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Keen Targhee III Mid Review

This wallet-friendly model provides the support and traction of a boot, with the comfort normally reserved for a hiking shoe
Keen Targhee III Mid
Photo: Keen
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Price:  $150 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Budget oriented, soft and comfortable, quality insole
Cons:  Decreased stability, not most breathable
Manufacturer:   Keen
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 6, 2019
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Stability - 20% 6
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

Keen boots are popular among day hiker and backpackers alike for their excellent value and budget-oriented performance. The Targhee III is a new generation of boot that builds on the award-winning successes of its predecessors, but with an updated look and new materials. For the average hiker, who wants a good boot and a good value, and does not need the top performance in stability, this competitor is a great choice.

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Keen Targhee III Mid
Awards  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award  
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Budget oriented, soft and comfortable, quality insoleComfort of a trail runner with more support and stability, good all around performance, lightweightVery durable, stable, great foot protectionGood value, extra toe protection, solid traction, out-of-the-box comfortCushioned and comfortable, good fit for wide fit, very breathable
Cons Decreased stability, not most breathableCould be more breathable, not great traction on smooth rockHeavy, diminished breathabilityBelow average stability, not very durable, lacks good breathabilityNot waterproof, not enough support for long or heavy backpacking trips
Bottom Line This wallet-friendly model provides the support and traction of a boot, with the comfort normally reserved for a hiking shoeThis boot brings the comfort of a trail running shoe but adds in the support you would expect from a hiking boot, resulting in a capable, low-weight performerA beefy boot that provides excellent structure and support for carrying heavy packs in rough terrainA solid hiker that features great comfort and toe protection in an inexpensive packageThis budget offering from Merrell is a good choice for day hikers and casual backpackers who will be traveling through warm and dry climates
Rating Categories Keen Targhee III Mid Salomon X Ultra Mid... Vasque St. Elias FG... Keen Targhee II Mid Merrell Moab 2 Vent...
Comfort (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Stability (20%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Traction (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
9.0
4.0
8.0
8.0
Water Resistance (15%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
3.0
Durability (10%)
6.0
6.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
Specs Keen Targhee III Mid Salomon X Ultra Mid... Vasque St. Elias FG... Keen Targhee II Mid Merrell Moab 2 Vent...
Weight per Pair (Size 11) 2.38 lbs 2.28 lbs 3.26 lbs 2.37 lbs 2.41 lbs
Boot Type Lightweight Hiker/Day Hiker Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Lightweight Hiker/Day Hiker Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot
Width Options Regular and Wide Regular and Wide Narrow, Regular, and Wide Regular and Wide Regular and Wide
Waterproof Lining KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Performance Comfort KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane None
Upper Oiled nubuck leather Waterproof PU coated leather Nubuck leather Waterproof nubuck leather Suede and mesh
Last Board/Shank Torsion stability ESS shank Molded shank TPU Shank Torsion stability ESS shank Molded nylon arch shank
Midsole Dual-density EVA Injected EVA A.S.E. Midsole with EVA Cushioning Pods Dual density compression molded EVA EVA
Sole Keen all-terrain rubber Non-marking ContaGrip Vibram Frontier Non-marking rubber outsole Vibram TC5+
Color Options Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Keen Targhee III Mid is a clean looking hiking boot that delivers good support despite having the comfort of a running shoe. Thanks to an update in outer materials, the Targhee III feels much more supple and pliable, though retains its proven traction.

Performance Comparison


The updated Targhee III boots provide a clean look, ample comfort...
The updated Targhee III boots provide a clean look, ample comfort and traction at a reasonable price
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Comfort


Right out of the box, this boot delivers trail-ready comfort normally reserved for well-worn boots that have seen months of use to break them in. The soft and flexible oiled nubuck leather material that the Targhee III features is less rigid than the models with a stiffer leather upper and the boot flex is noticeably softer. This gives the boot a shoe-like feel.

Keen uses an ESS shank insert to allow the boot to travel comfortably over rough and rocky trails on a more stable platform, where others caused foot pain from feeling the jagged rocks through the sole. As with most other Keen hiking boot models we have worn, this boot has a large rubber toe bumper that provides foot protection from tripping over roots and rocks on the trail.

The mid-top boot has ample cushioning around the ankle, so there is not the noticeable pressure on the ankle bones like we felt on some models, but this boot did not have the high-end comfort found in the Editors' Choice Award-winning boot.

