Saturday, July 14, 2012

Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot Review

Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots after 150+ miles in the south Texas brush (and mud)

NOTE: Click on any of the photos in this article for a larger view
For several years, I've used various sneakers (Tennis shoes) and recently hiking sandals for my outdoor forays. As a wildlife photographer, hiker, kayaker, shade-tree herpetologist, etc. I tend to hike many many miles through some very unforgiving areas.  I decided last year that I needed something with a little more ankle support. Well, my favorite hiking sandles have always been Keen with their "Keen Protect" (toe guards) so I finally decided to try a pair of their hiking boots. After a usual long exhaustive internet reasearch I decided to try a pair of the Keen Targhee II mid hikers. I'll make this review short and to the point as much as I can.


Out of the box, the Targhee 's were very comfortable with very little break in time required. The cushioning around the top is well done as is the nice removable metatomical dual density EVA footbed. These boot slip on and off with ease and Keen even put a nice little heel loop on the back for aiding in putting them on and off.

The laces were sufficiently long and thanks to their webbing tied in with their laces, were very snug. One of the Webbing straps goes completely around the back of the boot which gives a little bit of extra "snuggness"; nice touch. 
As soon as I got these boots, I took them for a 6 mile hike at a nearby nature park. I had no issues with blisters or hot spots and was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they were. My longest hike with these boots thus far was at Choke Canyon lake (Texas) on a wildlife photography hike. I walked 20+ miles through mud, swampy areas, waterways, over desert terrain and rocks, all while carrying 35 pounds of Camera gear. The result? Very comfortable with no blisters. they did get pretty wet but that's another section.

The S3 shock protection (as Keen calls it) seems to work pretty well. These boots seem to cradle the foot and provide nice ankle support.The day I hiked the 20+ miles, it was approximately 98 degrees (f) and these boots breathed very well and felt good in the heat.


Traction on dry rocky areas was very good. As you can see from the photos, Keen's own bi-directional lug design is very aggressive and it works well. The carbon outsole lugs are a substantial 4mm and are very firm providing a nice bite into most terrain and obstacles. The firmness however left a little to be desired on wet rocks; nothing bad mind you just not as grippy as I would have liked. On gravel, dirt or even mud, the bi-directional lug design worked great; no complaints.
Targhee II lug design (with mud)
 One thing I really like about the lug design of the Targhee's is that they are easy to clean the mud off. The space between them is sufficient enough that a strong stream of water usually does the trick cleaning them. Most lug patterns do not work well in this regard but these are pretty easy to clean. Below you can compare the lug pattern of the Targhee's and my newer Merrell Chameleon4 Mid Ventilator Gor-Tex (review coming soon).
Lug Pattern of the Keen Targhee's (bottom) and the Merrell Chameleon4 's (top)

One issue I've had with some hiking boots I've bought in the past was that they either had cheap laces or the laces were too short. I'm happy to report that Keen doesn't skimp in this department. The laces were sufficiently long and have lasted through some rough times. One aspect that I kinda like on the lacing system of these boots is the last lacing loop or notch (seen below). It is basically a plastic (very tough) cinch that due to the lumpy nature of the laces catches and holds the laces in place. They work very well; in fact the few times that my shoe has come untied, the cinch loop kept the laces in place and the boot snug; great idea.  

The one aspect I would probably change about the Targhee's is that  if you do not run the laces through the provided tongue loop, the laces will ride up over the tongue. Maybe a bit longer tongue would remedy this.  


While the Targhee's do not have Gore-Tex, they do have Keen's version that they call Keen Dry. When I first got the Targhee's their water proof membrane seemed to work very well. After several miles of hiking however, the left boot started to leak a little bit around the toe area, then later, the leaking got worse. I will give Keen a pass on this issue however since where I live in south Texas, EVERYTHING has thorns and a thorn might have inadvertently penetrated caused the leak. When the Targhee's get soaking wet, they do take some time to dry out. 


Basically Keen Protect means toe guards, an ingenious albeit simple idea made by Keen to protect toes. I think they first come up with this idea for their sandals / Huarache's (Spanish for Sandal) and it is what first convinced me to buy a pair of Keen sandals many years ago. Living in the desert southwest is hell on open toes. Keen has somewhat made their toe guards their calling card or trademark kinda like Spyderco uses their hole in their knife. Keen has included their Keen Protect toe guard on their hiking boots and on the Taghee's has saved my toes many a time. I was even bitten on the toe guard by a 3 foot Mottled Rock Rattlesnake (C. lepidus lepidus) with no penetration; thank goodness! So I guess that the Keen Protect takes on a whole new meaning in that regard.
Keen Protect Toe Guards / Rattlesnake Protection (Don't try it)

I am happy to report that after owning  four pair of Keen sandals and now these boots, I have had no need of customer service and cannot report on this aspect personally. I have read good things however.


- 4mm multi-directional lugs
- Dual density compression molded EVA midsole
- KEEN.DRY ™ waterproof breathable membrane
- Non-marking rubber outsole
- Patented toe protection
- Removable metatomical dual density EVA footbed
- S3 Heel support structure
- Torsion stability ESS shank
- Waterproof nubuck leather upper


I really like these boots and there is still lots of life left in them. They breath fairly well in the hellish S. Texas heat and were initially waterproof (a thorn may have ended that). The Targhee's are VERY comfortable out of the box and caused no blisters and required little to no break in time.  The traction is excellent in most conditions except on wet rocks. The lugs are easy to clean after a day in the mud with nothing more than a stream of water. The toe guard AKA Keen protect provides much needed protection from thorns and sharp rocks (and in my case rattlesnakes).  If I had to come up with a negative (and that would be pushing it) it would be how the laces ride up over the tongue unless you run them through the provided tongue loop. That's just a minor pet peeve and should not detract from the fact that these are VERY NICE hiking boots, one's that I highly recommend.I like them so much, I'll be getting a second pair.


  1. I am on my third pair of Keen's (1 Targhee and 2 Gypsum) that have leaked. They have all failed just from hiking in rain or wet grass and wet leaves. No more Keen's for me which is a shame because I really like the way they feel on my feet.

    1. I'd like to see Keen do a version 2.0 with Goretex. I agree, they are VERY comfortable, I just wonder if Gortex would be more reliable in the leaking dept.

  2. Hey I really liked your review. On the other hand, I would like to know if you recommend the Keen Targhee II MID toe protection hard enough for use as industrial boots. I can't decide if buying UTILITY or Targhee common boots.

  3. It depends on what you mean by "industrial". Many industries require (OSHA requirements) steel toe boots. If they require steel toes, then these won't work. That being said, in some industries where steel toed boots are not required, I'd still wear them. The protection that these provide are mainly for hiking purposes; think thorns, stubbed toes on rocks, etc. If you're looking for good steel toed boots, take a look at Danners or Red Wing.