Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review

I reviewed the Feelmax Kuuva 3 almost two years ago and found them to be a great pair of waterproof minimalist winter boots. In fact, they continue to be my favorite winter boots to this day.

Not one to stand on their laurels, the Finnish team at Feelmax have updated their popular boot yet again with some much-requested features for handling tougher winters.

Overview

Here's what Feelmax says about the Kuuva 4:

All new barefoot hiking boot. Improved waterproofing, new lacehooks and more durable laces. New Feelmax NatuRun Sierra outsole with "lugs" for improved grip.The outsole is zero-drop, with 2,5mm thickness, on "lugs" the thickness is 4mm. Higher design. Very comfortable and light. Waterproof inner lining and leather. Leather upper with fabric trim.

Weight | 14.2 oz (42 Euro, US 9.5)
Total Stack Height | Roughly 4mm
Barefoot scale | The best waterproof barefoot boot in the world gets updated for another season of winter fun!
Ideal Uses | Great for hiking, shoveling, catching the train, and playing in the snow.

Pros:

  • Taller and more durable than the Kuuva 3
  • Good traction with improved tread design
  • 100% waterproof
  • High-slung tongue
  • Thin, yet protective sole
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible

Cons

  • Not very breathable
  • The Heaviest Kuuva yet
  • Still no heel loop
  • Laces become untied easily

Price | €169.98 at time of review ($180 US)

Sizing | My size 42 Kuuva 4 (I upped one size from the Kuuva 3 I reviewed for more space and comfort) is an excellent fit for my wide feet. There is a generous toebox and a pretty wide ankle area.

If you have wide feet or odd ankles, this shoe will be a great fit for you. There is a very large opening for your feet and you can increasingly tie down your foot with the ample lacing points. It has a great anatomical fit.

Get acquainted with the Feelmax Kuuva 4 via these photos:

Sole

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The updated 2.5mm Naturun Sole

The Kuuva 4 features an upgraded version of Feelmax’s NatuRun 2.5mm “Sierra” outsole that is also used in the Vasko II. This is paired with a new lug design that has deeper treads and extra traction “nub” textures for good grip.

Like previous Kuuva boots, this sole is very flexible and provides a amount of ground feel that rivals many other minimalist shoes and is a standout for a true winter boot.

One of the weaknesses of the Kuuva 3 was its shallow logs and somewhat poor traction, especially for a winter boot. The newest version of the Kuuva features deeper lugs, a more aggressive sole, and the addition of small textures to aid in traction. All things being considered, they were great for climbing on snowy rocks and setting up sled runs. The lugs are still not as aggressive as traditional snow boots, but they do a great job and are a definite improvement over the older sole. As an additional benefit, while the treads have been redesigned for better traction, they are still not as deep as heavy duty boots, which means you won’t track in as much of the nasty stuff when you come home or get into your car.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The more aggressive Kuuva 4 sole vs the smoother Kuuva 3 sole

Small details like twigs, variations in snow and ice, and small pebbles can be felt underfoot, especially if you wear thin socks. The overall thinness of this sole does not detract from its toughness as the treads get a bit more aggressive in this iteration and the boot gets a tougher build all around; while you feel a lot, you will be protected from the elements. You cannot smash things like with more block-like boots, so be careful when kicking ice or jamming your heel into a snowbank!

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review

The groundfeel for the Kuuva 4 is similar to a Vibram Bikila LS (and better than the Bikila EVO and V-Run shoes); roughly equivalent with anything in the 4-6mm stack height range.

The boot is so thin that I actually decided to take it for a test run of a couple miles during a hailstorm and they can do well to help you catch a runaway train or lyft. They are not quite as good for this purpose as the Kuuva 3 because the 4 is a bit taller, but you can still run around quite a bit in them.

They are excellent sledding boots: When you need to feel what your feet are doing, but still need to jam your heels into the hill, or dash off to reach ramming speed.

The boot itself is very flexible and you can easily do an upward toe flex, but not a downwards flex.

The Kuuva 4 strikes a nice balance between insulation/warmth and moisture management. After shoveling for a couple of hours and hiking for the better part of a day in 20 degree weather, my feet never felt cold, but they did start to get a bit sweaty as time went on the day became warmer. This boots are fantastic for late fall-to-winter wear.

Fit and Materials

The Kuuva is comprised of a soft inner lining fabric, the waterproof mid layer, the 2.5mm NatuRun sole, and a combination leather and nylon upper. The leather extends from the sole of the shoe and about ¾ up the shoe and ankle (up the metatarsal guard in the front the and back stay). The Nylon takes over around the hinge point of your foot and in the construction of the tongue.

