Lems Chillum Review
The Lems Chillum eases you into the world of barefoot shoes with their not-so-aggressively-thin soles, yet they're still easy to fit into one-bag setups.
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- Easy to compress and pack
- Beginner-friendly intro to barefoot shoes
- Casual look blends in for everyday wear
- Not as compressible as more minimal barefoot shoes
- Doesn’t feel as barefoot due to the relatively thick soles
- Some loose threads have cropped up
8 oz (226.8 g)
LemsRubber™, Polyester, Suede, Canvas, Wool
Barefoot shoes have a lot of benefits in terms of comfort, particularly for those who swear by the unique feel that they give. As the term suggests, they’re shoes that give deliver the sensation that you’re walking barefoot but still give you a good level of protection. To achieve this, they often come with thinner soles which are more flexible and generally softer. That’s all well and good, but it also has an interesting side effect in terms of packability.
We like traveling with barefoot shoes because their lighter and more flexible construction makes them easier to fit when we’re one-bagging to our destination. Such is the case with the Lems Chillum.
As far as barefoot shoes come and go, these are a good entry point for those considering the style. They’re not extremely thin that you’ll feel every ant and pebble on the pavement, yet flexible enough that you’ll notice the difference when you make the switch. Now, let’s jump in so you can see if these shoes can get you hooked.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Chillum when you first pick them up is how light they are. Coming in at eight ounces combined (men’s size 10), they certainly won’t break the scale when you go through TSA’s checkpoint. Flex the soles for a bit, and you’ll find a good amount of giving compared to regular sneakers and workout shoes.
That said, the Chillum’s soles aren’t particularly thin compared to other barefoot shoes we’re using. The Vivobarefoot Gobi HI IV, for example, are high-cut boots yet feature even thinner soles than the Chillum. That translates to real-world performance as well. You get a relatively decent amount of cushioning that will numb tiny debris on the streets—more on that in the fit notes section.
The Chillum come with a 0.8 mm cork insole as standard (with a 3.0 mm PU underlayer). So yes, that cork texture you see in the pictures isn’t just some cheesy vinyl wrap for the sake of appearances; it’s the real deal. The total stack height, including the sole is 10 mm, and that’s more or less a uniform level along the footbed, or in other words, a zero drop.
As for the build quality, we’ve had mixed experiences with other shoes from Lems. For example, we’ve seen fraying, separation, and a hole that deteriorated on the Mesa. Meanwhile, the Boulder Boots have held up well, apart from expected wear and tear. So what about the Chillum? Well, it’s more like the Boulder Boots. We’re seeing some loose threads inside, but not enough for us to sound the alarm bells (re: the warranty).
Materials can vary depending on what colorway you choose. The sample we have here is the Vanilla colorway, and it has suede, canvas, and wool on the outside and a polyester lining on the inside. All of this makes up the Chillum’s lightweight construction, and nothing else adds unnecessary mass. There are no metal buckles or logos; they’ve kept it clean and simple, and we dig that.
We’ve talked about the Chillum’s lightness at length already, so we won’t bring it up here again. Instead, let’s focus on how these shoes pack. With most barefoot shoes, we find that stacking them works the best. In some cases, we may roll them into packing cubes or pouches if we’re really strapped for space. It really depends on where you’re trying to fit the shoes in question.
Unfortunately, since the Chillum have those thick-for-barefoot-shoes soles, they’re not very rollable. In fact, we’re not recommending this at the risk of permanently warping the shape. Stacking and compressing the Chillum are definitely the way to go. All in all, they’re not the most compressible barefoot shoes, but the Chillum are still relatively easy to toss into a travel bag compared to regular shoes.
As we mentioned earlier, the Chillum have thick soles for barefoot shoes. You will still feel like your feet are firmly planted on the ground and in control when you wear them. Not to the same level as more extreme barefoot shoes, but it delivers the general expectation.
Consequently, if you’re already neck-deep in barefoot shoes and are hunting for a more raw experience, then these aren’t your pair. We found that removing the cork insoles can get you closer to a more barefoot feel, but having them in feels more comfortable, so we’re sticking with that.
Whether we have the cork insoles in or not, though, it’s the zero drop design that impacts comfort, at least for us. This is subjective, but we do prefer this over a more inclined heel because it minimizes heel strikes and makes forefoot strikes easier.
Like a lot of barefoot shoes, the Chillum also have a wide toe box that really lets you spread your toes. The neat part is that the Chillum hide that wideness partly thanks to its clean aesthetics. In the white colorway which we’re sampling, it doesn’t look all that different from normal sneakers.
Bonus points, even though this sample is white, it hasn’t picked up as much dirt and scuff as you’d expect of any white-colored anything.
We’ve tried out other shoes for our one-bag travel needs like Vessi’s Cityscape and Vivobarefoot’s Ra III. Both of these we can squeeze into travel bags, but with varying difficulty. The Cityscape, while light, feel less flexible than even the thick-soled Chillum.
More than that, though, the Cityscape’s waterproofing make them less comfortable to wear. It’s certainly useful when going through puddles, but they’re not breathable, so your feet will sweat more on hot days.
Meanwhile, the Vivobarefoot Ra III and its thinner soles get you a more barefoot experience, plus they’re easier to roll up. You can stack and compress them just like you would the Chillum, but rolling them up can be useful if you’re left with only a square-shaped space in your bag.
All in all, the Chillum have been an easy pair of barefoot shoes to get into, and we’ve enjoyed testing them. It’s a bit refreshing to use barefoot shoes that don’t throw you into the deep end. Everyday street debris don’t feel as worrisome, but you also get the neat benefits in terms of packability and lightness.
- These shoes are minimalist at 10mm, though the soles aren’t quite as thin as some other barefoot shoes
- Nice to have the option to take the cork insole out for a more barefoot feel—it removes 3.8mm
- Casual look is relatively versatile
- Prefer wearing with the cork insole in, though taking it out makes these more minimal
- These don’t necessarily feel like “barefoot shoes” as the 10mm stack height gives ample cushion
- Digging the casual vibe—they almost look like skate shoes
- Shoes are still relatively white, which is great—may have to do with the canvas material & coating repelling dirt and marks nicely
- Some loose threads have appeared on the inside of the shoe
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