Merrell Bare Access 2: First Impressions and Giveaway

Merrell Bare Access 2One of the things that I like about the Merrell Barefoot line is that they use the same last for all of the shoes in it. For example, today I spent the entire work day in a pair of brown leather Tough Gloves, and then finished the day with a 4 mile run in the new Bare Access 2. The fit of the two shoes is identical, so the transition was seamless.

The Bare Access 2 is the newest addition to the Merrell Barefoot line, and is the successor to a shoe that I like a lot and reviewed not too long ago. The Bare Access is Merrell’s cushioned, zero drop offering, and it was a strong enough performer that it made my list of recommended running shoes. In a niche that is growing rapidly, the original Bare Access scored points in having a nice, roomy toebox, a lightweight, reasonably flexible build, and a comfortable ride out on the road.

For the most part, most everything that I liked about the original Bare Access carries over into the new model. Fit is identical, cushioning is similarly firm (zero drop, 13-14mm stack height), and interior comfort is excellent (note: as with other shoes in the Merrell line, the BA2 has a contoured fit under the arch, so if you don’t like arch support, you may not like this shoe).

The main differences between the BA1 and BA2 include the following:

IMG_3750

Merrell Bare Access 2 (top) and 1 (bottom)

1. The Bare Access 2 has a redesigned upper. I was initially concerned when I saw the upper of the BA2 since it looks and feels like the monofilament style upper that has suffered tearing issues in so many shoes of late. Merrell themselves had trouble with the upper of the original Mix Master trail shoe and had to pull it from the market. I emailed my contacts at Merrell about this and received the following response:

“The Bare Access 2 mesh is polyester…..not monomesh nylon. The polyester mesh has passed all of our stringent testing. We have had no issues on the extended wear testing as well. From a distance, the mesh has the sheer look, but their makeups are totally different. Both from a composition stand point and also from a weave structure.”

Given Merrell’s reputation for quality build, I suspected they wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, and this response allays my fears about upper durability in the BA2. I like the look of the BA2 moreso than the BA1, so I guess that’s a score in favor of the new model. In looking at the photo below, it appears that the space between the lace rows is much wider in the new Bare Access – not sure if this means anything, but it’s clearly a design difference and may allow for a better fit for those with a high-volume midfoot.

IMG_3749

Merrell Bare Access 2 (top) and 1 (bottom)

2. The second major difference is that the BA2 has a full coverage Vibram rubber outsole compared to the mostly exposed foam sole of the BA1. One complaint I have frequently seen about the sole of the original Bare Access is that abrasion tends to eat away at the surface of the exposed foam (you can see this in the photo below). This happened in my shoes too, but it was more just cosmetic scuffing than any real breakdown of the sole material.

The Vibram sole of the BA2 should improve durability in the newer model, but the expense is that it adds about an ounce to the weight of the shoe (the BA2 comes in at right around 7 ounces in size 10 compared to 6.2 ounces for the BA1). It also makes for a bit more ground contact noise on the run since the rubber has less give than exposed foam. Merrell could probably remove a good bit of the rubber from the midfoot region of the shoe without sacrificing durability to shed some weight and improve flexibility (the horizontal white grooves across the forefoot do allow for pretty good flex up front). One point to note is that the grooves in the rubber outsole tend to pick up small pebbles – I don’t notice this while running since they are tiny.

IMG_3759

Merrell Bare Access 2 (top) and 1 (bottom). Not the abrasion of the red sole on the BA1 below the toes. You can also see how the rubber sole of the BA2 picks up little pebbles.

That pretty much sums up the major differences between the two shoes, and will refer you back to my Bare Access 1 review for more details. I’ve run in the BA2 three times so far, and the experience has been great. It’s a bit firmer than I typically like, but that’s just a personal preference, and it does make for a stable feel underfoot. Unlike some, I enjoy the glove-like fit provided by the contoured arch, and the Merrell Barefoot last works really well on my feet – nearly perfectly proportioned.

