What do you want in a tactical shoe test and review? Hard use? Lots of miles wearing a backpack? Rugged terrain? Exotic locations? Well check those boxes. I previously reviewed the Lalo Tactical Shadow Amphibian Boots and walked away more than a little impressed. Having worn them through various environments across three time zones in the USA I thought that was a pretty thorough test. Given my plans for two weeks exploring the Middle East I figured it would be an even better test. I just didn’t want to wear boots.
Literally the day before I flew out of the country the Lalo BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT shoes showed up. You never know what to expect with new shoes and I was headed to a distant land. So, I packed my Salomons as backups and hopped a plane to Tel Aviv. Before I’d get home I’d hike the ancient terrain of Petra, wander the Greek and Roman roads of Jarash, Jordan, walk the Via Dolarosa in Jerusalem, hit Masada at full tilt, pound the pavement of Tel Aviv and more.
Opening the box, “Weird” was my first thought after taking one of the Zodiac Recon AT’s out of the box. Weirdly light weight, made from a material that seemed closer to a stiff paper than the usual padded shoe stuff. But they fit nicely and based on my experience with the Lalo Shadow Amphibian Boots I was optimistic.
No time to break them in, I simply put them on and ran 30 yards in front of my house. That felt good, which means little at the moment. Lalo designed the Lalo BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT like their boots with a curved sole “promoting forefoot strike and forward momentum.” Marketing jargon aside, it feels like my stride is spring loaded. The spring is compressed upon impact with the ground and then released as I move forward. I don’t particularly like running, so this is pretty cool to me.
It’s zero dark thirty the next morning when I leave for the airport. First flight down and a four hour layover is in progress. Shoes are fine and feet happy wandering around Boston’s international hub. The next flight is 14 hours. Nothing to report, but the test would start as jet lag tried to slow me down.
Tel Aviv is a busy urban center with an ancient port, Jaffa. It’s supposed to be the port where Jonah skipped town before being tossed overboard to the whale. Walking through the old town and modern city sidewalks I was pretty happy to have missed those old days. My feet were feeling great. The Lalo BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT shoes aren’t squishy, they are firm but absorb my weight plus another 26 pounds from the backpack I’m wearing everywhere. I have no idea how many miles I logged around the Tel Aviv, but I was off to a good start.
The famed desert fortress of Masada would prove a better test. A TV series and at least one movie focused on this historic last stand on the mountain top a couple thousand years ago cannot do this place justice. The mountaintop towers above its surroundings and is a challenging climb today. Of course there’s a tram in place now that could save you the hike. Well, that is if everything goes right… With backpack loaded I reached the top. It’s an area of roughly 36 acres with rock as both ground plus flooring in places. I stayed up top taking pictures with my son until they were closing the place down, pushing people out. “You must go!” shouted the guard as we headed back to the point of entry we’d used getting up there. But the guard is pointing the other way. We acknowledge his demand to get off the mountain top, but indicate we need to continue towards our chosen point of exit. “You must go, PLEASE!” Armed and animated, he wasn’t exactly pleading. We comply, hiking down, down, down from the Byzantine gate hoping somehow there would be a shuttle back to my rental car. This is the first downhill test of the Lalo BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT. They had perfect traction and my foot was stable, not hitting the end of the toe box. That’s great, but other things are on my mind.
For all practical purposes we’re now stuck on the wrong side of Masada. There’s no access to the primary side where my rental car, wife and daughter are. I check in with the guard there. “Who told you to come here?” they demand to know. So the same guy is conscripted to accompany us back up Masada so we can catch the tram car down. “You have fifteen minutes to be off Masada!” we are commanded. I don’t like running to start with. Add my pack and the incline of a fortress that held off attackers forever and you can imagine my joy. Well, we make it up top and again I am thrilled with the performance of these tactical shoes. They prove grippy and stable on the rocky and often loose ground. If you ever plan on a high speed assault on Masada, I’d definitely recommend the Lalos as part of your kit.
Another day is spent running around the Judean desert filming epic sites like a monastery carved into deep cliff faces. My green shoes (aka, “Jungle”) were turning white from the dust and now I have some sand in my feet as I headed for the Israel/Jordan border. I can’t help but smile seeing the Israeli forces rocking Tavors, though in a different configuration than what we have here in the USA. Jordan makes country number three for my Lalos.
First stop in Jordan is Jarash. I have to say it’s the strangest thing to see the epic columns of a Greek/Roman city standing against the background of Jordanian apartments, shops and daily life, literally across the street. I step into the ancient city through the same arch Emperor Hadrian walked through eons ago. Jarash is supposed to be the most well preserved town of it’s kind. The full layout is intact, the stone columns still mostly standing. They estimate 25,000 people lived there back in the day. I’d hate to be wearing their sandals today!
Cue the Indiana Jones music, the next stop is Petra! Just like in the movie we make our way down the ancient river bed through the crack in the mountain and suddenly the face of the “Treasury” is revealed. Yeah, it is truly amazing, but I wanted to get to the Monastery, a steep hike up a million steps and some rugged terrain. Again, I was supper happy with how the Lalo’s literally put some spring in my step.
Back in the land of the Massod and Tavor I decide it’s time to wash my shoes. I remove the insoles wash them out. Like my boots, the BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT’s have drains but I’m not walking in them at this point. I’m kicked back checking email with the shoes on the porch of the West Bank Air BNB I’ve rented for the night. I should have checked the weather. It rains and my shoes are just as wet the next day. Happily, they don’t smell bad.
I could go on and on. Two weeks in these from Jerusalem’s old city to a Bedouin camp where I slept in Jordan, to Crusader walkways… And so much more. I start typing this BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT review on the plane flying home. I’ve been flying for a long time now and my feet are swollen. I’ve loosened the laces on my shoes as we descend towards Boston and my feet are fine. There’s snow on the ground at my house so I’ll put the Lalo’s aside for a bit. At least until I get some that are better suited for snow.
My final Lalo BUD/S Zodiac Recon AT analysis after thoroughly testing them in the Middle East? Color me a convert, a convert to Lalo shoes that is.