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Kit review: ‘Keen’ to take you off-road

Written by Fiona November 25 2010

Anyone who has seen my Keen Targhee II off-road shoes either immediately loves them – or asks about them. Not everyone thinks the look of the walking footwear is as funky and desirable as I do but then we are all have our own tastes.

Strangely, I’m not usually a fan of wide-ish shoes but I have always liked the round-toed style. Don’t ask me why but I just like the design of these Keen shoes.

Then again, looks do not really matter when it comes to countryside walks and hillside strolls. It’s the feel, comfort, robustness and all-round usefulness of a walking boot or shoes that is important.

Let’s look at the technical stuff. The Keen Targhee IIs hikers are, according to the Keen website: “Ready for your off-road challenges. The KEEN.DRY membrane creates a waterproof seal. A removable metatomical footbed quickly molds to your foot’s shape for personalised comfort. Breathable and durable, the leather and mesh upper lets you meet challenges with confidence.”

Features include:

– 4mm multi directional lugs
– Dual Density Compression Molded EVA Midsole
– KEEN.DRY® waterproof breathable membrane (in non -technical speak this means they keep the water and rain out but they also allow your foot to breath so that it doesn’t sweat.)
– Non-marking rubber outsole
– Patented toe protection
– Removable metatomical Footbed
– S3 Heel support structure
– Torsion stability ESS shank (in non-technical terms this means your foot feels nice a stable when laced into the shoe.)

What I think: Since receiving the Keen Targhee IIs I have tested them in a variety of off-road terrains:

* They have been for several trail walks in a range of weathers.

* They have been walked along a muddy riverside path.

* They have also summitted a wet, muddy and slippery hill.

To be honest, in the first few weeks, I wasn’t all that keen (hmmm, no pun intended!) on getting these shoes muddy. I thought they looked too good to be messed up and to start with I wore them to go shopping and for street-style walking only. Oh, and I also wore them to the pub and to a friend’s house for tea and in the house and pretty much everywhere except on muddy trails and hills.

Eventually, though, I gave in to the need to “properly” test them and headed off on off-road trails and where the puddles were deep and dirty.

In all conditions the Targhees coped really well. The shoes have good grip and offer firm foot placing. I like to be able to tie my laces nice and tightly and to feel as though my foot is held firmly and comfortably within a walking shoe and the Targhees did a good job of this. The laces have a sort of non slip structure to them, which means they do not loosen off once tied. The insoles are comfortable and my feet felt an all-round snugness in the Targhees.

The hiking shoes were also lightweight and when I needed to run (after a fast disappearing pal’s dog!) I did so with ease and comfort. Many other walking shoes and boots are too bulky and restrictive to allow for a good running stride.

One problem I have in the winter months is keeping my feet warm but thanks to the wider fit and roomy toe area I could wear two pairs of thinner socks, or one really thick pair, such as the fabby Woolpower socks and my latest find, the Heat Holder socks (soon to be reviewed). Even with very thick socks my toes still had room to wiggle, which is vital for keeping the blood flowing.

I also like the shape of the shoe upper. I sometimes find that the back end of the upper on walking-specific footwear (as opposed to boots) can knock against my ankle bone. But no such problems happened in the Keen shoe.

If you’re looking for a casual-style shoe for a range of general winder conditions, for example walking the kids to school, taking the dog for a stroll or heading to a country pub or your friend’s house for tea, then this Keen style doubles up perfectly. The website even offers you a view of what the footwear will look like when worn with dark blue and medium blue jeans!

I now feel a bit sad that my shoes are a little dirty and worn in. Perhaps I should buy another pair  of Keens for “best” and to wear with my smartest jeans and keep the original pair for the muddy trails and my scruffy outdoors trousers!

* Buy on-line at Keen for £89.99. I notice, too, that these Keen shoes and a range of others in this funky portfolio are also sold on one of my favourite outdoors on-line sites Webtogs.

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