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Merrell Barefoot Run Bare Access Trail

rated 4 of 5 stars
photo: Merrell Barefoot Run Bare Access Trail barefoot / minimal shoe

Very lightweight, zero heel-toe differential running shoe with some cushioning. Marketed as an 'entry to barefoot' shoe, hence the odd name (makes me think of a naturist right-to-roam law), but also a good racing shoe for minimalist runners.


  • Very light
  • Some cushioning
  • Zero heel-toe differential


  • Strictly road use only
  • Not very hard wearing sole

Obviously pros 2 and 3 could be cons and con 1 could be a pro, depending on what you want!

When I tried the Bare Access, I immediately loved their super light weight and simplicity, and had to buy them! I bought them for my attempt at sub 3:15 in this year's London Marathon. I ran it in 3:17:15, but that's another story.

Even though I do most of my running in 'uncushioned', 'barefoot' shoes (inverted commas for both, because just about any shoe will add some cushioning and the only proper way to run barefoot is in bare feet), I value some cushioning when racing so I can hammer along in a more carefree manner than I otherwise would.

The upper has a wide toe box to allow the toes to splay, and it works really well. My feet are quite narrow but with a fairly high volume, and the fit is great for me. The upper doesn't spread the pressure of the laces that much, so getting a secure fit without over-tightening is a fine art.

The one feature of the Bare Access that is rather mystifying is the sole -


Only the green parts, the Vibram 'pods' are hard-wearing rubber; the light grey parts are soft, mid-sole material. Why the harder rubber doesn't at least extend to the big toe area, I don't know, as this part of the sole has got pretty chewed up from hard running. The grip on tarmac is excellent, but the lack of tread depth rules out wet trails, and the bumps on dry trails 'chew' soft parts of the sole, so they really are just for road.

Despite the downsides, I love running in them. They're a great fast training and racing shoe, and complement my other shoes well. I've got another marathon, the Kent Coastal Marathon, in September, and if I don't hit sub 3:15 then, I won't blame my shoes!

Disclosure: Merrell recently gave me a new pair of Trail Gloves because I post very regularly on their Facebook page. I am a fan of the brand, but I say what I think and I do post some constructive criticism. This review was recently updated, but most of it was written before they gave me the shoes!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: £67.50

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