I could have gone with a less obscure reference, like something from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, but no, I go with Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures. What I’m trying to say is, wearing the Merrell Bare Access 2 makes me feel like a geisha.
I should mention that they sent me the wrong size, and that it was totally Iris‘ fault. While that helps explain some of my initial shock at their gargantuaness, I’m afraid even a properly sized pair wouldn’t make that much of a difference.
The last is the same as their other shoes in their Brefoot (sorry, can’t do it) line, so that part is all good. Wide toebox, etc. They’re really light, too, which is an impressive feat (ha) of technology given the stack of the sole. I don’t know how high off the ground they claim their shoes will take you, but I’m a barefoot runner with excellent proprioception and I can say with certainty that I am eight inches taller when wearing this shoe.
Now, I know you’re probably expecting me to say all this cushion is a bad thing. And, in a few cases, I will meet your expectations. As the open-minded and humble person that I am, however, I am able to see the advantages of the added elevation. The three that come immediately to mind are:
1. There’s a water crossing and you don’t want to get your feet wet.
2. You’ve entered the Thumbtack 5K.
3. You want to know firsthand “how’s the weather up there.”
I’m sure there are others. Merrell says they’re for ultras and beginners. Ultras I can understand, but in a way that makes me not want to run ultras. I can imagine being so exhausted and tired and, uh, sleepy that my body is incapable of running with good form, and the the course still has lots of technical descents to go. Then I might want a little extra cushion, because screw gentleness, just get to the damn finish already. But beginners…
Wait, first let me tell you how my 3.8 mile run in them went. Not as bad as I thought! One of the advantages of being all barefooty is that my feet are smart. I can adjust to different environments, even an oversized cushy shoe. I even kind of enjoyed them, especially on the downhills. I did something I haven’t done in years – I stomped! None of that namby-pamby fluttering down like a downy feather released from a stork carrying a newborn puppy in swaddling clothes. I felt like Voltron landing after all the lion parts come together, all thuddish and substantial.
Which brings me back to beginners. Obviously, I’m at odds with the whole “transition to barefoot” thing. I think it’s backwards – that if you want to run like a barefooter, you should human-up and take off the shoes already. Change the way you move and think until it goes from painful to uncomfortable to tolerable to not so bad to quite nice.
But I’m in the minority, and recognize the fact that most people are going to insist on some kind of shoe. Fine, but those who aspire to run in a minimalist fashion would be better served finding a shoe that allows stomping to hurt. The Merrell Bare Access 2 isn’t it.
I think this might be the most negative review I’ve ever written. Now go out, buy the shoe, fall in love with it, and tell me I’m a cranky purist. Don’t worry, I can take it. Besides, I feel like Merrell is just setting me up for the Vapor, which I like to think they designed especially for me.