Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid Boot Photo

Gear Review: Keen’s Targhee III Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots

Gear Reviews

A couple months back with summer closing in and a lot of local hiking to occupy my weekends, I decided it was time to change up my boots and break in something new. So I picked up a pair of Keen’s Targhee III hiking boots in a mid-height cut for a little more ankle support and have been up and down plenty of trails with them since from dirt days to some unexpected snow and everything between.

The shoe shelves in my gear room ranges from 4-season mountaineering boots to trail runners and frankly, a good pair of 3-season hiking boots can be one of the hardest shoes to settle on. On one hand, you’re buying a boot for some rigidity and protection. On the other hand, something light, breathable and comfortable really helps on a long, hot day.

Targhee III boots new out of the box
Brand new out of the box on day one!

While I haven’t had these boots long enough to pass full judgement, several solid hikes in, I have to say I am impressed.

60 Days In: What I Like

Quick break in: After a quick walk around the house (not like I could try them in the store this year), I was pretty confident that break in would not be a big issue here and took my new boots out for a moderate, 4,000′ day up Mount Diablo. A dozen miles of dry dirt trails, rocky terrain and even some pavement and I only found one hot spot. Since then they’ve remained just as comfy and I’ve actually picked them up for days where a trail runner would usually be my go to.

Great comfort on hard terrain. Going up the Mist Trail into Yosemite’s backcountry and back down to The Valley in a day, I’m use to feeling some solid wear on my feet and especially my toes. While I did immediately swap the insoles out for a pair of superfeet, I’ve yet to feel any real wear from stomping around. Like a good hiking boot, they take a beating.

Boots in a stream crossing

Solid waterproofing: One of the things I do before reviewing any shoe or boot claiming to be waterproof besides hiking it through water is to run it under the sink. Sure, a boot may survive a mellow stream but how does it do half submerged? Answer in this case: Great. No water in from the base or from the laces until you get pretty high up and that’s something that still stands after a few weeks of break-in which can open up some gaps.

Decent all around traction: Beyond local dirt trails, I’ve hiked these over rocky terrain, up Yosemite’s Mist Trail just last weekend, and even across snowy covered boulders after a light storm rolled through Tahoe a few weeks back. Downhill on loose gravel, I had a few skids but on good rock and even a few inches of snow, they seem to stick well. The soles have held up decently in their early showing too without many scuffs or scrapes which is surprisingly not always the case with boots I try out.

Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid Boot Photo

They look good! I know, you’re not buying a hiking boot for the looks but come on, it is something you wear and at the price point of a new pair of boots, it’s nice to have one that looks decent. You know, gotta be ready for those selfie review photos — or maybe that’s just my problem.

60 Days In – What I’m Not Loving

So far there hasn’t been anything to make me table these boots and grab something else out of the gear room but of course, there are some areas that aren’t perfect — call it tradeoffs.

First up is how they breath. Waterproof never does great in this respect but I find these to run a bit hotter than my Merrell or Oboz boots at a similar price. Not terrible, just a little warmer than I’d like.

Boot flex

Second, I really prefer two levels of lace hooks on a boot to allow for some different lacing techniques to combat sore spots, heel lift and the like. So far this hasn’t led to any major sore spots but on a long day, lacing helps (see this video from REI on boot techniques).

Third, the boots have a lot of give and while that makes them real comfortable out and about, they feel best suited to a defined trail or some consistent rock. Not my go to for a trail crossing or aggressive scramble where something bulkier is warranted.

The boots after a few long hikes

Finally, the insoles. Now I grant that there’s nothing wrong with what Keen gives you or different from just about any other boot, nor do they know what your arch is like. Still, just once, I’d like a boot to come with an insole I don’t feel like I should toss into the “extra gear” pile.

Bottom line: 4.5 / 5 – totally worth it

At 60 days in, I’m not ready to call my review final but there’s a reason these things have near 5 star reviews all over the web and I’m sold enough to gladly throw my pair into the gear pile for this weekend’s long hike (wahoo Eastern Sierras!).

Boots in the snow

The mid-cut style, comfortable but light-enough-weight design (about 2 lbs, 2.8oz listed weight per pair) and waterproofing make them a great all around choice for anyone looking to take on mixed terrain and a day where you want a little more support than a trail runner can offer up.

Product Overview

  • Category: Waterproof Hiking Boots
  • Utility: Spring, Summer, Fall General Trails
  • Pros: Comfortable, supportive, good waterproofing
  • Cons: Don’t breath as well as some other hiking boots
  • Style: Mid-cut
  • Price: $150 MSRP
  • Rating: 4.5 of 5
  • All the details: Official Site 

* Disclosure: None. I bought these boots and no one paid me to post this so it’s just my $0.02, straight up.