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Hands-on Gear Review
Keen Targhee II Mid Review
Cons: Below average stability, not very durable
Bottom line: Our returning Best Buy award winner is a solid lightweight hiker, featuring super comfort and toe protection in an inexpensive package.
The Keen Targhee II Mid easily secured the Best Buy award for the second year running. This boot combines excellent comfort, weight, and sufficient traction at an affordable price. During our testing period, we polled experienced thru-hikers 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 most other lightweight products in its class. Straight out of the box, this model is ready to cruise mile after mile without developing hot spots or, really, any discomfort.
Folks interested in even more comfort in a lighter package should investigate our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiker, the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit Mid WP. For more support and water resistance from a lightweight model, we recommend the Lowa Tiago GTX Mid. For more lightweight and midweight models, view our complete Men's Hiking Boots review.
RELATED: Our complete review of hiking boots - men's
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Keen Targhee II Mid is our returning Best Buy champ, costing only $135. Despite losing its title as the most comfortable boot in the review, the Targhee II Mid is still a very agreeable model underfoot with its big toe cap and comfy fit. It feels burly, yet only weighs 2.51 lbs. You can be confident when traversing all kinds of terrain, as Keen's proprietary outsole provides great purchase on nearly every surface type. It doesn't set any records for durability, but its other assets make it a very valuable product.
Considering its strong overall performance at a relatively low price, the Targhee II Mid (shown below in blue) certainly earned our Best Buy award.
You can see its overall score relative to competing products above, and in the following sections, we detail why it scored as well as it did, by describing its performance point by point in the key performance metrics we tested.
Want to lace up your new hiking boots and hop on the trail right away? This model is the second-most comfortable boot we tested (after the HOKA ONE ONE model), 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 protective stiff rubber in front removes the possibility of stubbed toes, and the thick sole with shank insert handles uneven surfaces and jagged rocks without causing discomfort or foot fatigue.
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. Only the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX has a similar feature for securing the heel, which we found both innovative and useful. 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.
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 products that rely on GORE-TEX liners. The perforated insert and wide, roomy toe box also encourage ventilation in the forefoot. The breezy and super light Vasque Inhaler II GTX was the most breathable boot we put our feet into.
The flexibility of the upper and the lacing system design make it quite versatile; folks with wide feet and those with narrow feet both get a great fit. The forefoot sole is wider than most in this review, providing a stable base for powering through rougher terrain. However, measuring 4.75 inches from the footbed to the highest point of the ankle collar, it is the third shortest of the twelve hikers we tested, a far cry from the tallest boot in our review.
The Torsion Stability ESS shank adds torsional rigidity and decent load-bearing support, but several other models we reviewed were stiffer and more stable. Those wishing for superior support and ankle stability should consider the Salomon Quest 4D II GTX, our top scorer in this category and Editors' Choice winner. The midweight Quest has a reputation for comfort similar to the Targhee's. Amongst the lightweight crowd, the Tiago GTX Mid and Merrell Capra Venture Mid GTX scored the highest in stability.
Similar to the Inhaler II, the Targhee II Mid performed very well across almost all our traction tests, without standing out as a champion of any single type of terrain. The Targhee's proprietary non-marking rubber sole stuck well to dry and wet 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 when scrambling, as the blocky forefoot didn't allow for precise foot placement or weight transference. For a lightweight hiker with better climbing capabilities, look no further than the Asolo Jumla GV, our Top Pick for Technical Scrambling.
Weighing two and a half pounds for a pair of size 11.5 US, the Targhee II Mid is the second-heaviest model in the lightweight category, just ahead of the Capra Venture. However, some of the things that made it heavier, such as a its thick midsole, high-traction outsole, and robust rubber protection at the toe and heel, all made it a higher-performing model.
We were impressed with the features it delivers relative to its weight. In comparison, the Tiago weighs tenths of an ounce less, but delivers the best water resistance of all lightweight models we tested.
With a flood height of 5.125 inches, this product is one of the taller lightweight hikers, even beating out our favorite in its class, the Tor Summit Mid WP. However, there are a considerable amount of seams around the toebox, where frequent flexing could wear them out over time. These Targhee's survived our five minute lake edge test, but our previous review of this boot did experience leaking in around the front seams. For the ultimate in water resistance, the Quest 4D II and Lowa Renegade GTX Mid scored the highest in our review.
Keen uses its own proprietary waterproof membrane while most of its competitors with membranes used GORE-TEX. Choosing to use a proprietary membrane rather than Gore-Tex helps Keen keep the Targhee's price down.
Eight individual pieces of nubuck leather, sewn to the synthetic textile underneath, make up the upper. Intrinsically, this many parts result in many seams. 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, as we saw happen with the Capra Venture. Its side seams are prime candidates for Seam Grip application as described in our Best-In Class article. If durability is an important concern for you, the Asolo Jumla GV was the most durable of the lightweight models we tested.
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 ($135 MSRP). With excellent scores in comfort, weight, and solid traction, this is the most valuable boot in our line-up of twelve hiking boots we reviewed.
For two years running, we haven't been able to find a hiking boot that combines low price and high performance as well as the Keen Targhee II Mid. These boots are versatile enough for day hikes and months-long ATR treks alike, providing incredible comfort underfoot each step of the way. Buy this boot if your focus is a lightweight, comfortable hiker that can handle mud and wet trails.
Keen Women's Targhee II Mid
Keen Targhee II Mid - TAC
Keen Targhee II
— Ross Robinson and Brandon Lampley
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Most recent review: November 27, 2016
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