Winter Tire Types: Studded, Studless & Studdable

Dec 21st 2020

Winter Tire Types: Studded, Studless & Studdable

There are two main types of winter tires, studded and studless. However, a third type has been introduced to the market in recent years: the studdable tire. Although studded tires used to be the must-have snow tires for decades, advances in rubber compound and other winter tire technologies have changed the minds of many drivers. Customers started trusting studdable and studless tires more.

Studded Tires

Studded winter tires got their name thanks to the small, metal studs added to their tread area. Studs are manufactured to be durable, but lightweight pieces of metal which are designed to provide additional traction to the tread area in winter conditions. They dig into the snow and ice to enhance the tire’s winter driving safety.

Studded winter tire

However, when the roads are not covered by ice or snow, studded tires can actually be dangerous. They will dig into the road and damage its surface, causing the pavement’s deterioration over time. As a result, many states regulate and limit the use of studded tires on their roads.

Advantages of Studded Tires

Studded tires are known as the best option for harsh winter driving. The studs embedded into the tread area allow the tire to enhance the winter traction. They are also able to break the ice and packed snow up, providing a secure grip on the road surface during the drive.

The studs replace winter chains and cables. Unlike snow cables and chains, studs cannot get loose throughout the performance, and they are not harmful to the tire and the road surface. Therefore, studded tires are able to provide the winter traction needed, without the risk of loss of traction or damage.

The better traction provided by studded tires in winter situations improves the handling. They optimize the footprint’s surface contact to increase the steering responsiveness and the driving stability of the footprint during the performance. The optimized driving stability and the extra surface gripping ability make studded tires perfect for inclined driving in winter conditions. They guarantee the vehicle’s secure handling on such road conditions.

Disadvantages of Studded Tires

In recent years, opposing claims have surfaced about studded tires. Experts state that studded tires are only suitable for icy weather traction and that they do not offer good traction in snowy conditions. According to new findings, studded tire types will not provide the necessary traction when performing on packed, loose, or deep snow, as the studs do not offer a solid surface grip.

Studded tires also create excessive road noise levels during their performance. The studs added to the tread area generate road noise when they come into contact with the road surface. No amount of noise-canceling tread design is able to completely negate these sound waves, which greatly decreases the passenger's driving enjoyment.

Metal studs add weight to the tire, which will increase its rolling resistance. Unfortunately, the higher rolling resistance will cause the vehicle these tires are mounted on to consume more fuel. This ruins the vehicle's fuel efficiency, and the extra dollars spent on gas will leave a dent in your wallet.

The durability of studs can also be counted as a negative feature, as they easily damage the road surface. When ice or snow does not cover the road surface, the studs dig into the pavement, and this created traction damages the road surface. Because of this, state law regulates (and in some cases bans) the use of studded tires on roads. This regulation is in effect even in the winter months, not just during summer.

Studded tires are expensive. Also, due to the fact that studs added to the tread pattern are not removable, you will need to purchase two different winter tire sets: a studded one for snow and ice, and a studless one for regular cold temperature performance. Furthermore, as the tread needs extra tread depth to accommodate studs, available studded tire size options are extremely limited.

Studded Tires Legal Status in Each State

We have previously mentioned the legality of using studded tires. Well, let us elaborate on the topic a bit.

Studded Tires Legal Status in Each State

The use of studded winter tires is limited and regulated based on state law. In other words, each state decides and dictates how, when, and where studded tires can be used. While this might seem a bit of an overkill, sadly, studded winter tires DO cause harm to the road and pavement when the correct winter conditions are not present.

What we mean by that is when the road is not covered by ice, and in some cases packed snow, the studded winter tire's contact with the road surface will chip away at the pavement. With time, the tire's road contact will greatly deteriorate the road surface, which will result in potholes and other dangerous road hazards.

Furthermore, as the US is a massive landmass, obviously the climate is completely different in its corners. The use of studded winter tires cannot be the same in Florida (where there is basically no harsh winter) as in Montana (which is closer to the North Pole and therefore cold weather dominates during winters). Therefore, state legislation regulates the use and application of such winter tires.

