Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels: Which is Better? Things to Know

Shopping for new skateboard wheels can be pretty daunting, especially because you must factor in the size, hardness, and quality before opting for a particular wheel brand. 

It’s quite easy for beginners to wonder if there are many differences between the hard and soft and, if so, how it affects their performance as beginners. While soft might be the best option for some skaters, others would preferably ride with hard.

As a result, this article will discuss in detail the difference between hard and soft wheels, their benefits, and which is the best for your skateboarding journey.

What Is Durometer Rating

Before diving into what hard and soft are, you have to understand the rating that clearly indicates the hardness of the wheels you’re purchasing. 

A Durometer is a tool used to measure the hardness of plastic and rubber objects. It scales from 0-100 and can often extend above 100. The bigger the number, the harder the wheels and vice versa. For instance, you might come across some wheels with 84A or 103A ratings, which means that the wheel with 84A is softer than that of 103A.

The ‘A’ only refers to the type of scale being used. Some brands make use of the ‘B’ scale in their ratings. However, the B scale is 20 points less than the A scale. This means that wheels rated 84B are equivalent to wheels rated 104A; they’re both hard wheels.

Sometimes, you might come across the D scale, which the Spitfire brand commonly uses. The D scale is the same as the A scale. For instance, a wheel rated 99D has the same hardness as another wheel rated 99A of a different brand. Knowing the Durometer rating would help you make informed decisions when purchasing new wheels.

Hard

Hard wheels are rated 96A to 104A on the Durometer, with the latter being the hardest. These hard wheels are suitable for performing technical tricks because they have less grip on the ground. This makes it easy for a skater to pivot through various tricks. Therefore, hard wheels are used mainly by professional skaters who likely spend most of their time trying new tricks.

Furthermore, hard wheels provide faster acceleration when ridden on smooth surfaces, making them suitable for riding in skateparks and bowls. However, suppose you intend using your skateboards to commute from one place to another. In that case, you shouldn’t opt for the hard wheels as they can’t be ridden on rough road surfaces.

On the good side, hard wheels rated 99A would be the best choice for a skater that wants a mix of cruising and performing stunts.

Pros
  • Suitable for technical tricks
  • Provides faster acceleration
  • Not prone to flat spots depending on its quality
  • Best for smoother surfaces
Cons
  • It gives an uncomfortable ride on rough surfaces
  • It offers less grip when laying into turns
  • Not suitable for long-distance rides

Soft

When wheels are rated 77A to 87A, this indicates that they’re soft and, thus, are suitable for use on bumpy roads. Soft wheels can absorb the vibrations and noise that come with riding on rough surfaces. This way, you can hardly feel the impact and enjoy a more comfortable and smoother ride.

Furthermore, soft wheels have a firm grip on the ground surface, preventing you from sliding when you land on the ground. However, this firm grip makes it difficult to perform advanced stunts and tricks. It also has a slow acceleration but can maintain a fast speed.

Beginners would benefit from using soft wheels, making their ride comfortable and stable. However, going for soft wheels rated 87A would allow them to pull off little tricks and still ride comfortably.

Pros
  • Suitable for rough surfaces
  • It provides a more comfortable and stable ride
  • It has a firm grip on the ground
  • It maintains a higher speed
  • It offers the best cruising experience
Cons
  • Not suitable for technical tricks
  • It rides slowly on smooth surfaces
  • It’s more likely to flat spot

Medium

Now, as a skater looking to advance your skating skills, wheels that allow you to ride comfortably and still practice tricks are usually the best option. Such wheels are referred to as medium or in-between, meaning they’re neither soft nor hard but a perfect mix of both. 

These wheels are rated 92A to 95A. They are versatile and usually the best choice for beginners. However, one downside of these wheels is that they might be good at both but are best at none, and they are neither better than soft nor better than hard wheels. 

Soft vs Hard Skateboard Wheels–Which Should You Purchase?

Soft vs Hard Skateboard Wheels–Which Should You Purchase
Soft vs Hard Skateboard Wheels–Which Should You Purchase

Your choice of skateboard wheels is subjective; every folk for his own. Although these wheel types have their advantages and demerits, your choice depends on your skating style. Thus, if you’re still unsure about what kind of skateboard wheels to purchase, the table below will help you make the best purchase choice.

Skateboard wheels size chart

Skating StyleRecommended HardnessRecommended DurometersRecommended Diameter
Bowl & TransitionMedium/Hard97A – 101A55 – 58mm
Cruising & CommutingSoft78A – 87A58 – 60mm
Street SkatingMedium92A – 97A52 – 53mm
SkateparksHard99A52 – 55mm
Flat GroundsHard101A – 104A50 – 53mm
BeginnerMedium/hard92A – 99A54 – 56mm
Comparison table to choose the right skateboard wheel

Other Important Factors That Can Affect Your Skateboard Performance

As much as the hardness of wheels is an essential factor you shouldn’t overlook when purchasing new wheels, other factors also impact your skateboarding performance. They include:

Related Posts: High vs Low Skateboard Trucks

Wheel size

The size of wheels is measured in millimeters and can be small or large. The wheel size you buy depends on the board deck size, and you surely won’t want to use large wheels for a small deck width. 

wheel size skateboard
wheel size skateboard

Smaller wheels are regarded as anything below 54mm. These wheels are light and allow you to accelerate fast and perform street tricks. However, it doesn’t hold much speed and can move somewhat slowly. 

