The Merrell Bare Access Ultra & Me: A Love Affair

The Merrell Bare Access Ultra. Very green aren't they?

The Merrell Bare Access Ultra. Very green aren’t they?

Though the minimalist shoe fad has largely passed, I’m still a fan of the near-barefoot running concept. I like the idea of my feet being strong, mobile and able.  I don’t like the idea of relying on a lot of foam, plastic and arch support; and I like the idea of the low drop from heel to forefoot. Maybe what I like most is that I find minimalist shoes to be the most comfortable for me, which seems to count a lot when selecting running shoes.

My last pair of road shoes was the Nike Free 3.0 v 5.  I loved ’em! Unlike some prior iterations of the Free, they had a roomy forefoot which allowed my toes to spread out as human toes are wont to do. Though they were a minimal shoe, they had just enough padding to make running on pavement and gravel quite comfortable.

All good things must end though and the Frees are worn out, destined for yard work. I needed new shoes.

As I said, the minimalist shoe movement has faded out a good bit. They were touted by many to be the cure for all sorts of foot ailments. (I fell under that spell.) And like any miracle cure, their “magic” wasn’t magic for everyone. Thus, the selection of minimalist shoes has shrunk.

My Internet prowling revealed far fewer minimalist shoes than I remembered being in existence. To make a long story a little shorter, I couldn’t find more of the exact Nike Free that I wanted and I felt the replacement called the Nike Flyknit was more money than I wanted to spend.

I love my New Balance MT1010s (my 3rd pair) and I recalled there being a similar version of a road shoe. That shoe doesn’t seem to exist anymore. (For that matter, it looks like the MT1010 is out of production. Damnit.) The search continued…

I looked for reviews for minimalist road shoes and found a very useful site called Run Repeat.  It aggregates shoe reviews so it’s sort of like a Rotten Tomatoes for running shoes. (Run Repeat features far more than just minimalist shoes. It appears to discuss a very wide range and brand of shoes.) I found their list for 34 Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2016. On that list was the Merrell Bare Access.

I was familiar with Merrell shoes such as the Trail Glove but I’d never owned any. I always thought I’d like to check out a pair and the Bare Access seemed like it was up my alley: a low-drop, lightweight minimal road shoe for training with lots of good reviews. I wanted to find a pair.

A few days later I found myself at the always fun DSW Shoe Warehouse. What did I behold in that store but several pair of Bare Access Ultras — on the bargain rack and in my size!

I was ready to run as soon as I put them on. They felt very light and lively. Sounds weird but I wanted to run out of the store in them. I’m not kidding.

What’s so great about them?

  • Fit: The heel and mid-foot are perfectly snug but not tight. The forefoot is spacious and gives my piggies plenty of room to spread out.
  • Cushion: The cushion feels great. It’s a minimal shoe so it’s not terribly thick but enough to make running very comfortable. I find the shoe to be very snappy which I suppose is largely a function of the sole and cushion. They make me want to sprint!
  • Upper: I can tell the upper is very well ventilated which isn’t much of an issue in the winter but I think they’ll be very cool and comfortable in the heat.
  • Weight: They’re very light which again, makes me want to move fast.

All of this adds up to a shoe that feels light and fast. I honestly don’t want the run to end when I’m in them.