Merrell Bare Access 4 Review Facts
Merrell hasn’t been around for very long. Founded in 1981 and established in Michigan, Merrell has set out to create high quality hiking boots for your feet. Merrell released their first cross-trainer in 1993, but started to dabble in trail running shoes ten years prior. This year, Merrell has teamed up with Tough Mudder, becoming the presenting sponsor for the event. So, despite their young age, Merrell is a well-respected shoe making company with emphasis on durability. The Merrell Bare Access 4 is designed to be a minimal road shoe that provides comfort and responsiveness. Does it meet expectations?
The Bare Access 4 features the standard Bare Access outsole found on every Bare Access model. Essentially, it means that the outsole is an external rubber layer that adds cushion and durability. The real technology on the outsole is the Vibram technology. The Vibram technology is a set of pods that features high quality rubber that is designed to give the shoe traction and grip on any surface, along with providing stability and durability.
The deep grooves between the rubber helps provide the extra traction. Then there are the flex grooves in the forefoot, which helps with the flexibility and responsiveness in the shoe. You can really feel it when you push off with your toes. With these shoes, you’ll have no issue going through your gait cycle.
If you look at the Bare Access 4 outsole and compare it to the Bare Access 3 outsole, you’ll notice some pretty significant differences. A lot of runners have complained that the changes haven’t been for the good. The deeper grooves between the Vibram
pods are said to wear out far quicker as the edge of the outsole catches the road a bit too well, causing the rubber to separate. If you are a heel striker, the thin outsole will wear very quickly for you and could cause some discomfort.
With a compression molded EVA midsole, the Bare Access 4
is well-cushioned, with that comes better responsiveness. The MBound technology is meant to give the runner some “feel for the road” and make it feel like the shoe is “barely there.” But when you need to provide comfort and cushion, that means taking away part of the “barely there” feel. That said, Merrell does a good job of compromising on the midsole.
The Bare Access 3 featured slightly less cushioning, and a big focus seemed to be on improving the midsole of the Bare Access 4. It’s much thicker, thus isn’t more responsive. The deeper grooves and cuts on the outsole gives the midsole more flexibility and responsiveness. While the outsole changed from the Bare Access 3 to the 4 and made things a bit worse, the midsole change was for the better as the thicker midsole helps with the durability instead of hinders it.
The upper is constructed with a mix of air mesh and synthetic leather. It’s a durable upper that still allows for breathability. Once again, Merrell put a lot of emphasis on the responsiveness of the shoe. You can really feel the upper against the top of your foot and it’s a flexible material that moves with your foot as you run. The overlay is a TPU material that improves the durability and stability without adding any extra weight. The overlay also helps secure your foot, which helps with the comfort.
There is very little change from the 3 to the 4 on the upper. Merrell found a design and a material that worked, and stuck with it. The only difference is the heel loop, which has been removed from the 4. This is very minor and won’t affect 99% of runners.
The Bare Access 4 weighs 6.4 oz, which is extremely lightweight
. It’s actually surprising that the shoe is so light given how much cushion there is on the midsole. It’s able to achieve the light weight due to the lack of rubber and thin outsole. The light weight of the shoe allows for great flexibility without sacrificing responsiveness.
The mesh upper and minimal overlay help provide strong breathability for your foot while running. Merrell actually takes things a step further with their shoes. They use M-Select Fresh technology, which is an anti-microbial coating on the inside of the upper and the insole of the foot. What this does is eliminates bacteria and bad odors from your foot and socks
while running, which helps keep your foot fresh and cool. It might not seem like a big deal, and it’s something that’s not noticeable as the inside of the upper and insole looks like regular material, but it definitely helps with the overall breathability of the shoe.
Many runners have noted that the shoes don’t feel all that comfortable when you first put them on. If you’re looking for a shoe that immediately “fits like a glove” then you may be disappointed with what the Bare Access 4 has to offer. That said, once runners have spent a couple of miles in them, they begin to break them in and notice the comfort. The toe box is very wide, giving your toes and forefoot plenty of room to move.
The standard lacing system allows you to make the shoes as tight or as loose as you want them around your foot. As is standard with most running shoes, there are toe extra holes up top in case you want a really tight fit. The midsole cushioning also helps with the comfort as the sole helps reduce the shock when you’re running.
