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

Soft Star Shoes RunAmoc Dash for Work Review

Soft Star Shoes RunAmoc Dash for Work Review

Guest post by Dan Finkelstein

I've been an avid "zero drop" (neutral sole height from heel to forefoot) shoe proponent for many years. My first pair of Vibram KSOs ruined me for all "normal" footwear, and when I started a new corporate job I needed something more professional.

Zero drop shoes for work?

I work for a company in Southern California that works very closely with local law enforcement agencies and fire departments. Our customers come from a paramilitary culture and things like dress code are very important. The dress code for men in my office is slacks and a dress shirt with a tie being optional. I needed to find some shoes that still looked professional, but were still zero drop.

I read the Run Amoc DASH review and thought I may have found a great solution. I opted for the smooth black leather on the body of the shoe and the black suede leather for the saddle portion (You can actually build your own combination on Soft Star's site). On the Soft Star website they almost look grey, but in real life in is two shades of black.

Ordering the shoes

Soft Star Shoes has some of the best customer service I've ever experienced. I called to ask a sizing question and I was told about a sale that would be starting in a few days. They gave me the sale price even the sale wasn't active yet, and told me a little known secret that they do offer half sizes which aren't listed on the website. My foot felt like it was right in between the 10.5 and 11 so I ended up ordering both with a promise from customer service that I could send back the pair that didn't fit for a refund (they made good on this promise when I returned the 11s.).

So how'd the do? Read on to find out!

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Altra Instinct 1.5 Review

Altra Instinct 1.5 Review

Overview

As I first mentioned in my review of the original Altra Instinct, the first thing most people notice about any of the shoes in the Altra line is the foot shaped design. This feature alone sets Altra apart from most of their peers. The distinctive toe box follows the shape of the foot and allows plenty of room for your toes to splay naturally.

The Altra Instinct 1.5 skirts the boundary of the minimalist running shoe category. The Instinct 1.5 is definitely minimal because of its zero heel-to-toe drop and anatomically correct shape (custom for women and men) resulting in a nice wide toe box for proper toe splay and the weight is a modest 8.9 oz (252 gr) which is .1 oz (3gr) heavier than the original Instincts. The total stack height is 22.5-24.5mm depending on which removable foam insole is used; either the 5mm Sculpted or 3mm Strengthen insole. The remaining stack height comes from the 15mm thick Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound Top Layer midsole and the 4.5mm thick FootPod Outsole. Obviously with this relatively thick stack height, the amount of ground feel or proprioception is somewhat limited.

The new Altra Instinct 1.5 besides being unnoticeably (though slightly) heavier than the original has had its upper completely redesigned and in my own opinion is at least cosmetically and visually superior to its predecessor.

Read on for more photos and a full review!

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Hiking Zion in Spyridon LS FiveFingers

Hiking Zion in Spyridon LS FiveFingers

FiveFingers fan Chris sent in the following story about hiking the Narrows in the Zion National Park in his Spyridon LS FiveFingers. Seems the Narrows are hiked primarily in a river and the hike can take around 13 hours.

Here's Chris' story:

Recently I took a trip out West in U.S. to see some great sites, one of them including the Zion National Park. One particular trail that tests someone's will is called the Narrows. It consists of a flowing, cold river and rocky, usually slippery terrain— in addition to this you're placed in a very tall canyon that has only two directions to follow, back out and further in. This trail is often started at the 'bottom' and hiked up against the current, farther in to the canyon, which is how I made my way. About half of the people I met had on Canyoneer 5.10's, which are phenomenal shoes, for their grip is like glue and you have the option for wearing neoprene socks. Many others I passed by simply were not prepared for the hike but couldn't resist the beauty of the place. I on the other hand decided to hike up with my somewhat new pair of Spyridons (LS). I also donned a pair of Injinji wool socks which were pretty much essential in my opinion.

When I first started the hike it was early in the morning and the water was maybe even as low as the high-50's (Fahrenheit), during the day it warmed up by about 10-15 degrees but was still chilly in the deep, and reported to be around mid-60's. The terrain was typically rocky with some sand, but mostly rocky and as such almost every single step had to be considered as it was easy to look up at the great wonder of the canyon and zone out.

What do I mean by rocky? Well consider pebbles and throwing stones to rocks the size of footballs all the way up to boulders that could be climbed up and over, basically at every foot step. I was a little nervous about this hike as I was worried about my feet getting jammed, scraped or simply tired from the constant surmountable terrain. Luckily my Five Fingers performed admirably. I specifically chose the Spyridon LS as I think the tread and most importantly the grip is superior to the other variations of Five Fingers, but it also has a protective arch which proved incredibly important as many of my foot strikes were right down on the arch so I could try and grip rocks as a basketball player might grip the ball.

After hours in the canyon I made my way back, something of which took about half the time as I was almost running with the current and on a decline. Early on I had became confident in my choice of footwear and laughed a bit on the inside every time I saw someone in sandals. While I jammed my foot once, right down on to the ankle as I slid on a very slippery rock, I found that because of my almost-barefoot experience I was not placing so much weight on to each step. The jam proved to be nothing and I was off in a second, to tell you the truth I was more worried about tearing the fancy upper on the shoe.

