The Keen Targhee II has been a favorite of our testers for years now, and has a strong following among the hiking community. It's often been our Best Buy Award winner, and we've come back around to it again. It retails for less than half the price of some of the hiking boots in our test line up, and 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, so if you're looking for higher ankle coverage the Editors Choice Award winner is an excellent option. If you don't have a lot of money to spend and want to get out on the trails, the Targhee II Mid is a solid choice.
Keen Targhee II Mid Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Good value, extra toe protection, solid traction, out-of-the-box comfort
Cons: Below average stability, not very durable, lacks good breathability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Keen Targhee II Mid is an excellent value for the average hiker. For the past several 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 is a comfortable boot to wear 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 our Editors Choice Award winner that do use the Gore-Tex material. The perforated insert and full, roomy toe box also encourage ventilation in the forefoot.
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 our Editors' Choice winner, or even our Top Pick for Scrambling boot. 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 other higher cuffed boots.
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 lighter boots. 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. The rounded edges did not hold as securely when working through difficult talus as those boots with a more precise edge along the outsole. For top scrambling performance look no further than our Top Pick for Scrambling.
Weighing just under 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. 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.
Overall, we were impressed with the features it delivers relative to its weight.
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, go for taller boots.
Eight individual pieces of nubuck leather, sewn to the synthetic textile underneath, make up the upper. Intrinsically, these 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 lightweight models we tested.
This product delivers top-notch performance at an affordable price. 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