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

Z-Trek 20% Off Sale Ending!

Z-Trek 20% Off Sale Ending!

If you hadn't made a decision, the Xero Shoes Z-Trek launch sale only is only going to last until midnight tonight!

As of 2PM EDT, it's only got about 11 hours to go and if you buy now, you'll get 20% off on your purchase, making these $59.99 MSRP sandals only $47.99. You can get them here.

While some sizes and color combinations have already sold out (e.g. coal black/castle rock in size 10), you can still place an order at this 20% off pricepoint with an expected ship date of mid-April.

If you were thinking about picking up a pair to try, at less than $50, this is a solid deal. Get it while it lasts!

Meet Xero Shoes Z-Trek (Chaco-like) Minimalist Sandal

Meet Xero Shoes Z-Trek (Chaco-like) Minimalist Sandal

Have you heard the news? Xero Shoes has created a new minimalist sandal that truly breaks from their signature huarache innovations and goes toe-to-toe against the uber-popular strappy sandals you likely used to wear (Chacos, Tevas, etc.). It's called the Amuri Z-Trek. You can see it above.

Xero has just announced the sandal publicly and it's in full-blown blown pre-launch mode, meaning that it's not yet for sale but Xero Shoes is running a big giveaway that will lead up to the official launch of the Z-Trek!

Here's a quick photo-tour of the sandals:

And since sandals really derive their personality from feet, here they are on mine:

Meet Xero Shoes Z-Trek (Chaco-like) Minimalist Sandal

I've not had the pleasure of enjoying the Z-Treks much due to some recent terrible weather in Atlanta, but I can share a few things right off the bat.

The Z-Trek features the 5.5mm sole that you might be familiar with if you've had the Xero Venture. The two are highly similar in the sole. So if you're wondering what the ground feel is like, well, wonder no further.

For those who haven't dabbled with Xeros, the ground feel is excellent due to the density and minimal thickness of the rubber. They are also super flexible. Here's a photo of some sole flex:

Meet Xero Shoes Z-Trek (Chaco-like) Minimalist Sandal

The sole is also pretty grippy due to the chevron tread. I'm on the fence overall with the rear heel-"cup" of the Xero sole as I'm not sure I really need it and it adds some weight to the soles, but in the case of the Z-Trek, I don't much notice it and it does "seat" my heel better than if it was not there.

One of the things many minimalist enthusiasts have wanted are sandals that are like Chacos or Tevas but don't have the heft or the bulk. A few options have cropped up over the past few years — like the (discontinued, I believe) Teva Zilch. Also, Unshoes has a few options.

Xero's Z-Trek makes a great option in this camp. The strap design of the Z-Trek makes a "Z" on your left foot whereby it's anchored at the big toe, crosses over the foot and switches back over your instep. It then anchors again and cross back over to complete the "Z" via a clasp that is (blessedly) incredibly easy to tighten and loosen. The beauty of this design is that once you lock in the top of the "Z," the bottom of the Z is super easy to adjust, meaning you can make it as tight or as loose as you want and back and forth.

In this case, an animated GIF is worth a thousand words:

Meet Xero Shoes Z-Trek (Chaco-like) Minimalist Sandal

The rear strap of the Z-Trek is a "set it and forget it" Velcro. It's a little beefier than I'd like given how minimalist the front straps of the Z-Trek are, but it works well.

As for sizing, I'm really a 10.5 normally but I find that the 10 fits me just about right.

Anyway, this isn't a review, but a teaser on the Z-Trek. I hope to get some more time in them in the coming weeks and months! For now, I'll wrap with a video from Steven Sashen on the Xero Z-Trek. He tells you just about everything you want to know about the Z-Trek and in particular about how to participate in the giveaway contest.

Interested? Do you think this is sandal you've been waiting for? Go to Xero and take a chance at winning their contest!

"Forget Barefoot," Meet Maximalist Shoes

"Forget Barefoot," Meet Maximalist Shoes

On the heels of last week's news that Vibram is being sued by the Bikila family comes an article in the New York Times titled Forget Barefoot; New Trendsetter, if Not Pacesetter, Is Cushioning (Screenshot above).

