What is the difference between soft and hard wheels for skateboarding? The main difference between soft vs hard skateboard wheels is that soft wheels are better for cruising and maintaining a higher speed. While hard wheels are better balanced while remaining stationary, and best for learning how to ollie and other beginner tricks.
One thing to keep in mind is quality. Do not buy cheap skateboard wheels. Spend a few extra dollars and purchase from a reputable brand like Bones or Spitfire. If you’re not exactly sure which wheels are the best to suit your style of skateboarding, that’s totally okay. We got you covered.
Keep reading to find out the best soft skateboard wheels, the best hard skateboard wheels, and learn more about what makes them so different.
What Is Durometer?
Before we dive right into the skateboard wheels, it’s best to understand what the durometer of a wheel is.
Durometer is a scaling tool that measures the hardness of plastic and rubber objects between 1 to 100, with one exception with skateboard wheels. They can actually go up to 101.
Essentially, the higher the number, the harder the wheel. And the lower the number, the softer the wheel. That being said, the softer the wheel, the less you will slide at high speeds. And the harder the wheel, the more you will slide.
Most skateboard wheels will print a variation of the numbers with either an A or B. If the brand does not display the durometer of the wheel, it’s not worth purchasing. To better understand durometers, here is a simple scale to use.
73A to 87A: Soft and grippy wheels; good for rough surfaces, perfect for longboards, cruisers, or regular skateboards that need to easily roll over cracks and pebbles.
88A to 95A: Slightly harder and faster wheels, but still soft enough to cruise over bumps and small debris. Good grip, and good for street and rough surfaces.
96A to 101A: Harder and faster wheels. These are the most common wheels used for street and skatepark skateboarding. Great for beginners skating street, skateparks, and other smooth surfaces.
83B to 84B: The hardest wheels on the scale. Wheels on the B scale are extremely hard and measure 20 points higher than the A scale. For instance, an 83B wheel would rank 103A. These are best suited for experienced technical street and skatepark skaters and pros.
Soft Skateboard Wheels
Soft wheels are great for cruising and comfort. They’re also used by a lot of cameramen that capture skate photos and footage. If you take a look at a longboard or cruiser, you can see that they always use big and soft wheels. That makes them seem faster, requiring less effort to maintain higher speeds, and also makes them extremely comfortable to ride.
But how can you tell if a wheel is soft? A skateboard wheel is considered soft when it has a Durometer between 77A and 87A.
So if you’re interested in speed and comfortability, then you’re going to want to remain in this hardness scale, 77A to 87A. That being said, these wheels will not be as good for technical street tricks.
When wheels are soft, the skateboard doesn’t have nearly as many issues with small rocks, cracks, or debris. However, hard wheels tend to stop when encountering an object, which can result in some pretty gnarly wipeouts.
So when should you stay away from soft skateboard wheels? You will not want to use soft wheels at skateparks, while transition skateboarding, or while learning stationary beginner tricks like an ollie or shove-it.
Soft wheels are best suited for those wanting to cruise, bomb hills, catch high speeds, and cameramen.
Pros of soft wheels:
– Great cruising experience.
– Don’t need to use as much effort when pushing.
– Easy to maintain higher speeds.
– Extra flexible at the wheel’s edges for grip and control.
– Wider in shape for stability.
– Soft and durable thickness, which makes riding over small pebbles or rough roads convenient.
Cons of soft wheels:
– More likely to create flat spots in the wheels from attempting tricks.
– More bouncy, making it harder to land tricks on.
– Not meant for technical tricks.
Hard Skateboard Wheels
Hard wheels could be measured between Durometer 96A and 84B (104A). The hardest wheels on the durometer scale are often used by the most experienced skaters and the pros.
These wheels are not comfortable on rough roads, they also tend to slide on slick surfaces. It requires more effort to push your board and make a lot of noise.
A beginner may have more issues balancing on a board with extremely hard wheels. They tend to slide out on slick surfaces and are not comfortable riding on rough roads, which causes more effort to push the board. Wheels with a durometer rating between 96A and 99A should be a safe choice though for beginners wanting to ride harder wheels.
Pros of hard wheels:
– Great for technical tricks.
– Less likely to bounce when landing.
– Faster acceleration
– Last many years when taken care of.
