What's the difference between soft and hard skateboard wheels?

Oftentimes, novice skateboarders may not realize the significant impact that soft and hard wheels can have on their skating experience. Understanding the differences between the two can greatly improve a skater’s performance and overall enjoyment. Soft wheels offer a smoother ride and better grip on rough surfaces, while hard wheels provide greater speed and control on smooth surfaces. It is crucial for skateboarders to discern which type of wheel best suits their skating style and the terrain they will be riding on. This blog post will delve into the key disparities between soft and hard skateboard wheels, empowering skaters to make informed decisions for a more optimized skating experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Impact on speed: Hard wheels are faster than soft wheels due to less friction and a smoother surface.
  • Riding terrain: Soft wheels are better for rough surfaces and offer more grip, while hard wheels are ideal for smooth surfaces like skateparks and streets.
  • Shock absorption: Soft wheels provide better shock absorption, making them more comfortable for cruising and tricks, while hard wheels are less forgiving on rough terrain.
  • Durability: Hard wheels are more durable and resistant to wear and tear, while soft wheels are more prone to chunking and flat spots.
  • Performance: Soft wheels are better suited for tricks, turns, and powerslides, while hard wheels are better for speed, stability, and maintaining momentum.

Understanding Wheel Hardness

Assuming you are new to skateboarding, understanding the difference between soft and hard skateboard wheels is crucial. The hardness of skateboard wheels is measured on the durometer scale, which ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. For a comprehensive guide on hard vs soft wheels, check out Skateboarding: Hard VS Soft Wheels Explained.

Measuring Hardness: The Durometer Scale

The durometer scale is a measurement of the hardness of a material, with 100 being the hardest and 0 being the softest. When it comes to skateboard wheels, the most common durometer ratings range from 78a to 101a. Soft wheels typically fall in the 78a-87a range, while hard wheels are 99a and above. Understanding the durometer scale is essential for choosing the right wheels for your skateboarding needs.

The Science Behind Wheel Compression and Rebound

When it comes to wheel hardness, the science behind compression and rebound plays a crucial role in performance. Hard wheels have less compression, which results in a faster ride and greater slide capability. However, they also offer less shock absorption, which can lead to a rougher ride on rough surfaces. On the other hand, soft wheels have more compression, providing a smoother ride and better shock absorption. The rebound of soft wheels allows for better grip and control while skateboarding.

Soft Skateboard Wheels

Some skateboarders prefer to use soft wheels for their boards. Soft wheels are typically made of urethane and have a lower durometer rating, which means they are softer and have a greater level of grip than harder wheels. Soft wheels are generally used for cruising, street skating, and for skating on rough surfaces.

Benefits of Softer Wheels

Soft skateboard wheels offer a smoother ride and greater shock absorption, making them ideal for cruising and street skating. The soft material provides better grip on rough surfaces, making it easier to maintain control and stability while performing tricks. Additionally, soft wheels are quieter than harder wheels, which can be beneficial for those skating in urban areas or at night.

Ideal Conditions and Uses for Soft Wheels

Soft wheels are best suited for skating on rough or uneven surfaces, such as city streets, sidewalks, and skate parks with cracked or uneven pavement. They provide a more comfortable ride and better traction on these types of surfaces, allowing skaters to maintain control and perform tricks more effectively. However, soft wheels may not be suitable for smooth skatepark surfaces or when skating at high speeds, as they may result in reduced speed and less slide.

Hard Skateboard Wheels

Lastly, let’s dive into the details of hard skateboard wheels. These wheels are typically made from a harder durometer urethane, which means they are less likely to compress under weight and provide a more stable and faster ride.

Advantages of Harder Wheels

Hard skateboard wheels are known for their durability and speed. They are less likely to wear down quickly, making them a good choice for skaters who cover a lot of ground and require a longer-lasting wheel. Additionally, the hardness of these wheels allows for more efficient energy transfer, resulting in a faster ride. The solid feel of hard wheels also allows for better control during tricks and maneuvers, making them a favorite among street skaters.

