I am occasionally asked if drivers can run studdable winter tires, such as the Firestone Winterforce and the General AltiMAX Arctic, without the studs. The answer is yes, however if you're planning on using the studs check with your local authorities as there are restrictions and even bans in many states.
We did some testing a few years back that helps highlight the performance differences between these two tires. To gauge what sort of differences adding studs makes, we studded a set to test side-by-side with its unstudded counterparts. Complete test results can be found by reading "Winter Testing at the Arctic Circle: Studdable Winter / Snow."
Our test compared the studded General AltiMAX Arctic against the tire being unstudded and showed us how each would perform in real world driving situations. Acceleration in snow without traction control saw a .1% difference favoring the unstudded, however when utilizing the traction control system, there was a 3% advantage to the studded version. The braking exercise employed ABS on a snow-covered surface. The studded tire took .4% longer to stop the BMW.
In the snow, the differences are pretty minor. This is not much of a surprise as the purpose of the stud is really for ice traction.
General AltiMAX Arctic
The story shifts when we move to icy surfaces. Our studded solution was 23% and 34% better in acceleration and braking respectively.
Another area worthy of examining is wet and dry road braking. The studs play a detrimental role in these environments giving the unstudded option right around a 5% advantage. They also generate a significant amount of noise when they hit the road surface. Additionally, they can cause significant levels of damage to the road surfaces that put a strain on highway budgets.
While this is a brief overview of the performance differences between studded and unstudded winter solutions, you can learn more about this topic by reading "Studded Tires for Winter Driving."