While in college at Purdue, Andrew Rademacher pole vaulted for the university team. He suffered regular injuries and wondered if that was just part of the sport.
After college he started running barefoot in soft grass and he noticed different muscles building in his feet and fewer injuries. At that same time, he was working at New Balance. He bought a pair of shoes from his employer and took them apart to understand how they were made.
He started wondering if minimalist shoes were good to wear running, why not the rest of the time? Why not use barefoot shoes for work, travel and going out?
In 2011, Andrew founded Lems, a shoe company offering minimalist shoes with a zero drop heel for daily wear, not just running.
Andrew sold thousands of pre-orders within hours of sharing his design, before he’d even built a shoe.
Lems shoes, which are flexible and lightweight, mimics the natural shape of the foot, allowing it to bend and move as it was designed to do, said Steve Perna, who works with the brand.
Lems customers range from teenagers to those in their 70s.
Since its launch, Lems line has expanded to now feature four styles, including a boot that weighs less than 12 ounces, an all-leather dress shoe, a boat shoe and an everyday street shoe. Lems shoes pack down small and are also great for traveling.
“If you are health conscious about what you are wearing when you are running, what about the other 12 hours a day you are on your feet?” Steve said.
Since Steve started wearing minimalist shoes for work and everything else, he’s noticed his feet have widened as muscles have built up.
“It’s a little like going to a gym and lifting for the first time,” Steve said. “You are going to be a little sore. I wouldn’t go out to walk cobblestone streets in Europe your first time wearing them.”
But once you get used to wearing them, the shoes are comfortable and often alleviate lower back and knee pain resulting from poor posture and uncomfortable feet.
“When you look at houses, it starts at the foundation and goes up,” Steve said.
The small Boulder, Colorado-based company still does everything in house. Andrew designs all of Lems’ shoes. And when people call for customer service, it rings a line in a room where normally the entire company’s staff is sitting.
But while the hype surrounding the barefoot running movement has died down, Lems has seen only exponential growth. Lems is planning to create an all leather-boot and also a women-specific line soon.
To learn more about the philosophy behind Lems' shoes check out the cool 30-second video featuring Lems founder Andrew Rademacher.