A friend recently asked me about the LALO Zodiac Recon shoe. Up until this point I was not familiar with the LALO brand. LALO makes military grade boots and shoes and also has a line of running shoes. I spoke with the CEO, Jay Taylor, about their running shoe.
Jay has an extensive background in running gear. Back in the late 90’s he was the Product Manager for Salomon and eventually moved into the position of Global Brand President for Hoka One One in 2010 before taking over for LALO so he is not new to the scene.
The Zodiac Recon, like the Hoka One One, is an over-sized/maximal shoe. Jay felt that the Hoka One One lacked in energy transfer and speed. The Zodiac Recon was designed, in part, to be the solution to having a maximal shoe with high energy return.
As Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. So as we push off the ground the ground pushes back with a force equal to that which we exert. Except all that energy doesn’t go into propulsion. When we are running in a big soft cushy shoe some of that energy return is absorbed by the shoe itself. That is why track runners race in flats. There is minimal cushion so that a maximal return on energy invested is received. The LALO is designed to provide cushioning with a higher energy return, i.e. a faster ride, that is also cushioned enough for covering long distances.
Zodiac Recon Specifications:
Heel to toe offset : 5mm
OCF Fit System
Anti-Inversion Dynamic Fit
Ceramic-coated SUPER FABRICTM toecap
Passive Drainage System
Tri-Density Zodiac Foam Outsole
Damn cool name
LALO provided me with the following information :
The OCF, or Operator Component Fit system. is comprised of:
Anti-Inversion Dynamic Fit: The anti-inversion portion of the fit is the larger platform under the arch area of the foot to increase the contact with both the ground and arch area of the foot increasing proprioception.
Tri-Density Zodiac Foam Outsole: Tri-Density Foam is the exterior shell of the shoe (EVA that is compression molded). It is a harder density than the 2 inserts in the shoe. There is one in the heel that is softer than the one in the forefoot and its designed to get you from foot strike to toe off very quickly. The internal inserts are extruded so they are much easier to control the density of.
The only maximal shoe I own and use is the Altra Olympus so that will be my reference point. The Olympus, like all Altras, has a 0 mm drop.
On the Road
Initially, I found the shoe to feel a bit awkward. It was like I was in platform shoes or clogs and trying to run. After about 30 miles I found them to be comfortable. The shoe has a firm footbed. The ground response was good giving a clean and quick transition from mid-foot landing to toe off as compared to the Olympus. After 50 miles I was running speedwork sessions in them with no appreciable loss of pace. By comparison the Olympus feels bulky and slow, but very soft on the feet. Another big difference is the Anti-Inversion fit. The shoe gets slightly wider at the base under the arch giving a very stable feel even on rocky terrain. In contrast, the Olymus lacks stability on rocky uneven ground and I find myself turning ankles.
On the Trail
The Zodiac is billed as “a nimble and quick running shoe across a variety of substrates, suitable for both long and short distance runs” – www.LALOtactical.com I found both of these statements to be true, with one exception. The shoe responds well on dry, hard trail, rocky and technical terrain, and even loose gravel though there is a tendency to catch rocks in the bottom of the shoes. However, the Zodiac Recon does not offer traction for muddy or snowy terrain and would be better traded out for a more aggressively treaded shoe in these conditions.
After roughly 200 miles of use there are no signs of wear. Overall the shoe delivers. The LALO Zodiac Recon will be in my long run arsenal and likely will see some action at the Burning River 100 miler.