Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great traction and comfort, great foot support, extra toe protection, secure lacing.
Cons: Webbing lace eyes can wear, a bit wide for narrow feet.
Best Uses: Dayhiking, backpacking with light loads, thruhiking.
Superior comfort, traction, and foot support, all delivered at a light weight and an affordable price make the Keen Targhee 2 our Best Buy Award winner. This shoe is comfortable from day one and after a few trips molds to your foot. The foot support provided by the EVA midsole and ESS shank is incredible for such a light shoe, making this a great choice for backpacking with light and medium loads. It also boasts some features that are unique to Keen's brand, such as the wrap-around toe box and a well-designed lacing system that allows for a lot of adjustability in the tightness, especially around the collar and heel cup.
Keen makes fewer compromises while designing lightweight shoes than other manufacturers, and the Targhee 2 rightly has a dedicated following. The mid-cut boot version provides good ankle support for those who need it. Both the low- and mid-cut versions are popular with thruhikers on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails. Hikers seeking an even more supportive shoe should check out the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0, our Top Pick for Backpacking. The The North Face Ultra 109 GTX won our Editors' Choice award, and we consider it the best do-everything hiking shoe in our review. The Ultra 109 and Targhee performed and scored very similarly, so choosing between the two will primarily be a choice based on fit and budget. The Ultra 109 tends to fit average to narrow feet better, while the Targhee favors average to wide feet. Finally, the Keen is a little lighter per shoe.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Comfort and weight are the largest contributors to the overall score we give each shoe, and the Keen Targhee 2 delivers in both metrics. The traction is great and the foot support is unrivaled for a shoe this light. This is our favorite dayhiking shoe and an excellent choice for long backpacking trips with light packs.
This is a very comfortable shoe with a wide fit through the toe box and a slightly deeper-than-average cut in the cuff. We would like the footbed to have a little bit more arch support, but otherwise it is a comfortable shoe. There is a lot of room in the toe box for wide feet, but with the nice lacing system some folks with narrow feet find a satisfactory fit.
This model's four eyelet lacing system is top notch. Three widely-spaced lower webbing eyelets lace the boot over the fore and midfoot. This wide spacing allows folks with narrower feet to snug the upper down. The upper webbing eyelet extends down and around the heel of the shoe, creating the ability to cinch your heel down in the heel cup. Many hikers praise this feature. With a little experimenting, the forefoot can be laced loosely for comfort, while the heel can be tightly cinched into the heel cup for security.
The two Keen models we tested are the only ones that use a proprietary waterproof membrane, KEEN.DRY, rather than GORE-TEX. We found the Targhee 2 quite breathable considering its mostly leather upper, and the use of KEEN.DRY helps keep this shoe a bit more affordable than the other models with GORE-TEX liners.
Our Best Buy winner comes in about right in the middle at 2.25 lbs per pair. Most of the our test shoes weighed in between 2.2 and 2.3 lbs; however, Keen packed lots of punch into this shoe for the amount of weight. There are definitely a few ways that the company could have saved even more weight. For example, they could have eliminated the wrap-over toe box, but then they would lose their unique, toenail saving protection. They also could have had a narrower lacing system with less tongue material – but then they would lose the genius precise lacing. All told, we're glad that this product has these features and think it's worth a few extra ounces.
Only two models, the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo and La Sportiva FC Eco 2.0, provide more foot support than the Keen Targhee 2, and they weigh considerably more. The Torsion Stability ESS shank combined with the dual density midsole creates a surprisingly stiff shoe. Delivering this foot support without the weight is a big reason why the Targhee is so popular for thruhiking and backpacking trips with light or medium loads.
The lug pattern is pretty impressive, but for some reason it just didn't seem to stick to all surfaces as well as some of the competition, such as The North Face Ultra 109. The Targhee outperformed the others on wet granite slabs and the proprietary rubber sole handled dry rock and muddy slopes well. For wet conditions, it's a rockstar. However, we did slip and slide in the gravel a bit – the big central lugs seem to get the gravel rolling underfoot.
The shoe's clunky appearance looks a bit goofy at times, but it handles most terrain well. We loved it for dayhiking as well as backpacking. However, models with a narrower toe like the Sportiva FC ECO and Salewa Wildfire GTX are more suited to scrambling. This is not the shoe you want if you mix in some running on your hikes and the beefy look can be a bit much for casual wear.
The water resistant treatment applied to the upper wasn't quite up to par with the remainder of the field, but it did pretty well. This shoe will greatly benefit from a regular treatment with leather and fabric conditioner. That said, the KEEN.DRY membrane kept our sock bone dry when playing in the Poudre River.
Reasonably durable, the Targhee 2 has one main area of concern. The seams where the leather is stitched to the mesh on both sides of the forefoot are particularly prone to wear, and this flex point is a common place for wear and breakdown of the waterproof liner. These seams are prime candidates for Seam Grip application.
This model is an excellent choice for backpacking with light loads and is popular with thruhikers. Overall, it provides more foot support than other shoes in its weight class, which will keep your feet happy over the long miles. Day hiking in the Keen Targhee 2 is cushy comfortable and this model handles wet and muddy conditions superbly. Finally, the toe box fits bunions and wide feet well.
This product won our Best Buy award. If getting the most bang for your buck is important, it's hard to go wrong with this shoe.
This is a very popular shoe; dayhikers love it for comfort and backpackers love it for the foot support delivered in a lightweight package. Thruhikers swear by it for the combination of comfort and support. The roomy toe box with the distinctive rubber toe cap is the icing on the cake. Buy this product if you need lightweight support for the foot and rain and mud don't deter you from getting out there.
The Targhee II - Women's, $125, is the women's version of this shoe. The Keen Targhee II Mid, $135, has excellent comfort, weight, and traction, at an affordable price, which makes this hiking boot the runaway winner of our Best Buy award. The Keen Targhee II Mid - Women's also won the Best Buy award in our women's hiking boot review.
Below is a comparison between the Targhee II Mid and the Targhee II low versions.
— Brandon Lampley and Tommy Penick
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Most recent review: December 30, 2014
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