Comparing it to other shoes in the cushioned, zero drop niche, the Bare Access 2 is lighter and more flexible than the Altra Instinct 1.5, but firmer and not nearly as flexible as the Skechers GoBionic. I’d compare it most closely to the New Balance Minimus Road MR00, but the BA2 is a bit wider through the midfoot, which is a plus for me. All of these are excellent shoes, so the choice largely comes down to one of personal taste with regard to fit, flexibility, and firmness underfoot.

For more information and to purchase the shoes, visit the Merrell webpage to view the men’s and women’s versions of the Bare Access 2.

The original men’s Bare Access can be purchased at a discounted price from Zappos.

For another take on the Bare Access 2, visit Believe in the Run, Biker Nate, Coach Caleb, and Vagabond Running. There is also a Bare Access 2 on the Runblogger Forum.

Running Warehouse: Great prices on closeout shoes! View men's and women's selections.
Amazon.com: 25% or more off clearance running shoes - click here to view current selection.

Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I’m waiting for a Mix Master built on the barefoot platform. I.e. Bare access with a rock plate and knobbier outsole. That my friend would be a rocking (Rocky) mountain trail shoe. Mix Master will do for now, but I way prefer the fit of my Trail Gloves.

  2. chris szumigala says:

    I’ve unfortunately had to all but give up on Merrell due to the damnable “arch pinch” they almost all have.

    My BA1′s are the only ones that at least have toned that down, but from looking at the bottoms of the BA2 it looks like it’s back in full force. May just be unique to my anatomy, but anything other than flat and wide plays havoc with arch pain and aggravation to an old Jones fx. I just sent back a pair of Merrell Flux Gloves that I was hoping to use for the same reason. I hope Merrell will come out with at least one completely flat model in the future. Until then I spend most of my time in Kinvara 3, Go Bionics or Altra Instincts. Thanks for another thorough review Pete!

  3. Meh. I wouldn’t call it a giveaway if it requires spamming my friends on Twitter or Facebook. This stuff makes the internet worse for everyone. Who are we monetizing, you, Merrell or Rafflecopter? I’d much rather monetize you by buying shoes from one of your links (which I did).

    • Pete Larson says:

      Four of the five entry options don’t require spamming of anyone, only liking or following, and you can choose any one you like, or not choose to enter at all. I get no money from the giveaway, nor does Merrell or Rafflecopter (as a side note, this is the first time I have used the latter, wanted to try it out).

      As a blogger, you have to constantly work on building your network since traffic ebbs and flows, and participating in social media and developing a base of followers who will ultimately help spread the word when they like something you write is essential to being in this business.

      Bloggers provide free content for anyone that wants to read it, and to justify the time involved requires advertising, and network building.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      Twitter: link to twitter.com
      Facebook: link to facebook.com

      • I totally agree. Pete’s time isn’t free. There comes a point when a content creator has to ask what they expect to get out of their work. Many start out simply because they like doing it – however, if their content becomes popular they quickly find themselves spending more and more time working on it. This means time away from friends, family, and other interests. It tends to become more of a “job” than they expected, even if the joy of creation and sharing is still present.

        There needs to be some sort of justification for continuing to create content and sacrifice time that could be used for other interests. This is where monetizing their content comes in, and to get the best “value” they need as many eyes on the content as possible.

        To ignore social media while trying to maximize their viewership would be ludicrous.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Thanks Zach, this is so true, and I appreciate your support!

          I started this blog as a hobby and wrote about whatever I felt like writing about (family, running, etc). It grew way beyond anything I ever expected, and takes up an enormous amount of time to maintain – it’s basically a second job to research and post content, respond to comments (700+ posts out there now that can attract comments), and answering email in and of itself could be my full-time job (it pains me that I cannot get to all of them). I have no staff, just me as writer, editor, marketer, and advertising manager.

          Just to give an example, my day yesterday involved working from 8:30 to 3:30, getting in a quick run, then going home to watch the kids and make them dinner while my wife went to teach a yoga class. After I got them into bed I spent 8:30-11:00 working on this post and other blog related stuff. It’s a busy life, and I have to justify the amount of time it takes to keep it up. I love blogging, in fact I’ve toyed with making it a full time job, but it’s certainly not easy money.

