Keen Targhee II Mid Review
Cons: Below average stability, not very durable, lacks good breathability
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Keen Targhee II Mid is an excellent value for the average hiking enthusiast. 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 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 use the Gore-Tex material. The perforated insert and full, roomy toe box also encourage ventilation in the forefoot.
The Keen Targhee II is a slightly above-average performer regarding stability. One of the things we like is the amount of support that the lacing system provides. Able to secure the foot as well as the heel and ankle with their innovative heel locking system, these boots can be snugged up to improve stability in off-terrain travel. We also really like the 4.5-inch wide forefoot, which gives a solid platform and helps reduce the likelihood of a rolled ankle. These have a pretty low cuff height when compared to many other boots, however, so we did not award them as many points in this metric as some of the taller boots that offer even greater ankle stability.
The Torsion Stability ESS shank adds torsional rigidity and decent load-bearing support, but several other models we reviewed were stiffer and more stable. 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 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.
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.
This boot has a flood height of 3.75 inches, measured from the bottom of the sole to the top of the waterproof Keen.Dry membrane. These boots have a gusseted tongue, though that is factored into the measured flood height. This a shorter amount of deepwater immersion protection than some of the shoes we feature in our low-top hiking shoe review. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in seriously wet environments, or if you ford a lot of streams without taking your shoes off, then you might consider going for a boot with a taller cuff.
Even though the flood height is relatively low compared with other boots, the Keen.Dry membrane does keep water out pretty well. The exterior leather material should be treated with an aftermarket conditioner every so often to ensure that it doesn't soak up any additional water, which can make the membrane perform poorly, but as long as you are keeping these out of the deepest puddles, they should keep your socks dry and happy.
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 area for wear and breakdown of the waterproof liner. Its side seams are prime candidates for Seam Grip application. If durability is an important concern for you, the Targhee II was the most durable of the lightweight models we tested.
Should You Buy the Keen Targhee II?
The Keen Targhee II is a great option for those seeking a decent, affordable boot. This model provides comfort, a customizable fit, traction for trail-based excursions, and a water repellent and durable leather upper that makes you wonder why you shouldn't be paying twice as much for it. The Targhee II is a jack of all trades and a worthy choice for those new to hiking or anyone who simply wants a good boot that won't break the bank.
What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?
Keen has since released the Targhee III, which is similar in many ways but feels more supple and pliable on the foot. Both models are great boots that we think most folks would be happy with. We still continue to recommend the Targhee II while it's still in production, as it's slightly cheaper and scores a point higher in both durability and stability. Our Editors' Choice, the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex, is another great all-around boot worthy of consideration.
— Ryan Huetter and Ross Robinson
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