My favorite winter boot of all time is back for its fifth generation! The Feelmax Kuuva 5 aims to improve upon its long legacy of being the lightest waterproof boot in the world with a softer leather, a new waterproofing design, tougher brass hardware and other materials.
Alongside the Kuuva 5, Feelmax has also released a new water-resistant Kuuva Trek hiking shoe. Shorter than its winter boot counterpart, the Kuuva features the more flexible and shorter collar of previous Kuuva boots and a very flexible sole. Kuuva provided both of these shoes to review for BirthdayShoes readers, so without further adieu, read on!
Here’s what Feelmax says about the Kuuva 5 and the Kuuva Trek:
Improved version of our best-seller, the Kuuva 4 minimalist Hiking Boot. Completely new shoe construction made of non-wicking materials, new ecological leather upper, improved SympaTex ® waterproofing membrane, revised lacehooks and more durable laces. 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. Waterproof up to 4 hours of use.
Lightweight, midheight street and trekking boot. Very flexible. Waterrepellent. Made of leather with canvas trim. NatuRun Sierra outsole.
To familiarize yourself with these two sets of boots, here are some photo galleries:
Feelmax Kuuva 5
Feelmax Kuuva Trek
Feelmax Kuuva 5 vs Kuuva Trek
Both the Kuuva 5 and Kuuva Trek use the same “NatuRun” 2.5mm “Sierra” outsole that is also used in the Vasko II and last year’s Kuuva 4. This sole was upgraded from the previous Naturun sole with deeper lugs and more textures; I wished that the Kuuva 5 would have benefitted from a more aggressive sole in line with the progression from the Kuuva 3 to the 4.
As before, this sole is incredibly flexible and provides an amount of ground feel and dexterity that exceeds many other minimalist lifestyle shoes and is the absolute thinnest winter boot sole that I could find.
At 2.5mm, you still get a fair amount of protection, but the sole is very flexible and will allow for incredibly focused trekking. It is easy to apply pressure on one part of your foot or in individual toe spots for traction that is impossible in a thicker sole.
Having such a thin sole means you have a ton of control as you walk, run, and adventure about. The relatively thin sole of the new Kuuva boots means that you will slip less, be more smooth on all terrain types, and overall have a better time in mud, snow, and ice.
Because you have such dexterity, you can detect slip more quickly and recalibrate your movements. It is much harder for me to slip on ice and have uncontrolled slides with the Kuuva sole because I have so much awareness of where my feet are, how they are moving, and what the ground is doing underneath. I can be far more reckless with this sole, much like with a running shoe, rather than plodding around with a “boot”.
Groundfeel, as before, is equivalent to most shoes in the 4-5mm range. Small details like random twigs and rocks, and small variations in the density of snow and ice will all be felt, especially if you wear thinner socks.
As a consequence, even though the Kuuva 5 is billed as a winter shoe (the Kuuva Trek can also be considered a winter boot, though a less capable one than its bigger brother), the thin sole means that you will have less insulation from cold temperatures. Depending on your own comfort level and overall body temperature, if you spend too much time standing still in the snow with no-show dress socks and you will get chilly toes soon enough. Obviously, thicker socks will take care of that issue and it is nice that you have come customization to how warm your feet are by wearing thinner or thicker socks with a somewhat colder baseline temperature due to the thin soles in both shoes.
For me, I can shovel snow for hours in the Kuuva 5 while wearing thin dress socks and adventure in all but the iciest conditions with the Kuuva Trek and my feet are still comfortable. It is only when I stand around with some snowcover that I start getting cold toes. With wool socks, there is almost nothing to worry about.
Again, I do wish that the lugs were more aggressive this year, but the Naturun sole is tried and tested and an excellent sole as it was last year.
Fit and Materials
While they look similar, the two boots are very different. The Kuuva Trek is a breathable water-resistant adventure boot while the Kuuva 5 is completely waterproof and taller for winter use and this is reflected in their materials.
Both Kuuva boots are comprised of a soft inner lining fabric, the 2.5mm NatuRun sole, and a combination leather and nylon upper. With the Kuuva 5, the leather extends from the sole of the shoe and about 3/4 up the shoe and ankle while the Kuuva Trek is low-slung around 1/3 up the leg. The Kuuva 5 uses a waterproof SympaTex membrane mid layer and more leather surrounding the foot while the Kuuva Trek adds soft canvas in its construction to be more breathable. This canvas strip runs up the entire lacing structure and is meant to provide a breathable swoop throughout the shoe.
