A shoe for the skies: Finnair and Karhu create a special sneaker for their crew

Finnair has teamed up with iconic Finnish brand Karhu to design a sneaker for our ground and air crews. Made for both comfort and style, the shoe feels as good as it looks.

Whether in the air or on the ground, many aviation jobs demand a lot of standing and walking. It’s not uncommon for a crew member to walk five kilometres or more during a 12-hour flight. There’s also the ground distance to and from the gate, which is substantial in some airports. It all adds up to long days on the feet.

As part of Finnair’s commitment to the well-being of our employees, we’ve collaborated with Finnish footwear-and-apparel brand Karhu to design a unisex shoe for our cabin and ground crews: the Finnair Mestari Control sneaker. The attractive shoe combines black synthetic-suede uppers with dark-blue detailing in a look that complements the sleek Nordic-inspired design of Finnair’s uniforms.

“A few years ago we changed our guidelines so that cabin crew could wear black sneakers without any visible branding. Now we’ve decided to take this a step further and bring our ground and air staff a special sneaker to mark Finnair’s 100th birthday this year,” says Finnair Brand Development Manager, Lotta Prinssi.

“As a fellow Finnish brand that also has a long history, Karhu was the perfect partner for this project,” she says.

An aviation spin on a classic design
The Finnair Mestari Control’s midsole features an Air Cushion unit for comfort and stability, while an OrthoLite® footbed provides an extra layer of protection and softness underfoot. An antimicrobial lining helps with freshness.

The shoe also features a slip-resistant sole with a unique traction pattern inspired by Karhu’s back catalogue. Finnish designer and frequent Karhu collaborator Sasu Kauppi has added special details in the tongue label, the footbed, and on the shoebox.

“When Finnair approached us about collaborating to design a shoe for their crew, they were not looking for something technical. The airline needed a lifestyle shoe that would be both comfortable and sturdy enough for the job,” says Remko Nouws, Global Lifestyle Manager at Karhu.

“Finnair liked our original Mestari shoe, so we added some extra functionality to create the perfect sneaker for aviation,” he says.

Karhu’s Mestari shoe is one of the brand’s most iconic models. Originally released in the 1970s as a running shoe, it quickly became popular for its classic style, durable construction and lasting comfort. Karhu is the first sports brand to have patented air-cushion technology and Mestari was the first shoe to feature it.

Inspired by a Finnish athletics icon
The Karhu brand grabbed international attention in the 1920s through Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi. Controversy arose when Nurmi wore white Karhu shoes during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. At the time white shoes were considered inappropriate for running, as they were thought to be too flashy and attention-grabbing.

Widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, Nurmi won a total of 12 Olympic medals (including nine golds) between 1920 and 1928. Nurmi’s success and his bold style helped to build Karhu’s reputation as a leader in sports footwear.

“Everything we make needs to be cool, credible and stay true to our heritage,” says Nouws. “Our collaborations need to have a connection to these attributes too, so we’ve been incredibly happy to work with Finnair on this project as the airline celebrates its 100th birthday.”

Finnair Mestari Control is only available for Finnair employees, who will start wearing the shoe this autumn.

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