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.
Keen Targhee II Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers 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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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