Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Merrell Bare Access Shoe Review

Merrell Bare Access
I'm lucky to be friends with Pete Larson from Runblogger.  We both share an almost unhealthy obsession with running shoes.  But we both come at it from different points of view.  He is very analytical.  I'm more emotional.  He can tell somebody all about the technical reasons a shoe works a certain way.  I can't.  I can just say how it feels on the run.  Regardless of how we go about it, we both just can't resist a new shoe and both of us have a huge closet of shoes to show for it.  I have purposely never sat down and figured out how much money I've spent on shoes.  I don't want to.  I'm afraid.

Pete from

The reason that I'm lucky to know Pete is that he is a very unselfish person.  He has put me in touch with many shoe companies to help him test/review shoes.  He runs mostly roads.  I run mostly trails.  He runs less mileage, with short fast runs.  I run lots of miles and do lots of slower long runs.  What works for one type of run might not for the other.  Therefore our combined feedback is helpful to many shoe companies.

One company that Pete has connected me with is Merrell.  I recently reviewed the new Mix Master II, which I loved.  You can read that review here. About a month ago, they sent me the new for 2013 Bare Access.  This is the first release in the M-Connect Series.  The series is a "collection of minimalist footwear and lightweight apparel for outside people".

Vibram Sole
The Bare Access is a zero drop shoe with uniform cushioning from heel to forefoot.  Merrell's claimed weight is 7oz.  My size 10.5 weighed 7.4oz so that is a realistic weigh for a size 9.  When I put them on I was immediately reminded of the fit of my first pair of Merrell barefoot shoes, the Trail Glove.  But way better.  I always loved the feel of the Trail Glove, but I didn't like how the hard sole hurt my feet for long runs or running on pavement.  The new Bare Access has much more cushioning with their 13.5mm stack height.  The fit on the BA is amazing.  It feels like the shoe is wrapped around your forefoot, but your toes have tons of room.  I can only describe it as like standing on the edge of a diving board and having your toes hang off the board.

Perfect Toe-Box

I took them out of the box I immediately went for a 10 mile pavement run.  In the first 1/2 mile I was aware of the very minimal heel counter.  There is no padding on the collar and I was concerned that my Achilles would get irritated. But that wasn't the case.

Heel Counter
Within a mile I forgot all about it.  I usually can't stand any support under my arches.  These shoes have considerable arch support, but for some strange reason it just feels right.  I can't explain it.  Perhaps it just hits my arch's in the exact location. I actually love how it feels.  With the PF that I have been battling all year, I find that my feet don't hurt at all in these shoes.  Unlike most minimal shoes, the tongue on this shoe has some nice padding.

Excellent Ventilation and nice soft tongue
I find that the new trend of using a tiny piece of cloth for a tongue can leave the top of my foot irritated.  These feel great!  I finished the run with no blisters and still amazed at the completely perfect fit.

13.5mm Stack Height still feels minimal, but cushioned enough not to hurt!

You can read all about the specs for them (and order a pair) here.  They sell for $90 and I think that they are a bargain.  I have worn them almost every single day since getting them.  They have taken over from my Skechers Bionics as my favorite everyday shoe.  That says a lot.

Yes Please!!!!

Today I received a big box with the rest of the M-Connect series, soon to be released.  I can't say anything about them yet, but there are a couple in there that I am really really psyched about.  For now, the combination of the Mix Master II and the Bare Access are an awesome duo.


Chris Ⓥ said...

Nice review. Two questions:

1. Are they a little wider in the toebox than the Mix Master 2?

2. Think they could be used in a 50km or 50 mile ultra?

Nathan Sanel said...

Yes, they have a wider than the MM2. They feel much more minimal (airy) too. Without knowing what your used to, I can't tell you of they would be ok for a 50k or 50m. What are you running in now?

Runnin' Ric said...

enjoyed the review, Nate. another comparison question - how does this compare to the Mix Master 2 (which i own and love) in terms of cushion/springiness? while the MM2 has become my go-to trail shoe, i find it a bit unforgiving when on pavement (which goes against its marketing, of being a great shoe for road and trail). is the bare access more/less/same, cushion-wise? thanks. Ric

Nathan Sanel said...

Hi Ric,
I think that the BA2 is actually firmer, with a less cushiony feel. I can't say too much, but they are coming out with a shoe soon that is exactly what you are looking for.

Unknown said...

So... I have been on a quest to find a zero drop trail shoe with more cushion. I love my Trail Gloves but can't run on them for more than 6 miles on rocky trails. It appears that this is a hole in the current market and I'd have to settle for the Bare Access. I'm curious about the new M-Connect lineup, should I hold off and see if there is a shoe that fits the bill?

shonofear said...

hey nice review.
wondering if the BA2 fit a little bigger than the trail glove.
only ask cause using runningwarehouse shoe fit guide recommend me wearing a US10 instead of my US10.5 trail glove and my inov-8 245's.
does this about right?
do you think running pavement (mostly flat) i can get away with a more snug shoe fit as apposed to the trails shoes wear extra toe space recommended for especially downhill work...?
cheers for ya help

Nathan Sanel said...

There are several zero drop shoes on the market with much more cushioning than then trail glove. Are you looking for a trail shoe or road?

Nathan Sanel said...

I don't have my trail gloves in front of me right now, but I think that I have a size 10 and they fit a bit snug. My Bare Access's are size 10.5 and fit perfect. I think that they fit exactly "true to size" so just stick with what you normally wear. I personally like a little extra toe room regardless of what surface I'm running on. Toes hitting the front of the shoe during downhills really depends on the snugness of the mid part of the shoe. If I have a nice fitting shoe with a bit of toe room, my toes won't generally hit during descents.

Unknown said...

Hi Nathan,

I'm looking for a zero drop trail shoe with a bit more cushion than the Trail Glove. Probably something like the Bare Access with a trail sole or a zero drop Mix Master. I'm getting by on Saucony Peregrine 2's but the stack height is a bit tall and they are too soft (not to mention the obvious 4mm drop).

BG said...

Nice review. I run in Gobionics and I love them but I'm concerned about winter conditions coming soon. Do you think the Bare access II would be a good minimalist shoe for snowy and cold streets?


Nathan Sanel said...

Skechers is coming out with a shoe that you are going to love. Its called the Go Bionic Trail. I can't say much about it yet, but it should be perfect for you. As of right now, the only zero drop trail shoes with some cushioning that I can think of is the Altra lone peak and the new superior. They are both really heavy though, so I'm sure if they will fit your needs.

Nathan Sanel said...

I think that the Bare Access is a very similar shoe, with maybe a bit more cushioning. It is better vented than the Skechers so it might be colder. The sole will be better in those conditions though. said...

Hi Nate, I want to order a pair of Bare Access 2, but I am unsure of the size. Do you have any experience with the New Balance MT10s by any chance?

Runningwarehouse shoeft´r app, tells me to go half a size smaller than my MT10s.

Nathan Sanel said...,
That actually sounds about right. I wear a size 11 in most of the NB minimus line and the BA in 10.5 fits perfectly. Let me know what you think of it!

Annette said...

I've been running in the bare access for a few months now and love the fit through the arch and the cushion. I'm doing a 50K trail run the end of Mar and want to order another pair to run in. The problem is the toe box on the left foot is too small and blisters my little toe. Is there another shoe with similar fit and cushion I should try or just order this one in a size larger?

Nathan Sanel said...

Annette, you could size up a 1/2 size or perhaps look at some of the more minimal Altras. They have a similar fit, but some more room in the toe box. Good luck!