Merrell Bare Access 5
Zero drop and super light, these light trail shoes are great for dry or soft trails for 3 of the 4 seasons.
Here's the Manufacturers Blurb with a little translation.
"Breathable Mesh Upper - Provides a breathable environment, keeping the wearer cool and dry."
The material that's used for the upper is a tight light mesh. At first look it seems too light and I had concerns about durability but it's pretty tough and durable. After 50+ miles and a couple of really wet runs it feels snug and supportive and yes I do feel cool and dry. They don't get too smelly either.
"TPU Overlays - Offering much needed support to key areas."
On top of the fabric is a thicker plasticky material that overlay the mesh and work like straps on the side of shoe. They help to hold the foot in place and keep it secure inside the shoe.
"Mesh Lining - For improved ventilation."
This is an extra lining inside the upper. It's not really that noticeable but the ride is comfortable and airy.
"HyperLock TPU Heel Counter - Holding the foot inside the shoe securely."
This is a thicker strap of plastic that wraps around the heel to provide support. It seems to work. The foot is well supported.
"Integrated EVA - Lightweight and long lasting cushioning."
Let's be straight, this is a firm shoe. The mid-sole isn't very thick and it just takes the sting out of the road. It's a zero-drop shoe that means the height of the sole at the heel is the same as the height at the toe and foot sits completely flat. The low run position and firm mid-sole really help to promote a quick, crisp stride. Whilst not a true "barefoot" shoe it's still very firm. If you prefer a softer ride this might not be the shoe for you. If you enjoy full barefoot feel like a Vibram or Vivothen it may even be too cushioned. For Goldilocks here, they were just right. If you like a good ground feel and fast turnover then maybe it's right for you too. Responsive on the trail but providing enough protection on the road.
"FLEXconnect Grooves - Allowing the foot to bend naturally for comfort and stability."
This fancy name just means that Merrell have moulded 3 grooves into the mid-sole. The shoe is flexible but not flimsy. No issues.
"M Select GRIP+ - Superbly sticky, highly durable rubber."
My previous pair of Merrells (Bare Access 2) had soles that were made by Vibrams. These were very durable over about 400 miles. I've done about 50 miles in these and they aren't showing much sign of wear.
A word about grip.
This is a "light trail" shoe. That means a dry or soft trail in early Autumn, Spring or Summer, but not the heart of Winter. When the rain starts to come down and the trails turns sloppy these shoes won't give you the grip you'll need.
My first run in these was an Epping Forest run in torrential rain. The trail was still hard from the baking summer we've had in the UK this year. There was a lot of standing water but the grip was fine.
However, as soon as things got softer I had to slow down and adjust my stride in order to just stay up. They are no good on sloppy clay and you will slide about. For mud get a stud.
"Weight - 210 g (1/2 pair)"
These shoes are so beautifully light. My UK size 8.5 came in at 200g. You barely notice them on your feet. Your feet feel light and fast and your run technique will improve in these shoes.
I like these shoes very much. They are the second pair I've owned. The ride is crisp and fast. The ground feel is great. There is just enough arch support to keep the foot secure but not too much to be intrusive or cause blisters. The toe box is roomy. The toes can splay and spread but you don't feel as though your forefoot is sliding around inside the shoe. The heel counter secures the back of the foot but doesn't feel too restrictive.
These shoes are a great introduction to more minimal running. If you are new to it, take your time and start with short runs or I'd recommend playing it safe and work through a Walker 2 Runner programme or similar to build your strength gradually. They are currently on sale at Sportshoes.com at £39.99 which is an absolute steal so I've gone and bought a second pair.