A Brief History
New to size? this season – Karhu’s story stretches way back to 1916 when Finnish sportswear manufacturers Ab Sportartiklar Oy set up a small workshop in downtown Helsinki. From humble beginnings sustainably crafting locally sourced birch into skis and javelins, the brand also began their foray into footwear, kitting out Finnish athletes with running track spikes that would power them to success and earn them the name ‘The Flying Finns’.
Finnish for ‘bear’, it wasn’t until 1920 the brand became known as Karhu, and they were soon one of the biggest players in the sportswear game.
They completely dominated on the world stage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, with 15 athletes winning gold while donning Karhu spikes and where better to do it than in the brand’s hometown.
Looking back at images of those games now, you may mistake Karhu’s striped footwear for another well-known sports manufacturer. Trivia time: Karhu was the first brand to sport three stripe branding on their shoes. They sold the three-stripe trademark on to another sportswear company for around €1600 and two bottles of whiskey and the rest, as they say, is history.
Decade after decade, Karhu has continued to manufacture innovative footwear and we’re honoured to be welcoming Karhu to the size? roster this season. We’re stocking a selection of classic runners from the brand’s ‘Gelato’ Collection, so let’s take a look, shall we…
The ‘Gelato Pack’
You may never have guessed it, but despite the country’s cooler climes, Finland is still one of the highest consumers of ice cream per capita in the world. Take a trip down any Finnish high street in the summer and you’re sure to stumble across an abundance of ice cream vendors serving up a plentiful selection of unique flavours. There’s liquorice, arctic cloudberry, and for the daring of you out there, there’s the smoky flavoured ‘Terva’ – derived from pine tree tar!
You may be wondering where we’re going with all this ice cream chat, but it’s this Finnish favourite which serves as the inspiration for their ‘Gelato’ footwear pack. Just like the mass of frozen treats enjoyed in the Finnish sunshine, both Karhu’s Albatross and ChampionAir silhouettes arrive in a cohort of flavoursome colours. Keep on reading and we’ll shed some light on the history of the classic runners.
ChampionAir – 1977
Touching down in ’77 the ChampionAir has sold over 1,000,000 pairs around the globe since its inception.
When you mention the word ‘Air’ another sports company may spring to mind, but it was Karhu who developed and patented the first trailblazing ‘Air Cushion’ midsole in 1976. The nifty piece of tech has been replicated plenty of times over the years, but it was a real gamechanger back in the ’70s and helped propel Karhu to new levels of stardom.
The ChampionAir was the first model to be fuelled by their innovative Air Cushion tech, quickly becoming a favourite amongst competitive runners thanks to its plentiful colour options and supportive Air cushioning setting it apart from anything else on the market. Its breathable mesh and pigskin suede build provide you with enduring comfort, while its traction rubber outsole keeps you glued to the track.
Albatross – 1982
Launched in 1982, the Albatross is one of the most iconic Karhu runners to boast they’re patented Air Cushion tech in the midsole. Coined the ‘Albatross’ for sharing the same ability to seamlessly glide on air as the seabird, the lightweight pair caught the attention of both men and women thanks to its cloud-like cushioning and simple design. Up top, the model sports a comfortable combination of nylon and pigskin suede, with leather used for the M-symbol sidewall branding.
The Karhu ‘Gelato’ collection is available online and in selected size? stores now, priced between £75– £85.