Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh Review Facts
The Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh isn’t the type of shoe that will rock your world or the tail shoe industry. That being said, it does excel in the (light)weight category as a solid racing shoe choice that can tackle more than just road surfaces. However, this is a specific kind of need which, if eliminated, leaves you with just a regular light trail zero-drop shoe that could have been better.
The M Select GRIP+ outsole of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh trail shoe features anatomical grooves that encourage the natural gait cycle and foot movements. The rubber compound used in the outsole’s construction is sturdy, durable and grippy, and it protects the midsole from untimely wear and tear while providing excellent traction on both wet and dry surfaces. The grooves differ in size and function. While the elongated, deep grooves are what enables the full, natural flexibility of the sole, the rest of the outsole is covered in shallow, diamond-shaped grooves meant to enhance traction and increase the overall flexibility of the sole.
The midsole of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh utilizes the FLEXconnect technology, comprised of EVA foam that features the dual directional flex grooves that are included in the mold. The cushiony midsole is aimed at providing a soft ride, enhancing the feeling of flexibility and comfort, while remaining fairly durable. The final result of this midsole configuration is a snug, cradled feeling that provides great comfort and solid underfoot protection.
The upper of this trail shoe, like with almost any other shoe in this category, features the combination of mesh material and TPU layers. While the mesh provides the much-needed breathability and flexibility, the TPU layers are positioned on the toe box and around the eyelets, providing structure and increased durability in high wear areas. The Hyperlock printed TPU heel takes the edge off the quick turns and fast downhill movements, offering stability and preventing the foot from wobbling inside the shoe box. For the ecologically conscious users, you’ll be glad to know that the shoe is vegan-friendly and uses exactly 0% animal products in its construction. As for the mesh, it adapts to the shape of your foot and gives a secure and snug feeling during the entire ride.
When it comes to weight, you’ll have to try really, really hard to find a lighter shoe than the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh. At 7oz or 210g for a men’s half-pair and 5.5oz or 156g for a women’s half-pair, it’s easy to see how this trail shoe won’t cause any tiredness in your feet, allowing you a full day of featherweight ride. However, don’t let the light weight of this minimalist shoe to scare you, either: you’ll have enough protection and durability packed in those 7oz to provide you a great and comfortable ride.
mesh lining covers most of the upper and even protrudes underneath the TPU overlays at the heel and vamp, meaning that the overall breathability of the shoe is expectedly good. The mesh allows the inside of the shoebox to be ventilated throughout the ride, providing a dry running experience as well, due to the fact that the airflow will minimize sweating. As a consequence, the blistering in the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh is also down to a minimum, even in very hot days.
The Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh has been deemed comfortable
by most minimalist shoe lovers. The underfoot cushioning that allows a lot of ground feel, combined with the elastic mesh that adheres to the foot and offers a substantial amount of support, translate to a very comfortable ride. Add to that the fact that this is one of the lightest trail running shoes on the market, and not a lot of things remain that can cause discomfort. Keep in mind that several users commented that the shoe ran a half-size too small, so choose your size accordingly, especially if you can’t try the shoe out in a store beforehand. The widths come in B-Medium for women and D-Medium for men. Some runners noted that the stretchy, supportive upper felt overly snug at times, which caused some mild discomfort, but most agree that it’s better to have a breathable mesh upper that is supportive, than one that is loose.
In the ever-changing world of fashion, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh was mistaken for a regular lifestyle sneaker, given that the lines between fashion and technology are more blurred than ever. This shoe can easily be worn around town without so much as an eye-turn from people, especially in its more subdued, dark grey colorway. While on the second look it would be rather clear that this is not, in fact, a lifestyle sneaker, most people could easily be deceived at a glance. The E-Mesh upper features intricate woven-in design that looks modern and stylish, while the cascade-like sole provides a touch of edginess. All in all, this is a good looking trail shoe, although some customers would describe it as somewhat plain.
One of the best things about the upper material used in the construction of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh is the fact that it not only provides breathability, but it’s stretch-resistant even on the parts that aren’t covered by the high-wearing TPU overlays. This is one of the things that differentiates a common road running shoe from a trail running shoe, and Merrell knows this very well. Regardless of the rocks, roots, and branches in your way, you can expect the upper of this trail shoe to hold up pretty well. As far as the outsole goes, the rubber compound used in its construction provides a good amount of durability, protecting the midsole from untimely wear and tear as well. All in all, you can expect the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh to provide average-to-good durability, provided you don’t take it on highly technical trails.
The vast majority of people are more than satisfied with the amount of underfoot protection that the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh brings. While all minimalist shoes try to maintain the barefoot running feel, it’s still extremely important to alleviate the negative aspects of that kind for running, such as a complete lack of underfoot protection and pain in the foot as a consequence. This trail shoe balances out the two main, opposing priorities, and provides just enough cushioning and just enough ground feel to handle a wide variety of terrains. However, some runners, who have taken the shoe on a ride on especially rocky trails have commented that a bit more cushioning in the midsole wouldn’t hurt – both figuratively and literally.