Oh how the pendulum swings!

"Maximalist shoes" like the Hoka One One aren't exactly new, but they have become popular enough to catch the attention of shoe manufacturers. Case in point, the NYT article notes that one of Brooks' most popular shoes—the Brooks Glycerin—saw sales increase 29% in 2014. Or a little closer to home, Altra has been producing some "maximalist" shoes for awhile now. Check out the Torin or the Olympus, for a couple examples.

What is going on here? Here's an interesting quote lifted from the NYT article:

Jonathan Beverly, the shoe editor for Runners World, said maximalist shoes like the Hoka incorporated many of the qualities that made minimalism popular, while also mitigating the impact of running on hard surfaces.

“The benefit of the big sole is actually similar to what the minimal movement did; with both types of shoes you have to keep your body and your center of gravity above your feet,” Beverly said. “So you’re running with the same posture as you would if you were barefoot, but with all this cushioning.”

That's a bold statement. Do maximalist shoes allow you to have your cake and eat it, too?

I'm skeptical (and I'm guessing you are, too), but I also am out of my depth—I don't run ultras.

Thankfully, I know someone who does. BirthdayShoes' ultrarunner and reviewer Rob Youngren has been a proponent of keeping a pair of Hokas in his shoe closet for awhile now. For a bit of a refresher, Rob has 50,000+ miles of running under his belt. While he likes minimalist shoes, he sees a purpose and need for a little more something-something underfoot on long runs. The key ingredient to success with beefier shoes is in having the right running form from the start.

Here's a couple quotes from a 2012 interview with Rob on this site that are on point for this discussion. First, Rob spoke to his concern that unbridled enthusiasm for running with minimalist shoes without the proper form could be disastrous:

I also worry about the whole education side. I don't think there is near enough education out there available to the general public which is why there are a lot of people getting hurt trying out minimalist shoes. One has only to peruse BirthdayShoes.com's forums to see that there are a lot of people getting hurt.

It all goes back to form. If your form is bad then running in a "nothing" shoe is going to get you into trouble. At least with a more substantial shoe your poor form might not get you into trouble as quickly. And vice versa if you have good form there is probably not a shoe you couldn't adjust to. So education is the key.

But where Rob really hits it out of the park is when he speaks to shoes as tools:

Realize that there are situations and conditions where using a more substantial shoe (note: I'm not saying you need a traditional running shoe) is very beneficial, like running on very rough terrain or running much longer distances than you may be currently use to.

There is also the performance aspect to consider. Do you want to compete or do you want to complete? If you don't mind just participating in long distance races then you can probably get away (for a while at least) with whatever shoe you're currently wearing.

Now if you really want to maximize your potential you must realize that your handicapping yourself by not using tools that can help you realize that potential. Think about a long trail race, if you don't have to think about foot placement every step, think how much faster you could be? Or with ample underfoot protection (rock plate, modest midsole stack height) you won't have to worry so much about what you're stepping on. All that can add up to a lot of gained time. Much the same applies to longer distances on the roads. At some point your form can break due to fatigue, if you're in a very minimalist shoe you have to necessarily slow down to avoid injury since minimalist shoes can be almost worthless if your form has eroded. So with a bit more substantial shoe, yes even if your form goes at least you have some underfoot protection to see you through the race.

That's basically it. Realize shoes are just tools. Pick the right tool for the job!

That seems like sound advice to me. Indeed, the NYT article quoted the inmitable Jay Dicharry saying as much here: "Some people have a road bike, a commuter bike and a mountain bike, and they all have their purpose."

All of this discussion just reminds me that complexity rules the day when it comes to the human body. What I mean is that it's foolhardy to expect a product to magically solve your problems—whether that product is a minimalist shoe or a maximalist shoe. The human body is too complex for simple solutions.

But that doesn't stop a sizable majority of people from jumping on the latest trend, does it? That's part of human complexity, too—"human nature."

What's your take? Any of you shifted your "toolset" to including more maximalist shoes? How has that worked out for you?

Let's hear your thoughts!