Karhu (sports brand)

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Product typeSportswear, sporting goods
OwnerKarhu Holding B.V.
Websitehttp://www.karhu.com, http://www.karhuski.fi, http://www.karhusportswear.fi, http://www.karhupesis.fi

Karhu is a Finnish sports brand. Karhu, meaning bear in Finnish, was first used as a sporting goods brand in 1916 by the Finnish company Ab Sport Artiklar. The brand is currently owned by Karhu Holding B.V., which purchased it in 2008, and is used to market running shoes, sportswear, and skiing and other sports equipment in Finland and abroad.


The Karhu brand was established in Finland in 1916 by the company Ab Sport Artiklar, which used a bear as its logo. In 1920, Ab Sport Artiklar changed its name to Karhu. In addition to the discuses and javelins that were Karhu's main products, the company also produced running shoes and track spikes.[1]

The Karhu brand featured prominently at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games, where Finnish athletes took all three medals in javelin using Karhu javelins,[2] and the "Flying Finns" took five gold medals on the track wearing Karhu spikes. Four years later, at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Paavo Nurmi won five gold medals in track events "wearing a conspicuous pair of white Karhu running spikes".[2]

In the 1930s Karhu's production expanded to include cross-country and ski jumping skis. During the Winter War and Continuation War, from 1939–1945, Karhu produced snow-camouflage suits, tents and skis for the Finnish military.[1]

In 1952, Karhu sold the three stripes trademark it had been using to a then little known German brand called Adidas for the equivalent of 1600 euros and two bottles of whiskey.[2][3] In the 1960s Karhu began to use the M-logo,[1] which is still in use on Karhu shoes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Karhu's innovations included the first use of nylon and air cushioning in running shoes. The 1960s also saw the development of Karhu's line of pesäpallo (Finnish baseball) equipment. In 1966, the Karhu company changed its name to Oy Urheilu Karhu Sport Ab, and in 1972 to Karhu-Titan.[1]

By the 1980s the brand had started to struggle and sold off its outdoor shoe division to Merrell. However, a collaboration of research and design with the University of Jyväskylä led to the development of "Fulcrum technology".[clarification needed]

In 1997, Karhu-Titan's name changed to Karhu Sporting Goods.[1] In 2008, Karhu Sporting Goods sold the Karhu brand to Karhu Holding B.V., a Dutch holding company led by Huub Valkenburg and Jay Duke.[4][5]

Current use of the brand[edit]

The Karhu brand is owned by Karhu Holding B.V. and is licensed to several different manufacturers. Karhu Holding B.V. itself produces Karhu branded running shoes. Karhu skis continue to be produced by Karhu Sporting Goods, which in 2010 changed its name to Karhu Ski and in 2012 to Kitee Ski, as the licensing rights for Karhu skis was transferred to Startex.[6] Karhu sportswear, including the official apparel of the Finnish national track and field team, is produced by the Naantali, Finland based Appleby Finland Oy. L-Tec Sports, based in Porvoo, Finland, produces Karhu branded pesäpallo (a derivative of baseball) and floorball equipment. Products branded as Karhu Fitness Equipment are produced by Truebell Finland Oy, located in Vantaa, Finland.[1] More recentally Karhu signed an important Ethical partnership with CIP for dress the Italian Paralympic Committee at the 2016 Summer Paralympics Rio 2016.

Karhu shoes[edit]

Karhu's main line of running shoes is based on their "Fulcrum Technology", which has been developed in cooperation with the University of Jyväskylä since the 1980s. The line includes several models for both men and women, intended to suit different types of pronation and training, off-road or trail running shoes and racing needs.

In 2009, the Karhu Fulcrum Strong model of running shoe was awarded "Best Debut" by Runner's World magazine.[7]

The Karhu brand has also been used for a line of casual shoes called Karhu Originals. Karhu Originals are a range of retro inspired footwear, which were nominated for "Sneaker of the Year 2005" at the Global Sports Style Awards in Munich in 2005.[8]

Karhu skis[edit]

Approximately 200,000 pairs of Karhu branded skis are sold in Finland each year. The major export markets for Karhu skis are Sweden, Japan, Estonia and Germany. Production of Karhu skis ended in spring 2013 at Kitee Ski oy (known until 2012 as Karhu Ski oy) in Kitee, Finland.[9] The licensing and marketing of Karhu skis were transferred in September 2012 to Startex oy, a Finnish firm known for its ski wax products.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Vehmanen, Jukka (18 December 2010). "Karhu kirmaisee juoksuun". Turun Sanomat (in Finnish). Turku, Finland. p. 12.
  2. ^ a b c Smit, Barbara (2007). Pitch Invasion, Adidas, Puma and the making of modern sport. Penguin. p. 44. ISBN 0-14-102368-6.
  3. ^ Simon Chadwick, Dave Arthur (2007). International cases in the business of sport. Butterworth-Heinemann. p. 438. ISBN 0-7506-8543-3.
  4. ^ "Industry Veterans Acquire Finnish Running Brand, KARHU". PRNewswire. 25 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Karhu-merkki tallustaa ulkomaille". Taloussanomat. 25 June 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Karhun lisenssioikeus vaihtoi omistajaa". Kauppalehti. 13 September 2012.
  7. ^ http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/shoefinder_detail/1,,s6-240-325-329-0-0-0-0-1599,00.html
  8. ^ http://www.karhuoriginals.fi/news.php?n=6
  9. ^ Itkonen, Anja (18 December 2010). "Hiihtobuumi ja pitopohja vahvistavat suksiyhtiöitä". Turun Sanomat (in Finnish). Turku, Finland. p. 12.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hannu Teider (2006). Karhun aika 90-vuotis juhlakirja 1916-2006 (in Finnish). Karhu. ISBN 952-92-1206-2.

External links[edit]