The top 8 stores to buy hiking boots in Toronto
Hiking boots in Toronto are easy to find if you know where to look. And it's a good thing. In the GTA we're lucky enough to have access to plenty of hiking trails and provincial parks, all within relatively close proximity to Toronto's limits. Whether you're portaging deep into Algonquin Park or simply hiking the Humber River, the most important piece of gear to own is an appropriate pair or hiking boots or shoes.
Hiking boots range in design from low cut to high cut, lightweight to waterproof. Here are my picks for 8 stores in Toronto to find the perfect hiking boots.
Mountain Equipment Co-op
400 King Street West
MEC has been a mainstay in Toronto since it first expanded to Hogtown in 1985. When people in the city think of buying a tent, backpack, or climbing gear, they invariably think of MEC. The same can be said when people are looking for hiking boots. They carry a wide range of brands including Asolo, Salomon, Mammut, Scarpa, Vasque, Garmont, and Keen. MEC is also the only store in the GTA that carries Zamberlan, the high-end boot company out of Italy.
MEC offers the advantage of being a bigger store, while not compromising on staff expertise. Also, their online shop allows customers to check prices, and even purchase their boots from home [only recommended if you've tried them on or worn a specific model before]. Shipping is free anywhere in Canada with a purchase exceeding $50. MEC also price matches on identical products found anywhere in the country. A one-time $5 membership fee is charged, making you a member of the co-op for life.
137 Chrislea Road Unit 1, Vaughan
SAIL is a newcomer to the outdoors store scene in the GTA. Based in Quebec, SAIL recently expanded into Ontario and opened stores in Vaughan and Oshawa. A third Ontario location is slated to open in Burlington sometime this spring. Similar in size and scope to Bass Pro Shops, SAIL succeeds where Bass Pro has failed - in the hiking boots department. SAIL carries an impressive array of brands that run the gamut from entry-level selections like The North Face and Salomon, to premium names like Mammut, and even super-premium like Lowa. Other brands carried are: Merrell, Patagonia, Keen, and Ecco. SAIL is definitely a place to check out for hiking boots, especially if you live close to Vaughan.
383 King Street W, 47 Front Street E, 337 Queen Street E - Outlet
Although some may shy away from Europe Bound because of the cluttered appearance, their stores offer a wide selection of hiking boots. Europe Bound carries hikers by Asolo, Mammutt Merrell, Keen, Lowa, Vasque, Patagonia, and more. Whether you're an expert hiker, or simply a weekend warrior, Europe Bound has something for everyone. Their Queen Street outlet location is always worth checking out as well. The outlet offers leftovers from previous seasons, and other select models, all at 50% off the original price. Finding popular sizes can be tricky, but if you find something that fits, you're getting a steal.
Le Baron Outdoor Products
8365 Woodbine Avenue, Markham; 1590 Dundas Street W, Mississauga
This family owned and operated store places an emphasis on price and offers a good selection of boots. I have found their staff at the Markham location to be especially knowledgeable and attentive. Le Baron carries Garmont, Keen, Salomon, and has recently added Merrell and Patagonia to their lineup. Le Baron typically only does one order for hiking boots which arrives in early spring. Get there early for the best selection, as stock will dwindle as the season progresses.
They offer free store-to-store transfer if another one of their locations has your size or a certain boot you want. Their membership card [10% for 1 year at a cost of $25] can amount to great savings if you're outfitting your family, or buying additional items. Look for discounts during Christmas, in March during the Sportsman's Show, and at other random times during the year where they pay the tax on all purchases. Beware of their archaic website [currently being modernized] and their strict 10 day exchange and return policy.
950 Kingston Road
Threads has been constantly expanding since it first opened in the Beaches in 2003. Having moved to their third, progressively larger, location, Threads is known for their extremely friendly and knowledgeable service. Although their boot selection does not quite compare with the other stores mentioned in this article, Threads has competitive prices, and a level of customer service that some of the bigger stores lack. You can find brands like The North Face and Merrell at Threads.
Multiple locations in the GTA
New Balance, although well known for their running shoes, carries a selection of light-hiking and walking shoes. With multiple locations across the GTA, New Balance is the perfect place for beginners and for people who hike maintained trails. New Balance's retail locations offer customers the advantage of buying hiking boots and shoes from somewhere that actually specializes in footwear. Models that are not available through their store can be special ordered through their website with an additional delivery charge of $25. To save that $25, opt to have them shipped to New Balance's Yonge Street location and the charge will be waived.
Multiple locations in the GTA
Atmosphere, once known as Coast Mountain Sports, is owned by the same company that owns other chains like Sport Chek, National Sports, and Nevada Bob's Golf. Atmosphere can be a good bet when you're looking for hiking boots because of the large amount of stock they keep. Unlike smaller, independent stores in the GTA, Atmosphere has access to a large network of stores throughout Canada that can ease the burden of finding sizes or models that other retailers may be sold out of. Although they should not be your first stop, as their prices can be on the higher end of the spectrum, Atmosphere does carry well-known brands like Merrell, North Face, Solomon, Marmot, and Patagonia.
500 King Street West
Well known for their outdoor apparel, Patagonia's boots and shoes are carried by the aforementioned MEC and Europe Bound. However, look for Patagonia's King Street store to start carrying some footwear as well. Although their retail store has typically only carried clothing in the past, they will be bringing in some footwear in the near future, and one can assume the models will differ from those carried by other retailers in the area. Stay tuned.
Writing by Alexander Bruni