Rach and James took the new Keen Targhee EXP mid boot for a hike. From rain-sodden trails to rocky outcrops, here’s how they performed.
Put your hand up if you’ve spent hours, days or months poring over information in an effort to find that next perfect pair of boots. Yeah, me too and now there’s another strong contender out there and it’s up there with the best of them. Enter Keen’s newest kid on the block, the Keen Targhee EXP.
The Keen Targhee EXP
The classic Targhee is onto its third model now and the EXP version has branched out from there. Keen advertises the EXP as “tougher and lighter than other Targhee boots”, as well as providing traction, stability and comfort. Oh and it’s waterproof to boot (pun intended). When I first picked up the box it was so light that I thought they must have forgotten a boot, so I was keen (pun still intended) to put them to the test. How better to do that than a long weekend in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains National Park?
Comfort and Fit
One of the most important parts of purchasing new boots is choosing one that’s suited to your foot. Having heard Keen had some of the widest boots out there I was a little disappointed when the EXP was a touch too narrow for my extra wide feet. I did find after the initial wearing in period that they softened a little and if I used a thin sock system they were okay.
My husband who has a regular width fitting found them to be excellent with his thick winter socks. If you have a foot on the extra wide side of things I recommend trying these puppies on before purchase, no one wants toe-crunch. Other than my personal width issue I found the EXPs to be comfortable and the foot bed supportive. The arch and heel cup cradled my foot like a newborn and weighing in at about 220g per shoe, my feet were feelin’ fine.
Traction, Stability & Toughness
The Keen Targhee EXP has a rubber outsole with multi-directional tread that protrudes about 4mm. They aren’t your heavy-duty, all-out, tear-up-the-trail type of boots, but I found them perfect for the standard mix of terrain you find in the Aussie bush. They gripped to both smooth and slippery rocks and held up very well on gravelly slopes. When I did try to roll my ankle, and I seem to try that a lot (head in the clouds, feet on the ground), the combination of heel stability and mid-boot height kept my ankles in check.
This same issue leads to toe-punting rocks and roots and generally trashing most shoes. The toe guard (shoe salespeople call it a “rand”) stopped me from breaking anything and the tough polyurethane outer didn’t show any sign of fraying despite the scuffing it received. Two weak points I identified were the soft foam-like material between the sole and the upper and the material around the ankle and the tongue. Though these will wear more quickly than the rest of the shoe I don’t believe it will affect performance.
The Targhee EXPs are made using the proprietary Keen.Dry waterproof breathable membrane. Now, I have a problem with calling out boots as waterproof as it really is a sliding scale. I think we need to employ a rating system similar to that which jacket manufacturers use. Waterproof for how long? Under what conditions? In saying that, the EXP’s will get you through river after river with bone-dry feet provided they aren’t exposed above the lower laces and intermittent rainstorms are no match. However with constant exposure to wet conditions, for example hiking along a submerged track in the rain day after day or standing in your bath tub for hours on end (wait, what?) the inner will become damp and your feet will slowly get wet.
This certainly isn’t an issue specific to the Keen brand, I have experienced it with many big brand synthetic boots. They are great for recreational use but if you are planning a multi-day ramble in very wet or snowy conditions you may want to consider a traditional full-grain leather boot.
The Keen Targhee EXP is an excellent choice of boot for many, it is tough, light, comfortable and waterproof in most cases. These boots are capable of taking you from summer in the Australian alpine regions to winter in the outback. Due to my XXX wide feet they are not my boot, but everyone’s foot is different and these puppies are definitely worth your time and consideration.
This review was not paid for but Rach was allowed to keep the Keen Targhee EXPs after the review.