If you are interested in the laws regarding studded tires based on state, please refer to the table below.

State State Code Studded Tires Regulation
Alabama AL Only rubber studs are allowed
Alaska AK Above 60 North latitude: Forbidden between May 1 & September 15
Below 60 North latitude: Forbidden between April 15 & September 30
Arizona AZ Permited between October 1 & May 1
Arkansas AR Permited between November 15 & April 15
California CA Permited between November 1 & April 30
Colorado CO Permited
Connecticut CT Permited between November 15 & April 30
Delaware DE Permited between October 15 & April 15
Washington DC DC Permited only in Snow & Ice conditions
Florida FL Rubber studs only
Georgia GA Permited only in Snow & Ice conditions
Hawaii HI Forbiden
Idaho ID Permited between October 1 & April 30
Illinois IL Forbiden
Indiana IN Permited between October 1 & May 1
Iowa IA Permited between November 1 & April 1
Kansas KS Permited between November 1 & April 1
Kentucky KY Forbiden
Louisiana LA Rubber studs only
Maine ME Permited between October 1 & April 30
Maryland MD Permited in: Washington, Garrett, Frederick, Carroll, Allegheny
Between November 1 & March 31
Massachusetts MA Permited between November 1 & April 30
Michigan MI Forbiden
Minnesota MN Forbiden
Mississippi MS Forbiden
Missouri MO Permited between November 1 & March 31
Montana MT Permited between October 1 & May 31
Nebraska NE Permited between November 1 & April 1
Nevada NV Permited between October 1 & April 30
New Hampshire NH Permited
New Jersey NJ Permited between November 15 & April 1
New Mexico NM Permited
New York NY Permited between October 15 & May 1
North Carolina NC Permitted up to 1/16 inch projections when compressed
North Dakota ND Permited between October 15 & April 15
Ohio OH Permited between November 1 & April 15
Oklahoma OK Permited between November 1 & April 1
Oregon OR Permited between November 1 & March 31
Pennsylvania PA Permited between November 1 & April 15
Rhode Island RI Permitted up to 1/16 inch projections when compressed
Between November 15 & April 1
South Carolina SC Permitted up to 1/16 inch projections when compressed
South Dakota SD Permited between October 1 & April 30
Tennessee TN Permited between October 1 & April 15
Texas TX Rubber studs only
Utah UT Permited between October 15 & March 31
Vermont VT Permited
Virginia VA Permited between October 15 & April 15
Virginia VA Permited between October 15 & April 15
Washington WA Permited between November 1 & March 31
West Virginia WV Permited between November 1 & April 15
Wisconsin WI Forbiden
Wyoming WY Permited

Please note that state law is subjected to change and Priority Tire does not take responsibility.

Studless Tires

Studded tires must rely on their tread pattern and winter compound to provide the necessary winter weather traction. They feature detailed and aggressive tread patterns that optimize the winter traction, while the compound enhances the rubber flexibility in freezing temperatures. This combination offers the needed number of biting edges and overall traction.

Studless winter tires provide traction in winter weather conditions, especially focusing on surfaces covered by slush and packed snow. This is ensured with the additional biting edges generated by the aggressive tread design's irregular block placement, sharper block edges, and high-density siping placement. As a result, studless tires ensure exceptional winter conditions, including during their performance on slush and snow-covered road surface.

On the other hand, the winter weather rubber compound maintains its flexibility and keeps the tire pliable in versatile cold temperatures and winter situations. The compound's rubber materials keep their softness and allow the tire to optimize its performance in rigid conditions, unlike summer and all season tires.

Therefore, instead of relying on studs to obtain the needed traction, studless winter tires ensure the driving safety levels with the tread design, the compound elements, and other winter tire technologies used in the manufacturing process.

Advantages of Studless Tires

The main advantage of studless tires is their safer performance. As studs are not added to the tread blocks, the tire is not at risk of damaging the road surface. Instead, studless snow tires improve their winter grip by utilizing their rubber compound and detailed tread design to provide the necessary biting edges to improve the snow and ice traction.

