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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Review - KEEN Targhee II trail shoes

No animals were harmed when this shoe was vented
"...they're comfortable from the off, they keep water and grit out, you feel a little like Robocop when walking on flat firm tracks but confident to skip about like you're auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing on rocky terrain. Your feet may overheat but these tough shoes will last you the distance, literally."

Well, I've had these shoes on test for well over a month now - and some could argue that isn't long enough. However, in that short space of time they've covered around 500 miles on varying terrain and conditions - as some of you are aware, I'm out hiking and wild camping for days on end.

In fact, I spend more nights in a tent on a hill than on my comfy memory foam mattress and duvet at home - cuddling up to my wife.

Ahhh - such is life nowadays, and I'm still just getting used to it....

Anyway, the KEEN Targhee II shoes - any good?



Tall, strangely shaped people fit this boot to a tee
KEEN UK warns folk that their sizes run about half size small - or thereabouts - even so, I found the fit just about right except on my right foot. This was resolved by purchasing some heel supports - no reflection on the quality of the footbeds which are very good by the way.

The lacing system is smooth and you can easily adjust the grasp of the shoe on your feet, however where I was concerned it was still a little loose on my right foot.

Now, when it comes to footwear everyones fit is different - so, always purchase shoes or boots after a good try out in the shop. This will stand you in good stead on future purchases particularly with a given brand (including online). I'm quite wide footed but narrow at the heel - worth noting for this review.

So, all nice and snug on that front it was time to hike. Comfortable from the off, so to speak.

And did I hike!

Never mind the miles I've covered but the conditions encountered varied immensely - and deliberately so to gauge how worthy the shoes were when it comes to parting with your hard earned cash. So, bogs were trotted (and occasionally swam through!), mighty Peak District gritstone was scrambled, hopped and danced upon.





Limestone was skipped and slipped on and pools of water were enthusiastically jumped into - aye, I'm a big kid. No shame in that - except when the wife is telling me so (why do I always feel like a naughty boy when she does so?!).



Deep lugs, good grip - very good grip in fact
KEEN are erm....well keen to boast about the grip on these shoes. The 4x4 equivalent in the world of trail shoes. And I have to say - the friction on all terrains with these shoes is quite simply brilliant. Even on wet rock.

You feel confident (though ever mindful) in every aspect when it comes to placing your feet about when in the outdoors. The grip is up there with Inov8's famous sticky rubber soles (though they're still the ones to beat) and even Berghaus' Opti-stud soled footwear.

Yep, they're that good. However, the shoes are quite rigid - much like boots in general.


Great torsion stability is no bad thing, but not something I'd associate with trail shoes - I expect such shoes to be a little more flexible. Granted, they're ideal for scrambling and tramping along rocky terrain such as scree.

But on your average well used path or even tarmac you can feel like you're stomping about like Robocop. It's not terrible by any means - don't get me wrong. But the lack of some 'significant' flex in the sole will not encourage you to take a run on the trail.

So, some points get deducted on the comfort front in that respect.

Quite simply, KEEN have designed a shoe that's meant to cover a lot of bases - good effort on their part but not ideal if you tend to do more of one thing than another when out on the trail. So, do be mindful of this.

Even so, I got by fine with the Targhees as I tend to cover a mixture of terrain when out filming and camping.

Thus far, after covering over 500 miles the durability of the sole has been spot on! The exceptionally deep lugs have not worn away too much and very easily shed sticky mud and sheep shite et al. Steep descents on wet grass is no problem at all - and took some getting used to, in fact. I'm normally conscious of making a wee slide down the fell finishing with an athletic 10/10 pose and shouting "I'm alright! I'm alright! It was deliberate".

And on the subject of durability - I'm astounded the leather/suede and fabric upper has not begun to deteriorate or even the stitching show signs of coming undone in key wear and tear areas. I've not cleaned them once. Not even a wash with water - and normally you'd see some signs of degradation by this stage.

Typical KEEN, the toe end has a thick protective rubber rand giving good protection - which all makes for a pretty bombproof shoe. But does it breathe well and keep your feet dry?

Yes and no.

They're not THAT waterproof - so, no swimming!
The KEEN StayDry membrane certainly does keep rain and all else out of your wonderfully robust walking tool - but after a few miles of hiking at a steady pace, I did feel like my feet were mobile ovens I inadvertently got stuck to my lower limbs. Sure, I get hotter feet than most perhaps  - we are all anatomically and biologically different but it's certainly something to be mindful of.

Of course, if you don't normally suffer from 'hot feet' then you'll be laughing.

Breathability-wise this is where the KEEN Targhee II shoes let themselves down. After all the high marks elsewhere - they just don't breathe very well. So, damp feet - STAY DAMP. Sweaty feet, well - stay sweaty.

Pull out your pink little piggys - the shoes soon dry ready for use, again - so consequently, I'd occasionally come to a rest and take the shoes off to cool em down for a bit.

But like I say - that's me. You may well of course, be fine.

On one trip, I tripped and went head first into a 3 foot deep river - famous last words, "Oh sh**!" - only to stomp out cursing the day was born and feeling immensely cold.

KEEN Targhee II shoes take a deserved break at camp
The shoes needless to say got sodden - and stayed that way until I reached a pub some miles away. Once off and placed on a stone flagged floor to dry out, I was impressed to discover the insides ready for use again with dry feet within an hour.

So, they don't breathe well - but dry bloody quick on their lonesome. Ironic, eh? When in action they could do with some more fabric channels that help 'vent' the shoes, to be honest.

Being a low cut at the ankle shoe, you may feel a little vulnerable to knocks about the ankle with rocks and the like - personally, I've not encountered any problems on that front. The shoes are light at about 520g's but the exceptional torsion stability will psychologically make you think you're in sturdy boots and consequently, you kind of adapt your walking naturally when on rough terrain.

Consequently, the KEEN Targhee II shoes would be ideal for someone who may want to introduce their feet carefully into ever lighter footwear. Worth noting in that respect. Your dexterity will improve compared to wearing sturdy boots but even then the stiff sole will limit your progress on that front.

All said and done - they're comfortable from the off, they keep water and grit out, you feel a little like Robocop when walking on flat firm tracks but confident to skip about like you're auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing on rocky terrain. Your feet may overheat but these tough shoes will last you the distance, literally.

You won't want to run in them - they're not that kind of trail shoe - unless you want to look like Frankensteins monster in a 100 metre sprint trial for the London Olympics 2012.

Worth the money? Definitely. But some consideration must go into your purchase - as always in such scenarios.

A solid 8/10 trail shoe that's better than most and close to achieving some kind of greatness with the masses. Impressive in many ways but let down on the breathability front.

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Terry Abraham
Outdoors filmmaker who wild camps to capture the landscapes at their very best. Also a blogger, photographer and gear tester.

I've been known to write from time to time and am a big fan of real ales.



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