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!

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    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

FiveFingers Jaya LRs, Bikila LS, More TrekSport Colors Hit the Streets!

FiveFingers Jaya LRs, Bikila LS, More TrekSport Colors Hit the Streets!

Looks like Vibram has been playing Santa to retailers across the nation with the new 2011 Vibram Five Fingers!

Just as CitySports got stocked up on new FiveFingers earlier this week, I've gotten word that Travel Country also got a smattering of the new Spring 2011 Vibrams! Some of them I hadn't seen at CitySports, so if you're looking for other color combinations of the new Jayas, or want the leather lined Jaya LR (Note: Jayas are women's only), or want some grey/green Bikila LS, then keep reading.

OR you can check out the purple-y (women's) or orange-y (men's) new varietals of FiveFingers TrekSports! Personally, I really dig these new color combinations with the mono-toned uppers and black bottoms. Slick.

Here are the details:

  • Men's Bikila LS — black/grey or grey/green — Find them here for about $100 with free shipping — Sizes like the Bikila except with speed lacing you get a bit more of a custom fit on the top of foot. Theoretically, you folks (like Mrs. BirthdayShoes) who have high insteps should find the Bikila LS much more comfortable than the sometimes-tight Bikilas (Mrs. BirthdayShoes can't fit Bikilas and I've ordered her some LSs so we'll see how that goes!).

  • Women's Bikila LS — black/grey or grey/green — Find them here for about $100 with free shipping — just like the men's but for the ladies!

  • Jaya LR (Women's only) — white/grey leather or grey/black leather — Find them here for about $100 with free shipping — Reminiscent of an isotoner glove for the foot, the Jaya LR (And Jaya, too) features a brand new sole technology that makes the VFFs lighter, and perhaps even more flexible in the long-run due to the use of a foundation of foamy EVA with little pods of rubber at high-contact points. These are only available for women. They size similar to Classics, but being a new model, the sizing is a bit untested at this point. The difference from the Jaya LR to the Jaya involves the use of leather strips on the top for a more refined look, and the Jaya LR doesn't have the padded ankle point (see the photos above). Oh and the LR will cost you another 15 bucks ($100 vs. $85).

  • Jaya(Women's only) — black/grey, red/blue, and white/pink (not pictured above) — Find them here for about $85 with free shipping — like the Jaya LR but sans leather and sans ankle padding. Plus they're $15 less at $85.

  • Women's KomodoSports — blue/yellow — Find them here for $100 with free shipping — the KomodoSport is a brand new VFF that is geared towards cross-training. It has a brand new sole pattern and a new sole tech. Though this new platform hasn't yet been tested at large, my initial testing of the KomodoSports has been pretty positive. Ground feel is akin to Bikilas though the upper is less built up (no sock-liner). They also feature a double strap mechanism where one is over the top and a separate strap runs around the ankle. If you're into sprinting and CrossFit or just like the look, you'll certainly find the KomodoSports have a place in your five-toed shoe repertoire.

  • Men's Orange TrekSportsFind them here for $100 with free shipping — By now TrekSport FiveFingers are old hat, but if you need to read up on them, start here.

  • Women's TrekSports in new colorsnew! purple top/black bottom or blue/grey top/bottom — Find them here for $100 with free shipping. I actually dig on both these new varietals of TrekSports.

That wraps up this update. We're still waiting on any retailer to have men's KomodoSports in stock. I'm guessing they'll show up any day and we'll be sure to announce when they arrive here on the blog. If you want ongoing inventory alerts, be sure to subscribe by email here! It's easy to unsubscribe later and you can hunt me down (stealthily in your toe shoes) and beat me up if I ever pass on your email to anyone else (which is to say I won't).

Good luck! And for those who brave these new pairs, be sure to tell us how you like them once you've put them to some good use so we can share your experiences here on the blog!

Teva Zilch Preview - Barefoot Friendly Sandals

Teva Zilch
The Teva Zilch.

Here's a quick look at the new Teva Zilch sandal which will be available March 1, 2011 mid-April retailing for $80. It is being billed as the "thinnest, most minimalistic sport sandal" that Teva has ever made. It is designed to be very thin and flexible while offering great traction and protection. The hardy straps and big toe loop should securely lock down your foot too. Could this be a high-tech alternative to the primitive huarache? We haven't tested it yet, but a pair is on its way to us so we can bring you a more detailed review.

Here are a few more design highlights from Teva:

  • Sole designed to grip like crazy in wet and dry environments.
  • Topsole with slow recovery material to give everyone a custom feel.
  • Outsole slightly wraps up for a secure fit.
  • Minimal 10mm total sole from foot to ground.
  • Rolls up making it a great travel shoe.

Below is an image gallery of all the photos we've got to date. Click thumbnails to Zoom.

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Whatcha ya think? Is there a need for a barefoot friendly sandal? Are sandals barefoot friendly already? Anyone think you can run in these puppies? What say you? Sound off in the comments!

HT: KayakShed.com

Vibram FiveFingers Jaya, KomodoSport for Women Available Now!

Vibram FiveFingers Jaya, KomodoSport for Women Available Now!

Plus the new Bikila LS and TrekSport in new colors for both men and women!

Big news! Five Fingers retailer CitySports has just put up for purchase women's KomodoSports (This is the first they've been made available! No men's yet!), women's Jayas (A women-only shoe), men's and women's Bikila LS, and two new colors of TrekSports -- red/black for men and blue/grey for women!  As far as I know, this marks the first online retailer to actually have any new Spring 2011 Vibram FiveFingers in stock, ready to ship (As opposed to the psych-out by REI a couple weeks back)!

