I was grinding my way through a previous set of hiker-style boots I had that, as every other hiker-style boot I’ve had, was starting to delaminate at the toe. That set of boots—which I did like—were what I’ve come to learn is the new normal in hiker-style boots: Waterproof.

The idea, it seems, is that they work kind of like housewrap or Gore-Tex: They let moisture out, but don’t allow it to come in. And, for the most part, that was the case. That said, they didn’t let it all out and my feet were clammy enough at the ends of long days.

Keen Targhee hiker is jobsite ready.
Keen Targhee hiker is jobsite ready.

So, when facing the wall of shoes and boots at the store (I still buy shoes the old-fashioned way), I looked for a pair that wasn’t waterproof and the Keen Targhee was one of the few I did manage to find.

For the work I do—both interior and exterior remodeling—a big ole honkin’ work boot doesn’t do it for me. Either they’re too clunky pounding through somebody’s living room or hard to curl up when I need to sweat a pipe in a cramped location or work on my knees. Or, they’re just plain hot. So, I’ve settled on hiker-style boots for their blend of flexibility, support, and almost-ruggedness. And even though the Targhee is from Keen’s hiker (versus work boot) line, it hung in there until there was no there there. I’ll explain that in a sec.

Even with the toe delaminating after 6-months in the field, the footwear performed.
Even with the toe delaminating after 6-months in the field, the footwear performed.

First, it took about six months of deck building (if you build a lot of decks, check out this great article on outdoor kitchen design in Remodeling), beam setting, sitting at my desk, tiling, mowing my grass, and more for the Targhees to show any sign of actual break-down, other than the sole wearing normally, which was a delamination of materials at the toe. Even with the developing tear, the boots performed. I built a deck on the world’s muddiest, wettest jobsite and my feet were darn near bone dry. That’s good for a boot that’s not waterproof.

For going in and out of houses, the tread isn’t super knobby tire-like so the risk of pebbles being lodged in there isn’t huge, and they’re easy on interior surfaces. They lace up easily and the laces didn’t break or even show any real signs of wear.

Laces and overmolded toe box shoe no signs of significant wear. The heel had worn down a bit.
Laces and overmolded toe box shoe no signs of significant wear. The heel had worn down a bit.

All told, it was a rugged boot that worked from ladder rungs to pergola building to decking to laundry room repair and everything in between.

The only reason I say “worked” instead of “still work” has more to do with me than the boots. Once enough miles are put on any shoe or boot I wear and the cushioning is smushed, my legs and back feel it almost immediately. There’s no there there anymore. I suppose a Dr. Scholl’s or some such device could help. If that’s not a problem for you, you’ll get more mileage than I did out of these. And no swamp foot at the end of the day.

More about KEEN Utility
Find products, contact information and articles about KEEN Utility