The Kanye-Approved Sneaker That Sold Its Stripes to Adidas

Meet Karhu

When scrolling through Instagram, it feels like every influencer, celebrity and all of your friends are wearing the same sneakers. While it’s fun to get your hands on anticipated sneaker drops, diversifying your collection can help elevate your taste, outfits and street cred. 

The revitalization of the chunky “dad-shoe” has given momentum to brands that once might not have received the same attention. There’s one brand in particular that has been around for over 100 years and is the best brand you might not know. Yet.

Karhu, which translates to bear in Finnish, has been at the forefront of sneaker technology and culture for the past century. Started in 1916 in Finland, Karhu was worn by gold medalists in multiple Olympics, including 15 gold medal winners in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Then, Karhu sold its “three stripes” trademark. In 1970, Karhu revolutionized sneakers by developing the first patented “air cushion” midsole system, later replicated by every major sneaker company. 

Recently, celebrities like Shia LaBeouf and even Kanye West have been spotted wearing the brand. The brand’s signatures include mixing colors and ensuring that every shoe comes in a unisex run for broad appeal.

karhu shia lebeouf 1
Shia LaBeouf and FKA Twigs on the Seine. / Melodie Jeng//GC Image
karhu shia lebeouf 2
Melodie Jeng//GC Image

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best colorways and silhouettes from Karhu to amplify your rotation.

1. Karhu Synchron Classic “Cross-Country Ski Pack” in Night Sky/Monument

karhu sneaker mint

What Karhu says:

The category of shoes known as the Synchron made their debut in the 1980s. The research and design team wanted to provide a better-fitting upper and created this innovative lacing system for added comfort and durability. 

Why we love it: 

The Synchron Classic is not only a staple within the brand, but it is also one of the most eye-catching models from Karhu. The array of colors complemented by the silhouette’s color blocking pattern makes this pair a must-have, whatever the season.

Karhu, $135

2. Karhu Aria 95 in Opal Gray/Liberty

karhu sneaker purple

What Karhu says:

The Aria 95 featured technological innovations in the running footwear sector: an internal carbon fiber fulcrum in the midsole for a smooth transition, and a single tongue upper construction for added comfort.

Why we love it:

The upper’s construction is designed to hug your feet for a snug and comfortable experience. In addition, the back heel tab features a ventilated system to keep you feeling light and fresh. The multicolored outsole goes so well with the upper, so this pair is a fun way to introduce color into your wardrobe.

Karhu, $130

3. Karhu ChampionAir “Gelato Pack” in Fiery Red/Bright White

karhu sneaker red

What Karhu says:

Back in 1977, the Karhu ChampionAir made its debut and stayed as a fixed value until 1984. Forty years later, Karhu brings back the international hit that sold over 1,000,000 pairs globally. 

Why we love it:

The ChampionAir features Karhu’s air technology that makes the shoe so comfortable. The extended tongue, in combination with the premium suede across the upper, gives the shoe an elevated look. The traction system on the sneaker is aggressive enough to be comfortable yet intricate. 

Karhu, $98

4. Karhu Fusion 2.0 in Bright White/Jet Black

karhu sneaker white

What Karhu says:

The Fusion 2.0 is a salute to the original Karhu Fusion model from 1996, the top running shoe in the collection at that time. 

Why we love it:

The Fusion 2.0 is loved by so many, including LeBeouf and West, and rightfully so. The epitome of a “dad-shoe,” this silhouette is great. It combines a mesh upper found on the toe-box and side panel, suede and hints of reflective 3M materials. The platform-like midsole and multicolored outsole fairs well with its subtle hues.

Karhu, $140

5. Karhu Albatross 82 in Deep Navy/White

karhu sneaker navy

What Karhu says:

Back in the 1970s, Karhu invented the first air-cushion construction in the world. It stirred attention and was copied by many prominent shoe companies. Albatross was one of the most iconic air cushion shoes.

Why we love it:

This lightweight runner is an excellent low-top for anyone to have in their rotation. The color combination of different shades of blue is approachable, and the shoe’s history is an entry point into the Karhu brand. Not to mention, having the bear on the “M” logo is a fun little detail that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Karhu, $88
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