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

Barefooting and FiveFingers in the News (LA Times, NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

There has been a lot of either barefoot running and/or Vibram Five Fingers news over the past few days, and I wanted to highlight this press for anyone who hasn't already seen it mentioned somewhere:

  • The Los Angeles Times' Tips on Barefoot Running — Covers some important things to remember for new barefoot runners—tips provided by barefoot running legend "Barefoot Ken Bob" (a.k.a. Ken Saxton of runningbarefoot.org) (Note: Article was taken down for unknown reasons).
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's Vibram's FiveFingers foot gloves runaway hit — A round-up covering the growing popularity of our favorite footwear. Article talks about stores selling out of VFFs and also mentions the importance of starting slow and not heel-striking!
  • The New York Times' The Roving Runner Goes Barefoot — Brian Fidelman, the "Roving Runner," goes for a barefoot run in Central Park with Christopher McDougall, the de facto spokesman now for both joyful and injury-free running as well as running barefoot. At this point, if you haven't heard of or read McDougall's Born to Run, you'd have to be living in a cave.

    Fidelman's article is a great read. Be sure to watch the video portion!

No doubt this new wave of FiveFingers-friendly news coverage will unleash another wave of VFFers!

Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs

Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs
The rugged terrain of the San Pedro River Valley, Southeastern Arizona (1 of 2)
Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs
The rugged terrain of the San Pedro River Valley, Southeastern Arizona (2 of 2)

In the mailbag from "T" comes an account of finding a renewed ability to run painlessly across rugged terrain thanks to adopting foot-freeing KSO Vibram fivefingers:

Hey there!

I am writing today to let you (and everyone else) know just how much these shoes have benefitted me. I'm a U.S. Border Patrol agent stationed in the San Pedro River valley in southeastern Arizona.

I "thought" I was doing OK fitness wise when I got back from the academy, but I found running on the rocky terrain in this area to be very taxing. At one point, my knee was bothering me so much, that I had to stop running completely. Even after a month of rest, I couldn't run further than three miles before the pain fired up again. Then I read Chris McDougall's article in Men's Health Magazine. That was the turning point! I found a pair of VFF KSO's in my size and haven't looked back. I worked my way up from just wearing them around the house to wearing them a weekend at a time to clawing my running mileage back up to five miles a clip. Best part? No knee pain at all and I'm actually looking forward to increasing my mileage! I've also found the KSO's to be great when trail running through the washes or hiking along the river.

As far as the benefits, I'm in better shape obviously, but now that all those muscles I never really used before the VFF's are stronger, I'm able to go tearing across the rocky desert terrain and all it's challenges with much more stability, endurance, and confidence. I haven't rolled an ankle once since I started running in the VFF's, and when running in dim (or non-existant) light, I'm able to stay well balanced and stable when I step on the occassional "roller". Even when I'm just standing for long periods, my feet don't bark or growl at me any more. (That alone was worth the purchase price and keep in mind that while on duty I'm wearing heavy Danner boots!) Anyhow, I'm saving my nickels and dimes to get a pair of Treks as soon as possible.

The pictures represent just a small part of what we see in this part of the world. The washes can be nice and sandy like this one, but it's not unusual for them to be littered with river rocks and boulders. The scrub you see is typical, but so far the only hazard I've come across is the occasional mesquite thorn although I imagine a rattler would have no trouble biting through the KSO's. Even the roads near our home are dirt littered with 1" gravel bits, so you learn real quickly to relax when you run in the VFF's. My sincerest thanks to Vibram for these wonderful world-changers!

Keep spreading the word!

Great to hear you've had such success with VFFs and that your strengthened feet, ankles, and legs are making a booted work environment more comfortable! And definitely watch out for those rattle snakes and thorns — 3.5 mm of Vibram rubber is no match for some things!

Thanks for sharing!

Georgia Shaw Interview with LivingBarefoot

Just finished listening to the livingbarefoot.info podcast with Al and Tina in which they interview "Barefoot Moe" and then Vibram USA's Georgia Shaw. Moe's portion is certainly informative, but it lasts into the first 45 minutes of the podcast with Georgia's part in the last fifteen minutes or so. I took some notes from Georgia Shaw's interview regarding Vibram Five Fingers, so if you prefer to just get the gist, read on:

  • [minute 45] Barefoot Moe has fivefinger Sprints and Classics. Moe talks a bit about the pros and cons of VFFs.
  • [minute 53] Georgia Shaw interview begins
  • Is a women's KSO Trek in the cards? heard a lot of feedback from women who would like to have KSO Treks. Assurance that consumer feedback is always considered- "the more we hear back from women who are interested in trying this model, the more likely we are to answer that."
  • Why only men's KSO Trek? KSO top model for men in early 2008 when KSO Trek was considered. Sprint was first, then Classic, then KSO.
  • FiveFingers Moc design? Vamp higher for Moc for aesthetic purposes - men like the coverage to come up to the hemline.
  • [minute 58] FiveFingers Bikila: running-specific model. Released Spring 2010. Available for both men's and women's. Bikila will be released to retailers with running-specialty shoe space "carved out" will be carrying Bikilas. Mid-February and early March.
  • [minute 60] FiveFingers Speed: won't be released in North America. Could be exclusively in Europe or only a concept piece.
  • [minute 61] BirthdayShoes forum questions:
    Why difference in price between America and Europe? Products in Europe tend to cost about 50% more in Europe than in the United States. This is due to different distribution models in Europe than in the U.S. VibramUSA distributes direct to retailers in the U.S.; not so in Europe.
  • Waterproof model in the works? Premature to say they are coming out with a waterproof model, but they are always testing new designs out.
  • Wide options in the future? Traditionally FiveFingers can fit feet from A to EEE, so hasn't been necessary.
  • Production increases in the future? Yes. See [Vibram's note on availability and production per the official Vibram fivefingers facebook page]
  • Kangaroo leather. Is it more stretchy or less? Less. It has no stretch at all, but there is elastic at the collar to provide it some give.

