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.Editor's Note: This Keen shoe review received an update on March 6, 2022, with more information about the hiking shoes we recommend over this pair.
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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Keen Targhee III Low
|Price||Check Price at Amazon|
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|$149.95 at Backcountry|
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|$170 List||Check Price at Backcountry|
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|$109.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Durable, comfortable, great option for those with wide feet||Excellent performance, lightweight, great traction, water resistance, support||Extremely comfortable, lightweight, supportive||Great value, waterproof, versatile||Lightweight, breathable, great dry traction, inexpensive|
|Cons||Average traction, sloppy fit for narrow feet||Cuff can be uncomfortable on ankle for some, Quicklace lacing not everyone's favorite||Not as cushioned as previous Hoka models, some traction issues||Average support, lacks long-term durability||Durability concerns, not good for wet weather|
|Bottom Line||This riff off a classic model is a good all-around hiking shoe for day hiking and light backpacking||This is a rugged hiking shoe that can do everything from day hikes to tackling long multiday backpacking trips||A 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 mobility||This shoe is a great value for the all-around performance as well as waterproofness that it provides||A budget-friendly hiking shoe that is a perfect choice for those hiking in dry climates|
|Rating Categories||Keen Targhee III Low||Salomon X Ultra 4 G...||Hoka One One Toa Go...||The North Face Ultr...||Vasque Juxt|
|Water Resistance (5%)|
|Specs||Keen Targhee III Low||Salomon X Ultra 4 G...||Hoka One One Toa Go...||The North Face Ultr...||Vasque Juxt|
|Weight of Size 11 Pair||2.26 lbs||1.76 lbs||2.03 lbs||2.04 lbs||1.90 lbs|
|Upper||Full-grain leather||Synthetic, textile||Synthetic||Performance mesh||Suede leather|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular, wide|
|Waterproof Lining||KEEN.dry waterproof 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||Lightweight ESS shank||ADV-C chassis||EVA||ESS||Torsion stability TSS|
|Outsole||Non-marking rubber||Contagrip MA rubber||Vibram MegaGrip||UtrATAC||Vasque OTG|
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 compared to the hiking shoe competition. 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 but without the bulk of the leather outer.
A lightweight ESS shank gives the Targhee III Low its support, though we felt 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 claiming that this is a lightweight hiking shoe; rather, 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 as 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 their side-to-side support. This shoe is also one of the widest in our review, so despite the inventive wrap-around heel lacing system that snugs up around the ankle, we could not 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 fit this shoe will undoubtedly feel better support than we were able to.
For the Targhee III Low, Keen uses a proprietary non-marking rubber compound, a blend that 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, 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, we found it works 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 allows 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 add to its durability. We hiked on and off-trail in these shoes for several weeks without noting any major concerns. However, other reviewers did submit long-term reviews noting failing rands, soles delaminating, and loss of structure within several months of use.
Should You Buy the Keen Targhee III Low?
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. These shoes are one of the more budget-friendly shoes we reviewed, and with quality materials and a stylish look, we feel that they are a good value.
What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?
The less expensive The North Face Ultra 111 WP has better traction and versatility than the Keen, with similar test results in other metrics. This impressive shoe can save you money, and it weighs less, potentially giving you a little more pep in your step. If you're looking for the best of the best, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex has a similar price tag and better test results comfort, weight, traction, and water resistance. Given that it offers more for the same price range, we think those not married to the Keen brand will be happy with its impressive performance overall.
— Ryan Huetter
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