For many years, studded winter / snow tires provided the ultimate in winter traction. As technology has improved over the years (and as many states and countries have outlawed the use of studs), tire manufacturers have been able to develop specialized rubber compounds that can now exceed the ice traction capabilities of traditional studded snow tires!
A few years ago we outfitted our test cars with the latest Studless Ice & Snow offerings from Bridgestone, Dunlop and Michelin and ran them against the Firestone Winterforce outfitted with carbide tipped studs. On our Real World Road Ride loop we found (as expected) that while none of the studless tires produced noise levels that were considered dramatic, the Firestone Winterforce tires generated so much noise that they were considered objectionable by many of our testers. Complete test results can be found by reading, "Technological or Traditional Traction for Ice and Packed Snow?".
We also went to a local ice rink for testing and the results of our braking tests were pretty impressive (since this test, each Studless Ice & Snow model has been replaced by a newer model). As you can see by the graph below, all three Studless Ice & Snow tires performed better than the studded option.
In the end, the results spoke for themselves. We learned that the advanced technology found in Studless Ice & Snow tires exceeded that of the traditional traction of studs on ice. Especially considering the unacceptable noise generated when studs contact dry and wet roads, we recommend using today's advanced tread compound and design technologies to drive through snow and on ice in winter.
In nearly any condition, the Studless Ice & Snow tire is up to the task and can provide better traction than a studded winter / snow tire. To see what tires will be best for you this winter, shop by vehicle.