Recommended Terrain and Activities for Hard Wheels

Skaters who primarily ride on smooth surfaces like skate parks and streets will benefit from the use of hard wheels. The increased speed and stability make hard wheels ideal for technical street skating and ramp riding. However, it’s important to note that hard wheels are not suitable for rough or uneven terrain. Their lack of shock absorption can lead to a harsher ride and increase the risk of losing control. Therefore, it’s important for skaters to assess their typical skateboarding environment before opting for hard wheels.

In conclusion, hard skateboard wheels offer durability, speed, and enhanced control, making them a preferred choice for street skating and technical maneuvers. However, they are best suited for smooth surfaces and may not provide the necessary shock absorption for rough terrain. When selecting skateboard wheels, it’s important for skaters to consider their preferred terrain and skating style to ensure they choose the most suitable option for their needs.

Comparing Soft and Hard Wheels

Your skateboard wheels play a crucial role in your skating experience. The choice between soft and hard wheels can significantly affect your performance and overall enjoyment. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two:

Soft Wheels Hard Wheels
More shock absorption Better for tricks and slides
Slower speed Higher speed
Wears out faster More durable

Performance Factors: Grip, Speed, and Durability

When choosing between soft and hard wheels, it’s important to consider the performance factors each type offers. Soft wheels provide better grip on rough surfaces, while hard wheels are faster due to less friction. However, hard wheels are more prone to wear and tear, making them less durable compared to their softer counterparts.

  • Grip: Soft wheels provide better grip on rough surfaces
  • Speed: Hard wheels are faster due to less friction
  • Durability: Soft wheels wear out faster than hard wheels

After weighing these factors, the choice between soft and hard wheels ultimately depends on the individual’s skating preferences and the type of terrain they most frequently encounter.

Making the Choice: What’s Right for Your Skateboarding Style

When it comes to choosing the right wheels for your skateboarding style, it’s essential to consider the terrain you’ll be skating on and the type of tricks you’ll be performing. Those who prefer cruising and smooth rides may opt for soft wheels for their shock absorption and grip. On the other hand, riders focused on tricks and high-speed maneuvers will likely benefit from the increased speed and durability provided by hard wheels.


With this in mind, the difference between soft and hard skateboard wheels is crucial for skateboarders looking to optimize their performance and riding experience. Hard wheels are better suited for smooth surfaces and provide increased speed, while soft wheels are better for rough terrain and absorb shock better. Heavier riders may benefit from harder wheels, while lighter riders may prefer the grip and shock absorption of softer wheels. Understanding the individual preferences and riding style of the skateboarder is key to choosing the right type of wheels for their skateboard.


Q: What’s the difference between soft and hard skateboard wheels?

A: The main difference between soft and hard skateboard wheels is their durometer, or hardness. Soft wheels are typically around 78a-87a and hard wheels are around 99a-101a. The durometer affects the feel and performance of the wheels, including the grip, speed, and ability to absorb shock.

Q: How does the durometer affect the performance of skateboard wheels?

A: The durometer of skateboard wheels affects their grip, speed, and shock absorption. Softer wheels provide better grip and shock absorption, making them ideal for cruising, rough surfaces, and tricks where landing impact is a factor. Harder wheels offer more speed and less grip, making them better for smooth surfaces and technical tricks.

Q: What types of skating are soft skateboard wheels best for?

A: Soft skateboard wheels are best for cruising, longboarding, and skating over rough surfaces. Their grip and shock absorption make them ideal for comfortable rides and easy maneuverability, especially for beginner skaters.

Q: What types of skating are hard skateboard wheels best for?

A: Hard skateboard wheels are best for street skating, technical tricks, and smooth surfaces such as skate parks and ramps. Their speed and reduced grip allow for quick slides and precise movements, making them ideal for advanced skaters looking for high performance.

Q: Are there any drawbacks to using soft or hard skateboard wheels?

A: While soft wheels provide better grip and shock absorption, they may sacrifice speed and slide ability. On the other hand, hard wheels offer greater speed and slide ability, but may not provide enough grip and shock absorption for comfortable cruising or rough surfaces. It’s important to choose the right durometer based on your skating style and preferences.

About the author

Spencer Whitney is a passionate e-scooter enthusiast and outdoor adventurer. With a strong background in outdoor activities and a love for running, Spencer combines his expertise to provide valuable information to e-scooter lovers, encouraging responsible and enjoyable rides. Join him on his journey to explore the world of e-scooters from a fresh and diverse standpoint.

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