Like the idea idea of Barefoot but not sure you want to go the the whole way immediately? The new Merrell Bare Access could be the answer...
Like the idea idea of barefoot shoes but not sure you want to go the the whole way immediately? The new Merrell Barefoot Bare Access could be the answer with minimal sole structure, zero drop and a little more padding than Merrell's standard Barefoot range.
While Merrell's range of Barefoot shoes generally have 4mm of padding with no drop between heel and forefoot, the new for spring 2012 Run Bare Access gets a positively lavish 8mm of underfoot EVA to cushion the impact slightly.
It still has no internal sole structure, so no impact plates or stabilisers or complicated things and it still has zero drop so your foot sits as it it were flat on the floor, but the extra padding is intended to make it a good choice for those who are sort of intrigued by barefoot and its promises of reduced injury and potentially more efficient gait, but are a little wary of the minimal cushioning in the standard Barefoot range. Hence the 'Bare Access' name.
Like the full-on Barefoot shoes, the Access is still incredibly light at 160 grammes per shoe. The uppers are a super-breathable mesh with no lining or fripperies just a bit of toe and heel reinforcement and fit is generous in the forefoot, but snug at the heel. Reflective strips add a bit of night-time safety.
Underfoot there's a Vibram sole unit - Merrell developed the range with Vibram drawing partly on their FiveFinger experience - but unlike the Trailgloves we've used previously, which have a medium aggressive tread pattern at the front end in particular, the Access has a less agressive, more hardpack/road friendly version complete with 'sticky rubber pods' in strategic areas.
So what do they feel like on? Well, not unlike the standard Barefoots, which is to say, a really close, soft, comfortable slipper/glove-like fit, but with just a little more comfort underfoot. A quick experimental try out on pavement suggests that unlikely as it sounds, that extra 4mm of EVA-based M-Bound foam, makes an appreciable difference.
You still need to modify your running action so you're landing forefoot first, but there's less harshness to the landing and we'd be far more inclined to run on hard surfaces wearing the Bare Access than we would with the standard Barefoots. In other words, they fall sort of halfway between a normal shoe and a full-on barefoot one.
Whether barefoot really does offer all the benefits it claims is outside the scope of this quite once over, but if you're interested in trying it for yourself, but without the sheer minimalism of full barefoot shoes, we reckon these are a fair but more forgiving particularly if you're likely to be running or walking mostly on harder surfaces.
The Merrell Barefoot Run Bare Access has a suggested retail price of £75. More information at www.merrell.com.