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Merrell Bare Access 2 Review

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 | 7 Comments

Merrell’s Bare Access 2 is an update to the popular Bare Access released last year. i reviewed them here:

Bare Access Review

I used that particular shoe for a good portion of the Across the Years 72 hour race and all of the Fifth Third Riverbank Run 25k. The cushioning didn’t affect my gait nearly as much as I expected. The biggest issue I had was the top of the heel counter. It was a few millimeters too high and dug into my Achilles if I didn’t wear socks. The shoe was also known for the ridiculously light weight due to the mostly-EVA foam sole. The trade-off was decreased durability, which I will discuss later in the review.

The Bare Access 2

The Bare Access 2 is part of Merrell’s M-Connect series- shoes that utilize the principles of their barefoot line but are designed for a wider audience and/or more applications. The BA2 has about a 13-14mm stack height (sole thickness), which is zero dropped (no raised heel). The shoe is built on the same last as the Trail Glove, Road Glove, and the rest of Merrell’s Barefoot line. The aesthetics get a MAJOR upgrade, as does available colors. The previous version’s half-EVA outsole has been replaced by a full Vibram rubber outsole. This adds weight, but durability increases significantly.

First Impressions

Well, the shoe works as advertised. Since the last fits my foot perfectly, I knew the shoe would work well for me. The fit feels the same as the original Bare Access. ventilated, but uses a finer mesh than the Trail Glove. The upper is The heel counter on the new version seems to be lower as it no longer digs into my Achilles.

Intended Use

The shoe is designed as a road running shoe or a “transition” shoe for people moving from a typical cushioned trainer to more minimal shoes. As a road shoe, the BA2 works well. I’d prefer to use a more minimally-cushioned shoe for a marathon or shorter race, but the BA2 wokrs exceedingly well for timed or ultra distance road running. I’ll be using this shoe for the majority of Across the Years again this year.

The shoe can also be used as a casual shoe. The updated aesthetics give it a more current look. I occasionally use mine as such, though I prefer my non-cusioned shoes like the Flux Glove, Skora Form, Stem/Leming Origin, and my trusty Chaco Flips.

My Use

Aside from long-distance road running, I’ll use this shoe for specific trail running applications. The combination of cushioning, zero-drop, and all-rubber sole make the shoe well-suited for running on flatish dry, rocky terrain. The cushioning absorbs and disburses the “pointiness” of rocks and other debris. The rubber sole provides good traction on bare rock.

Unfortunately the lack of rock plate, lugs, and Omni-fit lacing (found on the Trail Glove) limit the shoe to flat courses. If this shoe had those three features, it would be the perfect mountain running shoe.

Improvements?

With the inclusion of the full rubber outsole and lowered heel counter, I don’t know that the Bare Access 2 can be altered in any way to improve its intended use. Merrell already makes less-cushioned shoes (Road Glove and Flux Glove) and a shoe made from a different last (Mix Master 2). Additionally, many other manufacturers make somewhat similar shoes that would accommodate different foot shapes.

The women’s version of the Bare Access 2 (BA2 Arc) is identical. Find it here:

Bare Access Arc 2

Other Reviews

Pete Larson of RunBlogger also reviewed the shoe recently. His conclusions pretty much mirror my own. Note- we tend to like similar shoes which is probably a function of a similar foot shape. This reinforces the importance of finding a shoe that fits your particular foot shape.

This is also significant because it gives some shoes a great deal of intra-brand fit reliability. If other Merrell Barefoot shoes fit your feet, you’ll love these shoes. They’re one of the best Merrell has ever produced.

Conclusion

The BA2 is a significant improvement over the original design. I’m glad Merrell listened to the consumer feedback and made slight tweaks to perfect the shoe. If you’ve never tried any of the Merrell barefoot shoes, I’d recommend trying a pair to see if the last fits your foot. If you’re new to the brand, check out my “How to fit minimalist shoes” guide. You can find local retailers using Merrell’s store locater.

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This shoe was provided by the manufacturer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Bryan
    October 27, 2012

    Really looking forward to trying these out. I’ve been waiting for a couple weeks for Merrell to ship my pair out. They’ll be my first zero-drop shoe (transitioning from the Saucony Progrid Mirage 2).

    Here’s to hoping!

  2. B
    October 22, 2012

    Hi Jason,
    I have been following your blog a lot and I liked what you doing to the community. I bought Bare Access 2 from Merrell recently in size 7.5. I realized that although the last is similar to Merrell’s true glove, it doesn’t fit like a glove unlike True Glove. I feel the top is little wider than the True Glove (True Glove encloses on top of my foot). Also I wanted to ask about sizing. With size 7.5 I have more than a thumb room left on top of my toe. Is that suppose to be like that or should I exchange for size 7 instead? I plan to use this for my North Face Endurance 50K race in kansas city which is on road next month. Please advise.

  3. Rob Y
    October 18, 2012

    Not a bad shoe at all. I’m actually reviewing the shoe myself at the moment. This was my first foray into the Merrell Barefoot Running shoe line. To me it’s a lot like the Saucony Kinvara 2 but with way more toe room. However the upper, like you mention, isn’t quite so form fitting and could be improved. I also typically like shoes with a bit more of a straight last and a bit wider, more stable base. While these were good I think the hour glass shape isn’t so nearly stable and I could feel myself pronate a bit more than usual resulting in a little bit of Achilles twitch on my left foot. No big deal really. I put some pretty hard miles in them (i.e. fast) so I have a full appreciation of what these shoes are capable of. I’d definitely recommend them to just about anybody.

  4. Dave
    October 17, 2012

    So, is there a BA trail shoe coming? Hmmm… You probably can’t answer that. Maybe you could answer a completely different question who’s answer has NOTHING (cough cough) to do with this one.

    Is it going to be sunny tomorrow?

    • Jason
      October 17, 2012

      I’ve heard unsubstantiated rumors that it IS supposed to be sunny tomorrow. Or the next day. But there’s a very high probability that the sun will shine, and it will be amazing. ;-)

  5. bryan
    October 17, 2012

    Hi Jason,

    I’m wondering if you would help me pick a new shoe. I’ve been running in a pair of trail gloves I’ve had for a year and a half now. I live in the Marin Headlands so, while not very high in terms of altitude, the climbs and descents are extremely steep and I feel like I would benefit from a more padded shoe as I do longer and longer runs.
    Like you, the trail glove fits my foot perfectly so I really don’t want to switch brands, but I’m wondering if I should go with the Bare Access? Or would you recommend the mix masters if I’m only running on trails (while steep they are only wet a few months out of the year). Just feeling like more padding would help, my gait/form seem pretty locked in, but I can’t go fast without a lot of calf soreness. Just playing a hunch that the extra cushioning would help.

    • Jason
      October 17, 2012

      This is a tough call. I ran Rodeo Valley last year and am familiar with the general topography. The Mix Masters will give you better traction in the wet conditions, but the BA2′s will fit your foot a little better. The Headlands trails aren’t technical, so there’s no need for the rock plate. I think I’d lean slightly toward the BA2 for that specific application.