Keen has been a long-time contender in the hiking footwear category, and we have come to know and depend on their products as being quality. The Keen Targhee III Low is the latest in a long line of Targhee shoes, a design that has been very popular amongst day hikers and backpackers. This update is successful in some ways over the Targhee II - by using softer, higher quality leather, there is an improvement in style and the shoe's flexibility, though a softer insert decreases its stability. Their average trail performance leads them towards easy and moderate terrain where lots of scrambling is not required, but they have enough support to be a capable day hiker as well as an overnight backpacking shoe.
Keen Targhee III Low Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, comfortable, great option for those with wide feet
Cons: Average traction, sloppy fit for narrow feet
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Keen Targhee III Low offers a comfortable fit right out of the box, with a little break-in period required. Thanks to the softer, more pliable nubuck leather used on this model, it was easy to walk several miles in with no discomfort. Other shoes with more synthetic materials allowed ease of use as well but without the bulk of the leather outer.
A lightweight ESS shank gives the Targhee III Low its support, though we felt that it was a noticeable loss of stability from previous Targhee iterations. The addition of the shank does give some protection from sharp and pointy rocks poking into the sole from the trail, though this shoe only offers average performance in overall trail comfort.
We like the well-thought-out traditional lacing system used on the Targhee III, as it employs an additional strap that locks the heel in place for a snug fit around the ankle. While the ankle is well-secured, though, the rest of the foot moves around quite easily, as it has one of the roomiest fits of any shoe we tested. This is not a problem for wide-footed individuals who often struggle to find a fitting hiking shoe but should be noted by those with narrow to medium feet.
With a verified weight of 2.26 pounds for a US men's size 11, the Targhee III Low is not the heaviest shoe in this review but is far from the lightest. Keen is not making any claims that this is a lightweight hiking shoe, rather that it is a rugged hiking shoe designed with durability in mind. That has been achieved to a large degree, and so the almost half-pound weight difference between this pair and the lightest hiking shoes in our review is not nearly as much of a red flag is it may seem at first glance.
Keen has updated the*Targhee III Low with a soft and supple nubuck leather outer which is softer and less rigid. This improves the break-in period for these shoes but decreases its side-to-side support. This shoe is also one of the widest in our review, and so despite the inventive wrap-around heel lacing system that snugs up around the ankle, we were unable to get a very good fit with medium-volume feet. No matter how tightly we secured the laces, we ended up with a sloppy and insecure fit - a poor combination when hiking on anything but easy to moderate trails.
The included footbed is quality, with dual density materials used, and a good supportive arch, so those who do fit this shoe will no doubt feel better support than we were able to.
For the Targhee III Low, Keen uses a proprietary non-marking rubber compound, a blend which has remained the same across the Targhee line. This outsole performs well enough on wet and dry trails, with average traction thanks to its medium-sized lug pattern. Those who venture far off the trail may find the traction of these shoes lacking in rocky scrambling situations or smearing on wet slabs of rock.
This shoe is a great basic hiking shoe that can be a daily driver for local day hikes, or even make the transition into overnight backpacks provided that the trail is moderate and the loads are not too heavy. These shoes do not have much ability to cross-over into either trail running or peak scrambling, but if all you are planning on doing is walking and hiking, then these shoes should fit those needs well.
Keen has long used its proprietary in-house waterproof membrane called Keen.Dry in their shoes and boots, and we found it to work reasonably well in test conditions. Sloshing through puddles and streams, our feet stayed dry as long as we respected the 4-inch water resistance height. Many shoes have higher flood heights; the Targhee is average in this metric. Prolonged exposure to water does allow seeping water into the toe box, though this was after the 5-minute water submersion test was completed. For the best waterproofing, continue to apply aftermarket treatment to the nubuck leather.
Keen touts the Targhee III Low hiking shoe as a bold, durable hiking shoe suited to all-terrain adventures. We feel that this is a bit of hyperbole, though the nubuck leather and heavy-duty toe cap certainly adds to its durability. We hiked on and off trail in these shoes for several weeks without noting any major concerns, although other reviewers did submit long-term reviews noting failing rands, soles delaminating and loss of structure within several months of use.
These shoes are one of the more budget-friendly shoes we reviewed, and with quality materials and a stylish look, feel that they are a good value.
With out-of-the-box comfort and an updated look, the Keen Targhee III Low is a day-hiking shoe that offers good performance, especially for those who have a hard time finding a pair of shoes that will fit wider feet.
— Ryan Huetter