Where did the Spyridon LS excel? Pretty much everywhere, mostly from being lighter and holding on to less water than other heavier duty shoes; but, also from the fact that the grip was far superior to everything except perhaps the canyoneering-branded shoes. I felt like some nimble ninja and sometimes bolted through the canyon around many of the slow-goers.

What were the downfalls of choosing this shoe for this hike? I think new comers to the Five Finger community may have tired feet along the trail. The biggest downfall was where the rubber failed me, but only a few times; once or twice on a buttery-slick rock where I don't think any amount of rubber would have helped, and a few times on sandy, dry rocks where at the same time my shoes were sandy. I actually got a chance to use 5.10 Canyoneer shoes and while the rubber on those is designed for canyoneering and thus somewhat mind-blowing, it did exhibit the same fatal flaw my Spyridon LS did— if the surface is dry and sandy and the bottom of the shoe has packed-on, dry sand there is no hope for grip.

All in all the Narrows was a fun hike and perhaps my favorite of Zion National Park. It is both beautiful and somewhat technical, especially the farther up go you. I hope to go back some day and do this hike again, and you bet I'll be wearing my Five Fingers!

Great to hear the Spyridon LS performed so admirably in such unconventional conditions! I've heard almost universally positive feedback both about the grip of the Spyridon sole and the added protection due to the "cocoon technology" (more on all this in the BirthdayShoes Spyridon LS review). That said, they are mostly aimed at trail running, so it's neat to hear how they perform well as river-hiking footwear!

Thanks for sharing your story, Chris!

Fall 2012 FiveFingers Lontra, Speed XC, and SeeYa LS are OUT!

Fall 2012 FiveFingers Lontra, Speed XC, and SeeYa LS are OUT!

The Fall 2013 FiveFingers — Lontra, Speed XC, and SeeYa LS — have started showing up for sale now at retailers! Where, exactly, can you find them? How about here:

I know what you're thinking: why are the Speed XC and Lontra so expensive? It's because they've been made water-resistant using layers of fabric and taped seams. These are the first water-resistant VFFs to date. As for just how resistant to water they are, we've yet to review them here (but will within the next week, so stay tuned). Meanwhile, the release of the SeeYa LS means our giveaway (see our first review) has ended (winners of the two pairs of SeeYa LS and those others who won stickers will be notified post haste!).

If these are the toe shoes you've been waiting for—FiveFingers for cold and wet weather running, walking, or whatever you're into and can't wait any longer, I suggest picking these up now as stock is likely to be very limited for the next few weeks (what I'm hearing anyway). Note that Travel Country, the sponsor of the BirthdayShoes giveaway, offers Free Shipping on orders over $69.

Further note that they still have many older FiveFingers models on clearance (KSOs for $40-45, SeeYas for $75-80, Speeds for $75, Classics for $40). Take a look around their site and you can get some pretty fantastic deals on FiveFingers.

Indeed, only certain colorways are available now in each model and some of the women's Speed XC and Lontra haven't shown up anywhere to date.

If you want more info on these new VFFs, you'll find the official specs on each model after the jump.

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Xero Shoes--Huaraches in Color

Xero Shoes--Huaraches in Color

Invisible Shoes recently changed their name to Xero Shoes. The name-change came about to focus the brand (50% less syllables!) and better capture in words the awesome quality and barefoot-proximity you get with a pair of the Invisible Shoes Xero Shoes huaraches minimalist sandals.

And while the name-change is a big deal, on the zero-dropped heels of this change comes news that Xero Shoes just released four new sole colors — "Mocha Earth" (brown), "Electric Mint" (bright green), "Boulder Sky" (light blue), and Hot Salmon (a faded red). All are marked, of course, with the new Xero Shoes logo and branding.

I've had the luck of getting an advance look at all four new sole colors (Thanks for providing them Steven and Lena!) in order to photo-document them.

It should go without saying, but I'm a huge fan of the Xero Shoes product. For the money, it's hard to beat what you get with a pair of their huaraches:

Xero Shoes are simply fantastic huaraches in any color. But as for these four new colors — well, read on to see more of them!

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SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers Initial Review

SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers Initial Review

UPDATE October 4, 2012

Guess what? The SeeYa LS is now available!


Any day now the (new for Fall 2012) Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa LS will hit the shelves. When it does, you can expect to hear it here first — you might as well know that the SeeYa LS is here (as of 10/4/2012).

Built on the same ultralight sole as the SeeYa model that Vibram released Spring 2012, the SeeYa LS adds traditional laces and a wholly new upper. It can handle running, general fitness, and pretty much whatever else you want to throw at it.

What follows is an initial review of the SeeYa LS — I've been wearing and testing them for the past month though if you want a running-specific review, Tim will follow-up his original SeeYa review with an LS review soon.

In the meantime, read on for a slew of photos, intell, and how you can win a pair of the SeeYa LS when they release!

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