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Keen Targhee II Mid Review
Cons: Below average stability, not very durable, lacks good breathability
Bottom line: The Targhee II is a solid lightweight hiker, featuring super comfort and toe protection in an inexpensive package.
The Keen Targhee II has been a favorite of our testers for years now, and has a strong following among the hiking community. It is a previous winner of the Best Bang for Buck Award, and though it lost that designation this year with the addition of the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX to our test line up, it remains a good value, combining sound on and off trail performance with an inexpensive price tag. The Targhee II is on the lightweight end of the hiking boot spectrum, and is a mid-cut boot, read our Buying Advice Article to decide what type of hiker will suit your needs while out on a day hike or backpacking trip.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Keen Targhee II Mid is an excellent value for the average hiker, costing only $135. For the past three years, this boot has won our Best Bang for Buck Award. A very agreeable model underfoot with its big toe cap and comfy fit, it feels burly, yet only weighs 2.4 lbs. You can be confident when traversing all kinds of terrain, as Keen's proprietary outsole provides exceptional purchase on nearly every surface type.
Want to lace up your new hiking boots and hop on the trail right away? This model is the fourth-most comfortable boot we tested (after the HOKA ONE ONE and Salomon models), 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 stiff protective 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. No other boot in our review 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 pretty well. The proprietary KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane allows the foot to breathe while wearing thin socks but was less efficient if wearing a midweight merino wool hiking sock. Keen keeps the cost down compared to other products that rely on GORE-TEX liners, but it falls short of the performance compared to boots like the Quest 4D that do use the Gore-Tex material. The perforated insert and full, roomy toe box also encourage ventilation in the forefoot. The breezy and super light Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP was the most breathable boot we put our feet into with its breathable eVent fabric.
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 4.5 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 2 GTX, one of our top scorers in this category and Editors' Choice winner. The midweight Quest has a reputation for comfort similar to the Targhee's. Among the lightweight crowd (sub 2.6 pounds in this review), the Targhee was less stable than the Top Pick Winning Hoka One One, but more stable than the X Ultra Mid 2.
Similar to the Asolo Power Matic, the Targhee II Mid performed reasonably 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 better than the thinner sole of the X Ultra Mid 2, but did not have as good all around traction as the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX. 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 Adidas Terrex Scope High GTX, a nimble climber with the stickiest rubber compound we test.
Weighing two and a half pounds for a pair of size 11 US, the Targhee II Mid is a moderately heavy model in the lightweight category, just behind the X Ultra Mid 2. However, some of the things that made it heavier, such as its thick midsole, high-traction outsole, and robust rubber protection at the toe and heel, all made it a higher-performing model in metrics like traction and durability.
We were impressed with the features it delivers relative to its weight. In comparison, the Tor Ultra Hi weighs 1.2 ounces less but provides the best comfort and stability of all lightweight models we tested.
With a flood height of only 3.75 inches, this product is one of the shorter lightweight hikers. There are also a considerable amount of seams around the toebox, where frequent flexing could wear them out over time. The Targhee's survived our frequent walks through stream crossings, but our previous review of this boot did experience leaking in around the front seams. For the ultimate in water resistance, the Quest 4D 2 and Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX scored the highest in our review.
Keen uses its 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. 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 Targhee II was the most durable of the three 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, or day hiking your favorite trail. 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 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.
The Keen Targhee II is a hiking boot that despite shedding enough weight to put it in the lightweight hiker category, still maintains a durable leather outer, a heavy duty patterned sole for trekking through mud, and a unique lacing system that allows users to customize their fit. We recommend this boot for those with wide feet, and those look for a good boot at an affordable price.
— Ryan Huetter and Ross Robinson
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