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

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 12/20/09

This week's lastest V5F reviews includes one from Boris, who reviews the elusive and discontinued Five Fingers Surge:

  • Review - Vibram Five-Finger Surge at Life in Training [Surge]:

    This may not seem like much but in cooler water this is important as well as the fact that they reach higher up the leg allowing you to tuck your wet suit in and eliminate any gap between the shoe and the wetsuit. To put it simply they will keep you warm, but don't be fooled by that as they are not cold water shoes, with 2mm thickness they won't work for freezing water as you'll need a pair of old school water-shoes with some 5-6mm thickness to keep from losing a toe or two.

  • Running With Vibram’s 5 Fingers “Barefoot” Shoes by Brian Wong [Sprint]:

    I must say, I’ve grown quite attached to my Vibrams. I feel great running in them and using normal shoes just makes me feel like I’m wearing clumsy flippers.

    Also, the first week of using them caused my shins and calves to ache a lot! So I guess it is true that you will mobilize muscles that you don’t normally use with normal running shoes.

  • Get your kicks: Vibram Five Fingers at Rogue Rundown [Sprint]:

    I would recommend for most that if you are going to run in them—and you should, if only for a mile or two, just for the experience—that you ease into them, let your body rewire and recalibrate, rather than just put them on and knock out ten kilometers or whatever. The first time I ran in them, I ran maybe a mile, maybe a bit less. After about thirty seconds, my body had mechanically adapted—my stride was shorter, my steps lighter, I stood much more upright. But the thing I noticed greater than anything was that I wanted to keep running, I wanted to run more. So I only ran a mile or so the first few times, because I’m older and wiser and am thankful to be able to run, and I certainly didn’t want to screw that up.

  • Review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek bu John Biggs at CrunchGear.com [KSO Trek]:

    I found these shoes to be on par with the Classics in terms of range of motion and protection. I ran down the icy streets of Jozefow, Poland, where my in-laws are, with nary a slip or slide and I wore these shoes without socks in sub-freezing weather, much to my mother-in-law’s chagrin.

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

Will Reminisces on Warmer Times in VFF Sprints

"Dear Diary, Let's face it, diary. Chicks can't keep their toes off me."
"Dear Diary, Let's face it, diary. Chicks can't keep their toes off me."

Justin,

I was poking through some of my photos on Flickr and came across the attached shot from September. It made me miss the extended warm weather and out door running we had in Wisconsin this year. I've been running indoors all winter because of asthma. I do, at least, enjoy the funny looks I get at the gym running in the VFFs!

Hurry up, winter!

VFF my BFF,
-Will

I imagine it's quite cool in Wisconsin now! Stay warm, Will!

Aquathlons and Vibram Five Fingers (KSO Treks and Sprints)

A photo montage from Luis Manuel Cid (Inset in blue wetsuit, KSO Treks) and Luis Armando Santiago (Sprints) at an Aquathlon.  Click the image for a larger version!
A photo montage from Luis Manuel Cid (Inset in blue wetsuit, KSO Treks) and Luis Armando Santiago (Sprints) at an Aquathlon. Click the image for a larger version!

Luis Manuel Cid sent in the above photos from a recent aquathlon he completed—Luis is the one in blue and Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks. His friend, also named Luis, is in the Sprints.

If you've not heard of an aquathlon before, they are a race that involves running and swimming.

I asked Luis how his KSO Treks fared in the race and, since Luis has been wearing his Treks now for a couple of months, how they've performed generally. Here's Luis:

The Treks are doing great, they were the first VFF I bought and are still my favorite Vibram model. I bought them when they first came out in September and took them out of the box for a 14 mile run. This was after a few weeks of barefoot running which in retrospect was way too little foot strengthening for running such a distance, but luckily I have done just fine. I also have bought the Classics and the KSOs which I also think are great, but the Treks Roo leather wrap around my feet more tightly and comfortably, some refer to this as a more luxurious feeling. The sole has a great grip, even in asphalt, and being a little thicker than the others I think it is more forgiving on newbie running mistakes. Perhaps this has to do with no injuries and many, many miles since I got them back in September.

My only minor complaint is that on very long runs (over 15 miles) on hot and humid conditions the leather inner sole feels a bit slippery. I actually did not swim on them in the aquathlon as they were considered an artificial propulsion device under the rule book ... not sure how they would have helped me swimming but the rules say:

Any swimmer wearing any artificial propulsion device, including but not limited to fins, gloves, paddles, or floating devices of any kind shall be disqualified.

As you can also see below, Luis wears his KSO Treks to work. I don't think sitting an office desk ever looked so comfortable! Thanks for sharing Luis!

"I took the VFFs for an 8 mile run on the afternoon after the morning Aquathlon. Then they went to the washer machine and back to my feet for work this morning!. Only shoe I know capable of performing all these tasks, most versatile shoe I have ever owned
"I took the VFFs for an 8 mile run on the afternoon after the morning Aquathlon. Then they went to the washer machine and back to my feet for work this morning! Only shoe I know capable of performing all these tasks, most versatile shoe I have ever owned!"

How Kyle Steed got into VFFs and Running

How Kyle Steed got into VFFs and Running

Above is a photo from Kyle Steed taken of his KSO VFFs and some local ground art.