My takeaways:

Though a lot of the material covered by Georgia has been covered here on the blog or in the forums, there are a couple things that were mentioned in the interview I have thoughts on:

It's informative to hear the rationale behind not carrying a women's KSO Trek. There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth about Vibram's decision here and many have opined about it in the forums. My hunch was apparently close to reality — the decision was due to gender specific demand. I had guessed this on looking at the results of the birthdayshoes sizing and fit questionnaire (still teasing that data for more insights!). Mind this data is just from a sample of those willing to respond to the survey, but even so, out of one hundred respondents, roughly three-fourths of all respondents were male.

Here's the FiveFingers gender breakdown by model:

Mind, the decision on the male-specificity of the Trek was made in early 2008, so things may have changed somewhat now. I'd also guess based on Georgia's comments that it was the popularity of the Sprint with women that drove the creation of the 2010 Performa Jane. The tipoff I picked up was that Vibram is keeping their ears to the ground — if there is enough interest in the KSO Trek for women, they are likely to produce it.

I also found the European vs. United States pricing discrepancy point interesting. It seems that one of the drivers of higher prices in Europe, in addition to things generally just being 50% more expensive there, is that the distribution model is more involved, meaning there are more layers between sellers and buyer, which tends to drive up price.

Finally, I have to wonder if the fivefingers Speed will ever see the light of day. Georgia noted that it may be released in Europe or it may just be a prototype (Like the hapless fivefingers Cortina)

Michael trail running Mueller Park in KSO fivefingers

Michael trail running Mueller Park in KSO fivefingers
Fivefingers make mid-trail-run relaxation look easy!

Michael sent in the above photo taken Saturday at Mueller Park near Salt Lake City, Utah—Michael is sporting injinji socks in his grey and palm KSO fivefingers.

Here's what Michael has to say about the photo and running in VFFs:

This picture was taken (10/3/09) about 3 miles up the Mueller Park Hiking/biking/running trail (near Salt Lake City) at a rest spot. It was a great cool morning for hiking/trail running. The trail was fairly dry just before a big storm hit. I have used a pair of injini socks and FiveFinger KSO's, after I got used to them (mainly my calf's - ouch!) I now run in the all the time.

Nothing like "kicking off your shoes," sitting back, and relaxing in the middle of a trail run!

Thanks, Michael!

Shanna and Kelly's Vineyard 5K in Vibram Five Fingers Sprints

Shanna and Kelly's Vineyard 5K in Vibram Five Fingers Sprints
Shanna (on the right) and Kelly (left) don their Vibram fivefinger Sprints after the Vineyard Run (5K race).
Shanna and Kelly's Vineyard 5K in Vibram Five Fingers Sprints
Nice Vibrams! And nice post-race refreshments, too!

I received the above photos from Shanna and Kelly (each sporting Five Finger Sprints) taken after Saturday's Vineyard Run in Grapevine Texas.

Here's what Shanna had to say about the race (And her VFFs):

My friend Kelly and I ran a 5k race at Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine Texas on Saturday! We started running together when Kelly realized she LOVED to run and we've been doing 5ks together since. We make a great team! The Vineyard 5k was our first race in the Vibrams and we couldn't have been more pleased with their performance since we shaved over two and half minutes off last month's time!! We like to think it was due to the Vibrams tendencies toward complete and total awesomeness! In the one picture where you can actually see us, we had just finished the 5k and were enjoying the wine tasting afterwards to celebrate! The second one clearly shows our Vibrams and our choice of wine - mine is a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Kelly's is a 2005 Delaney Estate Merlot. This was without a doubt the best race we've run, both in time and in spirits!

Shanna

Great to hear you both had such a fun and "spirited" race. Post-race wine tasting? Talk about complete and total awesomeness! Looks like it was a pristine day for a race, too.

Thanks for sharing, Shanna and Kelly!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 10/4/09

This week's latest Vibram five fingers reviews:

  • My Take on the Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes at Michael Hyatt dot com [Classic and KSO]:

    But they look so bizarre. Aren’t you embarrassed to wear them? Yes, they look weird. My kids say they look like “gorilla feet.” I was initially embarrassed, but I got over it. When people make fun of me now, I tell them, “ridicule is the last stage you go through before you order a pair!” I have several friends now running in them who initially laughed.

    I think this is a great point, Michael! Check the rest of his post out for a nice overview of common questions people have about his VFFs!

That's all for this week. Check last week's latest fivefingers reviews for more!