          —-
          Pete Larson’s Web Links:
          My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
          Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
          Twitter: link to twitter.com
          Facebook: link to facebook.com

  4. Art Arnan says:

    Hi Pete thank you for a very informative blog. I have quick question regarding the Bare Access 2. I’ve been noticing a serious stretch underneath my right foot after a couple of miles. Have you read or experienced anything regarding this issue? I’ve been running in the shoes since May. On a side note I haven’t experienced any kind of pain while wearing my vibrams.

    Thank You once again…

  5. Luke Thomas says:

    Pete,

    Please add G+ next time. Thanks!

  6. Am I missing a way to enter if I don’t have facebook or twitter?

  7. Herschelbmartin says:

    Way late to the party. Just bought these today and am wearing them at work in order to get a feel for them. I know nobody who can help me with this locally (especially the salesmen in the retail stores). My concern is basically about fit. I got 11s, as the 10.5s felt like they’d irritate my toes if I lift them while running or my foot moved forward much. The roomy toe box feels nice, and the rest of the shoe fits very snug. How tight should they be in the mid foot area? I’ve never thought my foot is wide, and never worn wide sized shoes, but I’ve never worn minimal type shoes before. I bought these based on great reviews in general and the fact that they’re billed as a transitional toad shoe that’s good for long distances (I plan on gradually increasing miles as I grown in form and strength). Also, the arch is slightly bothersome for my flat-ish feet, but I think I’m getting used to it, and many reviews state that this sensation goes away in the act of running. Any advice concerning how this and ‘barefoot’ shoes should feel is appreciated.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Merrells tend to have a snug, glove-like fit in the heel and midfoot, and widen to a roomy forefoot. My guess is you are feeling the pronounced arch support in this shoe – it bugs a lot of people, others have no issue.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
      -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      -Twitter: link to twitter.com
      -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
      -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

      • Herschelbmartin says:

        Right. I am feeling it, though it’s not intolerable, especially if the sensation fades a bit while running. I’ve only walked in them thus far. The description of the pluses offered by the BA2 are hard to beat for me, so I went for it. I don’t think I’m ready for a less cushioned shoe, though I like a 0 drop. Thank you

  8. My pair of BA1 has almost eaten itself away. Can’t wait to get the Vibram-soled version. A great shoe! Unfortunately, products are always launched weeks/months later over here in Europe.

    Rumour is out that there is an upcoming trail version of the Bare Access. True?

  9. John Litherland says:

    Pete, I have had three pairs of BA1′s and loved them because my wide, wide feet were so happy in the spacious toe box. I just bought my first BA2′s and sadly have to disagree with your statement that Merrell is using the same last. Direct comparison (backed up by how my feet felt while running) shows the BA1′s are at least 5mm wider than the BA2′s in the same size (45). In fact, the BA2′s seem to be built on the last used for the other shoes in Merrell’s Barefoot series, which is narrower than that used in the BA1′s. Guess I better go out and buy up BA1′s while they’re still around.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Interestig, I’ll have to measure mine and see since I didn’t sense a difference. The BA1 may have a bit more volume in the upper, but width felt the same to me and they are all on the Merrell Barefoot last.
      Sent from my iPad

  10. Jesse Welling says:

    A quick running history of myself:
    Have been an on again, off again runner for about 8 years. Each time I get a bit further in my journey. I’ve been an Asics 21XX runner up until 2011, when I started to change my form, then I stepped into a pair of NB M730s and used those for my ‘conditioning runs’ for about 4 months, then I bought a pair of Merrell Road Gloves, and used my 730s as my go to and the Road Gloves for my ‘conditioning runs’ All well and good. Then I though that since my mileage is starting to add up I may want to go zero drop, but keep some padding. This was fantastic timing for the BA2s. I Bought a pair and because of the padding thickness compared to the Road Gloves, they killed my arches. I can’t explain it really. I didn’t expect this because I had no arch problem at all with the Road Gloves. But I haven’t been able to finish 2 miles in the BA2s because of the raised arch, whereas with the Road Gloves I’m comfortable up to 6 miles. The BA2s are are great to kick around town in, and thanks to the added Vibram will likely last a very long time, But I think the extra padding makes the arch bump less forgiving compared to the Road Glove.