The tall collar is nicely padded and feels great. It does a great job of keeping out snow. The tongue was smartly designed to start quite a bit more than halfway up the entire boot to prevent any water or snow for leaking in. However, this does make it a little bit more difficult to put the boot on; this is a boot that may require kneeling or sitting down to take on or off. Overall, I found the mouth of the boot to be more than large enough for me to put on and take off with ease, but not in a hurry. I do wish that they would include a heel loop so this process can be even faster. There is a little tab in the back, much like the Kuuva 3, but it’s not really usable because of how small it is.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The high-slung tongue starts about 2/3 of the way up the boot; higher than a standard boot for added protection from puddles and snowbanks

Because the waterproofing is in the mid-lining, the leather and nylon upper can get wet. The leather and nylon is water resistant, but not waterproof. You will find that they will soak in a bit when you are active in the snow for a while, but your feet will stay dry, except for perhaps some sweat. I highly recommend that you treat your boots with some sort of waterproof treatment to help the leather last a long time and to further enhance the waterproofing of the boot. You can try sprays, such as Kiwi, Scotchgard, or Nikwax, but I highly recommend using wax for extra peace of mind and to toughen up various materials as well; I use boot beeswax for most of my outdoor gear and all of camera bags—just rub some on and use a heatgun/hairdryer to soak it into leather, canvas, or nylon.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The cushy, padded collar keeps stuff out and keeps feet warm

The Kuuva 3 has a "Cleanport NXT" organic anti-odor treatment in the insole, which is removable. The insole is very thin at around 1mm and I just kept it in for the extra odor protection.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The Cleanport NXT-treated insole

Because of the waterproof lining, the boots are not as very breathable. After wearing The Kuuva 3 for an extended period of time, my feet did get a little sweaty, even with socks on, but it’s a compromise to have a truly waterproof boot.

The Kuuva 4 has six metal eyelets that run from the arch of the metatarsal guard to the collar: three set, three hooked. I only used five of the eyelets for better mobility, but utilizing all six will give you the most security and waterproofing. I did notice that the somewhat stiff and rounded laces tend to get untied more often than my other boots, but a double-knot kept them in place for hours. In the future, I hope that Feelmax tries out some new lace options. Personally, I find that plusher, squishier laces, like those found in the Vibram Trek Ascent Insulated, to have excellent tying retention and durability.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
The Kuuva 4 features six metal eyelets for lacing. Three are set/fixed and three are hooked. I only utilize five of the eyelets for my own personal comfort.

When placed side-by-side with its older brother, the Kuuva 3, it is immediately noticeable that the Kuuva 4 is a more substantial, rugged, and overall more attractive boot. The Kuuva 4 is a good deal taller than the 3 and it looks more premium and less busy that the rather flat-looking Kuuva 3. Interestingly, while the Kuuva 4 is taller, it actually has two fewer eyelets for its laces than the 3. One of the eyelets in the older boot actually snapped off when I was tying them in a hurry last winter, and Feelmax has improved the durability of the latest Kuuva with thicker metal in their eyelets.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
Kuuva 4 vs Kuuva 3. The Kuuva 4 is taller, more substantial, and durable

In terms of fit, the Kuuva 4 has a bit more vertical space in its toebox than the Kuuva 3, but less arch space halfway into the boot; you can always increase this space by loosening up the first set of laces. The tongue is also more padded for comfort and security.

In a waterproof test, I stood in a puddle with a Kuuva 3 on my left foot and a Kuuva 5 on my right foot…and waited, and waited, and waited. According to Feelmax they improved on the waterproof elements of the Kuuva 3 with the Kuuva 4 and I can say that both boots are 100% waterproof and my favorite boots for winters in Boston. The Kuuva 4 does have a higher collar and some updates to the materials that will contribute to it being better for deeper snow and puddles, but this comes at the cost of weight. At 14 oz, the Kuuva 4 is still lightweight, but it is nearly 3 oz heavier than its predecessor. This puts it in the same league as most minimalist trail shoes, which is an achievement considering the capabilities of the sole and the waterproofing.

In terms of durability, my untreated Kuuva 3 boots are holding up nicely and should last a few more years. I expect the more substantial Kuuva 4 to last even longer. Unlike other chukkas or minimalist boots in my collection, I do not have to baby them; they can handle every game of king of the mountain, sled run, or the worst brown water that the city can offer. I will probably maintain a nice layer of wax to keep them waterproof and handsome for future adventures.

