(Admin note: this is the second of a two-part review of Feelmax footwear. If you missed part one, click here to read about the Feelmax company and the Niesa shoe.)
Barefoot runners eventually get accustomed to turning some heads.
Whether it’s shocked looks of disbelief from neighbors, unsolicited comments from passersby on the road, or amused stares from nearby drivers, going without shoes triggers the freak reaction in a great deal of the general public.
For all their benefit and comfort, Vibram’s FiveFingers only slightly mitigate this knee-jerk response from people; in fact, in many cases it only makes the situation worse. After all, going barefoot is one thing – but spending 80 to 90 bucks to buy shoes that make you feel barefoot is a strange equation for a lot of folks … especially when said shoes are often referred to as gorilla feet by their owners. And while most Vibram users (myself included) adore their beloved footwear and would defend them to the mat, there are certainly some times when we’d rather not make a spectacle of ourselves.
(Yes, I’m aware that many VFF owners totally enjoy the shocked stares and questions they get while wearing them … but I would think that answering the same questions over and over again would eventually get tedious. Maybe that’s just me.)
So wouldn’t it be great if there was minimalist footwear that could actually pass for a standard running shoe? Something you could use for training in your neighborhood without attracting unwanted attention, or wear in races without standing out in the crowd? Feelmax has developed just such a shoe, called the Osma.
Ever since the company’s debut, customers have used Feelmax footwear for running, even though the styling of most of their models is not ideally suited for the activity; for example, the Panka and Niesa models sit up relatively high on the ankle, while lower-profile models like the Kuusa might not reliably stay on the foot in tricky conditions. Last winter, in response to customer demand, Feelmax set out to make a running-specific model while maintaining the overall lightness and superb ground feel that distinguished the brand.
They did a lot of prototype testing with their high-use customers, collecting feedback to see what worked and what didn’t. They brainstormed with their manufacturers to develop materials that could handle the demands of high-mileage runners. And they went back to the drawing board a few times to make sure they got everything right.
The result of all that labor is the Osma, which is a slight departure from their previous models, but with the same Feelmax characteristics that its users love. They launched it at the Outdoor Fair in Germany this past July, and it will be available for the general public in spring or summer 2010. (Updated Feb '10: they're now available at GiftsFromFinland.com.)
One of the primary differences with previous Feelmax models is in the outsole: instead of the 1.3mm thickness of the Niesa, you have 2.1mm on the Osma. (If you can feel the functional difference in 0.8mm, you’re way more tactically aware than I am.) There is also a removable – it’s glued in the forefoot, but easy to detach if desired - 2mm insole that could potentially increase the thickness to 4mm, which is still thinner overall than the Vibram KSO’s 3.5mm outsole and 2mm insole.
This outsole was the result of multiple prototype tests with Continental (the tire company), and it retains the same traction and puncture-resistance of any other Feelmax model. And despite the increased thickness, the outsole is still remarkably flexible, allowing your feet to grip the ground for improved stability.
The thicker sole and new upper materials combine to increase the weight of this shoe slightly – 120g (4.23oz) for the Osma compared to 90g (3.17oz) for the Niesa – but again, if you can tell the functional difference in 30g, you’re a far better detective than me. From a weight and performance standpoint, this shoe gave me almost the exact same feel as the Niesa, in a package that looks for all the world like a regular old running shoe.
For those times when you want a true minimalist trainer but would rather blend in with the crowd, the Feelmax Osma will be an outstanding option. Sometimes it’s better to let your feet do all the talking.
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