Stem footware cold weather experience?


I have been wearing my first pair of Vibrams exclusively since spring of last year. Now the winter has set in with full force here with minus temps, and it's just too cold to wear my Speeds.

I have been forced to dig out one of my old pairs of shoes, and I can tell you, I am hating it. This has put me on the hunt for warmer minimalist shoes (dammit, why aren't the Lontras out, yet :p).

I have been looking at the Stems and have a couple of questions:

1) Are they any warmer than VFFs in cold and/or rainy/snowy weather when you wear socks in them?
2) I've read on another barefoot blog that sharp stones etc. can puncture the sole, is that true?
3) What have your experiences been with the sizing? (I'm a M43 in Speeds.)

The main reason I haven't bought them is because I am undecided if they would make a good cold weather minimalist shoe. Or should I rather invest in another pair of Vibrams for spring and wait for the Lontras to come out next fall?

Thanks for your recommendations, take care.


  • It depends on where you live and what type of socks you are going to wear.  With injinji performance crew socks in southeast Texas, my feet were fine all the way down to the mid thirties.  They are going to let some air in, but as long as its not below freezing and you are moving, you should be fine.  They are warmer than my bikilas and komodos.  I only run on pavement right now.  I can tell you this, I would not trail run in stems.  They don't allow for alot of lateral movement and they are very breathable, so on a wet trail they would let in alot of moisture. IMO they are strictly pavement/casual minimalist shoes.  As for rocks puncturing them, unless you are running on a rocky mountain range I doubt you are going to come accross a rock that will puncture the soles.  If you watched that commercial on their website there is a part where a girl is moving down some rock trails, look at how slow she is going.  If you were to try to traverse something like that, in stems, in real life I hope you have good life inssurance.  All that being said, I love them.  They are great for everyday causal wear and pavement running.

    I followed the sizing guide on stem's website and it was perfect.
  • I wore them with Smart Wool hiking socks in mid 20s, and my feet were warm enough.  I could feel a breeze coming through so they weren't toasty, but it was tolerable, especially if I was moving around.  I hate to say it, though, but walking on snow in them sucks - they just don't get any traction.  So, if this is going to be a regular thing for you, I recommend something else.  I went for an 8 mile walk on one of the two days that we got snow here in the PNW, and I wore my Dash RunAmocs.  Traction wasn't spectacular...the snow was a little soft, and every time I took a step my foot kind of slid backwards a little, but I wasn't in any danger of falling, which was a major issue with the Stems.

    As for sizing with the Stems, I wear VFF 39 or 40 depending on style and ordered women's 9-9.5, which fit perfectly.
  • I find that Stems keep my feet drier and warmer than VFFs. The suggested size for me turned out to be too big so I went down a size and it fits just about perfect.
  • Hi and thanks for all of your helpful replies.

    @valyn85 Thanks! It was in the minus temps (still is unfortunately) toward the end of last week, and we tried to brave the elements, which while a fun experiment isn't something I want to do the whole winter. Of course I didn't have any socks on so that would probably have helped. Some of trails we run are pretty rocky and have taken bites out of Vibram soles which is why I asked about the puncturing, that and you never know when you'll run into stray glass/bottle caps/etc. on the streets. Justin mentioned in one of his reviews that the soles were more like foam rubber?

    @skye97 Thanks a lot for sharing your size, my wife wears the same size in VFFs. I was wondering how much grip the soles had, snow is partially a problem, and is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to the Lontras. Thanks for your recommendation, we're probably going to end up getting something else, Stems look like a good casual shoe for when it is a bit warmer but from what you said probably won't cut it for the winter.

    @cla Thanks, I find the sizing a little confusing for Stems, I read - I think on here or the Stem site - that they actually stretch and get a size bigger after wearing them for a while. Is that true?

    The temporary solution so far has been to dig out one of the few pairs of "normal" shoes I still have, and I've been hating it. My feet felt so much better in my Speeds, which oddly enough never gave me blisters, not the case with the transition back to my old shoes. :/

    Thanks again for all of your help, and any other suggestions/recommendation would be appreciated. Thanks!
  • Hi,

    For me my Stems are better used as a summer casual shoe when you can't wear toe shoes. In the winter (I am talking snow, ice, cold real Canadian winter) I prefer Vivobarefoot. Evo's for running and Off Road Hi for walking and hiking. When the Lontras come out it'll be yet an other great option for winter running and walking in addition to the Evo's, but I don't think I'll let go of the Off Road Hi when the snow is deep.
  • Hi Horse Rider,

    Thanks a lot for your suggestions. I have been looking at Vivobarefoot, but from what I have read they seem awfully small in the toebox. Since I have particularly wide feet, I am apprehensive about giving them a try. How has your experience been? How would you rate them compared to VFFs?
  • I was surprised to see some people thought they were narrow. Nothing is going to let the toes splay as much as Vff's unless you get clown shoes, but with my regular size feet, there is plenty of room in the toe box, and the feeling when running with the Evo's to me is almost like running with Vff's. Without the insole and with thick socks, the ground feel is pretty much the same, the sole might feel a tiny bit more stiff under foot but you really have to concentrate to feel it. They are really water resistant, my feet never get wet no matter how much snow or slush I encounter, and they look clean when I come home, they don't get dirty. I would not use them without the insole when not running though, too close to the ground to keep warm. No worries about punctures, they can take a lot.

    I don't know if you want to walk or run, but for walking, even though they are stiffer and the cleats take away ground feel, I would go for Off Roads. I tried mine without the insoles yesterday and they were fine but more comfortable temperature wise with them. For boots (and there is a minimum of separation from the ground you need to have to be protected from the cold so it has to be expected that they can't be exactly like Vff's) I think they are as minimal as they can get while still keeping you warm standing in a puddle of slush waiting for the bus at -20C. And I am sure they will be lovely for hiking too, lots of traction.
  • Hi Horse Rider,

    Thanks again for your suggestions. I think you sold us on the Off Road Hi, our hikes as of late haven't been very pleasant, and spring is a too far away. They would primarily be used for walking around town and hiking the trails we run in the warmer months. Thanks for all of your help.
  • Glad to help, let me know if and when you get them, hopefully they'll please you as much as they please me.
  • Hi Horse Rider!

    We ordered them, and the shipment arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, even though we ordered a size bigger, they were too slim for both of us. It doesn't surprise me about my feet as I have rather wide ones, however, my wife has rather slender feet. When she told me her's were too tight I knew mine weren't going to fit. This is too bad, because they seemed to be really good quality boots. Do you know if the Neo Trails are any wider?

    Thanks again for all your help, have a great day!
  • I am so so suprised and sorry to hear that  :'(. Mine are swimming at the front of the boot, if I didn't tighten the laces very hard they would be too big. The toes barely touch the end and I can splay them at will. And I don't have narrow feet. Normal going on large. Maybe you just need the next size up. I don't know the Neo Trails at all. Good luck on your quest, let us know when you find what you are looking for...
  • Have you tried the flow? I heard they were supposed to be better insulated since they are used more for water sports.  I've been running in bikilas here in Chicago, but my coldest run was only 10*.... so I guess I can't really offer any help.  Only ran for about 30mins so maybe try limited outings? 
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