The Targhee III employs the same well thought out lacing system that we have seen in previous models. Using a strap of webbing that wraps around the heel and into the laces, we were able to attain a custom fit thanks to the variety of cinching options available.

Not only is the upper material soft and malleable, but the insoles...
Not only is the upper material soft and malleable, but the insoles are high quality, and supportive over the course of a long hike
Photo: Ryan Huetter

This contender is waterproof, but we found it to breathe reasonably well even in warm and arid, high desert environments. This is thanks to the proprietary Keen.Dry membrane, which is similar to the better known Gore-Tex linings. The fit is on the wider side, however, so we often resorted to wearing thick socks to take up some of that volume that the lacing system was unable to account for. Consider trying these on with thinner socks to get the proper fit, especially if you are going to spend more time in warm climates.

Stability


The material used in the Targhee III results in the upper boot having a soft, flexible feel. The soft nubuck upper does not provide as much rigidity as full-grain leather models, so side to side stability suffers a bit instead of comfort here. One can gain extra stability by using the lacing system to get a tighter fit around the ankle, but those needing support for carrying heavy packs or with ankle issues may do better to look at a higher boot. The wide sole gives added stability, but with a pronounced rocker and sole flex, this boot did not do as well in edging tests.

With a mid cut ankle and supportive padding, this is a good boot for...
With a mid cut ankle and supportive padding, this is a good boot for most, but those needing more support should look for a higher cut boot.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Traction


The Targhee III is a good performer in this important metric. The compound used by Keen, a proprietary, non-marking rubber, gave testers ample traction on a variety of surfaces. From dew-covered grassy slopes to wet granite boulders, we felt secure on our feet in these boots. The moderately sized lugs of the Keen boot gripped loose terrain like scree and mud, but are low profile enough to still give lots of surface area contact for travel over slabby granite outcrops.

The Targhee III is an inexpensive, accessible hiking boot that performed better than similarly priced boots, but could not compete with the Top Pick for Scrambling.

The Targhee III providing good traction on a loose trail
The Targhee III providing good traction on a loose trail
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Weight


The Keen Targhee III weighs 2.38 pounds per pair in size 11 US. Similar to its predecessor, this contender offers a good blend of comfort and traction in such a light package, impressing reviewers again with features like a toe bumper. Of the mid-weight boots we reviewed, it lagged behind top scorers in this category like our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking.

Water Resistance


The Keen Targhee III has a flood height of 3.75 inches, making this model one of the shortest hikers. It can withstand sloshing through the infrequent stream or a mud puddle, but those who spend prolonged time in wet climates where higher levels of protection are indicated should look to a boot with a taller flood level. The flexibility gained by having many pieces of nubuck sewn together also results in many seams, especially along the sides and around the toe box, and wear here will result in water finding its way in easier. The Targhee's can handle some wetness, but in a previous test of these boots, we experienced leaking in the front seams.

Keen uses an in-house waterproof membrane called Keen.Dry. This waterproof/breathable barrier allows the perspiration moisture to pass through but does not allow water in from the outside.

The Keen.DRY membrane envelopes the entire foot, up to the middle...
The Keen.DRY membrane envelopes the entire foot, up to the middle eyelets, keeping water out even after several minutes in this mountain stream
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Durability


The Keen Targhee III has an upper which is comprised of many seams that hold the nubuck and textile fabrics together. These seams allow the boot to flex and move with the foot more comfortably than a single rigid piece of leather, but the seams are a weakness and should be treated with an aftermarket care product such as seam grip for longevity. The oil treatment on the nubuck leather gives added protection from water, but once the oil dries out, additional treatments should be applied so that the outer material sheds water effectively and allows the inner membrane to function as it should.

The oiled nubuck upper sheds water at first, but needs to be...
The oiled nubuck upper sheds water at first, but needs to be maintained to do that over the seasons.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Value


This product provides good performance at an affordable price. It is slightly more comfortable right out of the box than the Best Bang for Buck Award winner.

Conclusion


The Keen Targhee III is a hiking boot that has received a nice makeover, and now with its clean-looking oiled nubuck leather outer, it is more visually appealing and comfortable from the first step you take in them.

The large rubber toe bumper and flexible yet grippy sole make this a...
The large rubber toe bumper and flexible yet grippy sole make this a great first boot for both beginners and seasoned hikers.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Ryan Huetter