    Just my PSA .

    As an aside, Thanks Pete, I should have listened more carefully. I just couldn’t have guessed the BA2s would cause me this much problems when I love my Road Gloves.

    • Pete Larson says:

      My guess is that the arch contour is similar in the two shoes, but as you suggest the added firm cushion of the BA2 makes it less forgiving and less flexible. Stick with what works!

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      -My book: Tread Lightly <http: bduo0=”” ow.ly=””>
      -Runblogger Blog <http: http://www.runblogger.com=“”>
      -Pete’s Twitter: Personal <http: oblinkin=”” twitter.com=””>and Runblogger<http: runblogger=”” twitter.com=””>
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    • I just had this exact same experience and had to do some research online and found your post. I own a pair of Merrel Trail gloves, and absolutely love them. I would wear them on my road runs and they worked just fine, but I decided I would try out the bare access since I have just temporarily moved and have more access to roads than trails.

      After trying them on the first thing I noticed was the amount of arch support. I went out for a 5 mile run on road/bike paths today and after about the first mile I could not believe how much pain my feet were in. They felt like my previous pair of Asics that I wore before buying the trail gloves.

      When I got home and took them off I could not believe how much pain I had in my knees, something that disappeared when I had switched to the trail glove.

      I’m sure that these are great shoes for people who like arch support, but I have pretty peculiar feet and will be going back to the trail gloves for my road runs as well.

  11. It looks like the upper of the Bare Access 2 is made of the same materials and inner/outer structure as the Mix Master 2.

  12. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Great comparison review, Pete! I’ve been interested to know more about the Bare Access 2 ever since I saw images of it a while ago. I really like the new design on the upper. And, the new outsole looks great!

    I’m skeptical of anything Road Runner Sports posts for sale before the actual release of the product. In my experience, they have a tendency to be a little overeager with regard to pre-release sales, promising shipment dates that end up being later as the date draws nearer, etc.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks Ashwyn – by the way, read your review of the Trailroc 235 and bought a pair as a result, you were spot-on!

      I only put up the Road Runner links because Running Warehouse and Zappos don’t carry them yet. Thanks for the info about their stocking – just pulled the links down.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      Twitter: link to twitter.com
      Facebook: link to facebook.com

      • Ashwyn Gray says:

        Oh, I wouldn’t want to deprive readers of the opportunity to purchase the Bare Access 2 from RRS. I just felt compelled to relay my experience with that retailer. FWIW, RunningWarehouse lists the Bare Access 2 for Women on their site as available in November.
        And, thanks for reading my Trailroc review! I’m glad it was useful.

        • Pete Larson says:

          In contrast to RRS, my experience is that RW is usually conservative in their stocking estimate and things generally show up before they estimate.
          I plan to link up your Trailroc reviews once I write mine, your reviews are far more entertaining than mine :)

          —-
          Pete Larson’s Web Links:
          My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
          Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
          Twitter: link to twitter.com
          Facebook: link to facebook.com

          • Ashwyn Gray says:

            Yes, I’ve observed the same thing with RW!

            And, you’ve just made my day! Thanks, Pete. I am totally humbled. When I finish your book, I’ll do my best to write an entertaining review of it!

  13. cesalec says:

    Did you find them to be larger than normal as running house suggest (
    Sizing: Fits large; purchase 1/2 size smaller than standard running shoe size)

  14. My personal preference is for more flexibility and less dense of a sole material (I prefer the Go Bionics over the Altra Instinct 1.0 and New Balance Minimus, for example). For me I think by mile 20 I would feel a difference in these shoes. I think my ideal shoe would be one like the Go Bionics but with a thicker stack height. I just broke 4 for the first time at Chicago in Go Run Rides. Very nice shoes, but not zero drop. Maybe the Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris will fit the bill? Time will tell.

  15. Pete how would you compare the fit on the Bare Access 2 to the NewBalance MT10s? the app in running warehouse tells me to go for a half size smaller than my MT10…

    • Pete Larson says:

      I would not size down, I wear my usual size in the Bare Access 2. There probably is a half size difference between the shoes, but because the NB fits tight, not because the Merrell is too big
      Sent from my iPad

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