Verdict from 5 experts and +100 user reviews

6 reasons to buy

  • Some users applaud the Merrell Bare Access XTR’s lightweight structure.
  • The majority of the buyers have positive reactions to the traction it offers. 
  • One of the most popular comments from consumers is the comfort that Merrell Bare Access XTR provides.
  • A lot of consumers appreciate its flexibility when it comes to interchanging usage from walking, running on pavements and complex trails. 
  • Some runners gave good reviews about its minimalistic design while still having sufficient cushion. 
  • Many users compliment the great ground connection they feel when they run using Merrell Bare Access XTR.

3 reasons not to buy

  • A good number of runners criticize the level of durability of the upper mesh.  
  • One user commented that the shoe felt somewhat tight in the width and toe box.
  • A couple of wearers have observed the rubber of the outsole to wear out quickly.

Bottom line

Overall, the Merrell Bare Access XTR is accepted by the majority of the users to be a fantastic pair of shoes. The footwear is loved by many because of its traction and impeccable ground connection that makes it easy to run on trails. Although others have issues with its width, durability, and toe box, others still lauded its minimalistic design. Without sacrificing the cushioning requirement, the shoe provides the foot with comfort and protection during the activity. Its breathable upper mesh was also loved by many buyers. It offers excellent ventilation that is beneficial to the foot during the running session.

Tip: see the best running shoes.

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Our reviews

/100 by , posted on .

We tested the brand new shoe of Merrell, the Bare Access XTR. With only 240 grams, this shoe has been made for zero drop enthusiasts who want to run fast with a barefoot feeling.



This is the promise made by the Michigan based company. Let’s find out if the magic happens after 220 km of running over the forested and rocky trail of Grenoble!

With the Bare Access XTR, Merrell retains the characteristic that makes their brand a success: Comfort. This is the initial thing you notice when you lace up the shoe for the first time.

The roomy toe box allows your foot to move freely as you run. It gives a very pleasant feeling, especially at tempo pace.

Then, the light build of the upper lets your foot breathe perfectly even after a hard interval workout or on a very hot day. This makes the Bare Access a pretty good shoe for summer racing.

Concerning the lacing system, it’s quite simple and works pretty well. You can tighten it up accurately.

Regarding the outsole and midsole materials, there are 17.5mm of materials between you and the ground. Thus, the Bare Access XTR is a less radical pick than the Merrell Trail Glove.

It allows the zero drop and minimalist runner to enjoy fast running on the trails without too much pounding.



The outsole is made of the Vibram Megagrip, with 3mm lugs. With this outsole, the shoe provides a good grip on most trails and removes debris such as mud and small rocks effectively.

The midsole is to the most interesting part of the Bare Access. It uses the flex connect technology, which makes the shoe quite flexible and allows the runner to feel the ground perfectly at each stride.

The energy rebound of the midsole is also superb. It makes the XTR one of the most sensitive trail running shoe on the market.



The mix between comfort, sensitivity, and grip highlights the Bare Access as one of the best trail running shoe for interval workouts and faster sessions


  • Comfortable
  • Sensitive
  • Durable
  • One of the best shoe to start with minimalist running


  • Weak grip on wet surfaces
  • Not built for very technical trails
  • Lacks cushioning

Zero drop and sensitivity: The perfect combo on fast trails

The Bare Access XTR performs really well on soft surfaces like grass, forest track, and muddy trails. We were really pleased by the sensation that the shoes give while traversing those terrains.

The shoe is really fast on the flatter and faster section, and the bounce of the outsole is real. It allows the runner to have an airy stride.

Forefoot strikers will especially like the feeling of running close to the ground. The shoe will highlight the slightest acceleration.



Uphill, the traction of the outsole and the lightweight construction of the Merrell Bare Access XTR allows the runner to keep a good pace even on the steepest trails.

Downhill, the shoe sensitivity combined with the zero drop construction allows you to have a quick and precise forefoot strike, which is really pleasant on a steep descent and technical terrain.

Regarding the stability, the Bare Access satisfied us in this aspect. Our feet have remained in place at a faster pace, even on quick turns.


