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Keen Targhee II Review

This shoe is a fan favorite among backpackers for its support and comfort over varied terrain
Keen Targhee II
Photo: Keen
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Price:  $130 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Excellent support, extra toe protection, nice lacing system, wide toe box
Cons:  Heavy, leaked in our waterproof test, a bit wide for narrow feet
Manufacturer:   Keen
By Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 12, 2019
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Support - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 5% 4
  • Durability - 5% 6

Our Verdict

A longtime favorite of distance hikers, the Keen Targhee II doesn't need much introduction. Its low price and extremely capable design have been upholding its ranking as an extremely popular shoe. Foot support and comfort are top priorities in this shoe's design. There are few trails you should fear when wearing this Keen model, even when carrying a medium pack. The toe protection is near-legendary, so you can forget stubbed toes on unseen rocks and roots when trails get rough. Two key aspects kept this shoe off the podium this year — poor water resistance and their heavyweight. Overall, though, this shoe remains a great value for many hikers, ourselves included.

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Keen Targhee II
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Keen Targhee II
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$109.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Excellent support, extra toe protection, nice lacing system, wide toe boxExcellent performance, lightweight, great traction, water resistance, supportExtremely comfortable, lightweight, supportiveGreat value, waterproof, versatileLightweight, breathable, great dry traction, inexpensive
Cons Heavy, leaked in our waterproof test, a bit wide for narrow feetCuff can be uncomfortable on ankle for some, Quicklace lacing not everyone's favoriteNot as cushioned as previous Hoka models, some traction issuesAverage support, lacks long-term durabilityDurability concerns, not good for wet weather
Bottom Line This shoe is a fan favorite among backpackers for its support and comfort over varied terrainThis is a rugged hiking shoe that can do everything from day hikes to tackling long multiday backpacking tripsA blend of top-notch comfort with support in a lightweight package that makes them an excellent choice for long-distance hikers looking to shave weight and increase mobilityThis shoe is a great value for the all-around performance as well as waterproofness that it providesA budget-friendly hiking shoe that is a perfect choice for those hiking in dry climates
Rating Categories Keen Targhee II Salomon X Ultra 4 G... HOKA ONE ONE Toa Go... The North Face Ultr... Vasque Juxt
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (25%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Support (15%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Traction (15%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Versatility (10%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
6.0
Water Resistance (5%)
4.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
1.0
Durability (5%)
6.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Keen Targhee II Salomon X Ultra 4 G... HOKA ONE ONE Toa Go... The North Face Ultr... Vasque Juxt
Weight of Size 11 Pair 2.40 lbs 1.76 lbs 2.03 lbs 2.04 lbs 1.90 lbs
Upper Waterproof nubuck leather and mesh Synthetic, textile Synthetic Performance mesh Suede leather
Width Options Regular, wide Regular Regular Regular Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane Gore-Tex membrane Gore-Tex membrane DryVent membrane None, just gusted tongue
Flood Level (inches) 4.5 in 3.25 in 5 in 3.25 in 2.5 in
Last Board/Shank Torsion stability ESS ADV-C chassis EVA ESS Torsion stability TSS
Midsole Dual density compression molded EVA EnergyCell Rubberized EVA EVA
Outsole Non-marking rubber Contagrip MA rubber Vibram MegaGrip UtrATAC Vasque OTG

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Keen Targhee II is a solid choice for light to medium backpacking trips and rugged day hikes and costs $130 retail. It has a nubuck leather and mesh upper that covers the KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane. The sole consists of three parts; a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole, a torsion stability ESS, and a proprietary rubber outsole.

Performance Comparison


Wherever your feet lead you, we want you to have the best shoes for...
Wherever your feet lead you, we want you to have the best shoes for the task. Happy feet, happy hiking, happy souls!
Photo: Rachel Wiggins

Comfort


The Targhee II provides a comfortable, supportive ride, which is largely what drives their popularity. Many features contribute to the comfort of this model. The tongue is well padded, the footbed feels balanced, and the roomy toe box keeps toes fresh on long descents. Foot protection is also superior to every model in this review, with a beefy rubber toe cover and stiff soles to quell discomfort on pointy, rocky terrain. We wish the footbed had a little bit more arch support, but otherwise, it is a comfortable shoe.

Reviewer Ross Robinson laces up the Targhees after lunch to crunch...
Reviewer Ross Robinson laces up the Targhees after lunch to crunch more miles.
Photo: Rachel Wiggins

This model's four eyelet lacing system is top-notch. Three widely-spaced lower webbing eyelets lace the boot over the fore and midfoot. This wide spacing allows folks with narrower feet to snug the upper down. The upper webbing eyelet extends down and around the heel of the shoe, creating the ability to cinch your heel down in the heel cup. Many hikers praise this feature. With a little experimenting, the forefoot can be laced loose for comfort, while the heel can be cinched into the heel cup for security.

We like the adjustable heel box allowed by the webbing system that...
We like the adjustable heel box allowed by the webbing system that links up with the laces for a custom fit.
Photo: Ross Robinson

The KEEN.DRY membrane wasn't the most breathable model. After our treadmill test, our feet were quite sweaty, warm, and our socks were damp. The mostly leather uppers trap heat inside. Hiking in cool weather with these shoes is more enjoyable than hot summer hikes. For better ventilation inside the shoe, unlined shoes fared better.

