Merrell’s Bare Access 2 is an update to the popular Bare Access released last year. i reviewed them here:
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 The previous version’s half-EVA outsole has been replaced by a full Vibram rubber outsole.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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
This shoe was provided by the manufacturer.