Additionally, you will only need one set of tires for winter conditions. As stud use is regulated, many states will require you to invest in different tire sets. By purchasing studless snow tires, you will be able to improve the vehicle's traction on different snowy surfaces. This winter tire type usually packs snow between its tread elements to further enhance the snow-on-snow grip.

Another advantage is fuel efficiency. As the tread design and the rubber compound used in the tire's manufacture are the main sources of traction, they manage to minimize the pressure affecting the tire. As a result, the tire lowers its rolling resistance and decreases the vehicle's fuel consumption levels.

As the tread design does not need to accommodate studs to optimize the snow and ice traction, studless winter tires provide a wider range of tire size options. While these snow tires still have a deeper starting tread depth than summer or all season tires, their tread does not feature the extra rubber layer for studs. Instead, the tread design and the rubber compound are able to focus on the winter traction and ensure a slower and even wear with the tread stability.

Disadvantages of Studless Tires

The biggest issue of studless snow tires is their performing ability on ice-covered road surfaces. While studded tires have the studs to greatly increase their traction and grip in such winter conditions, unfortunately, studless tires need to make do with their high-density siping placement to achieve the same results.

Therefore, studless winter tires are not the best choice for the harshest winter situations. However, by this, we mean a combination of what mother nature has to offer. Ice, wind, snow, inclined, and mountain roads. In such weather and road conditions, studless tire types might not be able to handle the stress of driving and possibly will not provide the needed traction.

While some want to use their studless snow tires throughout the year, they should not be on the vehicle in summer conditions. The detailed tread design and the softer rubber compound will not provide the necessary versatile season grip. Studless snow tires should only be used in winter weather conditions, in cold temperatures, and on snow and ice-covered surfaces.

Studdable Winter Tires

So far, we have taken a closer look at what studded and studless winter tires are. Now, let's check out the third category which has emerged.

Studdable winter tires are basically a hybrid between studded and studless snow tires. These tires are manufactured with small holes in the tread, where studs can be inserted based on need.

In other words, when the road surface is covered with snow and ice, studs can be added to the tread pattern. As a result, the studdable tire will be able to improve the snow and ice grip, and not just focus on cold temperature performance. However, if you wish to not have the tire studded, it will still provide good winter traction and handling.

Due to state regulation and limitation of the use of studded winter tires, studdable tires with their optimizable tread pattern and durable winter rubber compound have become extremely popular on the tire market. They ensure good handling on different winter surfaces, ensure secure traction when driving on snow, ice and slush, and are designed to withstand harsh winter weather conditions.

Advantages of Studdable Tires

This is a tricky section to write about, as the studdable winter tire's advantages greatly depend on whether the studs were added to the tread area or not. If they were, it offers the same positives as studded tires do. If they weren't, it provides the same advantages that studless tires do.

However, studdable tires also have their own advantages. Basically, the pinned footprint of these tires enables the vehicle's owner to make their own choice: whether they want to stud the tires or not. This will give consumers a wider range of winter tires they can choose from for their vehicle, without just having to look at the tread design and the rubber compound.

If the owner decides to stud these snow tires, then when the tread is still close to new, they can also be removed. This gives a better winter weather grip and handling, while also giving the owner the choice. 

Disadvantages of Studdable Tires

As mentioned before, the disadvantages of studdable tires depend on whether these snow tires are studded or not, and they take up the issues studded and studless tires face.

These tires provide slush, snow, and ice traction and handling based on the use of studs. However, if studs are added to the tread, their application on the roads will be regulated by state law - like the use of studded tires is.

Another issue they face is budget-related. Studdable tires are manufactured and sold without studs. These winter tire types cause extra cost if they need to be studded. While the studding process can be a DIY project for more experienced tire owners, it still comes with risks. One small misstep during the studding process and the tire will be damaged. Therefore, the safest way to stud the tires is by taking them to a professional, which will accumulate extra costs. Generally speaking, studding one tire will cost you about $15, but it greatly depends on which tire shop you decide to use. Removing the studs will have its own fee as well.

While car owners want the best traction in winter weather conditions, studs are not always the answer to the problems. Some states limit the use of studded tires to specific times, road conditions, or places, which will create the need of adding and removing the studs frequently. This is a costly process, which can damage the tire AND, once the tread starts to wear out, an impossible endeavor. When the tread is worn, new studs can no longer safely be added to the tread area.

