Stem Survival Origins: First Impressions

By Sol in Reviews

Ah, I love that “new shoe” smell! Stem came through with amazing customer service and sent me a replacement for my 3 month old pair of Stem Primal Origins that were having some issues. What’s more, they even agreed to send a different color that my original pair! While the primary (only?) difference between the Primal Origins and the Survival Origins is the colorway, I decided it was worth writing up my first impressions as the new pair also represents adjustments to the manufacturing process.

Survival is Brown

Stem Survival Origins

As previously stated, the only perceivable difference between the Primal Origins and the Survival Origins is the color. While the upper of the Primal Origins are slate grey colored, the Survival Origins’ upper is a nice dark brown. Though dark brown and slate grey are not the most common colors, I think they provide a good selection for wearers who either want a dark-colored or a light-colored shoe.

I will be the first to admit that I was not totally sold on the slate grey color of the Primal Origins when I first received it, namely because it would show dirt and other signs of use faster. However, after using the Primal Origins for the past 3 months, the color has grown on me and I quite like them now– except that I still shudder at the thought of how they’ll look after a hike on one of our muddy trails.

Compared to the contrast of the Primal Origins’ grey fabric and white stitching, the Survival Origins are very uniform in appearance. The stitching on the Survival Origins is the same brown color as the fabric so the it blends right in, which looks great. I really like the dark brown color of the Survival Origins because they will be at home on or off the trail.

Stiching same color as fabric

Note: For those of you who don’t consider brown dark enough, Stem has officially announced that a black version of their shoe will be available on March 1, 2012

Build Quality

Stem noted that a manufacturing issue was responsible for the threads coming loose and that the issue had since been resolved. I will note that the seam where the threads came loose on my original pair of shoes does appear to be tighter on the Survival Origins. Aside from that, the shoe looks nearly identical to the Primal Origins. It appears to be well put together and I do hope that no other manufacturing issues will rear their head for the Survival Origins.


Though both the Primal Origins and the Survival Origins are the same size, the newer Survival Origins feel noticeably more confined. Over the past 3 months, the Primal Origins have been able to stretch out into what is a very comfortable pair of shoes, and I expect the Survival Origins to become more comfortable as they are broken in as well. Aside from that, the Survival Origins benefit from the same light and flexible outsole as the Primal Origins, not to mention an insole that feels great on bare feet.

That being said, even though they are not yet broken in, the Survival Origins are pretty comfy right out of the box.

A great start for a new shoe company

Stem has really done a lot of things right with their first offering. First and foremost, they are very comfortable (for both walking and running) thanks in large part to Stem’s thin and flexible sole. Secondly, they look like normal shoes. I won’t name names, but the fact that Stem’s shoes don’t look like gorilla feet and are not neon colored is a big departure from the offerings from other minimalist shoe makers. Now, with first-hand experience of their great customer service, I am confident that Stem is off to a great start as a new shoe company.

Stem's flexible outsole

Stem’s shoes have become my go-to footwear whenever I head out of the house. Some may say that Stem has made the perfect minimalist casual shoe, but I would have to disagree. I would contend that the Stem Survival Origins are the perfect casual shoe, period and would be a great option for cubicle dwellers, weekend walkers, and barefoot advocates alike.