Review: KEEN Terradora Ethos
From a paddleboard to hiking the Pyrenees, there’s only one shoe that is built to cover it all. Lizzie Carr tests out the Keen Footwear Terradora Ethos whilst on a journey upstream in Spain.
By any means. With those three words, we had our method. Our plan was to travel from the point where the River Ter finishes its meander and head upstream, through the Catalonian countryside, to its source high in the Pyrenees. ‘By any means’ would be how we travelled – and from the outset, we didn’t know what that would entail, nor were we sure we’d find the source. As it turned out, we found much more besides.
The River Ter quietly brings life on its fickle journey. At times it picks up pace; at times it slows almost to sleep. Yet this unassuming river, often forgotten under bridges or by the side of a road, supports otters and turtles, brown trout and wild boar sipping from the banks. The river brings more fundamental change too. The city of Girona, the largest settlement along the river, exists only because of the confluence of the Ter and two lesser rivers. Much of its medieval structure remains; it is devilishly pretty, and while its waterways are now quiet, they once brought trade and settlers, marauders and missionaries. The first people who settled here were the Iberians, in 79 BC.
We start off on the wide mouth of the river where fresh water meets salt. Our first means of travel is stand-up paddleboard, one I love.
I slip on the Keen Terradora Ethos and wade out into the water, effortlessly dragging my board with me. When it’s deep enough, I stand and pull on the paddle. I’m steady, relaxed; it’s a beautiful morning. The journey has begun.
When travelling light, choice of gear is essential. You don’t want to double up on anything. And when your remit is ‘by any means’, the choice is much more difficult. On paper, the Keen Terradora Ethos claim to stand up to anything, and on this trip, we’re starting on a paddleboard and ending hiking high in the Pyrenees. They were the only shoes I brought with me – a slightly uncomfortable feeling. They are a super-lightweight shoe specifically created for female feet, with an open-air design to aid breathability, and are ideal for hiking from cities to mountains in warmer climates.
I look down at the shoes. Water pours out of the open sides, but my feet are snugly enveloped in the elasticated lining. As I paddle upstream, I power forward, the ‘All-Terrain’ rubber outsole feeling positive on the wet board.
We then walk a while, following the bankside. The shoes dry out in no time under the Spanish sun. I pull on the quick lace system, and we walk on towards Girona, where we spend a few hours exploring the cobbled parts of the city before one of the highlights of the trip: fly fishing. I meet with Carles, a man for whom the river is a home, a place of refuge and sport. Watching him cast across the shallow river is mesmerising; he seems to flow with the river and understand its currents intimately. No wonder, he’s been fishing on this spot for more than 20 years.
The riverbanks begin to steepen and the going gets harder as we climb higher. The river is now young and excitable. I jump from rock to rock along the bank, the shoes still holding well. It’s been a few days; they’ve been soaked and dried, they’ve been muddied and cleaned, they’ve covered dozens of miles, and they’re still as comfortable and secure as when I first put them on. Then we see the last remnants of winter snow, melting slowly in the warm sun.
The Ter, now a bubbling stream, occasionally disappears under the snow, and we follow it by ear. At the beginning of the trip, the Ethos were water shoes – they are now hiking shoes. We scramble over rocks and occasionally flit across snow patches. Paper, it seems, can translate into real life. Along the length of this river, we’ve covered dozens of terrain types. And these shoes have felt great every step and paddlestroke of the way.