Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Merrell Bare Access 2 | In-depth Review

Merrell Bare Access 2 | In-depth Review


When it comes to zero drop footwear, Merrell has been my go-to company up to this point.  In my previous post, I reviewed the Merrell Road Glove, which I classified as perhaps one of the best all-around zero-drop shoes on the market.
When it came to my attention that I could review the Merrell Bare Access 2 (BAII), I simply could not resist. (Note: these shoe were given to me to review.)

Prior to purchasing the Road Glove in February, I first bought the Bare Access 1 (BAI) from, but I did not like the sole of the shoe.  
Left: BA1 sole after 9 miles; Right: BA2 sole after 80-100 miles

After 9 miles running in the BAI, I had a feeling I might wear through the rubber sole very quickly.  Other than the sole, I thought, at the time, the BAI would be the ideal zero-drop shoes for those that want a bit more cushion.

Roll in the BA2!

If the Merrell Road Glove 1 and Bare Access 1 were to mate in some way, the Bare Access 2 would be the progeny.  Really. 

What follows will be a cursory review of the Bare Access 2 (since it’s so much like the Bare Access 1 and on the last as the Merrell Barefoot line) in which I compare the specs of the BA2 with the Road Glove 1 (RG1).

Shoe Specs
The Bare Access 2 is a lot like the Bare Access 1 in terms of specifications.  Like the rest of the Merrell Barefoot line, the BA2 sports a wide forefoot that allows for the toes to splay while running.  The heel portion of the shoe feels very secure, too.  
BA2 Forefoot

Overall, this is a zero drop shoe (0mm drop) with a decent amount of cushion. Below is a table that compares the BA2 with the RG1:

Bare Access 2
Road Glove 1
Heel-to-Toe Drop
Stack Height
Weight (Men’s)

From the specifications, there is not a lot differentiating the BA2 from the RG1 except for the cushioning.  I’ll add that the difference in cushioning and stack height, while only 4mm and 2.5mm, respectively, seems insignificant, it actually feels very different when running. More on that below. 

Sole of the BA2 after ~ 80-100 miles. Nice!
The sole of the Road Glove is made completely from Vibram material, and the design of the sole is what makes this shoe so versatile.  Like the RG1, I found that this sole is perfect for road running and as an everyday casual shoe.  Although the sole is similar for both the RG1 and BA2, I find that the BA2 can only handle non-technical trails while the RG1 can handle trails that are moderately technical.  Obviously, we need to remember that the BA2 is a road running shoes and NOT a trail shoe.  Merrell has the Mix Master 2 and Trail Glove for trail running.  Like the RG1, I have a feeling I’m going to be able to get at least 500+ miles out of this shoe, as well as LOTS of walking miles. While the nominal cushioning along with the sole provides just enough protection while running with proper running form in the RG1, the BA2’s extra cushioning is a bit more forgiving for those transitioning from a 4mm drop to 0mm drop running shoe.  Despite the extra cushioning, the BA2 still provides adequate ground feel to help with proper running form.


First Run
On my first run in the BA2, I was surprised to not feel the “arch support” that I originally felt in the RG1.  Of course, take this observation with a grain of salt because there seems to be a 50/50 split on those that feel and those that do no feel the so-called arch support.  If you do feel the arch support, my guess is that after 50-80 miles, it’ll probably “go away” like it does in the RG1 (at least in my experience).   
Side View of the BA2. Notice the "Arch Support"
Like with all things shoe related, I strongly suggest trying on a pair of shoes before you buy them if you can.  If you can’t, try to snag them at an online dealer that will allow you to return them without a hassle.  Anyway, the first run felt great. I noticed, almost immediately, that it felt a little bit easier to run at a faster pace in the BA2 than in the RG1.  I’m not really sure why this is the case, but I continue to get this impression the more I run in the BA2.  In fact, I am finding it general much easier to run faster in shoes with a bit of cushion than in shoes with very little cushion.  Of course, YMMV.  Anyone else have this experience?

Sock  vs Sockless, and Breathability
At this point, I feel like a broken record: I hate running sockless.  And I did not run sockless in the BA2, but I did walk around the house in my shoes sockless when I was thinking about running sockless in them, and it felt fine.  I’ll update this section of the review when I decide to run without socks :-).  Overall, the shoe is very breathable.  My feet don’t really sweat too much in them, and that is saying something!   
Notice the inside of the shoe. You can see the though it, kind of. It's VERY breathable.
Also, I find that the BA2 doesn’t retain too much water when wet either.  I ran in these shoes during Boston’s Hurricane Sandy weather, and my shoes got SOAKED.  In fact, at one point, I was running for about 1/4th of a mile in water halfway up my leg.  I did not feel like the shoes became heavy because of how soaked they were, and they air dried pretty quickly, too.

Traction – Road vs Trail
As I mentioned earlier, the BA2 is a road running shoe.  In terms of traction for road running, it’s phenomenal.  Even during Hurricane Sandy, I never felt like I was “hydroplaning” while running, which is something I used to experience, kind of, with the Saucony Hattori.  Concerning trails, I only use this shoe for nontechnical, dry trails.  More specifically, I think dry jeep trails is about as much as this shoe can handle.  I took it on the dirt trail below when it was wet and dry, and it performed flawlessly when dry but horribly when wet.  I could never get enough/proper traction, and kept slipping on the wet mud.  But remember: this is a road running shoe.  Given this observation, while the sole of the BA2 and RG1 is similar, the forefoot of the RG1 gives it the advantage for those that want more of a hybrid (road-trail) shoe.  Below are some pictures of "trails" near my house, and the types of trails that I think the BA2 can handle.

Gravel trail

Dirt Trail

Dirt Trail by the Charles River

Unlike my review of the RG1, where I had about 500-600 miles of running on the shoe prior to reviewing, I have only put about 80-100 miles on the BA2.  After about 80-100 miles of road running, the sole looks completely brand new still!  In all honesty, I am not shocked.  Merrell’s Barefoot line has a really solid Vibram sole-design, and I can see about 500-600 miles, minimally, of road running—not including tons of walking—before retiring these shoes.  The only reason 500-600 might be a limit is because of my previous experience with the upper going out, for me, at about this mile range on MOST of my running shoes, so it’s not specific to Merrell.  If the upper doesn’t develop a whole, I can easily see 600+ miles on this shoe.  Merrell, well done, on creating another fantastic, durable shoe!

Over time, I’ve learned that there’s a lot to be said about having multiple pairs of shoes in one’s rotation.  The BA2 is most similar, in my opinion, to the Skechers GoRuns (except that the GoRuns have a bit of a heel drop--4mm), and perhaps the GoBionics.  Right now, I’m switching between a few pairs of shoes with drops ranging from 4mm to 0mm. Like the RG1, the BA2 is a great road running / everyday shoe to have for those wanting a quality running shoe AND a quality everyday day shoe, but do not feel like buying more than one pair for this purpose.  The BA2 will be quite tough to wear out.  Merrell keeps raising the bar, and I look forward with great anticipation to other shoes in the barefoot lineup to be released Spring, 2013.

Do I recommend this shoe?


For more reviews of the Bare Access 2, check out:
Thomas's Review at Believe in the Run
Pete's Review at Runblogger 


  1. Thanks for the review, Josh....based on the zero drop and also forefoot width, I may have to try these.

  2. Thanks, Steve! Since you run in the Kinvara, I think the BA2 is a good zero-drop option to throw into the mix since it, too, like the Kinvara has a fair amount of cushioning. Great forefoot width, too.