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Soft vs Hard Skateboard Wheels: Which One to Opt?

Fact checked by Michael Derosier

soft vs hard skateboard wheels

In skateboarding, we don’t always pass by the same surfaces. Some are rough; others are shiny smooth, and a few sit in between. And while different skating styles require varied decks, riding on these surfaces also demands the best wheels.

Do you want to know what rollers work for each skating platform? Let’s begin with the comparison of soft VS hard skateboard wheels.

In this article, we’ll learn how differences in hardness yield exceptional rides on select skateboarding surfaces. Also, we’ll know why these wheels may not work on a few setups.

What Are Soft and Hard Wheels?

Before we compare these two wheel classes, we might as well understand how skaters and manufacturers call these rollers hard or soft.

Can we assess the wheel’s hardness by simply looking? No. Good thing the durometer scale came into the scene early on to make obvious the differences and further group skate wheels by hardness levels.

The sport uses the durometer A scale to cluster the wheels. Rollers rated at 78a to 87a are the soft ones, while 96a to 101a is the range for skateboard hard wheels.

What about the numbers in between? Wheels with 88a to 95a hardness levels are the medium ones that work for cruising and streets.

How Do Soft and Hard Wheels Work?

hardest-skateboard-wheels

As mentioned, soft and hard wheels work under specific conditions. Let’s get into each of these.

Soft wheels are the smoothest skateboard wheels for cruising. They aim to neutralize road debris, cracks, and small objects you meet. Get them at a larger size, and soft rollers will yield smooth rides.

Soft urethane rollers can also be less straining to the feet because they don’t require constant effort to push. What’s better is they retain speed to some level.

On the other hand, hard wheels work best for tricks, street, flat ground, and technical skating. Undoubtedly, most professional skaters play around with these rollers when showing off in skateparks.

Hard rollers also accelerate better and wear longer than their soft counterparts, due to the rigidity of the urethane material.

More Differences Between Soft and Hard Skateboard Wheels

skateboard-hard-wheels

We learned about the best riding conditions for hard and soft skate wheels and how we classify them based on rigidity. It’s time to know more about hard wheels VS soft wheels.

1. Safety

Skateboarding is generally risky. And what makes it more dangerous could be not using safety equipment or appropriate wheels.

Soft wheels are the safer option when taking on rough surfaces because they dodge road debris. Using hard wheels under these circumstances might throw you off the skateboard.

Hard rollers do not have much cushion to go over bumps, thus stopping the board’s motion.

2. Suitability

While choosing low wheel hardness could be preferential, hard skateboard wheels are the more viable option for a broader class of riders.

For beginners, these rollers are helpful when mastering control and balance on the skateboard. Moreover, hard skate wheels also work for experienced or professional skaters.

3. Riding smoothness

If the goal is to feel more comfortable, use soft wheels for skateboard. Besides the fact that we’re probably not using these rollers on challenging ramps, their mild properties help make our rides smooth.

Hard wheels vibrate and make more noise than soft ones.

4. Durability

Suppose that all brands are of the same quality, soft wheels may wear out faster than their counterpart. They are less resistant to flat-spotting, making hard wheels survive longer.

Why or Why Not Pick Soft Wheels?

What are soft skateboard wheels good for? We’ve summarized their characteristics below.

Pros

  • Easy to maintain speed
  • Goes over small debris for smooth rides
  • Requires less effort to push
  • Safer against mini road objects

Cons

  • Wears faster than hard wheels

Why or Why Not Pick Hard Wheels?

What are hard skateboard wheels good for? Let’s get into each advantage and downside of hard wheels.

Pros

Cons

  • Vibrates more often
  • Noisier during operation

Medium Wheels

soft-wheels-for-skateboard

You probably noticed 88a to 95a wheels sitting between hard and soft ones. Unknown to some skaters, these rollers belong to the medium classification.

But often, they are still more on the harder side. Let’s see a few characteristics of this wheel class.

1. Suitability

Medium wheels are the best for street skating and beginners. They’re a good middle ground if you can’t pick between the other types.

2. Durability

These medium rollers wear faster than the hardest skateboard wheels but slower than their soft counterparts. That said, longevity still depends on the frequency of usage.

3. Riding smoothness

Medium skate wheels may not have as much cushion as soft urethane rollers have. Nonetheless, they can still run over small road bumps and debris. Also, they have the perfect balance of grip and speed.

Top-rated Skateboard Wheels

If you plan to visit the store to find different skateboard wheels in each of the three classes, here are a few brands some Reddit users recommend.

  • Soft wheels – Ricta Clouds; 56mm; 78a
  • Medium wheels – Darkroom Triclops Crush; 53mm; 90a
  • Hard wheels – Spitfire Formula Four; 53mm; 99a

Are Wheel Size and Hardness Related?

It may no longer be a question for many, but wheel size and hardness have a direct relation.

For example, the softest skateboard wheels for cruising have a hardness level of 78a. And for cruisers to maintain their speed, they need to be 60mm to 70mm in diameter.

In other words, we need to find our preferred roller size and combine it with the most appropriate hardness.

When you hear people talking about speed, let’s not confuse it with acceleration. As the wheel size goes up, the speed increases, but its acceleration moves otherwise.

Conclusion

Buying skateboard wheels is not a complicated process. It only requires attention to details and mixing the size and hardness to achieve the best configuration.

Now that you know how soft VS hard skateboard wheels work, narrowing down your options should no longer confuse you.

Skate your way confidently in parks, streets, or long trails. The best wheels are waiting for your next ride.

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