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 RunningShoes.com:
If you’d rather skip the video, highlights are as follows:
- Zero drop
- Trail specific outsole
- 2.5mm lugs (Merrell website states 4mm)
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.
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.
Disclaimer: The Bare Access Trail are a media sample provided free of charge by Merrell.