So, don’t worry if the shoes don’t feel like the most comfortable shoes in the world when you first put them on. And don’t worry if they feel slightly stiff on those first steps. Give them a good half mile before you judge the flexibility and comfort of the shoe. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Merrell offers the Bare Access 4 in five different styles and colors through their website, with more styles and colors available through Amazon. I absolutely love the look of this shoe. It’s simple, but still sleek. The overlays make sense, the upper looks nice, the midsole has some character. Everything about this shoe just works. I even like that the heel loop has been removed, because I’ve never been a fan of heel loops. You can find this shoe in just about any color that you’re looking for.
Merrell is known for making durable shoes, and they’ve set out to do just that with the Bare Access 4, but they fall a little short. As previously mentioned, the outsole of this shoe is very disappointing with the grooved rubber. It wears down much faster than it should and takes away the grip as you continue to run.
If they would have stuck with the same outsole from the Bare Access 3, they could have achieved strong durability and still hit the marks in other areas. But with the new outsole, the durability is lacking. You can still get 200 miles, possibly even more, out of this shoe, but that’s still disappointing given Merrell’s history of making long lasting shoes. You’ll have no issues with the upper, and the thicker midsole is a winner, but the outsole just doesn’t measure up to the rest of the shoe.
Being a minimalist shoe with zero drop, the protection is going to vary. If you’re used to running in a minimalist shoe, you’ll love the Bare Access 4. It provides strong protection all around your foot and keeps your foot stable to prevent any kind of twisting or rolling. But if you’re not used to a minimalist shoe, you may find the protection to be a bit disappointing. Your joints and the bottom of your feet may ache a bit more than you’re used to, not because the shoe isn’t doing its job, but because it’s just a different experience.
The Bare Access 4 really hits the mark on responsiveness. It’s an extremely flexible shoe that encourages you to run with proper form. Due to the less than ideal outsole, the heel of the outsole wears quickly. If you’re a heel striker, you’ll have little room for error in these shoes. But this shoe is designed to eliminate heel striking and get you to run “properly
.” We all run differently, that’s no secret.
If you want to run light and really get a strong push off, the Bare Access 4 helps your achieve that with the flexibility and responsiveness. They have just enough cushion to keep your foot comfortable, but also make you feel as if you’re one with the ground. Because it’s a zero drop shoe, it’s partially designed to give you a natural barefoot running motion.
The Merrell Bare Access 4’s are a zero drop shoe. That means from the heel to toe, there is no drop and essentially means the bottom of the shoe is flat, similar to your foot. It’s the ultimate in minimalist style, and it’s not for everyone. Because it’s a zero drop shoe, the support is going to vary. If you’re someone with high arches or you like to run heavy or you have any type of pronation, this shoe is not going to be for you. Similarly, if you’re a new runner, a zero drop shoe may not provide the support you need because it won’t offer enough support for your running style.
If you know that you can handle a zero drop shoe, the Bare Access 4’s will suit your needs. They offer good support and cushion thanks to the thick midsole. If you want to make the switch to a minimalist shoe, the Bare Access 4 might be a good shoe to start with, once again thanks to that support and cushion. I would consult with your local run store before you make the switch or if you’re a new runner.
The shoe is designed for the road, but being a Merrell product, it can be used anywhere. As mentioned in the intro, Merrell is a product sponsor of the Tough Mudder competition. They make shoes that are going to perform well in any condition. The Bare Access 4 is no different. You can run on the road, on asphalt, on rocks, on the trail
, on grass, and even in some wet conditions. The outsole, while lacking durability, provides excellent grip on any surface.
The shoes are available on Merrell’s website for $80. This is a fair price that anyone should feel comfortable paying, especially if they’re looking to try out a minimalist shoe. While I wish the shoe provided a bit more durability, it’s not like you’re paying Nike prices for a shoe that you’re only going to get a couple of months out of. It’s an affordable price for a good shoe.
•Zero drop and minimalist design.
•M Select Freshness that eliminates odor and bacteria.
•Vibram outsole with deep grooves and cuts that provide excellent grip.
•Lightweight and flexible.
•Thick midsole that perfectly blends cushion with stability.
If you’re looking for a minimalist shoe, it’s tough to go wrong with the Bare Access 4. It’s a well designed shoe that is comfortable, stylish, responsive, and stable. If the outsole was a bit better and provides more durability, it would be a near perfect shoe. At only $80, it’s tough to pass up Merrell’s latest Bare Access offering.