This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The quest for perfect travel apparel will never cease, especially since airlines continue moving the goal post for carry-on luggage allowances. The problem of space and weight is further compounded when packing for a cold or wet destination, or one that demands modest hiking boots. Unless you plan to wear your clunkiest kicks on every flight, finding lightweight footwear is imperative. For that reason, I was drawn to the boast by Lems Shoes that its Boulder line represents “the world’s most packable boot.”
The shoes are designed to be lightweight, ultra-minimalist, zero-drop footwear with a wide toe box. The creators argue this shape and these features bring clients’ feet, both men and women, closer to the ground, mimicking a barefoot experience. Further claims include the promotion of healthy foot development, better balance and improved mobility in feet, legs and back, which helps alleviate podiatry issues like hammer toes and bunions. The shoe can pack down or roll up for carrying in a small daypack.
- No waterproofing
- Upper made of leather and 1200 denier nylon
- Cotton lining in plaid
- Lightweight at 9.9oz boot for a size 43
- Outsole made of 9.0mm LemsRubber™ (air-injection rubber)
- Stack height of 10.0mm (not including 3.0mm footbed)
- Drop 0.0mm, AKA zero-drop
- Comes with 2 pairs of laces, light brown and gold
- Colors: brown, timber, buckeye, navy stout, black, russet and raven
- Price: $125 in nylon/leather; $150 in leather
I first saw these shoes on Instagram. They looked stylish in the photo, the model pausing on a rock amidst a forest clearing, pausing to suck in a breath of clean Pacific Northwest air. Applause to their marketing team for creating this appealing brand image, one clearly directed at a younger, tech-savvy, outdoorsy audience. Further online reviews led me to track down a pair.
When the boots arrived in the mail, however, they looked less slick than their digital counterpart. Turns out, boxiness is an intentional design feature, the look a result of function: a wide toe box.
Since my feet are on the normal to narrow side, I found the width of the shoe uncomfortably large, my feet swimming and slipping inside. I sized down, as recommended by the helpful customer sales agent, but width problems persisted, despite adding a gel insert. I normally wear a women’s 7.5 and was matched to a women’s size 40. My husband had the same sizing issue, normally wearing a 10.5 or 11, settling on a men’s 46.
Donning the thickest hiking socks in my drawer, I took the boots on several spins through rocky vineyards. At first, the rigid nylon and leather six-inch high cuff dug into my Achilles tendon, but eventually the upper relaxed and softened. Over wet stone and dirt in Spain, the waffle-like pattern on the sole was slippery on occasion, although the ability to feel the ground with my feet provided great sensory feedback on when to be cautious with footing. I loved that aspect of the shoe.
Regarding the zero-drop effect, I run in Nike Free shoes, so I assumed I’d be accustom to it, but I wasn’t. Most shoes have some measure of heel, even if built in and slight. Thus, walking absolutely flat to the ground is a rarity for most people. However, I grew to like it — a lot. Plus, the plaid cotton lining inside was both attractive and comfy.
The sole and upper were flexible enough to roll up loosely, although flattened proved the best way to pack them. I was able to shove them into the front pocket of a backpack, pressed down to less than two inches, and still get the bag underneath the seat in front of me on a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. I hardly noticed the added weight in my pack. Normally I travel with Teva hiking boots that weigh four times as much and take up precious luggage space due to their structure.
I appreciated the look, weight, flattening capabilities and zero-drop design. The Lems Boulders delivers a niche shoe for when you need something light but sturdy for day hikes, and stylish enough for a few beers out at night. I dubbed them my “camp-to-city” boots. Ultimately, the toe box proved too wide for my taste, and I would have liked a waterproof version.
A note on quality: I was disappointed to see the stitching on the top of the shoe start to pull after a short period of wear. I took the issue up with their customer service team. Their prompt reply assuaged concerns: “We’ve had a couple instances where this has happened on the side and have already addressed this issue with our manufacturers. With instances like these, we always, always, always replace the shoes free of charge.”
Applause for transparency and communication.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees