≪ Go to our review of Hiking Boots - Men's
Hands-on Gear Review
Keen Targhee III Mid Review
Cons: Decreased stability, not most breathable
Bottom line: The Targhee III is a mid-cut hiking boot that provides trail ready comfort at a reasonable price.
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. These updates come with a small price increase from the Targhee II, and a decrease in some stability, which is why the Targhee II remains our Best Bang for Buck Award winner. The Targhee III is on the lightweight end of the hiking boot spectrum and is a mid-cut boot. Head to 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: The Best Men's Hiking Boots of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on 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.
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 stiffer leather upper used on the Targhee II and the boot flex is noticeably softer. This gives the boot a shoe like feel that we also found in the Hoka One One and Salomon models.
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, like the Ultra Mid 2, caused foot pain from feeling the jagged rocks through the sole. Like the Targhee II, as well as 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 the Adidas Terrex Scope, but this boot did not have the high-end comfort found in the Editors' Choice award-winning Salomon Quest 4D.
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. The only other boot we reviewed to have such a unique lacing design was the Targhee II.
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 KeenDRY 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.
The material used in the Targhee III results in the upper boot having a soft, flexible feel, more similar to the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 than its full grain leather cousin the Targhee II. 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 like the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Mid WP or the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX. The wide sole gives added stability, but with a pronounced rocker and sole flex, this boot did not do as well in edging tests.
The Torsion Stability ESS shank adds rigidity and decent load-bearing support, but other models out-shined this boot. For better support and stability consider the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX, a top performer in this category and Editors' Choice winner. TheQuest gives a high level of comfort like the Targhee III's but does not skimp on support. Among the lightweight crowd (sub 2.6 pounds in this review), the Targhee was less stable than the Top Pick Winning Hoka One One Tor Ultra Mid WP but more stable than the Moab 2 Ventilator.
The Targhee III did not see any major improvements to the already high scoring Targhee II boot sole. 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 like the Ultra Mid 2, but could not compete with the Top Pick for Scrambling Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX. The Zodiac uses a stickier rubber and has a narrower sole for effective edging.
The Keen Targhee III weighs 2.38 pounds per pair in size 11 US. There is no noticeable weight change between this boot and the Targhee II. 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 the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Mid, our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking.
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 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, such as the Asolo Power Matic. 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 survived our frequent walks through stream crossings, but our previous review of this boot did experience leaking in around the front seams. For the best in water resistance, the Quest 4D 2 and Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX were at the top of our review.
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 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 such as found in the Asolo Power Matic 200, 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 and would have been welcome even on the top scoring Scarpa Zodiac Plus, 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 Targhee line of boots from Keen has long been a favorite with hikers of all levels of experience. Troops on deployment overseas have even traded out their issued boots in favor of these comfortable and quality models. For the average hiker, who wants a good boot and a good value, and does not need top performance in stability, this competitor is a great choice.
This product provides good performance at an affordable price ($145 MSRP). It is slightly more comfortable right out of the box than the $135 Targhee II, which is our Best Bang for Buck Award winner.
The Keen Targhee III is a hiking boot that has received a nice makeover, and now with its clean looking oiled nubuck leather outer, is more visually appealing and comfortable from the first step you take in them.
— Ryan Huetter
You Might Also Like
The Best Men's Hiking Boots of 2017We purchased, analyzed, and reviewed 14 of the best competitors over six months. Our review shows which ones rose to...
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 13, 2017
Where's the Best Price?
*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Table of Contents
Other Gear by Keen