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

Laced SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers for Fall 2012

I'm liking the black/grey or the grey/green personally.
Coming in October 2012 are the SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers (LS tacked on to any FiveFingers model means that it's got laces). These are a surprise release for 2012!

We got a glimpse of what must have been a Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa LS (laced!) prototype a bit over a month ago. With nothing to go on but speculation, I guessed that these laced SeeYas were going to show up sometime in the Spring of 2013.

Well what do you know? Vibram is actually planning on releasing the SeeYa LS in October of this year (2012)!! Photos and more after the jump!

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Skechers GO Run Ride Review

Skechers GO Run Ride Review

Overview

If I had to compare the Skechers GO Run Ride™ to another shoe of my recent experience, I’d say it’s very much like the marriage between the Saucony Kinvara2™ and the Nike Free™. It’s like the Kinvara2 in terms of low heel-to-toe drop (4mm), feel of the cushioning and the soft sock-liner interior of the upper and like the Nike Free because it’s crazy flexible. The biggest difference between the Kinvara2 and the GO Run Ride is that the GO Run Ride has significantly more toe room than the Kinvara2 because of the use of a more anatomical last. In addition the GO Run Ride is much more flexible than the Kinvara2. In terms of weight, the GO Run Ride is slightly heavier than the Kinvara2 but not by much (~.2 oz).

After the jump a full review of the GO Run Ride from Skechers!

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Shoe Innovation through Collaboration: Skechers Performance Division

Shoe Innovation through Collaboration: Skechers Performance Division

Honestly when I was first approached by Justin about doing some wear testing for Skechers™ I was a bit skeptical. After all, these days when the word “Skechers” is brought up in conversation it’s usually referring to, at best, their casual line of footwear (I myself have owned several pairs of casual and dress shoes made by Skechers). At worst, the conversation turns to the Skechers Shape Ups™ and what a controversial and frankly silly shoe this. Actually, Justin put the Shape Ups on a top 10 gimmicky shoes list awhile back (here).

However, I’d also watched Meb Keflezighi crush the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in a pair of Skechers GO Run™ shoes—not only winning the event but running a personal best time. I’d also read several favorable reviews of the Skechers GO Run. So perhaps the Skechers Performance Division was serious about making a shoe that runners would want to run in. I’ve got an open mind so I figured “why not?”

So began my interface with the Skechers Performance Division. I quickly learned that this team was very serious and very genuine about trying to build quality performance running and walking footwear. I actually wanted to share a bit about how the Performance Division came to be as well as what their vision is for Skechers. What better way to do that than to share a word from two of the leaders in the group? Meet Rick Higgins, David Raysse, and Kurt Stockbridge. These three are the V.P. of Marketing, V.P. of Design, and V.P. of Technical Development, respectively, for the Skechers Performance Division. Here's what they had to say about their brief history and their approach to making running and walking shoes.

Our team made a decision to enter the performance footwear arena three years ago. We knew that in order to be successful we’d need to take a completely different approach and build a division separate from the fashion and lifestyle arms of the company. So we assembled a small team made up of veteran individuals from many of the leading athletic footwear companies to build a line of products that will meet the needs and high expectations of the most demanding running and walking consumers. Though most of us are runners, we embrace the fact that the needs of accomplished runners are much greater than our own and thus we made the decision, as part of our process, to depend on their direct feedback and advice to help guide us towards building the best performing products possible. Our team firmly believes in this approach and that the key to our success will be the unique combination of our experience base and our ability to listen directly to runners and walkers regarding their needs. In short, our marching orders are to answer to runners rather than layers of management. And we believe that this open innovation approach coupled with complete autonomy and the support from Skechers executive team will enable success.

Once the team was in place, we dug in immediately and got to know Meb (Keflezighi) and local Manhattan Beach Ultra marathoner Christian Burke, who was introduced through this site several months ago*. We extracted as much information and subjective feedback from them as we could over a year… and the GO run was the first shoe born from this approach. The word spread and we since have formed strong relationships with many more very demanding and experienced runners, walkers, and subject matter experts. Just like us, they are very excited to be involved in building something new and pure… especially when the end result reflects their input and values. And it helps that we are both motivated by a similar objective (though from different angles) - having a wider variety of worthy footwear choices available to runners and walkers…. A true win-win scenario for everyone involved.

—Rick Higgins and Kurt Stockbridge (Skechers Performance Division)


As for my own involvement with Skechers, a couple of months ago I started receiving a number of current, soon to be released and future prototype running shoes to test, evaluate and provide feedback on (note: I receive no payment from Skechers other than from the prototype shoes I have been testing, which are provided free of charge). Basically I received a bunch of prototypes in the mail then proceeded to run in them as part of my normal shoe rotation and on my typical routes and training runs. After I’d gotten a good feel for the shoes I’d write up some comments and suggestions and pass these on to the design team. Typically they’d ask some follow-up questions and we’d carry on a good back and forth dialog.

