Merrell Bare Access Trail Shoe Review

Merrell Bare Access Trail

Merrell Bare Access Trail

It’s been a year or so since I retired my one-and-only pair of Merrell running shoes – the Barefoot Trail Glove. I loved the lightweight Trail Glove for both road and trail running and racked up almost 500 miles on them before deciding it was time to demote them to a grass-cutting shoe. I’ve been a bit out of the loop with Merrell’s latest offerings, so when a representative approached me about trying the new Bare Access Trail, I quickly jumped at the chance.

I’ve logged just over 55 miles in the soon-to-be-released Bare Access Trail, and so far I’m mightily impressed. There doesn’t appear to be much information online about the shoe, but I did find the following video posted by

If you’d rather skip the video, highlights are as follows:

For me, the best thing about the Bare Access Trail is the roomy toe box and the way the shoe almost disappears on your feet. I’ve suffered pretty badly with blisters in several of my recent Ultra races (2 x 24-hour events and the Rocky Raccoon 100), with many of the issues stemming from jammed up toes in the toe box. Thanks to the Bare Access Trail and the recent addition of Injinji toe socks, my recent training runs have been far more comfortable in the toe department. Let’s hope the combination works when I tackle my next big event.

The shoes weigh in at just over 8oz and are super comfortable with their synthetic leather/air mesh upper and lycra lining. I’ve risked a few sockless runs with no issues, but for the most part stick with Injinji RUN 2.0 or TRAIL 2.0 socks. The Blue/Flame test shoe I have is a size 10 (1/2 size up from my regular 9.5), so the added bulk of a sock is quite necessary. I could probably get away with a 9.5, but to be honest I’m enjoying the extra room up front for my toes to splay and spread. Note: the footbed is non-removable.

The Vibram outsole is luggy, yet very flexible, and grips really well on a variety of off-road surfaces. I’ve also worn the shoe on some short road and road-to-trail runs with no issues. Actually, despite the lugs, the Bare Access Trail performs very well on the road. The 8mm MBound midsole adds a nice level of protection to the shoe without adding a huge amount of unnecessary bulk.

Merrell Bare Access Trail

Merrell Bare Access Trail

The lace system is simple, yet effective and best of all, the laces stay tied. The tongue is slightly padded and does not put pressure on the foot like other trail shoes sometimes do. The heel collar is also very comfortable and sits at just the right height.

Two other features worth noting – thanks to the air mesh upper, the shoe drains quickly and very efficiently, although I think the coolmax Injinji socks are a factor here too. Finally, the wraparound toe bumper is nice and flexible and does its job well.

I’ve really enjoyed my miles in the Bare Access Trail and am seriously considering them as my main shoe for The Western States 100. The flexible platform and low profile feel really natural, and it’s the shoe I’ve been reaching for first whenever I head to the trails for a run.

The Merrell Bare Access Trail has just been listed on the Merrell website, and is available for purchase in the Ice/Lime or Molten Lava colorways. Current retail price is a respectable $100.00.

The Bare Access Trail are also available at Road Runner Sports and Current retail price is $99.95, although you can probably find a 15 or 20% off code to use at Shoebuy.

Disclaimer: The Bare Access Trail are a media sample provided free of charge by Merrell.


Does this shoe have a lining? I read in your review about lycra lining and i was wondering if it is behind the mesh, making it less breathable. How is the cushioning compared to the trail glove? Is the bare access trail suitable for longer runs? Also, i notice the 2 color sole, maybe the blue part has some kind of rock protection.

Yes, the inner mesh appears to be lined with a black lycra material. The shoe is still breathable and sheds water well. The BAT is much more cushioned than the trail glove and has performed well on long runs – I ran 21 miles at the local state park this morning with zero issues. No rock plate on the BAT, but I’m looking forward to trying out the Merrell Ascend Glove (which does have a protection plate) when they arrive from Amazon next week. Product link

Thanks for the info! If you can see light passing through the mesh, this is a good sign that the shoe breathes well. Looking at the specs, Ascend Glove must be less cushioned that the BAT.

Steve, I’m curious to hear your take on the ascend glove relative to the BAT. I think you’ll find the AG noticeably less cushioned, but it does have the rock plate.

What’s the story with the uni-fly midsole that Merrell apparently has here? They market it as helping to disperse shock. Do the new BAT protect your feet enough over rocky terrain?

Tray – ran just over 20 miles on Sunday in the AG at around 7:00/mile pace. Definitely less cushioned than the BAT, but not by much. I wouldn’t say the rock plate added much extra protection either, although to be fair the trails were not exactly rocky – just several sections of gravel at various locations on the run. My feet felt sufficiently protected in both the BAT and AG, so now looking forward to trying the Bare Access Ultra when they arrive later this week. One last point, I ended up with more grit/sand in the AGs than the BATs, but didn’t come across any water to test out how well they drain.

