Introduction & Purpose
LALO footwear caused a big buzz a few years ago. We already checked out LALOs athletic lineup and where pretty impressed with it. But manufacturing trainers is a very different animal compared to tactical boots. That being said, it took over a year to finally release a review as we wanted to do at least a few kilometers in the LALO Shadow Amphibians until finally releasing a review.
All testers got into this very skeptical, regarding our really bad experience with American designed footwear in the past. American boot designs aren’t bad in general, but coming from Europe we have the privilege to have access to some of the best footwear manufacturing companies out there, so I might be a little bit spoiled by LOWA, Meindl and HANWAG.
LALO specializes in manufacturing footwear for amphibian/ hot-humid environments. They don’t make and don’t pretend making the kind of shoe you want for the colder, mid-european or even arctic conditions.
All of their shoes are made to a simple principle: “If you are in the water your feet will get wet anyways”, so they are not focusing on keeping the water out but instead going for fast drainage of water and small debris.
The concept absolutely makes sense, especially in the summer when you have to cross rivers or swamps.
Construction & Features
Looking at the boots upper first, you will recognize what is called the “KPU-grill”, its grid-structure allows for enhanced air circulation while keeping uppers robust as it is made of a combination of Kevlar and polyurethane.
Talking of Polyurethane and synthetics, the LALO Shadow Amphibian visually appears to be made completely out of synthetic materials, which would be a big no go for a tactical boot.
But surprisingly, around 70% of the Shadow Amphibians upper are made out of full grain leather. LALO simply used a manufacturing process to make the leather appear less grained while also enhancing abrasion resistance.
Lacing is done with KPU cord, routed through grommets. The use of grommets for lace routing is a feature mostly seen on US designed footwear and has some advantages and disadvantages compared to the European combination of metal bolted metal routings and hooks. One advantage of grommets is the lower weight but more importantly you are less prone to get your feet hung up in some branches. However, when a grommet rip apart, they are also harder to repair. You will also find “quick lacing” a bit harder if you are not used to grommet-based lacings. What we really liked is the ruggedness of the Kevlar laces, you just feel that you can pull them tight confidently even after hard use and abrasion. The Shadow amphibian also allows to store the laces in a dedicated pocket.
The LALO Shadow Amphibians upper also features a loop that not only gives you a good grip when taking them off, but also allow you to hang them for drying. The inside of the upper is padded with a hydrophobic foam material, which hardly did absorb any water during our evaluations – and we got through a lot of water. To give you better grip and better resistance to debris, the toe area is generously covered with abrasion resistant SuperFabric which is laminated to the uppers full grain leather.
Finally getting to the lowers, you will spot the real features which make the LALO Shadow Amphibian unique. On the left and the right side of the sole you will spot two holes, those holes are in fact the drainage spots which allow water to exit the boot from each side. Additionally you will find a fin attachment point at the Shadow Amphibians heels which can also be used to attach glint tape.
Also present on each side are a bunch of metal spikes, which are intended to give the wearer better grip while climbing ropes. The footbed features EVA foam for padding, intended for shock absorption. The rubber is labeled as slip resistant but besides a good haptically impression and performance during our tests we couldn’t really judge about the quality as it seems to be a proprietary rubber blend in contrast to more known licensed products like VIBRAM.
A big point for most European customers may be the fact that the sole is glued to the upper and not sewn. But as glueing technology is more and more advanced this doesn’t have to be a con. The front profile of the sole has a slight upward cant to it like the ones used on athletic footwear. The soles texture is grippy and features a kind of squared texture. Distances between each square are big enough to prevent little stones and debris from getting caught in the cavities.
Performance & Quality
For performance tests we did over 100km of rucking with the LALO shadow Amphibians during the summer times. As they are not intended for autumn and winter, we didn’t evaluate them in cold environments.
Comfort wise the LALO Shadow Amphibian feels like something between a boot and a trainer, don’t get me wrong as it is not the cheapo feel you get from High-Tech boots or GSGs, so this is more a pro but you also can’t compare the Shadow Amphibian to a dedicated trekking boot as it is still a specialized amphibious product. Besides the amphibious areas it is intended to be used in, it also makes a great light range or low-ops boot. As said before, besides the comfort our largest biases to the LALO Shadow Amphibian were toward its ruggedness, but we couldn’t find any real issues, as the only visible damage was the very slight delamination of the SuperFabric featured around the toebox.
So performance wise, you get a good product as long as you know what you are buying. In my opinion, the Shadow Amphibian is a great light tactical boot, with outstanding amphibious capabilities as their inside dries completely in couple of hours when worn, and the drainage ports really do their job as soon as you leave water and continue to your destinantion.
After a long evaluation period we finally made our personal judgement on the Shadow Amphibian. Its not your everyday military boot. But it really excells as a lightweight assault boot with maritime capabilities while also making a good makeeshift hiking boot if the situation should demand.