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By Tom Marshall
Senior Editor / Recoil Network
Guns and knives and medkits and watches and paracord survival bracelets are all cool to shop for – and not unimportant pieces of gear. But the literal foundation of any EDC is gonna be a good pair of shoes. You may never shoot it out with ISIS, save a life with your pocket tourniquet or use your wristband key cuff to escape from foreign custody. But we can 100% guarantee that you will walk, run, climb or shuffle somewhere at some point every day.
Like any other piece of kit, your needs and daily environment will dictate exactly what you need. But there are a couple of safe-bet factors to look for: hard use durability, long-term comfort and the ability to transition through multiple types of terrain without causing slippage.
LALO is a footwear company that was originally founded specifically to meet the needs of the Naval Special Warfare community. Their initial product line was focused on combat boots, but they have branched into athletic footwear based on direct feedback from the SOF community. From this input, they have developed a line of lightweight and well-ventilated shoes for both endurance running and cross training. Earlier this year, they released the Zodiac Recon AT (All Terrain).
For the last few months, we’ve been wearing our test pair of Zodiac Recon ATs literally every day. We’ve taken them to shooting classes, on camping trips, hiking up and down mountains. They’ve been through Louisiana swampland, the red clay mud of west Texas, the sandy riverbeds of Arizona border country and as high as 10,000 feet – that’s walking. Bump it to 35,000 feet if you care to include air travel. But the very first day we laced up the Zodiac Recons we made a rookie mistake. We took shoes straight out of the box, laced them up and immediately set off on a 3.5-mile ruck. Not far, as rucking goes, but enough for us to stretch our legs, get some sunshine and put some miles down. Which we did…almost. We covered the last half-mile or so in socks, holding our new Zodiac Recon ATs, bleeding from the heels. These shoes have small, triangular-shaped pads where the shoe would cup your Achilles’ tendon, just behind your ankle bone. These little pads, while well-intentioned, gave us a wicked pair of symmetrical blisters that took about two weeks to heal up. This left us with a healthy dose of doubt about what we’d say when at the end of our test period. Ironically, this was the only time we had this issue. Which leads us to believe it was from the lack of break-in period. After that, the race was on to put these shoes through as many climate and ground conditions we could find.
The skeptical among you may believe that shoes are just shoes. Use those shoes over any distance longer than a shopping aisle, rougher than the waiting room of your dentist’s office or carrying more weight than full pockets, and the true value of a good pair of shoes will become painfully clear in the most literal sense.
Our first stop with the Zodiac Recon AT’s was a two-day “Weaponize The Senses” class with Greenside Training. This class was put on in August in the southernmost parts of Arizona, within mortar distance of the US-Mexico border. Ironically, a large part of the Greenside curriculum revolves around reading and following footprints. Part of what separates the Zodiac Recon AT’s from other Zodiac line shoes is Lalo’s Off Road Traction Pods.
The ORTP system is a unique tread pattern that consists of clusters of geometric plugs that runs from the very back edge of the heel and pest the front edge of the sole, with a sort of toe-dig traction pad about the size of your big toe, in roughly the same location. This unique feature allows you to dig the shoe hard into loose soil or against a rock face to get a solid initial push. In the context of the Weaponize The Senses class, the Off Road Traction Pods taught us two things: that the Zodiac Recon AT has a very distinctive tread pattern and that said pattern works really in wet, sandy settings. (Which should be a no-brainer for shoes that were made for the SEAL community.)
After a weekend of man-tracking in bordertown, our next major stop with these kicks was Burnett, Texas for the Atomic Athlete Vanguard – a two-and-a-half-day celebration of getting wet, sweaty and muddy. It poured rain the entire time we were there, giving us a chance to get ankle deep in some red clay mud. Even though the Traction Pods didn’t give us any distinct advantage in the mounds of mud, our feet stayed mostly dry throughout the weekend. The Recons seemed to accept a base-layer of mud which hardened around the body of the shoe and kept the majority of moisture out. For shoes that are not billed as waterproof, we were impressed with how little sogginess we experienced.
If that wasn’t enough water testing for you, we took our Recons from Texas to Louisiana for Rosco Manufacturing’s #BarrelGang event in New Orleans. This was a media event that had us running, kneeling and laying in bayou swamp grass to take some custom-built ARs out to 500 meters. In this case, swamp water got the best of our test kicks. But pulling out the insoles and putting in our hotel room hair drier fixed that problem in about 40 minutes or so.
Our final evolution with these shoes was a hike up Tucson, Arizona’s Mount Lemmon which includes trails that start out as high desert and end at 10,000 in lush pine groves. The Zodiac Recon AT’s truly live up to their All Terrain suffix. We are proud to report that we did not experience a single blister, abrasion or hot spot after our initial ruck. All in all, our first experience with LALO has been overwhelmingly positive and look forward to the opportunity to continue pushing these shoes until our toes poke through them.