On the front foot #2 – Karhu

Finland is known for many things.

Despite it famously enjoying weeks of darkness during winter, it’s actually regularly recognised as the happiest nation on earth, perhaps because the flipside to that darkness is the opposite during summer, when long days and midnight sun are present.

The home of Nokia, Angry Birds and Moomins has left its mark on the world as a progressive, humble, sensitive, intelligent nation so it’s no surprise to see one of the globe’s most pioneering footwear brands has its roots in the country of 6 million people.

Karhu – the Finnish word for bear – was founded in 1916, at a time when Finland was still just about part of the Russian Empire. Originally called “Oy Urheilutarpeita”, the switch to Karhu came in 1920, a year when Karhu sports equipment featured prominently in the Antwerp Olympic Games. Four years later in Paris, the same was true and the brand had cemented its reputation.

Like many burgeoning sportswear brands of the early 20th century, its destiny was thrown off course by World War 2, during which it repurposed its expertise to provide snow camo clothing, skis and tents, plus other equipment to the Finnish military.

Famously, in 1952, Karhu’s registration of the three stripe trademark shifted to a German brand called adidas, who paid them the equivalent of 1600 euros and two bottles of whiskey in return. Karhu then created a new logo based on the letter M, inspired by another Finnish word ‘Mestari’ which means Master. This branding remains key to Karhu to this day.

Image via The Deffest

By the 1980s, the modern embodiment of Karhu began to form, building on decades of sporting expertise to create market-leading running footwear. Working with scientists at the University of Jyväskylä, Karhu developed ‘fulcrum’ technology, winning them awards with key running authorities. This helped them (literally) plant their feet in the sports footwear market as an innovator, challenging much bigger brands with vast resources.

Image via The Deffest

Today, with an established authenticity, Karhu offer a range of footwear with a sporting heritage, but a modern lifestyle purpose. Models like the Fusion 2.0, Legacy 96, Trampas and Synchron are regular features on the shelves of some of our favourite retailers.

Having celebrated a century of sporting goods in 2016, Karhu is showing no signs of slowing up.

Shop all Karhu at Eqvvs here.

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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