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Karhu was first mentioned in 1916. Now that we are a century later, the sports brand can look back on a rich history. With their biomechanical approach and focus on efficient running, Karhu manages to win a lot of hearts.

Vision of Karhu

Karhu, which literally means “bear” in Finnish, has already earned its stripes in the past. You can safely interpret that in different ways, because until 1952 you could recognize the brand by the “Three Stripes’. Among others, athletics legends Paavo Nurmi and Emil Zatopek ran to eternal fame with Karhu’s footwear. From 1960, they laid claim to the M symbol as their badge, derived from the Finnish word Mestari meaning champion, and the little bear. In the 90s and 00s there was less activity at the Finnish sports brand, but now it is impossible to imagine our running store without their models.
What should you know about this particular sports brand? Runners’ lab asked Huub Valkenburg, the CEO of Karhu.
“Our vision is slightly different from the bulk of the brands, but in my opinion it fits well with that of Runners’ lab. That is also why after all these years Jempi still has that warm Karhu heart and we went straight to him when taking our new start. We take care to preserve the Finnish identity and work strongly from a biomechanical point of view. With the insights we gain, we want runners of any level to enjoy running by making them run faster, further or easier. At Karhu, we look at what the runner needs and not what hypes are going round at the time. We focus on the runner and the foot so we can be more efficient no matter what level of performance. Our biggest challenge is to find the golden mean between a stiff, and therefore efficient shoe and a soft, comfortable shoe. Everyone wants the function of rolling off easily, but no one wants to feel like they are standing on something hard.”

Fulcrum technology for more efficient running

Fulcrum technology makes it possible to combine the two. It not only stimulates a more efficient gait, but also a more forward motion.

“In 1986, Karhu introduced Fulcrum technology in its running shoes. This timeless rolling system contributes to better roll-off and decreases pressure under the foot. As pressure decreases, so do potential side effects. Runners who tend to overpronate will do so more slowly, which also reduces the maximum degree of overpronation. Many have a misinterpretation of what cushioning should mean. It should reduce pressure rather than cause you to spring more. A runner goes up and down an average of 10 inches with each step while running. Fulcrum technology brings that down by 10-13% so less energy is wasted. That may sound very little, but if you think about how many steps you take during a five-kilometer run, you’re quickly talking about a lot of étages. Because less energy is wasted, you have more energy left over to devote to a more efficient push-off, which in turn puts less pressure on your knees and hips.”

High Volume

Over the years, Karhu not only conducted intensive research on how to guide runners of any level to efficient running. The importance of a good fit also proved to be a priority in this process. Huub explained further.

“Fits of shoes are very personal. For example, our own research shows that the average runner has a slightly wider foot than the width of most shoes circulating on the market. Contrary to popular belief, we observed that ladies do not necessarily have less wide feet than men at all. The width of women’s feet matches that of men’s, but generally their foot arch is slightly lower. Our “High Volume” models (HiVo) were the product that followed from the results of intensive research. By offering different fits, we can do much more for the average runner.”

Longer lifespan

In recent years, the durability of running shoes has been a hot topic of discussion. The days when running shoes could effortlessly display 2,000 kilometers on their abacus are behind us. Therefore, Karhu tries to use the right materials and production process to significantly extend the life of their shoes.

“Karhu is a brand that does very well in terms of shoe durability. On the one hand, this has to do with our material construction. In addition, especially efficient running makes shoes last longer. You wear out a shoe much faster if you have less efficiency. The fact that our shoes are not too soft will also play a role. Moreover, all developments take place in Europe, which guarantees slightly better quality,” says the CEO.

Available at Runners’ lab

The Karhu Ikoni Ortix, both the standard fit and the HiVO, and the Synchron Ortix are two models that fully reflect the brand’s identity. Both models are available online and in our physical stores. Runners’ lab is therefore proud to be the only one in Belgium to offer these models exclusively. Check them out online for more info or make an appointment in one of our stores to discover them and for personalized advice.