Karate on the AT

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, with Indy close behind and rattle snakes all around, I lost my mind and became a master of karate.

Shoe Review #2 – Merrell Bare Access 2

This post is a bit late, but I was checking out some other Merrell Barefoot shoes, and it reminded me that I had this post in the hopper for almost a year now! In my extended review on the Trail Gloves and Sonic Gloves, which are more minimalist than the Bare Access 2’s, I said:

I’m hoping as I hit some rocky areas in PA and NJ, I can continue to deal with the ground feel issues I’ve had. I think I can, but I admit, there are some times where I get very frustrated (not with the shoes, but just at the general situation).

My answer to my “ground feel issues” (that’s a clever way of saying that my feet hurt like hell), was the purchase of my Merrell Bare Access 2’s. I purchased them in Port Clinton, PA, right at the start of the rockiest, most terrible portion of the AT. (Side note: When I purchased them, I incorrectly said in my blog entry that they were Merrell Trail Glove 2’s.) The trail, at some points during the Pennsylvania/New Jersey portion, is so miserably rocky, that it is difficult to hike. Rock points seem to find their way into the most vulnerable joints of your shoes, toes are stubbed, and strong ankles feel shaky. But, like with most of the trail, that is only the physical part. The multi mile treks over these rocks, not big enough to carry all of your footprint, and not small enough to conform to a single step, become mental gauntlets. Many times I had to sit and regain my mental stamina during the day. My eyes were locked downward for hours on end, picking out each and every step and foot placement even more so than at any point in the trail. To give you an idea of what it was like, here’s a video I took:

With that said, I am so amazingly happy that I purchased the Bare Access 2’s at the point I did. The trail was still pretty brutal, but I think I would have completely lost my mind had I not had the Bare Access 2’s. They are more more cushioned than the Trail Gloves or Sonic Gloves, which gave me more forgiveness over the rocks. The BA2’s have 8mm of cushioning and a 13.5mm stack height. That is in comparison to the Trail/Sonic Gloves, which have 4mm cushion plus a 1mm rock plate, and somewhere around a 10mm stack height. It may not seem like much, but those extra few millimeters of material between foot and rocky ground make a huge difference. Like the Trail/Sonic Gloves, the BA2’s were also zero dropped (no difference between stack height at heel and at toe), which I loved.

BA2

The Vibram soles of the BA2’s held up well for the 400 to 500 miles I wore them. Although the tread wasn’t as aggressive and grippy as the Sonic/Trail Gloves, they were just as resilient. The toe cap also remained fully intact — I couldn’t say the same for the Sonic/Trail Gloves. The core of the shoe, the sole, was excellent. However, the same can’t be said of the mesh and synthetic uppers. They took quite a beating over the time I wore them as you can see. Holes opened up all along the upper, especially at the front sides. Eventually, I switched back to my old Sonic Gloves in order to finish the last few hundred miles of my thru hike — the BA2’s just wouldn’t have made it all the way to Katahdin. The Sonic/Trail Gloves were much more rugged than the BA2’s. But what the Bare Access 2’s lack in ruggedness, they make up for in comfort and cushioning. Without the extra cushioning, my trek through the rocks of Pennsylvania would have been a living nightmare.

BA2 Outsole

 

Overall, I am thrilled to have picked up the Bare Access 2’s. They saved me a lot of mental anguish by giving me that extra bit of cushioning. My feet were fairly numb by this point, but that doesn’t mean I still didn’t feel pressure and discomfort. Although the uppers didn’t hold up for too long, they were a worthy purchase for the intense terrain that I needed them for. Good work Merrell — you win again!