If you’re looking to get well-heeled without shoehorning your style, these 5 hidden gems have got sure fits for your feet
If the shoe fits, wear it, so the saying goes, but when you're looking for shoes that leave a unique footprint, head to one of these Vancouver treasure troves, where well-heeled takes on a whole new meaning.
Whether you're looking for fancy Italian pumps, practical work boots or stylin' sneakers, you'll find original selections from these local purveyors of some of the finest footwear around.
And yes, your feet will thank you.
Just a few decades ago, the Commercial Drive neighbourhood was known as Little Italy and was packed full of Italian family-owned businesses, from delis to tailors to coffee shops. Several of these stores still exist and thrive on the famous East Van strip between Hastings and 12th Ave.
Kalena’s is one of those places, started by Carmine and Isa, a young newlywed couple, who, in 1967, wanted to bring quality, stylish Italian goods to Vancouver. Kalena’s is still family owned and operated and caters to those who yearn for classy European fashion.
The Commercial Drive store sells every style of shoe to suit any taste: boots, sandals, heels, slippers, and even "dance shoes." Kalena’s also sells fine Italian leather handbags, belts, and wallets. There are styles for men, women, and children, staying true to the original owners’ mission to bring well-crafted Italian fashions to all.
1526 Commercial Drive, two blocks north of E 1st Ave.
The definition of a blast from the past, Dayton Boots has been handcrafting quality leather boots in the same factory store in East Vancouver since the 1950s. In fact, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation designated the factory as a Place That Matters. Reading the store’s history is a veritable trip back in time.
Dayton doesn’t make just your average boots either. There are over 230 steps in the making of a pair of Dayton Boots, a process used by only 3% of the world’s bootmakers today.
Dayton’s biker boots, urban boots, and work boots are made for both men and women from tier-one cowhide leather with 100% leather insoles and midsoles. They also carry a lifetime warranty.
These boots are clearly made for both walking and standing the test of time.
2250 East Hastings, one block west of Nanaimo St.
La Differencia is Vancouver's newest hidden gem shoe store. A celebration of the colourful and unusual, La Differencia stocks its gorgeous two-level brick store in Gastown with unique clothing and shoes from every corner of the globe.
Its shoes all hail from Europe and are made in small batches in small factories in Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, including Felmini and Pataugas, and the funky Water Street shop is as colourful as its global sources.
131 Water St., at Abbott
After you check out La Differencia, head down the street to Livestock and make a day of it.
Livestock specializes in bright and funky skate shoes and sneakers, carrying the newest designs from Adidas, ALife, New Balance, and Nike, to name a few. Like its fellow Gastown cousin, La Differencia also carries clothing to complete your urban outfit.
In each of its three locations (including one in Toronto), Livestock is committed to its community, throwing neighbourhood block parties and supporting club nights atFortune Sound Clubthroughout the year. It's also all over social media with active Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. Yet, somehow, it still manages to fly under the radar.
239 Abbott St., and 1709 W. 4th Ave.
Army & Navy
With locations in Vancouver, New Westminster, Langley, Calgary, and Edmonton, Army & Navy is a department store with wallet-friendly prices and quality bargains.
But it's the 94-year old store’s annual shoe sale that draws crowds of shoe lovers hungry for steals on a range of brand-name and designer shoes at discount prices.
If you’re not afraid of throwing some elbows to get a pair of the season’s coveted Coach flats or Betsey Johnson heels, mark April 24 on your calendar and get ready.
Last year’s sale had 100,000 shoes marked down to $40 or less (sometimes from an $800 retail price!) and attracted 3,000 shoe shoppers.
36 W. Cordova, between Carroll and Abbott