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!

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Vibram Five Fingers for Winter: Review of the Cortina

Dirk in his Cortinas.
Dirk in his Cortinas.

Perhaps you have followed Dirk Verelst on the BirthdayShoes forum or read his previous blog post on Denim Classics in the Vibram Five Fingers 2010 European Line-up. Dirk is very knowledgeable about all things Vibram and quite a collector of unique Five Fingers. He recently scored an obscure pair of Vibram Five Fingers Cortinas, a funky boot-like winter shoe that never made it into production. He sent us pictures and the write-up that follows.

Guest Post by Dirk Verelst

As winter is upon us, many people find themselves being forced to return to regular shoes. Save a few exceptional people perhaps, no one's toes/feet can stand prolonged exposure to cold, snow and/or melting-water when wearing Vibram Five Fingers. Faced with this problem, I sought out an obscure, likely never produced (on any scale) pair of boot-like Vibram Five Fingers that might better be described as "bear paws" — the elusive sasquatch of toe shoes, the Vibram Five Fingers Cortina!

Read the rest of this post »

Doctor Volunteers to Help Others See

Dr. Srun in his Camo KSOs
Dr. Thomas Srun treats patients on his recent mission trip to India.

In this season of giving we are excited to share the inspiring story of Optometrist Dr. Thomas Srun. He volunteers his time to do mission work all over the world. His efforts help the blind see and help others see better. Oh, he is also a Vibram Five Fingers fan! Here is what he shared with us about one of his recent missions to India:

I work as an optometrist in DC and Maryland. I was selected to be one of the Optometrist to go on this mission trip in India to perform eye exams and to dispense glasses. We saw close to 10,000 patients in a matter of 8 clinic days. Part of our clinic was outdoors. Some days just seemed like it would never stop raining, but the clinic had to go on! Since I was in my Vibram KSOs, I always volunteered to be outdoors as it was easier for me to slush around in puddles of muddy water as I checked people's eyes. I'll definitely be bringing these on my next eye clinic in Jamaica in January and back to India in March!

Thanks!
Dr. Thomas Srun

What an amazing man! If you would like to help Dr. Srun support this great cause, go to his website and make a donation to the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity of Pennsylvania (VOSH/PA) and help deliver site saving surgery around the world.

Stem Footwear Barefoot Shoes

Stem Footwear Barefoot Shoes
Stem Footwear 2011 Outdoor Retailer Show Flyer

STEM Footwear has put out preview of their new line of minimal footwear to be available Fall 2011. Here is what Andrew Rademacher, STEM Footwear Inc., President of Sales had to say about STEM's new shoes:

I'm excited to announce that STEM Footwear will be UNVEILING our 2011 Origins Shoe Line in Jan. 20-23 at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, UT. Our shoes have secretly been under prototype development and testing for the last 6 months, now we are ready to REVEAL the final product in January. Check out our recently updated website to catch a sneak preview: www.stemfootwear.com

STEM Footwear uses Primitive Performance Technology using the lastest in high tech materials in a "back-to-the-basics" way. Our secret sole material allows you to naturally feel the ground as nature intended. If you'd like to find out more about our shoes, follow us on facebook and twitter. Also you can pre-order your own pair now at www.stemfootwear.com/shop.html

Thanks to everyone who has helped us create such a great response for STEM Footwear.

Check out their website and tell us what you think!

Vibram Five Fingers Sole Repair Using Shoe Goo

Guest post by Chad

It was an unhappy day when I threw out my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO shoes. I had gotten them for Christmas in 2008 and they served me faithfully throughout many miles of running in 2009, including the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon. By fall the soles had gotten thin to the point where a hole developed in the left one. I tried patching it with a bicycle tube repair kit, but that fell off after only a few miles of running.

Chad's worn KSOs with a hole that needs to be filled in.

When my next pair of KSOs showed signs of wearing out I resolved to come up with a solution. While wandering through a local sporting goods store I picked up a tube of Shoe Goo adhesive. I had used Shoe Goo many years ago, when I played high school tennis to keep my shoes in usable condition.

The Process

It turns out that Shoe Goo works terrifically well in rebuilding the thin spots of Five Fingers' soles. Application is as easy as spreading peanut butter onto a slice of bread.

  1. Read the directions. Clean the area before applying.

  2. Use a coffee stirrer or tongue depressor to spread the Shoe Goo.

  3. Apply over the area in a medium thickness.

If you want to apply an additional layer, wait a couple of hours or more then apply as before. The manufacturer’s website says to allow 24 to 72 hours to cure completely, but I’ve found that overnight will suffice.

I’m happy that I’ve found an inexpensive way to extend the life of my KSOs and will use Shoe Goo on my other Fivefinger models, including my Classics, KSO Treks, and Flows.

About the Author —

Chad is a long time contributor to BirthdayShoes.com. Here are some of his previous posts:

Thanks for the "How To" Chad!

Vibram Five Fingers Help with Plantar Fasciitis

Vibram Five Fingers Help with Plantar Fasciitis
John running in a local Turkey Trot and trail running in the Coronado Mtns, AZ.

John sent us the following story about how Vibram Five Fingers have helped him solve his plantar fasciitis problems:

Listen up kiddos. I have major feet problems, plantar fasciitis and the Army gave me inserts, which gave me stress fractures. Told me I was limited to 1/2 mile runs. You never know how much you miss running till you can't do it any longer.

A good friend and workout buddy had some Sprints on, and yeah I made fun of him. He told me to check them out, so I went on the web and hit up this site along with reading the pros and cons of barefoot running techniques. Started with the Classics, broke my feet in slowly, worked my way up to a pair of Treks, did some trail running in them out in AZ up in the mountains (Coronado), and felt like a kid again. Had to not really teach myself how to run, but to remind my body and feet to do forefoot strikes. Came back home and went crazy and bought the Bikilas and Sports.

I was having to do a walking PT test, and it sucked. Now that I am running again, I freakin' crushed the other guys in my unit out of no where on our last test. I do 8 miles about once a week and then do regular short runs of 3 miles about 3 days a week, and try to do a 5K every weekend. Get this, I've actually been placing in the top 3 sometimes and always the top 10 in my age group (40). This time last year I wasn't going more then 1 mile without pain. These shoes have made such a difference in my physical condition it's crazy.

John's hints for newbies:

  • read reviews
  • get one pair to work into and get your feet use to them slowly
  • get your second pair and rotate them out daily, I never wear regular shoes any longer except my work boots
  • get some foot powder/spray and powder your feet daily and spray the shoes
  • throw them in the washer every so often otherwise they will get funky, but don't machine dry them, hang them out
  • be prepared for questions from people you don't even know. If we all work together, this might just change the world!


I'm doing 5K races like crazy, starting to do 10Ks this month, and I feel like a teenager running from 5-10k in the Vibrams.

Much Love and Happiness
John

Thanks for the testimonial John! Sounds like you've had great results eliminating your plantar fasciitis pain and are running some really fast times.