Searching for a versatile, lightweight minimalist hiking shoe that’s perfect for adventures both at home and on the road? Then look no further than the Lems Mesa.
Growing up in Arizona, our main outdoor activities were swimming in the summer and hiking all of the other months. Even though I’ve been hiking for a long time, I feel like I haven’t figured out what gear I really love until recently.
I know rugged terrain calls for the toughness of a deeply grooved tread, and extra padding is needed when you’re carrying a heavy load on a backpacking trip. But there are so many scenarios where traditional hiking boots still felt like overkill to me, so I started researching minimalist and barefoot hiking shoes earlier this year.
One of the best shoe brands out there I found making minimalist hiking shoes was Lems. Lems started by making barefoot running and hiking shoes, and has expanded its line to include minimalist hiking shoes with a bit more padding and traction. Lems recently released a new shoe called the Mesa in their line of mountain-to-town hiking shoes. I was excited to try them out and share my review with you here!
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There were five things I wanted my new pair of minimalist hiking shoes to be: comfortable, lightweight, durable, a simple, clean design, and versatile.
Comfort always comes first when I’m looking for a shoe now. I’ve had far too many shoes that I thought looked cute or seemed technically good, but they hardly ever ended up leaving my closest because they pinched my toes or gave me blisters. Lems started out by making barefoot shoes (the Lems Primal); barefoot shoes follow the natural shape of the feet with a wide toe box, have a zero-drop heel, and a thin, flexible sole.
The Mesas have a bit thicker of a sole which puts them more at a minimalist shoe than a true barefoot shoe, but this also means they are better equipped to handle more rugged terrain. There is enough padding in the Mesas that I’ve never felt any discomfort whether I’m running or walking on asphalt or a dirt trail.
The toe box is wide (no squished toes!) and the shoes are still really flexible.
As far as sizing goes, I’m typically a women’s size 7, but needed to go a half size up in these. Aaron has a different Lems shoe, the Trailhead, and his typical size was the right fit. The Trailhead and the Mesa both use the mountain-to-town outsole, so I’m assuming the sizing of both shoes is the same.
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I don’t want to feel like I’m literally dragging my feet from heavy hiking shoes. A good portion on the uppers on the Mesa is knit mesh. It feels durable, but breathable, and my feet haven’t gotten hot and sweaty on the trail. These shoes are also supposed to be quick drying. I haven’t stepped through any streams or puddles yet, but I’m sure that time will come.
While heavy hiking boots can be excessive some trails, a good minimalist hiking shoe shouldn’t be totally beat up after a few uses. The mesh on Lems Mesa is reinforced with a TPU frame overlay on the sides and a coating around the toe box. I’m impressed by the amount of traction and grip on this shoe – the solid rubber outsoles are much more in line with a hardcore hiking shoe than a lightweight sneaker. The materials and quality of this shoe seem to be in line with the $125 price tag. These shoes still look great after several hikes, but I’m planning on updating this review a few months down the line to report how they’re holding up.
Simple, clean design
Even when I’m hiking, I’d like a shoe with a simple, clean design. Some brands seem to think the crazier the colors or the more types of materials mean a shoe is more hardcore or rugged. I’ve not found this to be the case, and am happy there’s a company like Lems out there that shares the aesthetic appeal of simplicity. I opted for the coastal blue, which has a nice pop with the darker yellow laces. The Lems Mesa also comes in carbon (black), forest (green), and rosewood (dark purple – women’s only).
We often hike while we’re traveling, so I wanted a minimalist hiking shoe that was versatile. I typically try to avoid checking a bag which means packing light. Instead of bringing a shoe for each different occasion, I needed a shoe that could function well in a lot of different environments. This shoe is part of what Lems calls its mountain-to-town collection, meaning it can easily make the transition from trails to city streets. The fact that this shoe is lightweight and has such a simple design makes it versatile enough to use throughout most of our travels. The weight and flexibility also make the Mesa a great packable hiking shoe, though I’d just as easily wear it through the airport.
Since getting the Lems Mesa, they’ve become my go-to shoe for hikes, walks around the block, and all the little things in between.