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

FiveFingers Speed at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX)

FiveFingers Speed at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX)
Tom sports his Speed FiveFingers at the Penny Arcade Expo between two Halo chiefs!

Tom a.k.a. "Tommodore64" took his Speed FiveFingers to the Penny Arcade Expo—or "PAX"— recently and saw 50+ other Vibram fans sporting their toe shoes over the course of the three day event — that's gotta be some kinda record outside of a minimalist/barefoot running specific event! Here's Tom's account of the weekend:

I spent August 26th - 28th at PAX (That's Penny Arcade Expo: Gaming convention for those not in the know) and wore my Speed LS VFFs the whole time! I got asked about them a few times in line (there was a lot of standing in lines) waiting for game demos. Odd thing, was that people asked me more about the socks I wore in them (injinji no show liners) more than the shoes themselves.

I wasn't the only one VFF-ing it at PAX either. I saw probably fifty or sixty people over the course of the three day event in various models.

Last year I wore normal shoes and my feet were killing me by the end of day three. This time, it made such a difference to wear my Speeds!!

On a side note, its great that even the USNC from the HALO universe are embracing civilians and barefooting it on HALO. :-)

- Tommodore64

Awesome to hear the Speeds—er perhaps better said, allowing your feet to be a bit more free—made for a less painful PAX experience this year!

Thanks for sharing!

Administrative note: you may have noticed a cutback in our user-submitted stories over the past few months. We've been working through trying to balance day-jobs and site maintenance whilst having some challenging circumstances. Things haven't "changed" per se, but we're trying to adapt! Anyway, no guarantees we will post your VFF, minimalist, or barefoot story, but keep'em coming!

Toe Shoes, Toe Strength, and the Power of Bare Feet

Can you spread your toes out like a two week old baby?  Can you pick stuff up off the ground?  Do you have strong toes?
Can you spread your toes out like a two week old baby? Can you pick stuff up off the ground? Do you have strong toes?

The following was submitted by "Orka" as a comment to our post on "Why Toe Shoes?"

I think I am one of the rare individuals who not only grew up barefoot, but did so in the rugged wilderness of Northern California. Throughout the summers of my childhood, up to age 17, I spent every summer barefoot, and I hiked cross-country everywhere. I even ran downhill over jagged, loose, rocky steep hillsides, leaping in the air and landing sideways (deliberately, to surf/slide/ride the rubble downhill) with bare feet. It was possible because the ground was giving way and I had thick pads on my feet. I loved running, downhill, cross-country, and was a natural fast runner, good at both sprinting and long-distance.

Reading through the article [Why Toe Shoes?] and comments, I keep feeling as though I have insight and experience that could be helpful.

One thing is that the toe separation is very important because toes become atrophied by being in ordinary shoes. I used to have strong independent use of all my toes to grip boulders and such, but after a few years in shoes I discovered—to my horror—that my little toes could barely be moved independently anymore: they don't grab on the way they used to! They feel numb (compared to their earlier selves) as though they're just there, useless tabs that might get stubbed and broken off because they're not responsive enough anymore. For me I feel like the toe pockets on Vibram FiveFingers are a God-send, as a figure of speech, because they are helping my toes to spread out again like they should, and they do not have the strength anymore to do it on their own. It's almost like a corrective brace!

For people who've said their toes aren't strong enough to move independently or grip in the FiveFingers, I think the problem is that most people's toes are weak and uncoordinated from disuse and being in normal shoes, or when barefoot, just walking on even terrain all the time.

As far as stepping on sharp things, I've done plenty of that in my life, and sharp objects jabbing your feet will certainly sharpen your reflexes! Hehe! Whenever I hit something large, hard and sharp, especially on my arch with bare feet, I bent my knee and dropped to the ground in a flash—before I got injured. That's how the reflex developed, but you know how these fast-dropping reflexes have really saved me? With ankle injury prevention. I always drop so fast when my ankle rolls that I have never once had a sprain or twist that caused pain for more than a minute.

I am very quick and nimble on my feet due to all my barefoot wilderness experience, and I've always been a strong advocate of being barefoot. It is one of your primary senses, a way to be in constant physical contact with your environment, that goes right along with seeing, smelling, and hearing. To wear shoes is to cut off one of your senses. My only use for shoes is in towns and cities where I do not consider it clean enough to go barefoot. I am so happy to be able to have VFFs for that, and for long-distance running! I have Classics for everyday use, and the Sprints for running. Of course, nothing can beat going barefoot whenever possible!

I am so happy more people are catching on to how wonderful being barefoot is!

NYC Barefoot Run 2011

NYC Barefoot Run 2011

In less than two weeks the 2nd annual New York City Barefoot Run will be taking place. I'm happy and excited to be attending the event (Thanks Merrell!) and wanted to let you know that it's not too late to sign up and attend yourself!

Also, I should get a chance to bounce some questions off of a veritable "who's who" list of folks in the barefoot/minimalist running community, so if you have any questions you'd like to pose to folks like Christopher McDougall, Dan Lieberman, Barefoot Ted, Barefoot Ken Bob, Erwan Le Corre, Jason Robillard, Lee Saxby, Daniel Howell, Michael Sandler, Mark Cucuzella, Pete Larson, John Durant, etc., please let me know! Just leave a comment below!

