In recent years, Studless Ice & Snow tires have improved greatly. Aggressive tires from this category, such as the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 and Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 lead the pack for drivers looking for maximum traction without metal studs. Studless Ice & Snow tires feature soft compounds, deep aggressive tread patterns and lots of tread void for the evacuation of slush and snow.
If you live in an extreme environment you may feel the need to use a Studdable Winter / Snow tire. Studded tires provide an extra amount of bite on ice by using a stud that touches the road between the tire's contact patch. The General AltiMAX Arctic and Firestone Winterforce are included in this category and do not come studded, but can be sent with studs pressed in for an extra $15 a tire. While studs provide a small advantage in the most extreme of environments, they do have their trade-offs. Studded tires are noisy and not allowed in all states. They can also reduce performance in dry and wet conditions. Make no mistake, studded tires are capable but that performance comes at a cost.
Which tire you select will depend on where you live and where and what you drive. If you look around the parking lot at our headquarters in South Bend, Indiana this coming winter, you won't see many, if any studded snow tires because our climate isn't that extreme. If our base camp was located high in the Rockies, the tables might turn. There's simply a case to be made for using different tools for different jobs.
To recap, here are some pros and cons for each category:
Studless Ice & Snow
- Reasonable road manners
- More than adequate snow and ice performance
- Friendly on dry and wet roads
- Will give up a slight grip advantage to a studded tire on glare ice
Studdable Winter / Snow
- An extreme tire for extreme environments
- No more expensive than a Studless Ice & Snow tire
- Road noise
- Not meant for dry and wet roads
- Not legal in all areas
Shop by vehicle to find the winter / snow tire that's best for how and where you drive.