On the other hand, large wheels are from 54mm and above. These wheels are great for cruising around comfortably; they’re also good at maintaining speed. However, they can be slow to accelerate because they’re heavy.

Wheel Quality

They are made from polyurethane components. And depending on the brand, the urethane’s quality and durability vary. But in most cases, you can’t predict the quality by looking at them. So, to know whether the wheels you intend to buy are of good quality, the phenomenon of bounce and rebound is used.

This simply means you bounce the wheels, and how fast they rebound shows the quality level. The quicker the wheels snap back into shape indicates that the wheels are made from quality urethane. The slower it takes or if it doesn’t get back to form is a pointer that you shouldn’t buy those wheels.

This is very important because when skating, the pressure landing tricks exert on the wheels can cause them to compress. However, quality wheels will rebound quickly and continue with the momentum. But this can’t be said for poor-quality wheels, which might compress and not bounce. Although hard wheels are quick to rebound in most cases than soft wheels, this doesn’t mean that the softer wheels are of poor quality.

Therefore, to be assured you’re getting quality wheels, go for reputable brands like Spitfire, Bones, and Ricta. They are known to use top-notch quality urethane in making their wheels. Additionally, if you are still indecisive on what type of wheels to purchase to start your skateboarding journey, you should watch this video.

FAQs

Are Hard or Soft Skateboard Wheels Better?

Both wheel types have their functions, depending on your choice, abilities, and reason for buying. Soft wheels are your best bet if you are a skater who loves to cruise or ride around the neighborhood. 

On the other hand, if you’re a skater much more inclined to perform stunts and advanced tricks, you should purchase hard skateboard wheels. If you’re undecided, you can buy an in-between wheel hardness that is soft enough for cruising and hard enough for tricks.

Are Harder Skateboard Wheels Better for Tricks?

Harder skateboard wheels are better for technical tricks because it has a lesser grip, so you won’t have to exert more force to quickly pivot or slide out of tricks which is helpful for board slides and rotational tricks such as frontside flips, 180s, or big spins. 

Therefore, if you are a skater inclined toward advanced stunts, it would be best to purchase the harder wheels with a Durometer Rating of 99A to 104A.

Are Soft Skateboard Wheels Good for Beginners?

Soft skateboard wheels allow a skater to ride comfortably on rough surfaces without feeling the vibrations. Additionally, because the wheel is softer, it is stickier and more difficult to slide, providing much greater traction while leaning firmly into a turn.

Therefore, because beginners have to get familiar with riding comfortably on a skateboard before moving on to tricks learning, riding the softer wheels would be a great choice. You can go for soft wheels with a rating of 87A; this balances the need to ride comfortably and practice little stunts.

Are Hard Wheels Faster?

Hard Wheels are faster, especially if they’re ridden on smooth surfaces. This is due to their less grip on the floor, making it easy for the hard wheels to roll on slippery surfaces without interruptions. 

However, if you’re riding on rough surfaces, hard wheels might be a little slow because it stops for every bump it runs into. Therefore, hard wheels are better if you’re the type of skater that practices majorly on skateparks because they allow you to accelerate faster.

What Size Wheels Does Tony Hawk Ride?

The Tony Hawk ‘T-bone’ wheel size is 58mm, with a Durometer Rating of 84b. In the A scale, 84b is equivalent to 104a, meaning the Tony Hawk wheel is hard.

What Wheels Do Street Skaters Use?

Because there is a possibility that the street roads are rough with a lot of bumps, soft wheels are usually the best choice. This is because soft wheels can absorb any vibration and impact caused by the bumpy road and ensure you have a smoother and more comfortable ride around the street. 

Therefore, street skaters would benefit more from softer wheels with a Durometer Rating of around 78A to 87A, with the 78A being the best. Smaller wheels of about 52 to 54mm would be great for street skaters, as they’re more suitable for flip tricks.

Conclusion

Now that you have an idea of the Durometer Rating, you should be able to decipher if the wheels are hard or soft depending on the rating score.

Furthermore, suppose you’re a beginner who preferably wants to use the skateboard for everyday movement around the neighborhood. In that case, you should get the soft wheels. However, If you’re more interested in performing advanced tricks and stunts, you should opt for the hard wheels.

Knowing this rule of thumb makes purchasing new skateboard wheels easier and fun.

Read More:

Durometer Shore Hardness Scale

The skateboard wheel hardness scale

What is Durometer? – Elastomer and Plastic Hardness | ISM

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