Here are some details and links to go pick up a pair of the new Vibram 2011 line while they last:

Just as soon as I hear anything regarding availability for the other 2011 VFFS -- the Jaya LR (women), and KomodoSports for men -- I will send out another alert! !

CitySports offers FREE GROUND SHIPPING on all VFFs!  What more could you want?

You can learn more about the Jaya here, the TrekSport here, the KomodoSport here, and the Bikila LS here. As for sizing, Jayas should size similarly to Classics, KomodoSports, Bikila LS and TrekSports should size similarly to Bikilas. As with all VFFs, sizing varies from model to model and sometimes even from color combination to color combination!

Merrell Barefoot, Minimalist Running Education Site Launched

Merrell Barefoot, Minimalist Running Education Site Launched

Merrell Barefoot, the new line of footwear from popular shoe manufacturer Merrell, has just launched their Merrell Barefoot microsite, which features minimalist and barefoot-minded content. This includes blog posts focused on barefoot/minimalist running, videos on how to run with a barefoot style featuring barefoot running guru Jason Robillard, and more.

More details about the Merrell Barefoot launch, and the answer to if you can buy them after the jump!

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Soft Star RunAmoc Review

Soft Star RunAmoc
Soft Star RunAmoc.

Guest post by Matt

Matt is an avid minimalist hailing from the great state of Oregon, home of the minimalist shoe company Soft Star. He recently set out on an adventure that put his Soft Star RunAmocs to the test. Enjoy Matt's take on these elegant but durable minimalist shoes.

The Test

Not unlike many of the people who's stories are here at birthdayshoes.com, I've been intrigued with testing the limits of my minimalist obsession. In this case, it meant challenging Oregon's South Sister mountain in footwear a mere whisper of the massively thick soles and steel toes of traditional hiking boots.

About RunAmoc Lite Shoes

When I received a pair of RunAmoc Lite shoes from local minimal shoe maker Soft Star Shoes to test, it seemed the opportunity had arrived. If you are not familar with Soft Star or their RunAmoc model, let me bring you up to speed. They are made by elves. It's even run by two Chief Elf Officers. Of course, these elves are not of the short stature, pointy ear variety. Just dedicated shoemakers working from the factory in Corvallis, Oregon. But the RunAmoc's do have an elfish quality in their simplicity. They sport merely a few pieces of leather stitched to a Vibram sole. And with a close look at that handiwork, you see these are as much hearty as simple - not to mention ridiculously comfortable.

Read on for the full review after the jump!

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Fila Skeletoes Toe Shoes Exclusive Sneak Peak

Black Turkish Sea Men's.
Fila Skeletoes Black Turkish Sea Men's.

"What the heck are those" Fila Skele-toes??

If you must know, just skip this post and go straight to our detailed review: we've photoed and videoed the "heck" out of the Fila Skele-Toes here!

FiveFingers Look Alike?

If you're new to the crazy concept of "toe shoes", you might benefit from a brief history on their origins. Believe it or not, they got their start almost five years ago by an Italian company called Vibram — they produced the first five toe shoes called Vibram FiveFingers and have turned traditional footwear paradigms upside down.

Though the Fila Skele-toes look conspicuously similar to Vibram Five Fingers, our contact assures us that, "Fila does not see this product as a direct competitor to the Five Fingers." How so? Well, this shoe is being marketed as more of a casual activity shoe. They see them being used for activities such as biking, boating, swimming, and walking.

They are not designed for running, which is one of the primary uses of our beloved Five Fingers. Instead they are intended to be more of a companion product. A comfortable and affordable casual alternative to slip your toes into after a hard work out in your Five Fingers. Skeletoes can give you the barefoot experience while reducing the wear and tear on your performance oriented Five Fingers. At least in theory, on review of the Skele-toes they're not quite as barefoot as we would like.

Men, Women and Kids!

The Fila Skeletoes are barefoot shoes targeted to active men and women and Fila is even offering this product in kids sizes. It is great to see kids included in the mix. They are certainly priced right at $59 for Men and Women and $49 for kids (MSRP).

Under the Hood

Though in the photo above, the upper material looks like Neoprene, it is not. Skeletoes are made of four-way stretch, two ply nylon. They have a bungee cord for ease of entry and velcro straps for a customized fit. They have a multi-purpose slip-resistant rubber outsole. That's the basics — more detail about them (and photos/video) can be found in our Fila Skeletoes review.

There are two things that really differentiate the Skeletoes from the original "toe shoes" (Vibram FiveFingers):

  • The bottom sole of the Skeletoes do not cover the top of the toes as this might infringe on a Vibram patent.
  • Skeletoes incorporate what they call an EZ slide feature that combines the smallest two toes for ease of entry. For some people that have issues with their toes and can't wear Five Fingers, this feature alone might make the Skeletoes an attractive option. Our contact claims testing shows that Skeletoes were much easier to put on than Five Fingers.

If you're wondering why we compare Skele-toes to something called "FiveFingers," it's simply because the concept of "toe shoes" was pioneered by the first toe shoes on the market, circa 2005-2006, Vibram FiveFingers: get caught up on what you've been missing a la the barefoot revolution.

Availability

The Skele-toes started showing up around mid-February 2011! That was when our buddies over at Comet Shoes started carrying them.

What say ye?

Do you like the look and would you consider buying a pair? What about that combined pinky/fourth toe thing?