While the Kuuva Trek is meant to be a breathable hiking boot, I found it to overall not be much so more breathable than the Kuuva 5 that it justified being a different shoe. I think that Feelmax could have simply make the Kuuva 5 shorter and that would be the Kuuva Trek or Kuuva “Chukka” or something of that sort. Regardless, I did not find either boot to be sweaty or anything of that sort; I mostly wore them in cold weather and that is where these boots shine. I would not find myself wearing either one in warmer weather, even though the Kuuva Trek is billed as a hiking boot. In the summer, I would much rather hike in huaraches, so I think that the Kuuva Trek could have simply embraced its waterproof Kuuva roots and be a short, comfortable waterproof boot, rather than a water resistant one. However, if you are someone that loves hiking in an actual boot, the Kuuva Trek is excellent for that purpose. I really like the size, weight, and overall feel of the Trek. If it weren’t for the fact that the Kuuva 5 is completely waterproof, I might wear the Trek all winter long!
The Kuuva Trek lacks a few features that the Kuuva 5 has, including: metal hardware for its laces (just stretchy fabric for the top laces), the pull tab (the Kuuva Trek has a pull that is similar to older Kuuva boots that lacks a proper loop), and it uses the less dense laces of the older models as well. Since it is shorter than the 5—actually, it’s very close in size to the Kuuva 3—I see the Kuuva Trek as basically a more breathable version of the Kuuva 3. As it is a new model, I would have liked to see the same improvements that the Kuuva 5 received trickle down into the Trek. The Trek is great hiking boot and I think it is a real winner for Feelmax in terms of size and design, but it seems a little less awesome when switching back and forth with its bigger brother, the Kuuva 5.
For further waterproofing, Feelmax recommends using beeswax and a hairdryer for a more waterproof Trek experience, while retaining of all its lightweight and simplicity.
Speaking of which, the Feelmax Kuuva 5 makes a number of improvements from the generation 4 boot. While I praised the Kuuva 4, there were some things that I would have included in a next gen Kuuva, including a proper pull tab to aid in putting the boot on and off, more insulation, tougher laces, and more durable metal hardware.
Apparently, Feelmax likes my ideas as they implemented all of them! The Kuuva 4 has an entirely new construction, while still maintaining the iconic Kuuva look. Its waterproof membrane has been has been improved and Kuuva says that its waterproof for up to four hours of use. The added membrane and denser, more insulating adds about 1.5 oz to the Kuuva 5 from its fourth generation, but it’s so lightweight that you won’t even notice.
In my testing, which included many hikes through the snow in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, a number of snow days, slush-flooded streets, and a number of times where I awkward stood in a puddle while people walked by and thought I was crazy, the Kuuva 5 performed perfectly. In my regular use, I never had issues with the Kuuva 3 and 4, but the 5 is clearly and the best winter boot. Its waterproofing never failed me in normal use and its design is the culmination of years of incremental improvements and knowhow.
According to Feelmax, the Kuuva 5 uses more ecological leather for its uppers, but not only that, but the leather they use is a softer, nicer leather than the one used in the Kuuva Trek and older Kuuva waterproof models. It breaks in quickly and has a nice worn look to them, while the older leather was smoother and firmer. It is especially sharp looking in a new burgundy brown color.
The Kuuva 5 has the same overall interior design as the Kuuva 4, but it’s more padded and slightly denser, which lends itself to better cold-weather insulation.
Inside, both shoes use an organic anti-odor treatment in the insole, which is removable in the Kuuva 5, but embedded in the Kuuva Trek.
Overall, the Kuuva 5 improves upon the Kuuva 4 in just about every way, save for the same Naturun sole. It remains the best winter boot I have tested and my favorite boot overall. As always, the Kuuva remains a best-seller and an incredible design.
The Kuuva Trek is an exciting new hiking-focused model and I really like its shorter design, but I wish it was waterproof. Perhaps a Kuuva Trek 2 will sacrifice some breathability for waterproofing, or perhaps it will be more breathable.
My main thoughts for improvements would be for the Kuuva Trek to be a mini Kuuva 5 with all of its features, including waterproofing and metal hardware.
Going in the opposite direction, it would be cool to see the Kuuva Trek become a even more lightweight model and shed of its insulation and be more breathable in the future.
For both, I would like a more aggressive sole that gives up just a modicum of flexibility for a bit more traction and cold-weather survivability.
A huge thanks goes to Feelmax for sending me the Kuuva 5 and Trek for review!