Black Toe Running
Black Toe Running is more than just a place to buy a pair of new sneakers. With a name that invokes all the gruesome idiosyncrasies that long distance runners suffer from, this store takes the sport seriously and has the services to prove it.
You'd expect them to sell the latest shoes, clothing and running accessories - and they do, but that's about all that's predictable at this Bathurst and King store. A hybrid collection of everything for runners meshes here with running groups (free) and training (not) to provide downtown urban runners a distinct option when they're shopping for new kicks, or need a swift kick to get moving.
After years of research on the market and conducting mini focus groups, Maya and Mike Anderson, the store's married co-owners, set their sights on the new build-spot that is now home to Black Toe Running. After working at a bank for 17 years, Mike felt the time was right for a new store that offers all the latest running gear, support and advice, with a modern look to match the city surroundings.
Finding shoes is a much more tactile experience than the traditional shoe wall that flanks most fitness stores - here, the shoes are lined up on a table covered in cemented foot prints (contributed by the store's hardcore fans). With brands like Nike, New Balance, Asics and the ultra-niche Altra, Black Toe doesn't just provide the shoes - they spend time fitting you with them to ensure race ready performance (from the shoes, anyway).
Chain link fence walls add a gritty vibe, and double as hanging space for clothing. The bleachers are a great spot to stretch your hammies or actually try on some merchandise.
Black Toe also does events like Nike Run's popular Queen West run and offers weekly runs for all skill levels, starting at 5km and working up to 30km (or more). Most of the staff are athletes in their own right, but are sublimely humble; they are there to guide you and help you get to your goals, not bask in theirs.
Check out Black Toe on Facebook for a list of their weekly runs and meet-ups.
Photos by James C Lee .