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review
My favorite winter boot

Future Improvements

For one, I would change the laces for better durability and tying management and, of course, add a heel loop. Besides that, there is not a lot that can really add to this nearly-perfected winter boot.

To be honest, they are a bit on the pricier side, However, you are getting a premium boot that will keep your feet dry and happy when things get cold. If you love your shoes comfortable and flexible, then you probably see tons of thick, plodding boots around town and view them as strapping on cement blocks just to play in the snow. The Kuuva 4 bucks that idea with something that is more comfortable, just as durable, and just as playful as you are.

Summary

If you are a minimalist enthusiast looking to keep your feet happy during the winter months, the Feelmax Kuuva 4 are just about perfect.

With a 2.5mm sole, you get a super flexible and lightweight boot, while its waterproof lining and interior fabric keeps your feet warm. While it is not as light as its predecessor, the improvements that Feelmax implemented in terms of durability and usability more than make up for it.

The Kuuva remains the best waterproof boot on the market and the only boot I wear for my messiest, and most fun, winter adventures. If you're interested in picking up a pair, head over to the Feelmax website!

Feelmax Kuuva 4 Boot Review

A huge thanks goes to Feelmax for sending me the Kuuva 3 for review!

  • minimalist sandals!

    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Maria Climbs to the South Arete Summit in her KSOs

Maria Coryell-Martin sits atop South Arete Summit, 7,807 ft, wearing her black KSO FiveFingers, which she used to climb to the top! Photo credit: Joel Reid
Maria Coryell-Martin sits atop South Arete Summit, 7,807 ft, wearing her black KSO FiveFingers, which she used to climb to the top! Photo credit: Joel Reid

Maria, an artist and VFF-fan who we've seen previously here on birthdayshoes, alerted me to a recent post on her site, Expeditionary Art, about her doing some technical climbing in her KSO Five Fingers with Injinji socks.

Here's what she had to say about the climb from her blog:

Last month I enjoyed a beautiful climb up the South Arete of the Early Winter Spires in the North Cascades. Though I love strolling in the high country, I don’t often do technical climbing. Thanks to my brother-in-law and climber extraordinaire Joel Reid for leading the adventure! Our climb was in mid-October and there was already a dusting of snow on the ground. While considering the 1.5 mile+ approach and climb, I opted to wear my KSO Vibram Five Fingers with a pair of Injinji socks. The shoes gave great traction and I was impressed how great my feet and knees felt at the end of the long day. As for the cold, as long I kept moving, I had no problems.

Quite am amazing view from the top. You can see Maria's black KSO VFFs up close here! Maria added that though the VFFs weren't "super sticky" on the technical climbs, she liked having her toes free!

Thanks for sharing, Maria!

Kim Tours the Southwest U.S. in KSO Five Fingers

Kim Tours the Southwest U.S. in KSO Five Fingers
Kim was able to manage her bus trip through the Southwest despite being on crutches thanks to the ground-feel provided by her KSO Five Fingers!

In the mailbag came the above photos from Kim who recently toured the Southwestern part of the United States. The photos show off Kim's KSO Five Fingers, which despite Kim being on crutches, enabled Kim to maintain stability and traction on her tour. Here's what she had to say:

I had a bus trip thru the American Southwest scheduled with my Mom for October, but ended up on crutches for the trip.

I wore my KSO's anyplace that I felt I needed enhanced traction and stability - Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon. Couldn't call it hiking - but they made the difference for being able to participate/get off the bus or not.

Wore wool Injinji's because it was COLD ... my feet stayed pretty warm while I was moving.

All of the Native American guides thought that the shoes were a complete hoot! One of the guys in Canyon de Chelly said that there was a [fellow VFFer] there the week before me that had really large feet—he was in brown KSO's or Treks. They said that when the park rangers came to check the canyon in the evening they saw the footprints and went, "What is THAT from!?!?" ... the Natives told him that there had been a verifiable 'Big Foot' sighting in the canyon that day.

There's something strangely satisfying about leaving recognizable footprints despite being "shod" in Five Fingers. I've seen some of the larger sizes of VFFs (M48 for example) and they are truly monstrous!

Thanks for sharing, Kim!

Five Fingers Running in Japan with Alex

Five Fingers Running in Japan with Alex
Alex is enjoying running around in Tokyo in his Five Fingers — any other VFFers in Japan?
Five Fingers Running in Japan with Alex
Alex does the Vibram Five Fingers kick on a wooded trail outside Tokyo!

