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

Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks at Work with Alan

Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks at Work with Alan
Alan sports his black KSO Trek fivefingers in the corporate environment, blazing a trail for future lovers of five-toed footwear. And who's that long-haired fellow in the background? A future VFFer, perhaps.

Alan ("shapeshifter" on the forums) posted some initial thoughts on wearing his new black KSO Trek fivefingers to work. As the KSO Treks are still so new, I asked Alan if he'd mind I share his thoughts with the blog at large.

Here's Alan:

Thursday marked the first week since I started wearing the KSO Treks in the corporate environment as a daily part of my work attire. Although having worn them to and from work since september 9th, I had previously made it a habit of switching out to a more traditional shoe while on the clock. Finding it difficult to wear monotoed footwear every day, it just became apparent to me last Friday that there should be absolutely no reason to have to go back to wearing anything that felt so uncomfortable while being so unhealthy.

Luckily for me, I have a pretty good rapport with most coworkers and find it easy to converse with those I haven't met. Most seem to be more aware of me for being a surfer/skateboarder which already sets me apart ... Quite a few have noticed the five finger shoes as the week progressed and today work literally stopped in one department while a lively discussion about footware ensued.

Not too sure which way all this will eventually lead. Hopefully acceptance so other folks actually feel comfortable enough to wear their five fingers to work. Or it could backfire and all this attention could lead to a line drawn on apparel with a slipper definition given to toed shoes (as with mens open toe sandals) as a reason to forbid them on the premises. It would be at this point that I would have no other recourse than to be subversive and wear my treks stealthily cloaked under the disguise of a traditional shoe (sans the sole). Hope upon hope that day never comes.

As one manager quipped: "Oh, those are the shoes they were talking about at the meeting today!"

The revolt against Mono-toed Footwear has begun!

Alan, thanks for being a champion for fivefingers in the workplace! Keep us posted on their acceptance (and if you pick up any converts along the way!).

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 10/11/09

This week's latest VFF reviews includes a first review of the Moc!

  • Long-term use, and "Tribute" to Classic FiveFingers here at BirthdayShoes [Classics]:

    Given that most of our time is spent doing mundane, everyday things, the kinds of things that don't require a velcro strap, given that we are creatures of convenience and comfort, and finally that we desire the freedom of being barefoot but also need to find balance in a world with cultural norms (and broken glass), Classic fivefingers are must-have VFF model for any fan of this funky footwear. I know wouldn't give up my Classics for anything (and I want more).

    If you don't yet have a pair, you don't know what you're missing.

  • Review – Vibram FiveFingers Moc from LivingBarefoot.info [Moc]:

    This is another strong product from Vibram’s FiveFinger lineup. The Mocs are incredibly comfortable, pleasantly warm, and feel luxurious. They are the most pleasant feeling FiveFingers I have tested to date. They are appropriate for most indoor activities, and offer some protection and warmth in a comfortable package. More than any other FiveFingers model, these are truly gloves for your feet.

Last week's latest reviews are here.

Juergs finishes Reading 50K in Five Finger KSO Treks

Juergs finishes Reading 50K in Five Finger KSO Treks
Juergs flashes the peace sign before running his first 50K ultra marathon in his Vibram KSO Treks.
Juergs finishes Reading 50K in Five Finger KSO Treks
Check out Juergs' rainbow injinji socks! Excellent racing combo with the VFF KSO Treks!

Juergs completed his 50K ultra last weekend in under six hours (See our last meeting with Juergs' where he talks about training with his new KSO Treks). He ran the race in the new KSO Treks.

Here is Juergs' account of the race:

31 miles 6:00hrs
The first half of race I ran 9:30m/m ...
Mile 16 I saw a nice sharp rock and thought to myself “Don’t hit ... OUCH!!!” That reduced me to a walk for a little bit.

By mile 18 I was down to 10:00m/m
Mile 20 down to 11:00m/m God this sucks… my feet hurt
Mile 26 down to 12:00m/m feet feel like hamburgers

Mile 27.4 I pick up my pacer for in the last 3.6 miles
I tell her that we are going to do a lot of walking… She tells me I
doing great and we just have a few hills and then it is down hill to
the start

The next 3 miles we clock sub 10:00m/m
0.5 mile to go and am running sub 9:00m/m
My Pacer sees me pulling away from her and yells “Get 'em!”
There are two guys in front of me, one of which I can not even see yet.

I pick off the first with ease.
I come around a bend and I see the next guy.
He is far. I think “Pain is only temporary” I push.
0.3 mile to go and am running sub 5:00m/m
I pass him ... the race is done.

Engine felt great
But where the rubber meet the road was sore.

Peace,
Juergen

Here is Juergs' GPS data from the 50K/31 mile race.

Juergs' told me that he went ahead and ran three miles the next day and had no major issues with his feet recovering. Further, he's already planning his next 50K in VFF Treks (in December or January).

Congratulations on your finish, Juergs!

