After returning from our hike this past weekend to Old Spec, I was pleasantly surprised to find a package waiting for me when I got home. My Feelmax shoes had finally arrived! Back in May when I was working on my TCFMF series, I contacted Feelmax asking them if they would let me test and review a pair of their shoes - they agreed to send me a pair of the Niesas. At some point in my email conversation with them, I learned about a boot they were soon to be releasing called the Kuuva. As soon as I learned about this development I got very excited... maybe a minimal footwear company would finally be catering to the needs of those of us who don't live in continual summer. When Feelmax saw my enthusiasm, they told me they would ship a pair of the Kuuvas to me for review once they were released from production. This week when I opened the box I was pleased to find a pair of each inside.
The Niesa is built like a moccasin with a thin, rubber-coated fabric sole and light weight mesh/nubuck uppers. The materials look to be very durable and the construction seems to be top-notch. I found that putting the shoe on was very comfortable right out of the box. The sizing was perfect for my feet, they didn't fit too tight and I found there to be ample room around the toes for barefoot-like walking. My oddly-shaped wide feet did not encounter any problems whatsoever - I was very pleased with the fit - a good first impression. The Niesa is designed to be very flexible and is probably the closest to barefoot I have felt in any minimal shoe (with the exception of Sockwas, which lack considerably in durability).
I have only had the shoes for a week and have worn them to work every day. I haven't been comfortable wearing FiveFingers at work, but I have no problems wearing these. They look just like a running shoe and would fit just fine in any environment where running/casual shoes are acceptable attire. When walking to/from work on wet pavement, I found the soles to be sufficiently water resistant that my feet did not get wet (I haven't had them in the rain yet). I also like the fact that I can wear normal socks in them if I need to. They have now officially become my favorite shoe for work, hands down.
In addition to the workplace, I have worn the Niesas on my morning trail runs. I normally wear FiveFinger KSOs when running and feel that the Niesas are different: they offer slightly better ground feel due to the fabric soles, and the foot tends to move around in them a little more due to a less glove-like fit. What I find interesting about this is that it is causes me to focus more on my technique than when wearing FiveFingers. It is teaching me to be lighter and better balanced on my feet. If my foot slips a little forward or to the side in the shoe (its not a lot, but I notice it), then I am probably doing something wrong and need to fix it. One wouldn't notice these subtleties in a regular running shoe as much because they are more rigid and tend to be laced tighter.
The next test I have planned is to take them on some long hikes in the mountains and on our backpacking trip planned for the end of this month. I will be very interested to see how they perform on the trail.
That's all I have to say about the Niesa for now, so far I think this looks like a very versatile shoe. I will report more about my impressions as time goes on, next week I plan on sharing my first impressions on the Kuuva, so stay tuned!