Hiking boots or walking shoes? Until recently I would have said hiking boots – I have a pair of much loved Brasher Supalite II GTX boots, which I wear on most hikes. I also have an old pair of North Face waterproof shoes (now less waterproof) but, while they were convenient for dog walks, I found my ankles were left aching when I used them for longer distances. So what has changed? Well, I was recently sent a pair of Keen Targee II walking shoes to review by Webtogs, and over the last 100 miles I have learnt to love them!
[Disclosure – these shoes were provided by Webtogs for me to give my own personal opinions on them and they have no influence on these personal views and no editorial control. Webtogs have a whole range of walking shoes available on their site]
I have to admit, it was love at first sight as I took them out of the box – with the chunky tread, the big toe protector (which I like) and the brindle and ochre colours (in my opinion nicer than the black olive / jester red and dark shadow / harvest gold colours schemes available), they really look the part!
The product description for the Keen Targhee II’s has the usual ‘marketing speak’ to describe all the features – I will let Gareth from Webtogs explain about the ‘torsion stability EES shank’ before I go through what they are actually like to wear!
As a first date, I decided to head to Salcey Forest to walk the 2 mile Chapel Path – so I laced up the shoes, grabbed the dog, and headed towards the car. Immediately out of the door, I stopped to re-lace, and again in the car park, and twice more throughout the walk. Although the shoes were very comfortable under foot, they either felt too loose at the rear or too tight on top. To continue the analogy, I had discovered my seemingly perfect date has a really annoying laugh!
Initially I wondered if the shoes were loose because they were too big, however any bigger and my toes would be pressing against the solid toe protector. I have never considered my feet, especially the heels, to be particularly thin, but there was definitely too much width at the back. The shoes have a strap going around the back attached to the laces, however if you try to tie the laces too tight, the pressure is forced onto the top of your foot where some padding is missing from the tongue. A diagram may help:
In order to tighten the strap at the back (arrow 1), attached to the laces (arrow 2), you need to tighten the laces (arrow 3) – however this puts pressure on the part of tongue without padding (area 4 – presumably missed out to improve movement), causing discomfort and bruising on the top of your foot.
Not to be put off, the following day I went on another date – this time a 16 mile hike on varied terrain in North Bedfordshire. Although it still took me a few attempts to tie the laces satisfactory, I started perfecting the art of tightening the laces, then pulling away from the shoe (in the direction of arrow 2) to tighten the strap without tightening the laces further, before securing. By the end of the walk my feet were still bruised and some skin had rubbed on both heels (a potential blister site), but I have found since that, with a bit of practice, this mostly solves the problem. With the lacing issue sorted, I could get on with enjoying some more dates trying out some of the Targhee II’s features.
I usually suffer quite badly with sore balls of my feet if I do a lot of miles on hard terrain, but the Targhee II’s seemed to do a good job at keeping it to a minimum. This is presumably thanks to the metatomical tri-density footbed (curved footbed to fit the shape of your foot for extra comfort) and the S3 heel support structure (Keen’s Shock, Suspension and Stability technology to support the foot on impact and dissipate shock). Also unlike my ex-walking shoes, I suffered few problems with my ankles. The shoes generally are comfortable, and I quite often find I leave them on all day after a lunchtime dog walk). I initially found I was scuffing my feet, especially the toe protector, but once I got used to the chunkiness (they are reassuringly sturdy) this stopped.
I took every opportunity to try and test the grip available (i.e. walking through all the muddy bits) – grip out in the field is fairly subjective, but I certainly felt like the grip performed well on a variety of surfaces and inclines, especially on gravely paths, mud and (on a later trip to the Peak District) wet grass. Unfortunately during the month I have had the shoes, I could only test the shoes on wet rock once (one wet rock in fact) – it is hardly conclusive, but I did not have as much grip as I would have expected.
Although I like the look of the big toe protector, it is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. It is certainly useful though – a horse decided to tread on my foot (a test I do not plan to repeat), but the toe protector did a good job of soaking up most of the impact. Overall the shoes feel rugged and tough.
It is safe to say that the shoes are waterproof! Not being one to keep away from puddles if given the opportunity, I put the shoes through vigorous testing in a range of puddles, streams and walking through wet grass, and my feet remained dry*. The Targhee II’s use Keen proprietary system ‘Keen.Dry’ which is “waterproof, breathable membrane that lets moisture out without letting water in”. My feet usually get quite hot, but it certainly seemed as if sweat was not as much of a problem as usual, and even after 100 miles (and wearing casually during the day) the shoes still smell fairly fresh. [* except when I misjudged the size of a puddle – the shoes quickly dried out though!]
So… love at first sight, but a tricky first few dates. Will it be happy ever after?
Now I have mastered how to tie them properly, I love these shoes, although they still do not completely feel secure at the back (especially in mud when they sometimes feel like they could get sucked off), but there are other things I can try like the Gel Heel Cups suggested by Martin to improve this further. Overall though these shoes are comfortable, breathable and have good grip (and they look great) – since they arrived, my Brasher Supalites have sat looking neglected in the corner, and there are few occasions where I can see myself swapping back to them (except my trip to Dartmoor next weekend perhaps!). It is probably a bit early to talk about moving in, but these shoes get my thumbs up!
- wider than usual, which can cause fitting issues
- past experience makes me mistrust fabric lace loops (they are usually the first things to go)
- comfortable for long distances
- waterproof and breathable
Weight: Just over 500g each for UK size 10.5
Price: £80.99 from Webtogs
UPDATE: 7th December 2011
I have grown to really love these walking shoes. Although the lacing system is still annoying, I have worn them for nearly every single one of the 700 miles I have walked since they arrived on my doorstep. I can confirm my initial impression that the treads offer little grip on wet rock, however I am also now starting to think the grip has reduced on wet grass and mud. The tread is still the same depth, however the ‘chunks’ have been rounded at the edges, which may be causing this (or it may be all in my head). The shoes are now also starting to wear – not at the lace loops, which I would have expected – but around the back near the heel. I would be surprised if they last beyond another 300 miles – about 1000 miles in total (with a bit of casual wear thrown in for good measure!)