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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
Credit: Keen
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Price:  $155 List | Check Price at Amazon
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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  ⋅  Mar 6, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8.0
  • Weight - 25% 5.0
  • Support - 15% 9.0
  • Traction - 15% 7.0
  • Versatility - 10% 7.0
  • Water Resistance - 5% 4.0
  • Durability - 5% 6.0

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 upheld its ranking as an extremely popular hiking 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. This year, two key aspects kept this shoe off the podium — poor water resistance and heavyweight. Overall, though, this shoe remains a great value for many hikers.

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 a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole, a torsion stability ESS, and a proprietary rubber outsole.

Performance Comparison


Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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!
Credit: 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 with plenty of room for socks. Foot protection is 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - reviewer ross robinson laces up the targhees after lunch to crunch...
Reviewer Ross Robinson laces up the Targhees after lunch to crunch more miles.
Credit: 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 shoe's heel, creating the ability to cinch your heel down in the heel cup. Many hikers praise this feature. The forefoot can be laced loose for comfort with a little experimenting, while the heel can be cinched into the heel cup for security.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: 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 creates 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: Ross Robinson

While winning us over on the 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 roll around under the large tread pattern.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: 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 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - burly, leather uppers are heavier but tend to last a long time.
Burly, leather uppers are heavier but tend to last a long time.
Credit: 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 resist water but were not the shoes we wanted for wading in water or when rain strikes.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Durability


The Targhee II has a positive reputation throughout the world of hiking, but this does not stem from its durability. At the end of our testing period, the midsole was exposed and had several nicks and bites. A handful of loose strings sprouted 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. 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.

Keen Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Should You Buy the Keen Targhee II?


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. 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 Targhee II hiking shoes - 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.
Credit: Ross Robinson

What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?


While Keen is a high-quality and rugged shoe, it isn't the shoe for everyone. It is heavy compared to some of the competition, and it scores lower overall than some more impressive options. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex is significantly lighter and score higher overall. It offers better traction and water resistance than the Keen, with equal comfort and durability. If a lightweight shoe is important to you, the Salomon is probably a better choice. Or, if you plan to hit the wet trails or move over creeks, the Salmon is significantly more waterproof and should be a better choice.

Ross Robinson
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