Keen Targhee Lace High Review
Cons: Fit narrow, break-in time needed
Our Analysis and Test Results
With high ankle cuffs, lots of insulation, and large rubber outsoles, winter boots are not what we would typically describe as lightweight. Compared to the competition, however, the Keen Targhee High Lace is pretty exceptional, with our pair of size men's 11 tipping the scales at only 2.8 lbs. Some of the pairs we tested weighed double this amount! Trudging through snow all day is already hard enough, but this task is certainly made easier when the weight on your feet is minimized. Our testing also found these boots to be functionally waterproof up to their flood height of 5.75 inches, and to be warmer than almost all other hiking boot competitors. Our only complaints revolved around the comfort and fit. While they eventually loosened up into a reasonably flexible boot, we suffered through some serious shin discomfort on the first few hikes as the leather upper broke in a bit. We also feel they are quite quite narrow (we don't have overly wide feet), which forced us to wear thin socks. Regardless, if you are in the market for a high quality and lightweight leather hiking boot, this is one you should try out.
These boots are insulated with Keen's proprietary Keen.Warm insulation. We aren't sure what this insulation is made of, except for the mysterious tidbit of information on their website that implies it is made using bamboo charcoal. Hmmm… They also have a thermal lined removable insole that does a great job of insulating the bottom of the feet. Anyway, these boots come with a -25F temperature rating, and in our comparative tests, we found they performed better than some others with -40F ratings, so consider us convinced. In our ice bath submersion test they lost a mere 15.6 degrees over the course of 12 minutes, which was the second best of the most recent batch of competitors. Their finishing temperate was 47.4F, the second highest that we tested. These numbers were backed up in the test where we had our feet inside the boot. After ten minutes dunked in a freezing lake, our feet didn't feel any sort of chill at all.
The Targhee Lace High use a waterproof/breathable membrane in conjunction with waterproof leather on the outside, and our testing indicates that both of these layers hold up to the roughest of tests — standing in a lake for over 10 minutes. There was not the slightest hint of moisture inside these boots after this test, so obviously we feel that they will stand up just fine to more real-world applications like tromping through slush or stepping in the occasional hidden puddle. However, despite their name, the flood depth where the tongue connects to the ankle cuff of the boot is only 5.75 inches above ground level, which is lower than many others tested, some of which are waterproof up to a depth of 10 inches, so we couldn't give them the highest score for this metric. Worth noting is that there is a metal d-ring attached to the bottom of the laces that is meant as a clip in point for gaiters, and in most winter hiking applications, gaiters will certainly be helpful and desired to keep snow out of the tops of the boots.
Fit and Comfort
Our main complaints as it pertains to this boot revolves around the fit and comfort, although keep in mind that this is a subjective opinion and not everyone will have the same experiences. We found the boot to fit well length wise, but to be quite narrow, especially in the forefoot and through the arch. The toe box and also heel felt loose and allowed for our toes to wriggle and our heels to slip around a bit. We actually enjoyed the fit a bit better if we wore a thinner sock, but then the fit in the heel felt a bit too sloppy, so we struggled to fine-tune them just how we would like.
We also felt that these boots needed a bit of a break-in period, not uncommon for leather boots. The ankle collar and cuff that extends up the shin of this boot were pretty stiff initially, and we experienced some discomfort from rubbing and friction on our shins as we hiked. Admittedly, this became a bit better with time, but we encourage you to purchase and use these boots a bit early before any major trips.
Ease of Use
This boot needs lacing up each time you use it. A lacing system is required for the best fine-tuning of fit for long days spent hiking, but at the same time is not nearly as convenient as slip-on models for simply donning repeatedly every day whenever you need to go outside. The bottom of the boot features laces that stay threaded through leather tabs lined with plastic for greater durability, but the top cuff of the boot requires one to loop the laces through two hooks on each side before tying off at the top. This takes a sec, although only needing to loop through two hooks is a bit quicker than lacing through three on each side as with some other tall lace-up boots. Overall, they are not at all difficult to use but are also not the most convenient that we have tested.
There is nothing to complain about when it comes to the traction found on this boot. Made with Keen.Freeze rubber compound that is soft and sticky for optimal grip in cold weather, the outsole is comprised of well-spaced triangular lugs that are 4mm deep. The amount of negative space in between these lugs helps focus the force and gives them good bite into soft and hard snow. While it is a challenge to find good traction in the winter regardless of what sort of footwear you use, these boots will set you up for success.
Retail price for these boots has them sitting near the top end of the price spectrum, although still offering some savings over the most expensive models. They are very well made, of the highest quality leather and materials, and so we feel they will be quite durable and see no reason they shouldn't last a long time (disclosure: we didn't have time to wear them until complete failure). While they aren't as affordable as our Best Bang for the Buck winner, we think that their quality ensures that money here is well spent.
The Keen Targhee Lace High are most notable for offering fantastic warmth in a very lightweight package. Their weight alone makes them a very worthy selection for any sort of winter hiking, and their waterproofness and durable construction backs up this assertion. While we didn't love the way they fit, not everyone will have the same experience, as everyone's feet are different.
— Andy Wellman
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