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

Snow Running in the U.K. in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Dave went on a couple recent snow runs in the countryside of the United Kingdom in his black KSO Vibram Five Fingers.
Dave went on a couple recent snow runs in the countryside of the United Kingdom in his black KSO Vibram Five Fingers.

VFF fan Dave in the U.K. (VFFTriathlete on the forums) sent in some photos of a couple recent snow runs in his KSO Vibram Five Fingers. Here's Dave on the photos and running in Vibram Five Fingers:

Hey Justin,

Attached are pix from two of my recent trips out in the snow here in the UK in KSO's ... a quick run out to the mail box (about a 1 mile round trip). The second set is a trip round the local country park and a run up a couple of the hills.

As a triathlete I do a fair bit of barefoot running between various water sources indoors and out and transition so the Vibrams allow me to strengthen my feet for this. With any luck if I manage to get the barefoot running mileage up I might be able to start racing in them. Have recently found out 1 other person in our running club has a pair.

Good luck on your continued training, Dave! And hope you get a chance to compete in your Vibram Five Fingers!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 3/7/10

Here are the latest VFF reviews from this past week (including an interesting trial of men's KSO Treks by a woman — VFF fan M.C. at begin2dig.com!):

  • KSO Trek, Men's - fitting for women; punting to Performa at Begin to Dig [ KSO Trek, Performa ]:

    Other Points: Foot Feel; it's different. These are dandy with socks. Without sox, well, there's a lug that runs just at the top of the metatarsals, and I found myself really aware of that without sox on. With sox on it was fine. To me, the shoe felt like it was well designed for exactly what it's designed for: trails. I bet that sole would just chew up the trails. And there's the irony: that leather upper is just so NICE for the look of the shoe, it would be grand to have a regular soled KSO with this upper.

    I completely agree — give me KSOs in leather, and Classics, too!
  • Barefoot Training: Vibram Five Fingers Shoes Review at Trainer Josh [ Classics ]:

    After watching soccer players, they're sprinting and diving all over the field and their shoe's are very flexible and allow a lot of joint range of motion…the result? Very few ankle and knee problems are ever seen on the soccer field!

    Feet are much more pliable then we ever thought, and as we wear shoes our feet will adapt to them. I'm not saying to walk around the mall in your bare feet. But if you're home be barefoot and if you're training or walking then wear the Vibram Five Fingers shoes.

Go here for last week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews.

Hiking, Walking, Running, and Playing in Vibram Five Fingers Classics and Flows

Andrew plays with his dog in the kitchen in his Classic Vibram Five Fingers (in black)
Andrew plays with his dog in the kitchen in his Classic Vibram Five Fingers (in black)
Enjoying a bit of snow between the toes in his Classics, Andrew snaps a shot of a rose.
Enjoying a bit of snow between the toes in his Classics, Andrew snaps a shot of a rose.
Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers Flows, Andrew snaps a shot over some rocky terrain.
Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers Flows, Andrew snaps a shot over some rocky terrain.

Andrew Harwood sent in the above photos showing off his Vibram Five Fingers collection (black Classics and Flows). I asked Andrew to share a bit about what he's been doing in his VFFs and what he likes about them. Here is what he had to say:

I have three pair of Vibram. Two of them are black classics (one busted and I replaced it with a new pair but then fixed the broke pair) and a pair of flows.

I like the comfort of them. They feel so natural. If and when I wear normal shoes, my first instinct is to take them off when I get home. They aren't comfortable and it is always hard to find a pair of shoes that fit just right and feel good. With my VFF I keep them on no matter where I am (house, running, around work, school, etc). I also like them because when I run I can feel the ground that I am running on. I have a more keen sense of my running pattern. This is a good thing because it helps me to work on my running form. As a teen I did some running and my knees would always hurt after a long day of walking and running. I walk an average of about 5 miles a day and haven't felt my knees hurt at all. It is because I am more likely to walk mid foot or flat foot. Also, when I run, I run fore-foot (or am trying to). The shoes definitely help in my efforts. Even after running my knees don't hurt. I also like how easy they are to put on. Starting out it is a pain in the butt, but after about 8 months of using them I was able to put them on handless. Now after a year, it is somewhat like sliding my foot into slippers.

I also love how the shoes are a great conversation starter. So many funny faces and questions about them. It is great because I love talking to people but never know how to start the conversation.