When this happens, studdable winter tires will have to rely on their rubber compound and tread design in cold temperatures and on snow and ice-covered surfaces to get a good surface grip.

Studded Snow Tires VS Studless Snow Tires

Whether you purchase a studded tire set or a studless tire set will depend on where you live and in which conditions the tires are expected to perform.

While studded tire models offer the best ice and snow traction, their use is heavily regulated. They will ensure your driving safety on icy surfaces, but their surface grip has no additional benefits when driving on snow or through slush. Studless tires, on the other hand, will excel in snowy situations, but their ice traction is not the best.

Road noise, fuel efficiency, and tread life-wise studless tires win. Studs added to the tread area will hinder all of these aspects. They create extra road disturbances, increase the vehicle's fuel intake and shorten the tire's service life. Studless tires provide the necessary traction and handling in winter conditions to ensure a comfortable, fuel-conscious, and longer-lasting performance.

Furthermore, winter tires are pricey. There is no question about it! But, studs add more to the cost of the tire. If you do not SPECIFICALLY need studded tires, studless models will do the job just fine if you take on a more careful driving style on ice and snow-covered roads.

Studdable Snow Tires VS Studded Snow Tires

Depending on the conditions the studdable tires are used in, studs will need to be added to their tread area. If this happens, they perform identically as studded winter tires do. However, if they are left out of the tread, they need to utilize their detailed tread design and rubber compound to improve the winter weather traction.

Therefore, if studs are not added to the tread area, the pro and con versatility between studded and studdable tire models is the same as the ones between studded and studless tires.

However, when strictly looking at the distinctness between studded winter tires and studdable tires with studs, we still have things to talk about.

As mentioned before, due to the extra rubber layer needed for studs, studded tire models come in a really restricted tire size selection. In a way, studdable tires solve this problem, as they offer a wider selection of sizes.

On the other hand, studded models already have the studs inserted into their road contact area. These types of tires are more expensive because of that fact. Still, the price evens out in a way. Studdless tires are cheaper, but when the studs need to be added to the tread, additional costs will need to be paid.

Studdable Snow Tires VS Studless Snow Tires

The difference between studdable and studded snow tires is the possibility of adding metal or rubber studs to the first winter tire variation.

When studs are not inserted into the tread of studdable tires, they provide the same winter traction and handling as studless tires do - including all of the benefits and advantages.

However, when the studs are added to the footprint of studdable tires, they perform the same as studded models do. Therefore, the distinction between studdable and studless snow tires will be the same as the ones between studded and studless models.

Be Prepared For Your Winter Rides

So, whether you wish to get a set of studded, studless, or studdable tires, now you know which types offer what. Whether the size you need for your vehicle is also an important aspect to take into consideration, but this guide will hopefully help to narrow down the needs of your vehicle.

Check out what specific winter tires provide with their traction, handling, and performing abilities, before making your choice. Choose the tires that fit your vehicle perfectly and enjoy the driving experience your new tire set has to offer.

Enjoy your driving experience in winter weather conditions and find the best winter tire models available online at Priority Tire. We offer all three types of winter tires and a variety of brands and models to choose from. Make sure to check out our winter tires section and find the perfect tire set for your vehicle.


What makes a good snow tire?

Good and safe snow tire types need to utilize a detailed tread design - with a high-density siping and irregular block placement, and the deep groove pattern - and the durable hydrophilic rubber compound - which stays soft in cold temperatures. The combination provides the best ice and snow traction.

Can I use winter tires all year?

It is not recommended to use winter tires in all season conditions. The detailed tread design will wear out quicker and will hinder the tire's traction in warmer temperatures. Additionally, the soft compound will lose its consistency in summer conditions.

How many years do winter tires last?

There is not a set lifespan for winter tires. As they are only used in winter situations, they can be used for multiple years. However, most manufacturers will recommend changing winter tires every 4-6 years or so, of fear that their rubber compound will harden (which ruins the tire's traction and safety).

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