Queen of 3rd Place
Just thought I'd update on my experiences with these after a few runs. I should point out that I run either BF or in minimal shoes only enough to keep my PF at bay (actually it's completely gone now). Also, most of my running is on asphalt or concrete.
Feel: First, the Niesas are very, very close to BF running (I removed the insoles). The sole is extremely thin (1 mm) and flexible. I find that you have to take almost the same care with how and where I land as when I am barefoot. With the Niesa, small pebbles still make me jump up! I can easily feel small cracks in the sidewalk.Running on dirt paths is difficult for me. I have tried to think about how to describe the sensation of wearing them: they essentially feel like you have maybe 3 - 4 layers of duct tape on your socks. In that regard, I really, really like them. The Osmas are close to this (2.1 mm thick), however I do feel the difference. They don't give me the same wonderful free feeling as running BF. Others on the web report that they can't tell the difference. I've stated before that VFF don't feel all that different to me in terms of support, flexibility, and protection vs. XC flats - these shoes are VASTLY more flexible and light than VFFs!! Even the Osma has a sole 1/2 as thick as the VFF, but sole thickness is only part of the story - the flexibility is what's really amazing about these shoes.
Wear: It's a shame that the Niesas are showing significant wear after less than 30 miles! The sole material in certain areas is now paper-thin, and I think they'll pretty much be toast before 100 mi. At about $80 + shipping, that makes them pretty much a no-go for me. Others have reported that the Osmas will go at least 200 mi with little visible wear, so I suspect these would come out about the same in cost as traditional running shoes, but for me, I didn't have that same good, free feeling, so I probably wouldn't get another pair.
Sizing: I followed the directions for sizing from the manufacturer, but I had some problems with the Niesas being a little snug, there seems to be an upward curvature at the front of the shoe that rubs up against my second toe on one foot (in a way that I've felt before just before losing a toenail). I've subsequently started wearing a silicone toe cot with the Niesas, so the problem has been somewhat mitigated, although they're still only good for about 5 - 6 mi at a time.
For the Osmas, I went a size up, but this made them too large, and the subsequent sliding around has caused some blistering issues. I went for a 9 miler, came back with a nice blood blister on the sole of my forefoot! I may put the insole back in the Osmas but I'm a little disappointed. I think Feelmax shoes are supposed to fit snugly, but for me that's a problem if I want to keep my toenails! One day if I'm feeling rich I might try the next size down on the Osmas.
Overall: Worth a try, but sizing is important. You may want to check on the return policy offered by Extreme Outfitters (the only US dealer carrying them as far as I know). I didn't check their policy, because I was determined to give these a good try. Vastly more minimal than VFFs.
I am enjoying trying all these shoes out! Next up: Soft Star's "Run-a-moc" moccasins (street model)!