Just be careful not to go too fast on very rocky surfaces. We experienced some slips on trails completely covered by rocks.

Not a good shoe for technical terrain and difficult condition

The Bare Access doesn't work really well on mountainous trails or hard surfaces. During our training session in the Alps, we felt sharp rocks a lot especially when running downhill.

This is not a good shoe to run on concrete either. The lightweight construction of the outsole and midsole is really pleasant on a soft trail.

However, it does not perform well on harder surfaces. This could be a big issue for athletes who have to run on the road before hitting the closest trail nearby.

Best use for

  • Interval workout on soft terrain
  • Slow jogging on soft surfaces to get muscles used to minimalist running
  • Short mountain running race, Verticalkilometer

Do not use for

  • Long run (i.e. longer than 1h45m)
  • Hard training on rocky trail/concrete
  • Skyrunning, ultra running race

A durable affordable and eco-friendly shoe

Let’s conclude this test with a good point in favor of the Bare Acess XTR: the shoe is resilient.

After 220 km (136 miles) on a wide variety of terrains, the shoe does not show any sign of premature wear, neither on the mesh nor the outsole.

This is a very strong point for Merrell because it is relatively cheap (110$) for a durable shoe.



This is all the more pleasant as the Bare Access XTR is made of recycled materials, plastic, and scrap rubber.



Grip Sensitivity Comfort Value for money
17/20 13/20 18/20 18/20 16/20
| Level 1 expert Verified
I am Antoine from France and live near the Alps in a city called Grenoble. I started running in 2016 and cover 55 miles per week, training and competing mostly on trail. I run any kind of trail races between 10 and 25 km. In 2019, I came 18th at the short distance French trail running championship. Also, I do road running, owning a 34min19 personal best on the 10km and enjoy faster training sessions on the track.

Good to know

- This trail running shoe, the Merrell Bare Access XTR, utilizes the breathable mesh lining and TPU upper. It is coupled with a traditional lace closure that offers enough ventilation for the feet while running. 

- The FLEXconnect® technology is integrated into the Merrell Bare Access XTR. The primary goal of this is to provide providing a midsole unit with bidirectional grooves. These grooves allow the user to run faster even on uneven ground. 

- Devised for minimalist running, it produces an instinctive, zero-drop experience. This is vital in giving the runner full foot contact on a lightweight shoe without sacrificing durability. 

- The Merrell Bare Access XTR utilizes the Vibram® TC5+ rubber sole that guarantees safety on the flat and sloped landscape as well as wet and dry roads.

Like the Merrell Trail Glove 5, the Merrell Bare Access XTR is equipped with the Vibram TC5+ rubber sole. This component of the shoe aims to deliver the much-needed traction when tackling any kind of terrains. 

Crafted with aggressive 3mm lugs, the shoe ensures a better grip on uneven landscapes. This is essential in making the shoe ideal for rough road and trail runs.

Designed for adaptability on trail and road running, the Merrell Bare Access XTR uses the Merrell FLEXconnect® dual-directional flex-groove EVA midsole technology. This feature of the shoe provides maximum support. It also promotes the natural movement and flexing of the foot while running on any terrain. This technology improves the runner’s speed, stability, and ground connection even on wet and uneven surfaces.

The shoe utilizes the Merrell Barefoot construction. This feature provides the wearer with the ability to be flexible and agile during the run using a lightweight pair of shoes.

One of the features of the Merrell Bare Access XTR is its breathable mesh lining and TPU upper. This combination enables superb ventilation during the runs. Therefore, better inflow and outflow of air is encouraged.

The shoe uses the Hyperlock™ TPU film heel counter. Merrell added this feature to give optimized stability on sudden upward and downward slopes as well as sharp turns during high speed runs. As a result, the user remains firm on foot on a wide variety of terrains.

How Bare Access XTR compares

This shoe: 84
All shoes average: 82
55 94
This shoe: £100
All shoes average: £120
£60 £230
This shoe: 240g
All shoes average: 296g
179g 680g
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.