Merrell Bare Access XTR review

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

Best used 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

First thoughts on the Bare Access XTR

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.

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.

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

Facts / Specs

Terrain: Trail
Weight: Men 240g / Women 190g
Drop: 0mm
Arch support: Neutral
Forefoot height: 17.2mm
Heel height: 17.2mm
Collection: Merrell Bare Access

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Antoine Corpel
Antoine Corpel

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.