Reviews You Can Rely On

Merrell Bare Access 3 Review

merrell bare access 3 barefoot shoes review
Merrell Bare Access 3
Credit: Merrell
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Price:  $90 List
Pros:  Zero drop, thin breathable upper
Cons:  Low ground sensitivity, takes some time to break in
Manufacturer:   Merrell
By Jimmy Elam ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 19, 2014
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  • Ground feeling - 30% 6.0
  • Warmth - 10% 6.0
  • Traction - 20% 5.0
  • Foot Protection - 15% 7.0
  • Weight - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Merrell Bare Access 3 come with a firm ride and a smooth Vibram tread on the outsole. We prefer to stick to the roads or on maintained non-technical trails with this shoe. This shoe lacks the ground sensitivity found in many of the other minimalist shoes we tested, such as the Merrell Trail Glove, and seemed to take quite a few miles to break-in. But for how cushioned it is, it still hovers around 7 ounces and feels quite fast on the roads. For even more cushion, try the Best Buy winning Nike Free 5.0, which are also designed for road running.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Merrell Bare Access 4 vs. The Merrell Bare Access 3

The Bare Access 4 retail for $95 and are now available; we have contacted Merrell as to the updates that have taken place and are awaiting confirmation. Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the Access 4 pictured on the left and the Access 3 shown on the right.
Bare Access 4
Bare Access 4
Merrell Bare Access 3
Merrell Bare Access 3

Hands-On Review

We find the Merrell Bare Access 3 to be a great shoe to transition towards the more minimal models, such as the Merrell Trail Glove 2 or Minimus 10v3 Trail. Unlike the significant grippy lugs found on the latter, the Bare Access has a smooth Vibram outsole and significant cushioning, which works well for logging extended miles on the road.

Performance Comparison

merrell bare access 3 barefoot shoes review - cruising down the trail in the merrell bare access 3 with mammoth...
Cruising down the trail in the Merrell Bare Access 3 with Mammoth Mountain, CA in the background. The training grounds for the elite Mammoth Track Club.
Credit: Katie Vane

Ground Feeling

Even with the wonderful zero heel-to-toe drop, there is still a shortage of ground feeling in the ride given the Bare Access's 8 mm of cushion. That's twice as much as other top competitors, such as the ultra-sensitive Merrell Trail Glove 2.

merrell bare access 3 barefoot shoes review - the bare access 3 have a thicker midsole, not offering enough ground...
The Bare Access 3 have a thicker midsole, not offering enough ground feeling.
Credit: Katie Vane


We rate the traction of this shoe at the lowest of the group. The outsole tread is very smooth, significantly smoother than all the other minimalist running shoes in the group. We find that we are limited to running on dry roads and notice a significant loss of traction on any other surface.

merrell bare access 3 barefoot shoes review - we suggest you stick to the roads with the merrell bare access 3...
We suggest you stick to the roads with the Merrell Bare Access 3. The outsole is much too smooth for most trail running.
Credit: Katie Vane


The Bare Access 3 took us a solid two weeks of runs before we felt like they were comfortably broken in. This is a longer break-in period than any other shoe in the group. It has a more stiff ride than most of the other minimalist shoes we tested, and scores near the bottom for overall comfort. If you're interested in reading about the most comfortable minimalist shoe of the group, give the Nike Free 5.0 a look.

The Merrell Bare Access doesn't give us that hugging sock-like feel in the upper like the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210. We do like the simplicity of the upper design though. A lot of minimalist shoes, specifically the Brooks Pure Connect 3, we believe make the mistake of overloading the upper with materials that add weight and hinder the overall breathability. Because of the minimally designed upper on the Bare Access 3, they dry out super fast.


For how much cushioning this shoe has when compared to many of the other minimalist shoes in the group, 7 ounces is very light. To save some weight, Merrell omits a rigid heel counter like the one found on the Brooks Pure Connect 3, and also designed an ultra-minimal upper. This shoe really does feel fast and we enjoy using it on our tempo runs.


We rate this shoe towards the bottom of the group when comparing warmth. The upper is very minimal and doesn't do much to provide warmth. Yet, it is extremely breathable and dries faster than all the other models we tested.

Foot Protection

The relatively thick midsole combined with the durable Vibram outsole makes for a well-protected foot when wearing this model. We rate this pair in the top three minimalist shoes for overall foot protection.

Best Application

We love the Merrell Bare Access 3 for our speed workouts on the road. Since they contain extra cushioning and lack the flexibility of many of the other minimalist shoes, the ride feels much faster.

merrell bare access 3 barefoot shoes review - the bare access 3 have a decently comfortable ride on the road...
The Bare Access 3 have a decently comfortable ride on the road, though not the sensitivity we look for in a minimalist running shoe. It could make a good transition shoe if you are just starting out with minimal footwear.
Credit: Katie Vane


If you want a minimalist shoe that comes with extra cushioning, you're planning to stay on the roads, or want a fast ride for tempo runs, the $100 Bare Access 3 will be worth it.


If you've yet to train in any minimalist running shoes, the Merrell Bare Access 3 can be a good place to start the transition. With zero drop and 8 mm of cushion, this shoe will give you a good idea if minimalism is beneficial for you. If you're an experienced minimalist runner, something like our Editors' Choice Winner, the New Balance Minimus 10v3 Trail might be more suited for you.

Jimmy Elam
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