Steve — have you heard when Merrell is planning to release the BAT Ultra? I can find the shoes on a couple of retail sites, but Merrell’s own website says nothing about them.

Zach – last I heard, the official release date was 7/15, so not sure why they’re already available on several online sites. I bought mine from Shoebuy – $99.95 with 15% off using code CAMP15.

Steve, thanks for that feedback – I’m glad to hear that the BAT doesn’t let in as much grit. A bit of grit/dirt doesn’t bother me much, but I found the mesh overall to be a bit flimsy on the AG. I had the upper blow out along the arch after about 125ish miles, not tremendously technical miles either. I know several other folks that had the same problem – but it looks like the thicker uppers on the BAT, along with a more extensive rand, should prove more durable.

[…] sucked in to the usual race day madness. I was also keen to test out a shoe/sock combination (Merrell Bare Access Trail/Injinji TRAIL 2.0) and practice consistent fueling with my planned Western States nutrition. As we […]

Can someone compare BAT and Merrell Mix Master II? I am very happy with MMII (unfortunatelly it’s discontinued) and I’m looking for a new similar shoe. How firm is the midsole in BAT and how protective are they? (MMII have quite soft midsole and rockstop plate).

Hi Martin. I’m not familiar with the Mix Master II I’m afraid. If you’re on Facebook, you may want to post something on the Running Shoe Geeks page:

I wouldn’t class the BAT as being firm, and they’ve been plenty protective for me on the various types of terrain I’ve used them on. Admittedly, nothing has been that gnarly where I’ve needed too much protection.

Congrats on WS100! Did you wear the Bare Access Trail?

I currently run in Bare Access 3 and trying to decide on a shoe for my first 100 on August 2nd (Burning River 100). I just ran a 50 mile training run in the BA3 with no (foot) issues. The race course could be muddy, so I am looking for more outsole. That, and the experts seem to suggest that I’d need/want more cushion for a 100 miler. Thoughts?

Hi Mark – yes, wore the BAT at the WS100. No issues whatsoever, although there wasn’t any mud to speak of on the course. The BAT was plenty cushioned for me, and I enjoyed how responsive they were on the trails. I did change into a dry pair of BATs after the river crossing at mile 78, and am really pleased how they performed on the day.

That’s a good looking shoe. I just want to make sure, is that shoe for high-arched or flat footed people or neither? I’m looking for trail shoes for high arched feet. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

Ron – one of the reviews on the Merrell web site states: “I have crazy high arches but get no pain or pressure across the top of my foot from these” – See more at:

[…] Merrell Bare Access Trail [Shoe Review] […]

Will you be able to compare the BAT Trail to the BAT Ultra? I have the Ascend Glove and it doesn’t have enough cushioning for me in ultra distances, so either the BAT Ultra or the BAT Trail could be my next shoe.

John – Bare Access Ultra has 4mm extra cushioning and a slightly greater stack height. Personally, I prefer the fit and feel of the Bare Access Trail, and the sole is more aggressive than the Ultra too. If you like the Ascend Glove, you should love the Bare Access Trail. Hope that helps…

Thanks Steve.

Just bought it. Definately not as breathable as most trail shoes. I think Merrell should have made it more breathable since they also have a Gore-tex version.

Hi Steve, could you please comment on the sizing of Bare Access Trail, compared with Trail Glove 1 or Vapor Glove?

Pal – I sized up to a 10 in the BAT, but wore my usual size in the original Trail Gloves (9.5)

So many were talking about using the BAT during a 50miler or 100. Have you? How did it work out. Currently I am running in Altra shoes, switched from merrell for more cushion. But I miss the ground feel. Thinking about the BAT now, but also I’m doing 100s next year for the 1st time.

Ted – I ran Western States in the BAT. Great shoe. No issues!

Regarding the Ascend Glove vs the BAT. I have the ascend glove and I can feel a very noticeable arch hump in the shoe. How does the BAT compare?

Thanks for the review! Can find any other in depth review of this shoe, which sounds awesome.

Ian – can’t say I’ve experienced any kind of hump in the Ascend Glove. I like both shoes, but my feet seem happiest in the BAT.

Thanks Steve! One more question regarding sizing. I am a size 9 in the ascend glove, should I order a 9 in the BAT? I know you said you sized up vs the trail glove. Thanks!

You’ll probably be okay in the same size, Ian. I sized up in the BAT mainly because I planned to run Western States in them and wanted a little extra room for the latter stages of the race. You should be good in size 9 for both.

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