Footwear / August 6, 2020

What’s Better than Bare? Merrell Bare Access Trail Running Shoes

Merrell Bare Access Trail Running Shoes, MSRP $100.00 available through

Author: Toby Asplin

Photos: Toby Asplin

The Good: Light, supple & responsive

The Bad: Short laces

The Ugly: Minimalist purists may have some heartburn

Do we have any barefoot or minimalist runners in the house? I’ve never been brave enough to go entirely barefoot on a “serious” run but I’ve been running in minimalist shoes for nearly three years now. For the most part, I like minimalist shoes. However, once I start to push into marathon or ultra-marathon distances, my feet start to fatigue. I’ve been trying to find a minimalist shoe with just a little bit of arch support since my first ultra.

Enter the Merrell Bare Access Trail. New for 2014, the Bare Access Trail is a natural amalgamation of Merrell’s Bare Access line of shoes and their Trail Glove minimalist trail shoe. I feel pretty confident that Merrell has a winner on their hands.

The Bare Access Trail combines a no drop shoe with an 8mm cushion and 4mm lugs to provide enough support for longer runs and enough traction for slippery terrain while maintaining a zero drop, minimalist feel. Amazingly, the Bare Access Trail even provides a bit of arch support!

I suppose the minimalist purists will cry, “foul,” at the mention of a so-called minimalist shoe with arch support and cushion but I’ve quickly become a fan.

The Bare Access Trail maintains ground feel while providing comfort. The M Bound technology translates feedback effectively from the trail to your foot while the UniFly midsole disperses impact and provides stability for a solid stride. The fit is wide through the toe and toe box and about average in the heel. I sort of have duck feet so they fit me pretty well. If you have narrow feet, these are not for you.

My Bare Access Trail shoes have about 100 miles on them so far with few signs of wear. The lugs are a nice contrast to my previous shoes with 8mm lugs. At times, the deep lugs of my previous trail shoes would dig into my feet on hard ground. After twenty or 30 miles, that gets to be a bit annoying.

Probably my only real complaint about these shoes is their relatively short laces. I use a lacing lock on most of my running shoes. This lacing technique leaves barely enough lace to tie a standard knot in the Bare Access Trail shoes. I suppose I could buy longer laces but, come on, Merrell, give us just another couple inches would ya?

Hey, these babies are even vegan friendly if you go so far out on a trail that you have to eat your shoes. Of course, that means you’ll be running home barefoot.

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Toby Asplin
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