Väinö Liikkanen made his first international appearance at the 1929 World Championships where he was fourth at 50 km. He next competed at the 1930 World Championships, where he was eighth at 18 km and ninth in the 50 km. At the 1932 Olympics, Liikkanen at first was ninth in the 18 km and then three days later won a silver medal in the 50 km, 20 seconds behind his teammate Veli Saarinen. In 1933 Liikkanen won his only Finnish title, in the 50 km, and also won his first World Championships medal, a bronze at 18 km while being fourth over 50 km. Liikkanen did not take part in the 1934 World Championships, but at the 1935 World Championships, Liikkanen won a gold as a member of the Finnish relay team. During and after his sporting career Liikkanen worked as a forester.