I first ran across STEM Footwear last year after I read the “The World is Flat… if You Are a Foot” by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella of Two Rivers Treads and Andrew Rademacher of STEM. I had been in touch with Andrew since then and they finally delivered their first Origins samples at the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show last month. And I’m very fortunate to receive a STEM Primal Origins in my shoe size to wear test last week.
The first impression I have is: the shoe is so light, soft, and super-flexible! I have never worn a pair of shoes like this ever. It feels like a hybrid of a glove, slipper (as in ballet), and martial arts shoe, with the best of each rolled into one. And it became an instant recovery and wellness shoe for me.
The shoe is completely collapsible so I had to test it out. I rolled the shoe up from toe to heel in addition to twisting it left and right along the heel-to-toe axis – amazing flexibility. And it unrolled back to it normal shape flawlessly – no visible wrinkles or permanent folds remained.
The shoe weighed in at 6.2 ounces on my digital scales. But it sure feels lighter than that.
The outsole is a thin 6mm and allows even better ground feel than my VFF KSO! The air injection rubber used replicates skin elasticity (replicates the physical properties of human skin) and this technology is new and unique – I’m sure Andrew is patenting it.
The uppers is made of a breathable air mesh and the shoe is designed to be worn without socks. No worries about sweaty feet. Worried about the toe box? The soft uppers and wide toe box accommodated my 2E wide feet with compression recovery socks – it has room to spare! The natural foot shape fit with a wide toe box makes the shoe complete.
The lacing system is comprised of a quick-release draw chord so you can put on or take off your shoes quickly and easily. This is actually better the easy slip-on like those on the New Balance Minimus Wellness or Zoot Ultra Speed because with the chord, you can get a better midfoot wrap and support. Tighten or loosen the laces depending on the activity you are performing.
There are no inserts and the stitching is seamless for barefoot wear. After walking for over 10 miles in the first two in these shoes, they do feel like an extension of your feet! I’ve since put in a lot more miles
There is no noticeable toe spring visible and if there is, the shoe is so soft and flexible that your toes have nothing to fight against. Your toes will splay and flex without restrictions.
Some closeups on the attention to details in the heel and uppers.
Here’s a video giving you a better view of the shoe than flat photographs. I took it while un-boxing the shoes.
STEM shoes also proudly incorporate the 3 R’s (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse) when it comes to being green and eco-conscious. And they started decreasing their eco-footprint with reducing – less wasted material, less excess scrap, and elimination of unnecessary material altogether. They don’t use any leather (go vegan!) but only natural grown fibers.
Who are these shoes for?
It’s for everyone who wants to get back to their roots and feel the ground again. We have weakened our feet over time with traditional shoes and thus losing touch with one of our vital senses – proprioception, the outsole-to-insole-to brain sensory feedback system. STEM believes that by strengthening the muscles in your feet, you are inadvertently strengthening your entire body.
If you need a casual or recovery shoe and you’re ready to feel the ground, then the STEM Origins line of shoes is for you. Ground feel is much better in my Primal Origins than in my VFF KSO. And walking with VFF KSO is not comfortable at all for long distances especially hilly asphalt and concrete – it’s more of a joyful feeling when I walk with my Primal Origins. For those who are not used to walking barefoot, you will feel the ground more than you will ever feel. By increasing sensation to all 200,000 nerve endings in your feet, you enhance sensory perception and improve circulation.
The STEM Origins has definitely proven itself to be an ultra-minimalist shoe. STEM Origins line has 5 colorways models planned for Fall 2011 with a August 1 delivery date. For Women’s (sizes EU36-41), the Primal Origins in Frost Grey, and Survival Origins in Earth Brown and Lavender. For Men’s (size EU41-47), the Primal Origins in Slate Grey, Survival Origins in Earth Brown and Khaki, and Natural Origins in Moss Green. They are already taking pre-orders so you might get your order in early!
You can also find STEM Origins in a store in the future – it will be displayed with other sandals and casual shoes in a hook on an end cap or on a wall.
For those with super-wide feet or those with toes that are linear (many toes line up horizontally), you might want to size up by a half size. Notice the tip of the shoe curves in a little.
Get back to your roots and feel the ground again with STEM Origins.
*Product provided by STEM Footwear (MSRP $85).
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