Unfortunately, I was extremely new to the Skechers wear testing crew and arrived too late in the prototype stage to help influence any of the immanent product releases other than confirming that they are on the right track. However my input, along with that of a few other runners, is being incorporated early on in the process regarding their 2013 models currently underway.

Anyhow, I’ve been running for over 20 years and have gone through a lot of shoes; some good, some average and some downright awful! I honestly believe I know enough about running shoes, particularly off-road running shoes, to hopefully contribute some useful feedback. We'll see how it goes!

In the meantime, stay tuned for a full review of the GoRun Ride!

* Via this skeptical post about the introduction of the Skechers GoRun penned by Justin.

Xero Shoes Huaraches Review (and Connect vs. Contact)

Above pictured are the Xero Shoes Connect 4mm Huaraches with black nylon laces.
Above pictured are the Xero Shoes Connect 4mm Huaraches with black nylon laces.

Background

Xero Shoes aren't really shoes at all — they're sandals. Mind, they're not just any sandals, they're huaraches. Yes, "huaraches" is just Spanish for "sandals" — that's not the point — huaraches are the "sandal tech" made out of leather and old tires worn by the Tarahumara Indians while traversing miles and miles through the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

As legend has it, the Tarahumaran Manuel Luna taught Barefoot Ted how to make his first pair (circa 2006?), Ted took what he learned home and began sharing how to make huaraches in the U.S., and next thing you know, a few years go by and today you've got numerous flavors of huaraches to choose from, as well as a few new takes on the ancient sandal tying style.

One of the early movers and shakers in the burgeoning huaraches (pronounced wah-rah-chaise ... or at least that's how I try to say it) movement was Steven Sashen, a runner/sprinter, long-time entrepreneur, guru, and ex-comedian. You might know him from his Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say videos. Anyway, a few years back Steven made his first pair of huaraches. As he was running in them, fellow members of the Boulder Barefoot Running Club took note and asked Steven how to make their own.

One thing led to another and it wasn't long before Steven decided to make huaraches on a much larger scale and so Xero Shoes was born. Xero Shoes got its humble beginnings selling DIY kits including a sheet of Vibram rubber and colorful nylon laces. Countless kits later, Xero Shoes decided to bring to market the first ever molded rubber made-for-huaraches sole. And to date, these are still the only huaraches that use their own dedicated sole design (as opposed to cutting soles from flat sheets of rubber).

Today, I'm going to be reviewing the Xero Shoes Connect (4mm thick sole) and Contact (6mm thick sole). I'll be taking an approach that's not so much about running in Xero Shoes and more about wearing them all the time — as an ultra-minimalist sandal. I'll do a comparison of the Connect vs. the Contact, and I'll touch on how the Xero Shoes stack up against competitors.

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True Linkswear Phx (Minimalist) Golf Shoes Review

True Linkswear Phx (Minimalist) Golf Shoes Review

In early 2011, TRUE linkswear brought barefoot shoes to the attention of golfers everywhere with the first golf shoe designed to be "the closest thing to a barefoot golfing experience as possible." The shoes received rave reviews from golfers as they were the most comfortable shoe they'd ever worn both on and off the course (not much of a surprise coming from traditional shoes). I reviewed the Tour model primarily from a barefoot perspective, and while they weren't the most barefoot feeling shoe I've golfed in, they were definitely the best barefoot shoe built for golfing. You can read my original review of the TRUE linkswear Tour here.

Earlier this year TRUE linkswear released their entire 2012 line with a brand new sole and two new models (the Phx for men and Isis for women). I was able to compare the old and new Tour models, and have been testing out the new Phx for the past couple months. Overall, the new sole greatly improved the look of the shoes without altering the comfortable barefoot feel. The new Phx sports a more casual look at an extremely tempting price.

Read on for my comparison of the old and new Tour minimalist golf shoes and a review of the new TRUE Linkswear Phx.

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xkcd Immortality Vibram FiveFingers (God's Shoes!)

I *do* hear that they're the most comfortable thing to wear on your feet since sliced bread.
The xkcd comic from June 6, 2012, alluding to the magical powers of toe shoes.

Today's xkcd comic pays homage to the mystical powers of toe shoes and to the general initial aversion folks have to wearing them for the first time (despite their supposed awesome goodness). Immmortality Vibram FiveFingers? Sounds a lot like "God's Shoes" to me ...

Personally, I would gladly pay $20 to get this comic on a tshirt. Anyone know Randall Munroe? How can we make this happen? If you'd do this comment below, share this post on facebook, share it on twitter, and let's try and get Randall's attention. Maybe he'd be open to it with enough interest!

Oh right, about the "God's Shoes" — this xkcd just reminds me of the old (prescient) Married with Children episode (from 1991! — Ep. 8 of Season 6) where Al Bundy conjures up shoes with individual and calls them "God's Shoes" Check it:

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