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Hands-on Gear Review
Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's Review
Cons: Lacks support of larger, heavier boots
Bottom line: The Targhee III are the latest iteration of the Targhee model, and the best one yet; Keen has made some small changes, making these boots the full package.
These boots stole the show as we updated our review for the 2017 season. The Keen Targhee Mid III are lightweight, comfortable, durable, and stylish on top of it all. The leather upper is heavy-duty and water proof, while still allowing for some room for your foot to breathe. Also, the boots are comfortable right away, requiring very little break-in time, which we love. To top it all off, the Targhee III's are inexpensive as well. These boots impressed us in all metrics, while remaining affordable, adding up to make them our Best Buy Award Winner this season.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Boots for Women of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
With a stiff and supportive design, solid soles, and an upper that protects and provides comfort, the Keen Targhee III are boots that have it all. This year's boots are a bit sleeker in design than previous models, though they weigh nearly the same. Their profile is elegant and makes them feel light on your feet, even though the Targhee III are supportive enough for an all-day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip. We would take these boots anywhere.
The Targhee III rank highly in comfort for a lightweight hiker. After a full day on the trail, our feet still felt great in these boots. Additionally, the boots require very little time to break in and felt comfortable even in their first few hours on the trail. The Targhee's have a wide toe box, so if you have wider feet, these boots will not constrict in the widest part of the foot. Other boots that cater to a wider foot shape include the Ahnu Sugarpine, the Keen Targhee II, and the Vasque Monolith.
In addition to their shape, the Targhee also provides stiffness in the ankle; this provides comfort for the ankle bones while remaining flexible underfoot. The heel-capture system cradles the heel, and the insoles offer support underfoot, making the boots very comfortable to walk long distances. The leather construction also adds to their ability to last on long days on the trail and molds to the foot over time. The Vasque Monolith also provides this same comfortable support in the heel, but are a bit less stiff than the Targhee, since they have less leather in their construction.
Much like the older version of the Targhee and the Vasque Monolith, the Targhee III have a relatively low heel shaft.
This didn't seem to be a problem for us, as the low heel actually allows for more movement and breathability, while still providing ample support. The sole and heel-capture system are wide and supportive, providing lots of stability underfoot. Unlike the Keen Targhee II, the Targhee III have the same stability in the sole, but the profile of the rubber is much sleeker, which we appreciated. The sole is stiff enough for the boots to be worn with a heavy pack but still flexes with the foot when stepping. The Targhee III provides just enough support to endure hard days on the trail, without constraining the foot the way a more traditional hiking boot does.
The Targhee III scores highly in this metric as a mid-weight boot that has a light feel out on the trail. They weigh 1 pound 13 ounces, which is the same weight as the Editors' Choice Award winner the Hoka One One Tor Ultra and the stylish Ahnu Montara.
This is an average weight for a full hiking boot, and each of these boots provides the support and durability that a lighter model will not. The Targhee II weighs exactly one ounce less than the current model, which was entirely unnoticeable to us. In fact, the lower profile design of the Targhee III makes this new model feel lighter when they are on; it was their bulkiness that detracted from the overall score of the Targhee II in past years.
The soles of the Targhee III do a great job of maintaining traction on the slipperiest of surfaces. From loose gravel to wet moss and lichen on boulders, the Targhee III kept us upright.
The combination of the 4mm lug depths and the intricate tread pattern add to these boots' ability to stick to any surface we encountered on the trail. Though the Targhee III still has the beefy rubber toe cap that is a signature of this line of boots, the toe is not as bulky as that of the Keen Targhee II nor the Oboz Bridger Mid, which has a similar profile. All of these boots provide plenty of traction and protection due to their burly rubber sole construction.
Water resistance is another metric where the Keen Targhee III shines. The Keen.Dry waterproof, breathable membrane did a great job of keeping our feet dry, while still allowing for breathability and ventilation.
The uppers are mostly leather, save for a mesh tongue, which allows for airflow in key spots and water protection in the main portion of the boot. The seams are burly in their construction, which will allow for the boots to be water resistant for a long time. Similar in design is the Ahnu Montara and the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry, the Targhee III provides more ventilation than these two, as more mesh in incorporated into the Targhee's construction.
The same features that make the Targhee III stand out in terms of water resistance, also make the boot incredibly durable. The leather uppers are substantial and burly in their design, and the boots showed very little signs of wear and tear during our testing period. Unlike the Merrell Moab II Mid, which has a fabric lacing system, the Targhee III's laces go right through the leather that makes up the upper. This seamless design allows for lots of tension to be placed on the lacing system, without risking blowing out an eyelet.
The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry has a similar, burly lacing system, as does new La Sportiva Nucleo GTX. For boots that will last years and years, much like the all-leather hiking boots of days past, any of these options have you covered. This update to the lacing system, and the incorporation of more leather in general step the Targhee III up into a higher overall class than the previous model, the Targhee II.
These boots are a great all-around hiking boot and one that will last for years to come. For long days on the trail, they are substantial enough to hold their own. Additionally, the Targhee III are stylish and have a low enough profile to be fitting for short day hikes, or just worn around town. They are versatile, durable, and water-resistant, making them a great boot for any situation. Their ability to work well in all situations, while remaining relatively inexpensive is what earns the Targhee III our Best Buy Award.
While their high scores in all other metrics earn the Targhee III recognition, they wouldn't be an award winner if they were not so reasonably priced as well. For $145, the Targhee III is not the most inexpensive boot we tested, but they are the highest performing boot that comes at a reasonable price. They are similar in price to the Ahnu Sugarpine and are only $15 more than our previous Best Buy winner the Vasque Monolith UD. The Targhee III provides more support, are more durable, and have better traction than the Monolith, so in our eyes, they are well worth the extra dough.
There is not much we didn't like about the Keen Targhee III. The boots are comfortable, easy to break in, supportive, waterproof, and durable. They are constructed with just the right about of leather and mesh to allow the feet to breathe while still providing the stiffness and protection of a classic all-leather boot. The soles provide great traction, with their 4mm lug depths and tread pattern. The boots have a ESS shank that provides stiffness underfoot, but also flexes with the foot on uneven terrain. With all of these top-notch features, it was impressive to us that the boots still ring in with a reasonable $145 price tag. All of this adds up to make the Targhee III the obvious choice for our Best Buy Award.
— Jane Jackson
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