You didn't ask if there was anything that I don't like. There is something I don't like and that is the smell that takes place after a week or so. I have found great ideas to take care of the smell from your forum.

I mostly walk in them. I wear them literally everywhere. I boxed up all of my old shoes and exclusively wear VFF. The only time I wear anything else is when I am in the pulpit and that is for a hour (dress shoes that I literally keep at the office under my desk). I am an assistant pastor. Outside of running I do all kinds of things. I will play ultimate frisbee in them. On the weekends I will go hike a mountain of about 3-5 miles. I run/walk the dog all the time. I put a lot of miles on my shoes. I put a lot of pressure on my feet and my feet take it so much better than my knees. I have really strengthened the arch in my foot.

Thanks for sharing, Andrew! Though some might find it curious, being able to put on Classic Vibram Five Fingers without hands is a great skill to acquire — really saves time in a pinch. And if you're looking for the aforementioned forum thread, you can read all about the various methods of Vibram Five Fingers stink removal here.

Do go and check out Andrew's blog over at The Remains of a Living and note he has a page dedicated to VFF photos.

Floating in the Dead Sea in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Krisjand is snaps a photo while floating in the Dead Sea near Masada, Israel.  The concentration of salt in the Dead Sea is so great that buoyancy is no problem!
Krisjand is snaps a photo while floating in the Dead Sea near Masada, Israel. The concentration of salt in the Dead Sea is so great that buoyancy is no problem!

Vibram Five Fingers KSO wearer Krisjand was recently traveling around Israel and toured Masada, an ancient fortress and historic stronghold adjacent to the Dead Sea.

Armed, or shall I say "footed," with his black KSO VFFs, Krisjand took the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea, which is known for it's buoyancy due to it being a salt lake*.

I asked Krisjand to share a bit about his VFF'ed photo above as well as what he's been doing in his Five Fingers and here's what he had to say:

Justin,

Yeah, me and my friends were about 20-30 feet off shore in the photo. Couldn't get more than chest deep if we wanted. I'm glad I had my KSOs, since the banks were pretty mean with the salt crystals. Definitly saved my feet as compared to my buds.

I initially bought my KSOs after doing some reading about barefoot running. I had a knee injury and surgery to remove part of my meniscus. Took a little getting used to, but found them to be great for running either indoor or out-door (though gave me some mean blisters when tried on a treadmill). I wore them outside until it started to snow (though after it rained and iced, they gripped much better than my regular running shoes) and ran an indoor track. I found that they just go too cold once wet for winter here in Germany. I have also worn them as a scuba diving boot, worked pretty well. I plan to take them with me to Afghanistan here shortly and continue running in them. Let y'all know how they hold up.

Oh, and about a week after I started running in them, a guy in my office got a pair and now everyone in his family wants some. I think once people get past the look, they see how great they are.

Krisjand.

Thanks for sharing, Krisjand. It's good to hear you're putting your VFFs to such good use (and in so may ways). Congrats on running again despite the knee injury!

Have safe travels and enjoy spreading the Vibram word around the world!

* Per Wikipedia, "The salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. This is unusually high and results in a nominal density of 1.24 kg/L. Anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea because of natural buoyancy."

Vivo Barefoot Evo Barefoot Running Shoe Review

The Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Evo Running Shoe - Just released in Spring 2010
The Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Evo Running Shoe - Just released in Spring 2010

Guest post by Harry Hollines

The first day I received my Vivo Barefoot Evo’s, I did a 35 minute workout consisting of 15 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes outside, which included running in snow and on trails, pavement and concrete. The next day, I completed a good hard 10 mile progressive tempo run, taking my pace down to 6:20 per mile. Overall, I’d have to say the experience both days was awesome. I had a tough time controlling my speed because the Evo allowed me to run effortlessly.

What makes the Evo so great? Well, it is the fact that the Evo doesn’t do much and that’s the beauty. The Evo simply protects the foot and does not interfere with the natural functioning of the foot. The Evo did not interfere or alter the form, technique, and mechanics that I developed through barefoot running. Barefoot running teaches you to land on the ball of your foot with your leg slightly bent to absorb the strain and pressure while allowing the foot to naturally roll from the outside in, taking shorter steps with a light stride while maintaining good posture alignment (I landed so softly in the Evo’s that you couldn’t hear me coming).

