4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Colour Name: BlackSize Name: 43 EU
These are not your typical minimalist shoes - while they are a less cushy than standard running shoes and have a zero heel to toe offset, they are definitely built more solidly and offer a lot more midsole support and cushion than most minimalist footwear. But don't confuse cushy for mushy - the midsole is a stiff foam that still provides some groundfeel and feels sturdy underfoot. They seem to be built on the same last as the Bare Access 2 and have a similar but more muted groundfeel than the BA2 due to thicker rubber on the sole and a stiffer upper. The upper has stiff plastic support overlays to provide torsional stability, especially when the laces are snugged tight. If you tighten too much they can bite into the side of your feet a little, especially near the arch. I didn't find this isn't too much of a problem and will probably go away when they break in a bit. However I didn't feel that the overlays kept my feet any more locked in than the thinner overlays on the BA2.
Fit is very similar to all the other barefoot series shoes, especially the Barefoot Access 2. They have a little higher volume overall compared to other merrells, and they don't have the extra set of eyelets like most others, so if you have narrow low volume feet you might find your heel slipping a little - especially because they are a bit stiffer. I have narrows heels and ankles and was able to secure the shoe but I could see it being a problem for some. They are true to length however, and you should order your **measured foot size**, either with the sock you wish to wear or barefoot. Some people find the merrell barefoot shoes fit large, but that is mostly because they are used to buying shoes a half or full size larger to accomodate their toe width. The wide toebox on these allows your toes to splay out, so they will fit a properly measured foot length/size. If you plan to wear them barefoot, you may need to go a half size smaller than you are used to - just measure your bare foot and order this size.
These have a distinct arch support to them. Not what many are looking for in a minimalist shoe, but personally this works for me and my over-pronation. The outsole is grippy but not especially toothy (compared with say the Merrell Ascend). Mostly good for pavement and trails with loose gravel - I wouldn't expect a lot of protection for sharp rocks due to the lack of a rock-plate. Still, the thicker rubber outsole protects against sharp points better than most other merrell barefoot shoes, but it comes at the expense of flexibility - these guys are a bit stiffer than the Bare Access 2 shoes. Between the sturdy overlays, arch support, and thicker midsole, my feet feel secure and protected in these shoes and I'd feel confident taking them out on rough terrain.
They look good - I bought the castle rock and yellow and they are sharp looking but fun. I think the black, which in pictures looks more charcoal, would be a nice and more dressy option. Breathability is good but for some reason not as good as other barefoot shoes - might be the thick toe-guard. The issue for me is with the toe-guard - it's low over the toes, and my the top of my toes bump into it as I walk. After walking for a bit this feels slightly uncomfortable, though not painful. They might loosen up a bit with wear, but they probably won't much. If you have thick toes that need lots of room you might find this uncomfortable.
Overall I quite like these shoes but not sure if the toe-guard will be a deal-breaker for me or not yet. If you're looking for a minimalist shoe with a bit more protection for trails, then the Merrell Ascend is probably a better option with a toothier sole, better flexibility and ground-feel, and a built-in rock plate. If you're looking for a more "cushy" minimalist shoe with some arch support and wanted something a little more solid than the Bare Access for working out and/or with a bit of tread for mixed terrains, then the Circuit Access is a good choice. I'd give it 3.5/5 stars, but if the toe-guard were a little roomier or made of a softer material then I'd give it 4.5 stars.
After wearing them a bit more, I decided to return these. The toe-guard is just too low around the top of my toes, despite there being tons of toe width. I also find these much stiffer than I'd prefer, mostly due to the thicker rubber compared to other merrell barefoot shoes. They'll probably soften a bit with use, but the toe-guard won't. Also, I realised that the flexible plastic overlays are actually painted grey - they are peeling a little on on side, and it's actually clear. The peeling is minor but a few scuffs will make it very obvious soon enough. It's too bad, I really like these shoes overall, but the fit and overly stiff shoe just isn't going to work for me and the quality of the overlay is questionable. Instead, I picked up a pair of bare access 2 shoes which are more flexible and not tight at the toe. For trails, I'll use my merrell ascend gloves.