Kyle recently got into Five Fingers, which he aptly calls "the whole VFF movement." Here's what he had to say:

Justin,

Here's a bit about why I got into the whole VFF movement.

I heard an interview on NPR about barefoot running. They were talking about the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. My wife first heard the interview and called me one afternoon to tell me to turn it on and listen. After listening to his story about going to Mexico and witnessing this group of people who ran long distances in no more than thin leather sandals, I was intrigued. The thought that running barefooted, or with Vibrams, could help prevent knee injury and actually help improve your run was what really motivated me to get a pair of my own.

I spent probably a good week or two researching online to find out what model I wanted, as well as reading other articles on Wired.com, The Wall Street Journal and other smaller blogs. I have now logged about 12 miles in my KSO VFFs, and while that may not sound like a lot, it's a beginning. My goal for next year is to enter and complete a half-marathon and possibly a full marathon.

You can keep up with how my runs are going on DailyMile.com.

Thanks.

Kyle also did a nice video about his first run in Vibram Five Fingers. Check it out:

[video:vimeo:8001683]

Kyle may be doing future video updates on running in his VFFs, and you can stay on top of that over at his blog kylesteed.com!

Hiking at the Great Wall of China in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

David hiked to the Great Wall of China in his Five Finger KSOs.  Here are two VFF-shod views from a scenic section!
David hiked to the Great Wall of China in his Five Finger KSOs. Here are two VFF-shod views from a scenic section!

David sent in the above photos taken on a recent trip traveling to the Great Wall of China, which David hiked to wearing his black KSO Vibram Five Fingers. I asked David to tell us about the hike:

It was a 10 km hike from Jinshanling to Simatai along both rough and repaired sections of the wall. Since it is winter, it was quite cold — below freezing. As we approached the wall through the valley, I thought I might end up with frostbite! (I had backup shoes and socks just in case).

Once we got on the wall, it warmed up and I was much more comfortable. It was relatively deserted since it is off-season, but there were still many locals around to hawk their wares. Most noticed the VFF's and pointed them out, and I heard (though did not understand) quite a bit of Chinese that I think had my funny shoes as the subject.

As to the hike itself, the VFF's fared quite well. There were a number of scrambles up broken stairs, a tiny climb here and there, but mostly walking along uneven stone the entire way. I definitely enjoyed the grip and feel of these more than I would have sneakers or hiking boots.

Nothing like VFFs for impromptu scrambling up old ruins and boulders. From the photos, it looks like it was a beautiful (albeit chilly per your description) day to see the Wall.

Thanks for passing on the experience!

More on FiveFingers Joggling with Joe Salter

As a follow-up to Joe's recent Philly marathon-in-Five-Fingers-joggling finish, Joe sent me a nice video showcasing some unedited footage of 40 joggling tricks:

Anyone else suddenly getting the itch to learn how to juggle — and maybe even eventually joggle? Or is it just me?

Joe also had this to say:

Juggling and running go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Juggling and running in VFF's go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made by your mom.

Joggling in VFF's increases the full body experience and sensations you get from joggling. I really enjoy the lightness of my steps in VFF's, which complements the soft tosses and catches of the juggling beanbags. It's a smooth combination; one that puts you in a synchronized balancing act. One step and toss at a time.

People often wonder why we wear VFF's. If you're interested in learning why people joggle, check out my article on the "Psychology of Joggling."

Regards,
Joe Salter
Florida

I asked Joe if it was hard to acquire the meditative state often claimed by runners — with so much going on, it seemed almost like you've have to be too aware. Apparently, that's not the case at all though. With such a full-body activity, it seems joggling may be even more effective at "silencing" the mind. Here's Joe:

Joggling becomes second nature, so it can be very absorbing, yet I am able to focus on a lot of other things if I want to because it's automatic. When you're first starting out, I think it's more absorbing because it demands your full concentration. But, once you get experienced with it, it's up to you how meditative and absorbed you want to get. I allow myself to to be absorbed and get into a wonderful rhythm and flow.

So, to answer your question I do think that joggling is more meditative than running, or at least it can be. I think it adds more repetition and full body synchronized movement, which brings about calmness.

Check out the book called "Flow" if you have not. Or read about it, by Dr. C (he has a very long last name, he's hungarian I think).

On a different note, most people think that jogglers would be less aware than runners. But, for me, joggling heightens my senses and makes more more sensitive to my environment because I have to. Kind of like VFF's, barefoot running, or riding a motorcycle. For example, I hear a lot better because I listen closer to my environment when a car is coming behind me because it's a little harder to turn around while joggling than running, even though I can do it easily but it just wastes time (you just turn at the waist and look behind you).

I am also more aware of my environment because it releases an adrenaline rush because you're doing something that people think is really neat and it's unique especially in a urban area. So, in that sense, I am more aware because I am scanning my environment and always looking around for potential cars, curbs, holes, or people to interact with while joggling (smile at them, show a trick, say hello to them).

It really is a great mind body exercise. Juggling in itself is very meditative, or flow-like, because it's challenging, absorbing, and repetitive. Same with running. Put them together, and you get more opportunities for flow experiences.

The book Joe mentions is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Reading through a few of the reviews, it reminds me a bit of another psych-book that I read earlier this year by Dr. William Glasser called Positive Addiction, which discusses running (and other physical activities) that can induce a meditative state.

Thought-provoking stuff. Now I just need to go find some bean bags ...