Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Secure lacing, extra toe protection, great traction, and out-of-the-box comfort
Cons: Lace eyes wear out
Best Uses: Day hiking, casual wear, thruhiking, fastpacking
Excellent comfort, weight, and traction, at an affordable price, make this hiking boot the runaway winner of our Best Buy award. During our testing period, we also polled experienced thruhikers to see if they had ever worn any of the products in our review while on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. One reported, "I put 1,000+ miles on the Keen Targhee and it's still truckin'. Definitely my favorite boot. I've found that the Keen signature toe lip prevails when others start to peel, plus no toe stubbers. I especially like that you can tighten near the ankle to control heel slip while allowing the toe box to be relaxed. Will purchase again."
Thanks to the Targhee II Mid's design, Keen has developed a devoted following that's well-earned. This light and comfortable hiking boot makes fewer compromises than other lightweight products in its class. Folks looking for more durability and support should consider the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid or Vasque St. Elias GTX, our Editors' Choice winner.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A big toe cap and comfy fit make this hiking boot hard to beat for those seeking comfort and value. One of the least durable boots in our test, we recommend it for those prioritizing lightweight and comfort. There are three color options available, and Keen produces this boot up to size 17!
Want to lace up your new hiking boots and hop on the trail right away? This model is the most comfortable boot we tested, and is so from the first step you take. From the cushy dual density insole to the ankle collar, this boot wraps your foot in soft comfort.
The lacing system is made up of three lower, one middle, and one upper locking eyelets. The middle webbing eyelet continues down and around the heel of the boot, providing the ability to cinch your heel down in the heel cup. Meanwhile, the upper eyelet provides a positive lock on the laces, so even if your bow comes untied, the lacing system does not loosen. We observed hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail that re-rigged the lacing system with two laces. One for the lower three eyelets that could be tied loosely, and one lace for the upper two eyelets to provide a tight fit for the heel and ankle. The Targhee's innovative middle lacing eyelet is a game changing innovation for customizing the fit.
Although it's a waterproof, mostly leather boot, this product breathes exceptionally well. The proprietary KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane performs very well, and keeps the cost down compared to other product with GORE-TEX liners.
The design and lacing system make it quite versatile; folks with wide feet and those with narrow feet both get a great fit. The forefoot sole is wide, and the ankle collar is tall for a lightweight hiker. The Torsion Stability ESS shank, appropriately named, provides the best foot support and torsional stability of any of the lightweight hikers. Hikers seeking more support and ankle stability should consider the Salomon Quest 4D GTX, our Top Pick for Fastpacking. The midweight Quest has a reputation for comfort similar to the Targhee's.
This hiking boot was the top performer during our wet granite slab test, and received the highest score we awarded for traction. The Keen Targhee's proprietary non-marking rubber sole also stuck well to dry granite, and handled muddy slopes with ease. Additionally, the aggressive side lugs travel through slippery mud better than most traditional sole designs. Its one failing during our traction tests was on loose gravel, where the large centrally located lugs tended to slip on marble-sized gravel.
The second lightest boot we tested after the Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid, the Targhee II Mid offers more stability and comfort. We were impressed with the performance it delivers relative to its weight.
With a flood height of 5.25 inches, this product is the tallest of the light hikers. Keen uses its own proprietary waterproof membrane; meanwhile, most of its competitors with membranes used GORE-TEX. This boot's waterproofing works well initially, but it eventually began leaking just a bit around the toe box as it experienced wear and tear.
This model has some durability challenges. The construction method used for the sole, which depends on gluing the fingers of the carbon rubber sole to the EVA midsole can be problematic. These aggressive side lugs, or fingers, can be pulled loose, so we contacted Keen to gain some insight about our concerns with this technique. According to the company, there were some issues with these fingers delaminating from the EVA midsole during a limited production period in late 2012 (products from these batches were distributed in 2013). Keen has corrected the problem and now does extra quality control testing. This was a limited issue, and it's likely the Targhee II emerges better than ever.
Aside from this matter, the seams in the leather on both sides of the forefoot are particularly prone to wear, and the fabric at the flex point just behind the toe cap is a common place for wear and breakdown of the waterproof liner. Its side seams are prime candidates for Seam Grip application as described in our Best-In Class article.
Popular on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail, the Targhee is well-suited for long distance backpacking with light loads. The ankle collar provides stability beyond that afforded by low cut shoes, and it protects the ankle bones from bump and bruises. Muddy trails will not slow you down while wearing this boot and day hiking in this model is certainly a pleasant ride. Hikers with bunions will find the wide toe box better at accommodating their forefoot than most other hiking boots.
This product received our Best Buy award. It delivers top notch performance at an affordable price.
Buy this boot if your focus is a lightweight, comfortable hiker that can handle mud and wet trails.
The Keen Targhee II Mid - Women's, $130, is the women's version of this boot. You can also find the Keen Targhee II in the men's low cut version, the Keen Targhee 2, $130. This low cut version is also available for women and sells for $125, Keen Targhee II - Women's.
— Brandon Lampley
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Most recent review: July 12, 2014
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