A comfortable, mid-height hiker good for three seasons
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Tripsavvy / Justin Park
Comfortable out of the box
Lots of color and size options
No gussets on the tongue
Possible durability issues
The Keen Targhee III hiking boots are a simple, waterproof mid-height hiker that comes in a variety of widths, sizes, and colors.
We purchased the Keen Targhee III Mid Hiking Boots so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Keen is an outdoors footwear brand born in California and headquartered in Portland. The company’s toe-protecting signature sandals gained them a cult following with river guides and hikers and they’ve since expanded their offerings into hiking boots for men and women. I recently tested out the Keen Targhee III Mid hiking boots in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and foothills to find out if the performance backpacking boots live up to the hype.
The first thing you’ll notice upon slipping into the Targhee IIIs is that they are comfortable right out of the box. Unlike a full leather hiker, there didn’t seem to be much of a required break-in period.
The built-in arch support in the insole seemed to help with the fit, making the boots’ EVA foam insole and midsole feel like it was already broken-in. Sometimes built-in arch support is too much for my feet and creates an artificial supination (rolling to the outside) that I find annoying and occasionally painful over a longer hike until the boots break-in. Not so with the Targhee IIIs.
I didn’t find these boots to be particularly wide. The mid-foot area fit well but I could see it feeling a bit tight for those with truly extra-wide feet. However, the toe box is spacious, though you have to make sure the boots are laced tightly to ensure the foot doesn’t slide around too much.
One of the biggest draws for this boot is the wide range of sizes: they’re available in wide or regular from size seven all the way up to 17.
The heel cup fit well, too, and features a thermoplastic heel piece instead of the cardboard-like ones you might find in cheaper boots that go soft over time with use. While I often size down a half size for hiking boots, I found the Keens true to size and I think a half-size less would have been a hair too tight for my feet.
Keen’s Targhee IIIs are truly mid-height, just coming over the protruding ankle bones where they feature stiff padding on both sides. Since there’s only one set of metal hooks at the top, lacing up the boots is quick and easy despite their height. Below the hooks, the laces run through a ribbon of webbing that crisscrosses down to the sole and around the heel to help tighten the boots around the ankle crease. Since the Targhee IIIs feature a roomy toe box, having the ability to really tighten up the laces for a snug fit was important to me.
The forefoot is wide, creating a solid platform and a stable base. The internal shank runs from heel to arch, protecting the sensitive part of your foot without making the sole too stiff. Some online reviewers complained that they felt the ground too much. I personally prefer a thinner, more flexible sole that lets me have a better connection to the ground and I found the boot’s 10- to 15-millitmeter sole a tad thicker than I usually like, but it does plenty to protect from injuries.
The boot’s rubber outsole features a heavily lugged tread with some fairly aggressive “teeth” around the edges of the forefoot. The sole curls up and over the toe for protection and has the signature rounded, curled-up look of a Keen sandal toe covering. (Lest you miss the signature style, this is marked with the yellow caution exclamation point which notes the Keen.Protect toe.) The sole from the arch to the toe is rockered which can give a natural rocking motion to your footfalls and makes toe stubs less likely.
The first thing you’ll notice upon slipping into the Targhee IIIs is that they are comfortable right out of the box.
The hard rubber outsole and tread feel tough and durable but quickly give way to the EVA foam midsole, which provides most of the cushioning and overall comfort, but can be less durable. EVA is the ubiquitous material that nearly all modern footwear is made of, but it’s not known for durability. The hard rubber curls up and around the foam a bit on the sides, but it could’ve gone further to prioritize durability.
In hotter, drier conditions, the boots were a bit toasty. Waterproof hiking boots in general are going to run hotter and these weren’t as bad as some other models I’ve worn. The Targhee IIIs feature Keen’s proprietary Keen.Dry system which aims to be waterproof and breathable (like brand-name waterproofing materials such as Gore-Tex). A membrane inside the boot allows water vapor (from your sweaty feet) to escape while keeping water from streams and puddles out.
One design choice that affects the waterproofing is in the tongue of the boot. The padded mesh under the laces splits around the hinge of the ankle and provides a way for water to enter, meaning the waterproofing is really only effective up to that point. Some boots are gusseted as high as the boot goes which not only extends the waterproofing, but keeps out dirt, rocks, and debris.
Some online reviewers complained that the waterproofing was ineffective, but my guess is that they actually just stepped in deeper water that allowed water to enter at the tongue. This flaw isn’t the end of the world and I didn’t experience any water incursions during my testing, but it's something to be aware of if you do a lot of stream or waterfall hiking and prioritize maximum waterproof performance.
Keen’s Targhee III is a classic modern hiker in the same vein as the Merrell Moab series: a mix of leather and modern materials for a lightweight, comfortable hiker that can be worn casually as well. You wouldn’t wear them to an office job, but they can serve as a work boot or a supportive shoe you can wear around town while running errands.
Lacing up the boots is quick and easy despite their height.
While I didn’t experience any of these issues in my month testing the boots, many online reviewers complained of the soles separating from the leather on either side of the toe box. Keen offers a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, so you’d hope to discover any flaws in that time period, but any widely reported flaws like this can undermine confidence in that initial purchase.
One of the biggest draws for this boot for many hikers is the wide range of sizes. You can find the boots in wide or regular from size seven all the way up to 17. There are also a number of colorways, though most are variations of many of the same leather and earth tones. The most colorful these hiking boots get is a Brindle/Magnet version, which features a light tan leather upper and maroon laces.
Retailing around $150, these are priced middle of the road for specialized hiking boots. Boots such as the Merrell Moab 2 are slightly cheaper, though most any decent hiking boot these days will cost more than $100.
If you’re searching for wide or odd-sized hikers, both the Keen Targhee III and the Merrell Moab 2 Mid are available in wide widths and in a broad range of sizes. They’re also both mid-height hikers with sneaker-like comfort and a mix of leather and modern materials. The aesthetic is remarkably similar as well. However, the Moab 2s are slightly cheaper and have been around longer.
If you like the look of the Keens but are worried about possible workmanship issues, the Oboz Sawtooth II Mid hikers are a remarkably similar boot for the same price and are now available in wide sizes.
People who are familiar with the Keen brand and only hike a few times a year should consider the Targhee III Mid Hiking Boots for their snug fit, relatively affordable price, and varied sizing ranges.
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