The EVA foam material isn’t known to offer amazing responsiveness all on its own; however, due to the integrated flex grooves and the thinner sole overall, the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh offers just enough bounce and energy-return to allow you to develop speed with ease, especially when combined with the flexible and lightweight
nature of the shoe.
Minimalist shoes don’t offer any additional arch support as a general rule, due to their effort to make the ride feel as natural as possible, and this is exactly the case with the Bare Access Flex E-Mesh. This neutral
trail shoe is made for people who have high, medium-high and normal arches, which is to say: people who don’t need any additional arch support, which amounts to around a half of all runners out there. Keep in mind that some people have complained that the flaw of the midsole is the complete lack of support for anyone who’s in need of addressing tendon issues. The upper of this shoe offers amazing support and locks the foot inside the chamber, so much so that a number of people have found the snugness of the upper off-putting. However, the majority of runners have appreciated this better-safe-than-sorry approach.
As previously mentioned, this is a trail shoe that is best when used on off-road runs that include mountains, rocky surfaces or surfaces full of dirt, roots, and pebbles – any surface that features uneven terrain, really. However, keep in mind that the 2mm lugs leave much to be desired when it comes to the type of terrain this shoe is suitable for. The lightweight nature of the shoe also allows it to be a great racing shoe, suitable for interval training, sprints, trekking, and fartlek. Additionally, this shoe is suitable for occasional road running as well, due to the fact that the upper is supportive and the cushioning
is balanced. However, constant runs on concrete and pavements would definitely require some additional cushioning in order to prevent injury.
The combination of the lightweight nature, durability, and flexibility of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh makes this shoe a viable option for everyone that favor minimalist, low-top trail shoes. The price of this quality shoe barely passes one C-note, and if you catch it on a discount, it’s safe to say that you’re looking at a really affordable minimalist trail shoe that will last you quite a bit.
The M Select GRIP+ outsole configuration of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh provides slip-resistant traction
on a wide variety of both wet and dry surfaces. The shallow, 2mm sticky rubber lugs adhere well to a light trail terrain, enabling a confident and reliable stride. However, it’s clear from the construction of the outsole that the shoe isn’t made to provide substantial traction on really rugged, uneven terrain, which would call for a more robust sole and probably the use of the famous Vibram rubber compound.
The deep, anatomical flex grooves of the outsole provide great flexibility, especially when pairing the depth of the grooves with the stack height of the outsole. This configuration provides a natural, unrestricted stride. The three horizontal flex grooves in the forefoot work especially well in enabling a swift toe-off, which complements the racing ability of the shoe perfectly. The predominantly mesh upper is also very flexible and adheres to the foot in a firm, supportive way that doesn’t feel restrictive and doesn’t cause blistering of any kind. All in all, this is a really flexible trail
shoe that is perfect to tackle uneven terrain and bend over roots and stones, allowing you to get amazing ground feel without feeling unsupported or rigid.
One of the main stability
features of the Merrell Bare Access Flex E-Mesh is the Hyperlock printed TPU counter placed in the external heel area of the shoe. This counter increases the stability primarily by preventing the heel from exiting the shoe box, and by preventing wobbling or sliding inside the shoebox as well. The Hyperlock technology, combined with the snug mesh upper, lock the foot securely inside the shoe box and stabilize the entire stride.
This is a minimalist shoe, meaning that it has zero-drop
differential between the heel and forefoot stack heights. The entirety of the sole is positioned at 12.4mm of height, out of which the outsole takes up 1.2mm in thickness with the midsole and insole taking up 8mm and 3mm, respectively. The rest of the height is taken by the 2mm lugs. The goal of the zero-drop shoes is to create a natural, barefoot running sensation that enables smooth and consistent contact with the ground, enabling the runner to be as close to the outdoors as possible. However, if you’re used to running in 10mm-drop shoes, our recommendation is to first try out the 6mm drop, transition to 4mm, and then, after a few months of constant adjustment, try out your first zero-drop shoe.
● Rubber outsole
● Anatomical flex grooves
● EVA foam midsole with FLEXconnect technology
● Engineered mesh upper with TPU overlays
● Very breathable
● Extremely lightweight
● Comfortable, although some runners thought the upper was too snug
● Great price point
● Appealing design
● Average-to-good durability
● Trail and road shoe
● Very flexible
● Satisfactory responsiveness
The bottom line of the Merrell
Bare Access Flex E-Mesh is positive, despite there being a lot of place for improvement. The shoe looks good and is well thought-out; however, there is a lack of cushioning that becomes noticeable on some more technical, robust trails, and the sizing is a bit skewed, especially given the snugness of the upper that may lead some to think they require a bigger shoe, when in fact, the tight fit is exactly the way the shoe’s designed. That being said, this is a good entry-level zero-drop trail shoe that won’t break the bank but will allow you to dip your toes in the minimalist shoe waters.