And if you're going to be there, be sure to let me know.

Now if you're on the fence about attending, here's a bit of info straight from John Durant about what to expect at this year's weekend of barefoot mayhem in NYC!

What to expect, details for this year's NYC Barefoot Run

Straight from organizer John Durant:

The 2nd Annual New York City Barefoot Run is shaping up to be even better than last year: more clinics, more speakers, more sponsors, more excitement. Great for beginners and advanced runners alike. Pretty much everybody who's anybody in the barefoot or minimalist running world is going to be there. You can feel the momentum.

Both Chris McDougall and Dan Lieberman are giving talks they haven't given before. McDougall is talking about an old training technique, and Lieberman will be talking about sources of running injury. You're not going to want to miss either of those.

We have two Guinness World Record holders coming. Patrick Sweeney holds the record for the longest distance run on sand in 24 hours — 87.36 miles — all of which he did barefoot. And Anand Anatharaman organized the Mumbai Barefoot Half Marathon, setting the record for the largest barefoot half-marathon (306).

We're also going to have a lot of fun. Inspired by an old finding that rickshaw pullers had healthy feet, Barefoot Ted and the Luna Sandals space monkeys are working on some custom-built rickshaws. I have a suspicion that Barefoot Ted is going to get a lot of free rides around the island — kind of like Tom Sawyer getting his friends to paint the fence for him.

Barefoot Wine and Smuttynose are sponsoring wine and beer all weekend long, so spirits should be high.

Stats

  • Over 300 people signed up so far
  • 10 countries (USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Spain, Mexico, and India) and 28 U.S. states
  • Talks and clinics with Christopher McDougall, Dr. Dan Lieberman, Barefoot Ted, Barefoot Ken Bob, Erwan Le Corre, Jason Robillard, Lee Saxby, Esther Ghokale (posture), Dr. Daniel Howell, Michael Sandler, Mark Cucuzella, John Durant, and more...
  • Sponsored by Merrell, Vivobarefoot, Injinji, Luna Sandals, and Jackrabbit Sports
  • Wine provided by Barefoot Wine, beer provided by Smuttynose
  • Vivobarefoot running and injury clinics, Minimalist Expo, speakers at the Merrell Barefoot Party, and the Run on scenic Governors Island in New York harbor
  • Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25th
  • Cost: $75. Gets you a tech tee, entrance to all events, complimentary drinks all weekend, raffle giveaways, and lots of free stuff.
  • Register at NYCBarefootRun.com

Highlight Reel from the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run in 2010

Hope to see you there!

And leave those questions/comments!

New Balance NB Minimus Cross Review (MX20)

A few photos of the New Balance NB Minimus Cross (MX20).
A few photos of the New Balance NB Minimus Cross (MX20) in red and black.

For me the NB Minimus Cross (the "MX20") were "Like-At-First-Sight." When I first opened the box I grinned at the design. We've got simple, clean lines, no flashy distractions or garish colors, and a cool contrast from the upper to the sole. I actually said out loud “I dig it.” But would my initial impression of them stand up to further scrutiny? Find out after the jump!

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Branca Barefoot Running Sandals Review (Minimalist Sandals)

Branca Barefoot Running Sandals are a new type of minimalist sandal that features an innovative strap design (reminiscent of huaraches).
Branca Barefoot Running Sandals are a new type of minimalist sandal that features an innovative strap design (reminiscent of huaraches).

Fortunately for those interested in minimalist shoes, we're seeing not only an explosion in closed toed minimalist footwear, but we're also able to choose from an ever widening selection of open toed sandals inspired by the huarache sandals made famous in Born to Run. I've been running in Branca Barefoot running sandals or "Brancas" for a few months now, and I have found them to be excellent running sandals with several advantages over homemade huaraches.

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How to Walk Barefoot [FAQ]

An image of what it looks like to fox walk, a method of low-impact walking that may provide some answers to how to walk barefoot
An image of what it looks like to fox walk, a method of low-impact walking that may provide some answers to how to walk barefoot (Source: TrackerTrail.com)

"How do I walk barefoot?"

As folks transition to "toe shoes" or other minimalist footwear, a common question arises: how do I walk barefoot?

I received the following question in the mailbag yesterday:

Hi, my name is Ben and I'm a recent convert to Vibrams (black KSO's). I'm building up foot strength as well as calluses so I can run the NYC half marathon in them in August. I am also learning Pose running, which is very similar to running barefoot, as you land on your sole/midfoot.

I was wondering if you could run a poll or something asking how VFF wearer's walk in them. I notice that when walking in the VFF's, my heel strikes first, and since there is no real cushioning, it tends to hurt a little bit after a long walk, especially when walking around fast. Do people walk with their soles striking first? I've tried walking more softly, but when moving fast but not yet running, the heel strike feels noticeable.

Thanks and keep up the really cool site!

-Ben

Ben,

Thanks for writing in and you'll have to keep us updated on your half-marathon training a la POSE. I'd like to learn some POSE basics at some point!

As for your request for a poll, you got it. In fact, here are the results I've found from polling readers:

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