In other words, the Evo lets the foot do the work which should be the ultimate goal for any company that develops footwear. To achieve this desired goal, the Evo provides no stabilization support, no arch support and no heel build-up (this is a perfect “zero drop” shoe). The design allows the Arch to act as the stabilization device for the foot as nature intended without undue pressure or stress on the ankle, Plantar muscle or Achilles tendon (I’ve suffered from recent Plantar Fasciitis and I had no PF pain in the Evo).

Photos of the Vivo Barefoot Evo running shoe

Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 1 of 6 Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 2 of 6 Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 3 of 6
Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 4 of 6 Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 5 of 6 Vivo Barefoot running shoe Evo in yellow 6 of 6

Design & Performance of the Evo barefoot running shoe


The Evo has a sleek and cutting edge appearance, and is constructed well (even the lace outlets are durable). The Evo has a sleek mesh micro fiber upper constructed of TPU, with a 4mm of soft rubber cushioning on the sole providing enough protection for any surface including trail running. The design allows for breathability while also providing good warmth for colder temperatures (so far I used the Evo’s in 15F and my feet stayed toasty warm). The 4mm sole provides excellent ground feel and response time. The majority of the 8 oz. weight of the Evo rests in the sole with is very durable and puncture resistant.

The 8 oz. weight is a slight negative especially since I’m accustomed to running in 3.6 oz. racing shoes, so it took a few minutes to adjust to the extra weight but after 5 minutes, I completely forgot about the weight. Even at 8 oz., the Evo is still light enough to be categorized with racing shoes from the weight perspective. Overall, I describe the Evo as a very durable slipper to protect the feet, just as the legendary Gordon Pirie described as the perfect shoe:

The perfect running shoe should be something like a heavy-duty ballet slipper - simply an extra layer of protective material around the foot, like a glove. If you run correctly, you will be able to wear such a shoe and never be injured.

The Vivo Barefoot Evo Fit

The Evo provides a comfortable but not too tight fit. The toe box is sufficient for me with a medium “D” foot. My toes had enough room to move, breathe and grip as needed. The Evo is very flexible as you can bend the toe to the heel. However, one drawback due to the flexibility and micro fiber upper is that the upper pinched on one of my toes causing a small blister — nothing that major as a band-aid prevented any further issues with my run the next day.

Vivo Barefoot Evo Summary

Next to barefoot running, the Evo is the best footwear I’ve ever placed on my feet. The Evo, along with the Feelmax Osma and the soon-to-be-released Vibram Bikila, represent the first and only minimalist footwear specifically designed, from concept to design, for barefoot runners. Up until now, we barefoot runners would find footwear designed for other purposes and adopt them for running but now we have a few companies developing footwear specifically designed for us. Again, this is the beauty of the Evo as it is designed to not interfere with the natural functioning of the foot. This is a truly a case of “less is better.” I will be purchasing a 2nd pair shortly.

Pricing, Availability

The Achilles are available for $140 at retailers that carry Vivo Barefoot footwear or you can grab them online from VivoBarefoot.com.

About the authorHarry Hollines is a barefoot runner and active member in Barefoot Ted's Minimalist Runner Group. I asked Harry to share his initial experiences with the Evo for the Birthday Shoes community as many have inquired about the Evo, particularly in light of my recent review of the Vivo Barefoot Aqua. Check out Harry's blog My Tree of Life or connect with him on twitter @thexgen.

VFF Couple shows off the New 2010 Vibram Five Fingers KSO Color Combinations!

A photo of the black,grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for men (1 of 2)
A photo of the black,grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for men (1 of 2)
A photo of the agate, grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for women (2 of 2)
A photo of the agate, grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for women (2 of 2)
A photo of the black,grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for men (2 of 2)
A photo of the black,grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for men (2 of 2)
A photo of the agate, grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for women (1 of 2)
A photo of the agate, grey, camouflage soled Vibram Five Fingers KSO for women (1 of 2)

Above we see photos of the new 2010 camouflage Vibram Five Fingers KSO color combinations for men (black, grey, and camouflage) and women (Agate, grey, camouflage)!

Tabitha was excited to share these pictures with the BirthdayShoes community. Here is what she had to say:

We just got our new Vibram KSO's! I got them in the Agate/Grey/Camo and 'S' got them in the Black/Grey/Camo option. This is his first pair of Vibrams and my second(after wearing classics for 3 years). They are the best purchase I've made since I bought the classic in '07!

Great, Tabitha! And for anyone keeping watch, I've added the pictures of these new KSO color combinations to the Definitive Guide to KSO Vibram Five Fingers!