– More control in closed spaces.
– Less likely to flat spot, depending on the quality.
Cons of hard wheels:
– Uncomfortable for longer rides.
– Produce a lot of noise and vibration on rough surfaces.
Soft VS Hard Skateboard Wheels, What’s Best For You?
So you might still be wondering which skateboard wheels are going to be perfect for you. That’s okay. We can figure out which wheels will be best suited for your style of skating and your skateboard together in no time.
Are you wanting to skate street, vert, or skateparks? If so, you’re going to want to pick out some hard wheels. Hard skateboard wheels are ideal for beginners who are learning to control the board and balance. These wheels are going to be the best for performing tricks. Professional skateboarders actually use some of the hardest wheels out there.
Buying hard wheels? Choose skateboard wheels with a durometer rating between 96A and 99A.
Are you wanting to cruise, bomb hills, or hold a camera while skateboarding to record a demo for you and your friends? Then you want soft skateboard wheels. These are perfect for long-distances, they’re fast, effortless to ride, and ridiculously comfortable.
Buying soft wheels? Choose skateboard wheels with a durometer rating between 80A and 87A.
If you are looking for something in between, then you’ll want medium-hard wheels, which are 88A to 95A on the durometer scale.
Before spending your hard-earned money, ask a friend or a skate shop employee to test a board with the kind of wheels that you have your eyes on. This will guarantee that you find the perfect style.
Tactics also has some really great options to choose the best skateboard wheels for you.
Best Soft Skateboard Wheels
The best soft skateboard wheels are Ricta Clouds, hands down. These wheels are 56mm in diameter, yes, you might want risers, and they boast a 78A durometer rating.
Ricta Clouds are one of the smoothest rides on a skateboard. Perfect for cruising and filming. As they say, cloud riding and dream chasing. Want soft wheels? Get yourself a set of Ricta Clouds. You will not be disappointed.
Best Medium-Hard Skateboard Wheels
The best medium-hard skateboard wheels are Darkroom’s Triclops Crush. They’re 53mm in diameter and have a durometer rating of 90A.
These skateboard wheels are smooth but still shred on the street and in the skateparks. If you’re looking for a wheel that does it all, then look no further. You want to purchase Darkroom Triclops Crush skateboard wheels.
You don’t need an extra eye to see the genius in Don Pendleton’s art.
Best Hard Skateboard Wheels
The best hard skateboard wheels for the price are going to be the Spitfire Formula Four. These are the best bang for your buck. These Spitfire Formula Four skateboard wheels have a diameter of 53mm, they’re on the smaller side. But who said size matters?
At 99A durometer, the Spitfire’s are hard, making them the perfect wheels for beginners and pros alike skating the streets and parks.
Choosing Skateboard Wheel Diameter
Aside from the durometer, the wheel hardness, you also need to consider the diameter of the wheel. Skateboard wheel diameter is measured in millimeters (mm) and determines the size of the wheel. Most skateboard wheels range from 50mm to 75mm, the higher the number, the larger the wheel, and vice versa.
The diameter of a skateboard wheel affects a few things; how tight the skateboard can turn, and how quickly you can accelerate.
Smaller wheels will result in a slower ride and are easier to control because they’re lower to the ground. Small skateboard wheels ideal for street and technical skating. If you’re interested in skating small wheels, try to stay between 50mm to 53mm.
Larger wheels have more speed, and great balance due to them covering more surface area. Large skateboard wheels are perfect for cruising and vert skating. The best diameter for a regular skateboard would be 54mm to 60mm. That being said, we suggest adding risers for any wheels above 56mm in diameter.
Any skateboard wheels that are 60mm to 75mm are going to be meant for cruisers and longboards. They’re the largest and softest wheels, great for speed and comfort. But if you’re interested in trying them to turn one of your skateboards into a cruiser or camera board, then add some risers and test it out.
It should also be mentioned that your height and weight can affect what size wheels feels right for you.
48 to 53mm: Smaller, slower wheels; perfect for the street, skateparks, and riding bowls.
54 to 59mm: Average wheel size for beginners and larger riders skating street and skateparks.
60mm+: Large wheels meant for longboards, cruisers, downhill, and dirt boards. They’re also used by many cameramen. These large wheels are made for speed, and comfort on rough surfaces.