Ground hugging comfort.
Compact yet roomy.
Get yourself behind the wheel of your very own BMW…for your feet – the Merrell Bare Access 2.
Jason Taylor and I have had the opportunity to test drive this zero-drop tread and have accumulated over 200 miles between the two of us. Marketed as a road shoe, this responsive 7 ounce (men’s) shoe parks itself in an accessible lot for many runners interested in a zero drop shoe but still want a moderate amount of cushioning.
You will see Jason’s thoughts included throughout the review. I hadn’t even looked at his feedback until I completed mine. So what you see are untainted thoughts from both of us. Enjoy!
Welcome to the Merrell Bare Access 2 showroom, let’s check it out!
At first glance, the Bare Access 2 is a good lookin’ shoe. I dig the silver detailing. Looks only go so far, let’s check out the bones of this tread.
Jason – I was impressed by the overall look of the shoe. Clean and simple. The blue definitely popped visually. I liked the white EVA outer sole with the blue and black mixed color sole by Vibram.
- Weight: 7 oz – light (Men’s per Merrell website)
- Ride height: 0 mm drop – Flat ride (difference from midsole to heel)
- 13.5 mm stack height (distance from foot to ground) – moderate cushioning
- Vibram Outsole
Feathery Zero Drop with some Cush
This shoe is light and spunky at 7 ounces (Men’s). Who doesn’t want the lightest shoe they can wear? The catch – many of us prefer a moderate amount of cushioning. This is where the Bare Access 2 delivers. You get some firm cushioning along with the feathery weight. Note, I said firm. No squishy midsole here.
This shoe also sits in the rather small selection of shoes that are zero drop (midsole height is the same as the heel height).
Keeping it simple. Keeping it light. No insole or consider it a built-in insole.
No big heel counters. A very flexible heel area that allows the foot to do what it needs to do while running.
Minimal Yet Supportive Upper
Simple, light, breathable upper with a nice overlay through the midfoot area that provides a comfortable hug and a slight amount of support for your feet.
At the forefoot area, your toes get to play in a fairly spacious playground. I wouldn’t consider it awkwardly big, but comfortably roomy.
The tip of the shoe actually has some harder material around the big piggy area which would buffer the yowza from a root or rock if enjoying a little off-road adventure in them.
Sticky Vibram Outsole
The Vibram outsole has a grippy feel that responds nicely on the pavement and can handle some dirt as well.
Get Inside – The Fit
I would say the shoe fits fairly true to size. I have been size 12 for most shoes, and wore size 12 with these Merrell’s.
This shoe is designed where you could likely go sock-less but I prefer a thin sock and would recommend that versus a thick one as it will likely provide a better fit (and more piggy room).
Once the foot is inside the shoe and laced up, I liked how the midfoot felt secure but not restricted. And the toes were all smiles within the roomy toe-box area. From initial lace-up the shoe really felt comfortable, non-restrictive, and fast.
If someone has really wide feet, the shoe may be a little snug through the midfoot but you would just have to test it out.
Jason – These shoes fit me very well. They were sized well, meaning a 9.5 fit like a 9.5 for my foot. The toe box is roomy in the front and wide side to side. The lack of any substantial restriction or support in the overall make up of the material made for a very comfortable wear in my forefoot. The mid foot fit snug, perhaps a bit more snug than I would have liked but I got used to it after a while. The heel cup is very comfortable with no extra fluff. The entire upper is made of the same material and Merrell used a nicely placed band of fabric on the outside to show off their brand name but functionally serve as a heel stabilizer and it was just enough to keep the shoe comfortably on my foot. There is no insert and although I’m not used to that, I never noticed it after the first couple times putting them on.
Take It Out For a Spin – Test Drive
My first run in this tread was a 10 mile scamper through town that included paved park trails, dirt, and grass.
Within the first half mile, I was impressed with how comfortable and natural they felt on my feet. I could sense the moderate cushioning but it was firm, just the way I like it. No squish, squish, squish with each stride.
Throughout the dirt sections, I would look for the roots and step on everyone I could. Somewhat to my surprise, the outsole and midsole provided nice buffering of the object.
My only real bummer with these shoes was after a few runs in them, I check if any trenching occurred. Trenching is a term I use define breakdown in the midsole in the forefoot area of the shoe. (When you run you hand along the insole to the front of the shoe you may notice a dip in the forefoot area which is likely due to midsole breakdown from mid/fore foot running.) Unfortunately there was trenching, which is true for most every shoe I wear. I see this as a design opportunity for all shoe manufacturers.
Jason – I’ve worn the shoes for about 100 miles at this point. Most of the terrain has been flat fine ground trail or road. I’ve encountered no issues with the grip of the sole but I don’t think these shoes would have much to offer on any technical terrain, they lack any substantial tread pattern at all. Incredibly comfortable, they offer a minimal amount of support under foot but protected my feet from fatigue and stayed comfortable well into 15-18 mile runs. I did have a quality complaint at mile 40 – a portion of the sole of one shoe came unglued from the sole near where the ball of the foot is but along the medial edge.
Zero Drop with Cush Compare: Merrell Bare Access 2 and Altra Instinct
The Merrell Bare Access 2 and Altra Insinct are shoes that both reside in the zero-drop space and have some cushioning.
How do they compare?
- The Bare Access 2 is lighter and less-shoe (less midsole, fabric, heel, insole) throughout.
- The Bare Access 2 has a more comfortably fitted feel from heel to midfoot.
- The Bare Access 2 has firmer cushioning (and less of it). The Instinct has a slight squish feel with each stride. It is slight, but I notice it.
- Both provide a fair amount of object protection if you hit the trails with them.
- Both has nice room for the pigs.
The Merrell Bare Access 2 is a lightweight zero-drop “road” shoe that includes a moderate amount of firm cushioning. And don’t be surprised on seeing this tread playing in some tame dirt environments as well. I think it would be up for the adventure.
The runner that would most dig the Merrell Bare Access 2:
- Digs a zero-drop “road” shoe that could play in the dirt.
- Desires lightweight but still wants a moderate amount of firm cushioning.
- Smiles when his piggies have room to play in the toebox.
- A shoe designed to support sock-less running.
- Doesn’t have really wide feet. (Could be tight in the midfoot area.)
Jason – I’ve stayed away from Merrell shoes for the last several years. I just couldn’t bring myself to try a shoe by another company that decided to move into the running shoe market like everyone else. I didn’t think I would be impressed by the shoe and I was proven wrong. This is one of my favorite shoes to run in. Not only does it look great, but it’s a perfect shoe for the kind of terrain and distance that I am on 80% of the week. I run fine ground trail, road and bike paths around my house. At school I run on a dirt, sand, road mix that circles a golf course. The shoe is incredibly comfortable and I find myself wearing it around town as a regular shoe too.
Bonus thoughts from Jason – I tend to like a low drop shoe that is light weight. Because I have metatarsalgia in one foot, I generally don’t run rocky terrain in this type of shoe and I don’t think I’d recommend it for that anyways, it’s built to be a fast road trainer or racer. If your feet are strong and prepared, this shoe would be fine for a marathon or 50km on non-technical terrain. It doesn’t offer enough support for longer than that though in my opinion.
For the females, this shoe is called the Bare Access Arc 2.
If you have worn the Merrell Bare Access 2 or Bare Access Arc 2 shoes, what are your thoughts on them?
You can purchase the Merrell Bare Access 2 or Bare Access Arc 2 at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).
Thanks to Jason Taylor for sharing his thoughts on the Merrell shoe as well!
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