Weight


The Targhee II weighs 2 lb. 6.4 oz. on our scale. Some hikers are willing to put up with this extra weight for the added support, stability, and comfort this model provides under a heavy pack. However, if you don't need your hiking shoes to support loads over 30 pounds, there are far lighter models.

These shoes are one of the heaviest models reviewed, but we...
These shoes are one of the heaviest models reviewed, but we appreciate the solid support and comfort they provide on long hikes.
Photo: Rachel Wiggins

Support


Many hiking shoe models are trending toward faster, lighter, slimmer designs, which often leads to deficits in the support department. This is not the case with the Targhee II. If you're looking for excellent support in your hiking shoes, this is the pair for you. It outscored almost all other models in this metric.

For increased support and ankle stability, consider a pair of hiking boots.

The Torsion Stability ESS shank combined with the dual-density midsole create a stiff shoe. The wide footbed creates a solid base for pushing through with each step, too. The standard insole in this Keen model is the most supportive in all shoes tested. It has a flexible forefoot but features an added layer of density from the heel to the forward end of the arch for a stiffer midfoot. The opportunity cost of this solid support system is one of the heaviest weight measurements of any model reviewed.

Stiff soles and flexible forefeet lead this shoe to the front of the...
Stiff soles and flexible forefeet lead this shoe to the front of the pack in stability.
Photo: Rachel Wiggins

Traction


The lug pattern and design provide a large amount of surface area contact, but for some reason, the Targhee II didn't stick to all surfaces as well as some of the competition. The proprietary rubber sole handled dry granite slabs with excellence and also moved over wet rock with little slippage.

The unique lug pattern on the outsole of the Targhee II provides...
The unique lug pattern on the outsole of the Targhee II provides above average traction on varied surfaces.
Photo: Ross Robinson

While winning us over on solid ground, when the earth underfoot got loose, this model began to slide to the back of the pack, quite literally. The wide, textured lugs weren't enough to bite through loose sediment, mud, or snowy slopes, and gravel seemed to just roll around under the large tread pattern.

Testing dry rock traction on some steep and slabby granite boulders...
Testing dry rock traction on some steep and slabby granite boulders birthed by the Sierras.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Versatility


The chunky and clunky Targhee II does not win any accolades for its looks, but it handles light and rough terrain with a moderate pack like a charm. We like it for day hiking and backpacking. Models with more narrow toe boxes and lower weights were much better for picking up the pace on the trail. Running just feels wrong in the Targhees. This is not the shoe you want if you mix in some running on your hikes and the beefy look is a bit much for casual wear. For a mix of backpacking and trail running ability there are more running shoe-inspired shoes to choose from.

Burly, leather uppers are heavier but tend to last a long time.
Burly, leather uppers are heavier but tend to last a long time.
Photo: Rachel Wiggins

Water Resistance


The Targhee II fell to the back of the pack in this metric. Its flood height is above average at 4.5 inches, yet the proprietary KEEN.Dry membrane failed our waterproof challenge. Barely reaching two minutes underwater, both shoes began to leak. The right foot got it worse, soaking the forefoot before five minutes were through. Both shoes leaked from above the fourth toe where the synthetic mesh meets the leather of the upper. The Keen's do resist water, but were not the shoes we wanted for wading in water nor when rain strikes.

Waterproof testing the Keen's. Despite having a waterproof lining...
Waterproof testing the Keen's. Despite having a waterproof lining, this model leaked after just two minutes underwater.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Durability


The Targhee II has a positive reputation throughout the world of hiking, but this does not stem from its durability. The midsole is exposed, and at the end of our testing period, had several nicks and bites. There were also a handful of loose strings sprouting from the leather upper at the end of the testing period, which does not provide an argument for quality stitching. Many user reviews of this product report delamination of the sole as the number one issue with this model. After our testing period, we did notice the midsole separating from the leather upper in a few places, although tiny at this point. In the future, we imagine the separation continuing.

There are redeeming qualities of this model, however. We love the protection of the toe box on this model, which surpasses all other models in robustness. The upper also consists mostly of leather, which has withstood the test of time in countless hiking shoe models as quality material.

We take side-by-side testing seriously. Here we are testing the Juxt...
We take side-by-side testing seriously. Here we are testing the Juxt against the Targhee II in some sloppy spring mud.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Value


A previous Best Buy winner at OutdoorGearLab, this shoe presents a great value for backpackers and long-distance hikers. Although it won't last as long as some other pairs, buying another pair when the time comes is an affordable option.

Keen continues to offer this great product at an affordable price...
Keen continues to offer this great product at an affordable price, which has undoubtedly had a positive effect on its popularity among the hiking community.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Conclusion


The Keen Targhee II has earned its positive reputation. Keen found a design that works and has stuck with it over the years, as have their followers. The wide toe box and great foot protection are awesome on flats, ascents, and descents in varied terrain and the solid support provided allows for more backpacking possibilities. It's overkill for day hikes in easy terrain, and won't set any speed records. For its intended purpose, it's a great product.

Ross Robinson