my brothers and brother-in-laws run in barefoot shoes and regularly declare the benefits of barefoot running, I finally acquiesced and bought a pair of barefoot shoes.  Was it everything they said it would be?  Well, no, but mostly because sizing issues make it difficult for me to buy shoes.  I like to think of myself as a graceful, bigfoot, wide women’s size 9.

The Stem Primal Originals - Womens

The Women Stem Primal Originals

Therefore, the first pair of barefoot shoes I bought (Vibram FiveFingers Sprint) teased me with all the promise of the barefoot virtues but its snug band slowly squeezed the dream right out of me.  Thankfully, the remaining barefoot virtues kept me coming back for more, and I eventually found a pair of FiveFingers that worked for me (the Jayas).

However, I am a lawyer that works with a bunch of other lawyers in a law firm and I could never wear my FiveFingers to work on casual Fridays.  This was a huge problem because several weeks after finding barefoot shoes I threw out every sneaker I owned.  Lucky for me, Stem Primal Origins delivers a true barefoot experience with none of the tightness that occurs with some of the other barefoot models and I can wear them to work on casual Fridays!

Sizing & Specs

I realized I had found the perfect size from the second I put these shoes on to run .  Yes, size matters! Stem Primal Origins are a great looking shoe and sizing is easy.  Really, I promise.  I know there are some skeptics like me out there with our jaded attitudes formed from years of stuffing our feet into shoes with too high arches, too tight shoe bands, too small toe boxes and too snug shoes.  These problems are a thing of the past thanks to Stem.

Stem Shoes Big Toe Box

Notice the large toe box

The Stem website advises that Stem sizing runs a bit small so make sure you order a size up.  I’m a women’s size 9 – 9 & 1/2 and I ordered a stem size 10-10.5. The wide toe box allows plenty of room for your toes without looking clownish.  The mesh is light and breathable and it has a very nice smell to it.

Stem With and Without Socks

I’ve worn the shoes for two straight weeks, both with and without socks, and I haven’t needed to wash them yet.  Stem recommends wearing Injinji socks.  I prefer to run without socks and found the shoes to be extremely comfortable without socks.  I wore normal cotton socks when I was not running.


The shoes weigh in at 6.3 ounces and lace up the front.  I don’t like to tie my shoes very tight but the shoe does allow you to tighten the shoe corset to your specific comfort level.  The Primal Origin shoes were comfortable and snug but not overly snug.

Running in Stem

After lacing the shoes I took off on my first run of about 3 miles.  I ran twelve miles the first week and fifteen miles the second week.  There were no blisters, no rubbing, and no discomfort. Best of all, my brand new pedicure was preserved for the full two weeks.   Also the shoes hold their shape rather well and I didn’t slip even during my rainy run.

If you have been running in FiveFingers for awhile you will notice that the Stem Shoes are a little heavier.  However, the extra weight is minimal and I actually found that I liked the variety of switching between my FiveFingers and the Stem Primal Origins.


I loved the design of the Stem Primal Origins from the second I saw them online.  To me they are the best looking barefoot shoes on the market right now.

I love the roots growing across the shoe.  The gray and lavender color was consistent with the colors online.  The soles of the Stem shoes have a really cool design that partially mimics the skin on the soles of your feet.  I’ve bought into the idea that we have weakened our feet from years of padded shoes so the “back to our roots” slogan adopted by Stem resonates with me.

I love the design and that they are casual Friday friendly!

Its clear that the founder Andrew Rademacher is very passionate about barefoot running and his product demonstrates his commitment to the barefoot movement.

Environmental Impact

I’m a sucker for truthful environmental advertising.

I can’t stand greenwashing and Stem delivers a good product without eco-exaggeration in its advertising.  Stem has incorporated what it calls its “Eco-Rule of 50%.”  This means that Stem has managed to cut its average consumption by 50%.  In other words, Stem shoes, on average, use 50% less materials than other shoes.  This Eco-Rule of 50% is extended to Stem’s boxes which are made from about 50% less cardboard than other shoe boxes.  Notice that Stem doesn’t engage in greenwashing with these statements.  Stem doesn’t promise no impacts – it states its accomplishment and goals of reducing its average consumption by 50%, and in most cases Stem has clearly achieved that goal.

Stem's low environmental Impact

Stem has a low environmental impact

How Stem Can Improve

The only thing that I would change about the shoe is cosmetic.  The inside sole of the Stem Shoes originally had two little stem imprints where your heel sits.  I noticed that after a few runs the imprints began fading until the entire imprint had been removed.  I know its silly but I really like the little leaf imprint on the inside of the soles.

Goodbye Little Leaf Imprint - Stem Shoes

Goodbye Little Leaf Imprint

Also, the actual shoes shipped to me had a tiny bit of sticky substance on the top of the right sole. I’m not sure what it was or where it came from but this could be discouraging for new shoe owners.  The substance wasn’t too much of a problem as it washed off with a baby wipe. I’m confident this only appeared on the shoes I received.


Random Sticky Substance on New Shoes?


Final Verdict – Two Big Thumbs Up for the Stem Primal Origins Shoe and Stem Ancestral Footwear Company.  I like buying good products from companies that I like.  I think this shoe is just the beginning for Stem Ancestral Footwear.  I would love to see a Mary Jane or ballet flat version of the stem shoe that I could wear to work.

*I received a pair of Stems to review from the manufacturer, but the opinions are my own*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.