by Liew Wei Yong
Running shoes have developed in such a way over the years that a modicum of heel cushioning is expected across the board, resulting in shoes that have a built-in ‘drop height’. This is the difference in sole thickness from the heel to the front end of the shoe, with the reasoning being that a thicker heel allows for better impact absorption.
Then there are the zero drop designs, with a sole that is completely level from heel to toe. The justification is that designing shoes this way allows the human foot to work as nature intended, with no unnatural angles.
The Merrell Bare Access Flex is such a design, but still with plenty of cushioning. I decided to try it on to see if this is something different to the rest of my shoes.
There is a 14.2 mm midsole profile, so it is not excessively low or considered minimalist, but it does feel like you have added cushioning to your usual minimalist shoes.
I tried out the shoes on both trails and tarmac roads in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, this shoe has an outstanding fit. Featuring a heel section that is snug, a midfoot section that can be easily tuned with the laces, and a forefoot section that is pretty wide, it suits my foot shape, but like all shoes, your own fit and mileage will vary.
This shoe is perfect for speed training or for an efficient runner looking for a long distance shoe. It keeps pace on muddy terrain as the TPU heel counter that secures your foot during descents and sharp turns does its job well, and the overall grip of the M Select GRIP+ outsole on wet gravel and rocks is commendable.It may be a fully level shoe, but there is surprisingly good arch support. This may not be one for flat footed runners, but the rest of us should do fine with it.
I have gone through many pairs of trail running shoes in my own ultra distance running experience, and the Merrell Bare Access Flex feels unique as it is neither a minimalist nor a maximal cushioning shoe. The show is completely level (which is why it’s classed as ‘zero drop’) so you walk and run without the slight forward lean of other running shoes, but unlike the minimalist zero drop shoes that have no midsole cushioning, the Bare Access Flex has a lightweight EVA midsole.
Those who love the ability to feel the ground will love the bare natural running philosophy and, these Merrell Bare Access Flex which weighs at 210g might just be perfect for you.
Don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself at the Merrell Training Ground Workshop happening on 9th September 2017. Wei Yong will be taking you for a good trail run with your new pair of Bare Access Flex, worth $109. Participants will also get to receive a goodie bag worth $120. Sign up here: https://www.runmagazine.asia/shop/merrell-training-ground/