Alex sent in the above photos showing off his grey Sprint Five Fingers that were taken in Japan, where Alex lives. Here's what he had to say:

Hi Justin,

Went for a 20km trail run through some picturesque regions of Tokyo's western suburbs in my FiveFinger sprints (and red toe socks)!! Nice and cool autumn weather right now too. The great thing about living in Japan is that after a long tiring run, one can soak themselves in Japan's excellent hot springs - which is what we did at the end of our trek.

I only know one other (my mate) person in Tokyo with FiveFingers - so I would love to hear from anyone else out there who maybe keen to meet up and hit some trails together in VFFs. You can email me at tastrans gmail com.

Cheers, Alex.

word passed on, Alex! Any others out there near Tokyo looking to run trails in their Five Fingers! Comment below or email Alex!

Thanks for sharing!

Tree-climbing in Flow Five Fingers with Jerald

Tree-climbing in Flow Five Fingers with Jerald

Jerald sent in the above photo of him climbing a tree in his Five Fingers Flows. The images are shot in "VFF-view" (VFFV?), a view similar to that which you get in a FPS computer game.

Anyway, here's what Jerald had to say:

I climbed a tree in my Flows and that's not all I do, I also Practice Parkour in them, and my KSO's.

[I asked Jerald how he like Five Fingers for parkour, and he added:]

Parkour is Great, the laser sipped sole is perfect for running up Brick walls. And the tree climbing is a blast, I feel alot more connected with nature.

Tree-climbing and parkour — two types of physical activity that likely have roots going back as far as the dawn of homo sapiens. That you can do both in your "birthday shoes" makes a great deal of sense!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 11/15/09

This week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews:

  • Vibram FiveFingers Sprint First Impressions by Craig Sheppard [Sprint]:

    So what does it feel like to frolic in the park, shod with Five Fingers?

    Really, really liberating. You feel like you have all-terrain barefeet. The lack of padding means you feel every stick, stone, and crack on the ground, which does cause you to watch where you're going. But knowing your feet are protected means you feel like you can go anywhere. There is an amazing amount of grip in the soles as well. I find them strangely energizing. I don't have much patience for running, I should admit. It seems laborious, monotonous, and uncomfortable. Yet, doing a mile here or there in the FiveFingers is invigorating. I've had to go slow and short to adjust, it's sort of re-learning to run all over again. There's a fresh novelty factor involved I'm sure, but I have a feeling it may go deeper than that.

For last week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews, go here!

Robin and Erik Take on Indonesia in Vibram Five Fingers

Robin and Erik Take on Indonesia in Vibram Five Fingers
Random Indonesian Monkey is put at ease by human with "Monkey Shoes."
Robin and Erik Take on Indonesia in Vibram Five Fingers
Skipping about in Indonesia in KSO Five Fingers. It's hard not to frolic in VFFs.
Robin and Erik Take on Indonesia in Vibram Five Fingers
A bit of bouldering in Vibram Sprints.
Robin and Erik Take on Indonesia in Vibram Five Fingers
Robin and Erik explore Indonesia, getting a great feel for the place via their Vibram Five Fingers.

Robin and Erik (photoed above and also see the additional photos below!) took a two week trip to Indonesia. They spent the first ten days surfing and the remainder of the trip climbing Mount Rinjani, adjacent to Lake Segara Anak, to see the volcano there (photoed below).

And of course, they did it all in their Vibram Five Fingers — Sprints and KSOs in this case. Here's Robin's note on the trip:

Greetings from Sweden!

Here are some pics of V5F-adventures in Lombok Indonesia. In them you see Robin and Erik running with buffalos in the hills of Gerupuk and climbing Mount Rinjani (3726m) where the beautiful Lake Segara Anak(2000m) is. When climbing the mountain we walked in V5F for 24h in a 50h period. The shoes were wonderful for hiking, wouldn't want to wear any other shoes, but our feet got quite sore after all the walking. Amazing nature, check out the lake in google earth, it's absolutely out of this world beautiful. Also the shoes are great for surfing, much better than the camel toe surf boots which are commonly used. We love the shoes and can't wait to run Stockholm Marathon in the Bikilas.

I took Robin's advice and checked out the Lake on Google Maps. Amazing to see the reflecting mountains on the lake via satellite. Incredible!


View Larger Map

Below are more photos from Robin and Erik's trip. Looks like quite a Five Fingers adventure! Anyone else want to go to Indonesia now?

Photos of Robin and Erik gallivanting about Indonesia in their Vibram Five Fingers

Photos of Lake Segara Anak and Mount Rinjani, Indonesia