Marsha Rows in Classic Vibram Five Fingers

Marsha shows off her black Vibram fivefinger Classics she wears for rowing.

I ran into Marsha via twitter — it seems Marsha rows in her Classic Vibram FiveFingers. As I hadn't yet had any submissions from rowers, I asked Marsha to share a bit about her experiences with VFFs rowing and here is what she had to say:

Justin,

[I got my fivefingers because] I wanted something I could walk on the dock and boatyard with when lifting and carrying boats to the dock. When we do crew rowing we have permanent shoes in the boat that we slide our feet into. Most people put socks on (stuffed into the leg of their uni) when they get onto the seat and some wear water shoes if the permanent shoes are too big (Masters rowing we share men's & women's boats, so the shoes are often too big). The socks get wet and when we dock we need to find our shoes, which means we have to take the socks off and put our shoes on before lifting the boat out of the water and carrying it up the dock to wash and store!

I am sure you can see the value of the Five Fingers—I had at least 20+ questions yesterday on my [Classic VFFs] and socks. The director and former National Teams member Stanford Coach said, "Marsha you always find the coolest things." ...

Both Yaz Farooq (Gold Medal Olympic coxswai)n and the Coach of Stanford Colliegiate Women NCAA Champions knew all about [VFFs]. She said, "They are for running," when showing another of the coaches on her team, so I told her I had never run in them—but they rocked for boat use.

Like I said, I never have to take them of—all day, in and out of the boats, up and down the dock. I [think I] will be seeing lots of them as so many people commented and loved them. I will be getting another pair, probably a colored pair.

I am going to try them next on the rowing machine (ERGOMETER). I teach a indoor rowing class, I will let you know.

Best, Marsha
BIAC/NORCAL Crews,
Redwood City, California

Sounds like your fivefingers are a real match for rowing! I actually have used mine on the "Erg" and they seem to do fine in that application with the only "hitch" being that the straps tend to be way too loose having been set for prior users wearing sneakers.

Thanks for sharing, Marsha!

The perfect pair: matching black injinji socks with black Classic VFFs.

Marc says, "Tough to beat a Classic"

Marc says, "Tough to beat a Classic"
Marc points his brown and walnut Classic Five Fingers up to a beautiful blue sky after running sprints.

Marc sent in the above photo of his brown/walnut Classics pointed skyward towards a palm tree (beautiful shot!). And just like me (See my tribute to Five Finger Classics post), Marc loves his Classic VFFs:

Hey Justin,

I’ve been enjoying your site for a while and never sent in a picture.

After a heavy sprint session in my classics this morning, put up my legs against a nice palm tree and stared at the clouds for a while. I enjoy all the new models ... but it’s tough to beat a classic, was my thought this morning ;-)

Have a good one and keep spreading the good word.

Will do, Marc! And thanks for sharing! You can follow Marc via twitter @MarcVanDam or check out his blog Feel Good Eating!

Thanks for sharing!

Christopher McDougall is making the rounds on his book tour

A lot of you read the Roving Runner piece from the NY Times this past weekend (as well as other press), which featured Born to Run author Christopher McDougall and barefoot running convert showing running through central park with Brian Fidelman — barefoot, of course.

Well, it seems Mr. McDougall passed through Atlanta on his book tour this past Friday on his book tour (and I just found out today!). I assume that's when this CNN video interview of him was shot:

e some nice photos in the video from Luis Escobar of the Tarahumara Copper Canyons Ultra that is one of the main stories in BtR. If you're paying attention, I think I saw some fivefinger Sprints on the grass there, too.

Finally, Charleston, South Carolina's Post and Courier had an article today titled Vibram hits its stride, which is a fun read about the growing success of VFFs:

Half-Moon Outfitters owner Beezer Moulton has been offering FiveFingers for more than a year and admits that his stores, and Vibram itself, can barely keep up with demand.

"It started blowing up in the Savannah store about 12 months ago. Special Ops forces came in and got two or three pair at a time before being deployed," recalls Moulton. "(FiveFingers) were originally designed for water sports, but more and more people are buying them to run or to experiment with running."

I'd like to point out that Robert Fliri, the original designer of fivefingers, had hiking in mind with the VFF design. I think it was the fact that Vibram's present head honcho was into sailing and saw a use for them as boat shoes that drove the actual production of VFFs. Ultimately, it's being proven time and time again that VFFs can be used for just about anything, which is really just to say that our feet are strong enough on their own and need next to nothing to be used to do anything!

Finally, I've not been to Half Moon Outfitters here in Atlanta—will need to check them out soon! I was recently in Abbadabba's looking for a pair of KSOs for Mrs. Birthday Shoes and one of the store employees (?) had actually been to the site!

Both strange and cool at the same time!

Be sure and check out my interview with Christopher McDougall!

In it, Chris talks about denying your nature, the sports shoe industry, getting to barefoot, cross-pollinating ideas, and more!