March 8, 2022
The Shoes of the Car World: A Quick Guide to Tire Types
We get it. Sometimes, talking about tires can feel like speaking a whole different language. The jargon piles up, and suddenly you’re losing track of the conversation. Frustrating experiences like that can keep shoppers from replacing their tires until something goes wrong, and that’s no fun either. You don’t want to be stranded or worse because of a tire issue.
But tires don’t have to be complicated! In fact, they’re generally pretty straight-forward, once you begin to speak the language. Today, we figured we’d run you through some of the basic types of tires available to you, and what that could mean for your car. That way, the next time it’s time to replace your tires, you’re confident and prepared. Tire buying shouldn’t be a high-stress scenario.
Really, at its most basic, wheels are like feet for your car. They keep you grounded, help you grip and go. Tires, then, become like shoes. We all know that you wouldn’t want to wear the same pair of shoes for every activity. A running shoe is great for plenty of activities, but you wouldn’t want to be hiking through snow in lightweight mesh athletic shoes. Athletes wear cleats on turf fields for a reason. The type of shoe you wear affects your performance, just like the type of tire on your car affects its performance.
So, let’s roll with that metaphor a little longer here, and talk about the most common types of tires through the lens of shoes. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a better understanding of what each tire’s purpose is, and feel more prepared to mount your vehicle up with whichever type of tire best fits your needs. Let’s go:
All-season tires: the sneakers of the car world
Like a reliable, dependable sneaker, all-season tires are meant to do most things pretty well. They provide smooth driving conditions on highways and city streets that maximize the ride’s comfort. They’re also equipped with the sort of tread that can do a good job in most conditions, meaning they’re a dependable option for daily use. The all-season is a slightly misleading name, however, as the rubber compound tends to stiffen in cold weather, and thus not work as well in snowy conditions.
If you want something comfortable and reliable that will handle nearly any average-day issue, these tires, like your favorite go-to sneakers, have the potential to be your main set.
All-weather tires: the trail shoes of the car world
Like moving from running shoes to trail running shoes, an all-weather tire is a lot of the same thing as the all-season, but with a little extra thrown in there to battle the elements. Like how a trail shoe might provide better grip on less ideal surfaces, and protect from weather a bit better, the all-weather tire has a compound that remains flexible as the temperatures drop.
While these can perform in the warmer months of the year, really the people who should be looking at all-weather tires instead of all-season tires are those who live in colder, snowier climates.These tires are snowflake rated, so they work as a winter traction tire, but you don’t need to switch them on and off your vehicle.
Touring tires: the running shoes of the car world
Sneakers are nice, but sometimes you want something with a little more athleticism in its DNA. Like all-weather tires, touring tires are designed for a smooth ride. However, where these tires stand out is when you ask them to do more than the average drive.
Just like running shoes, these are meant to handle things when you go from slow to fast. With better, more responsive handling, touring tires add more performance perks to the mix. If you’re looking to do everything a little faster, or you want a car that you can trust to handle higher-speed curves, touring tires may be the option for you.
All-terrain tires: the hiking boots of the car world
Dirt, mud, sand, gravel. Whatever you have to deal with off the beaten path, you want something that has the tread and the support to handle those funky driving surfaces. Just like a hiker swapping out walking shoes for something a little beefier, all-terrain tires give you that added confidence to take the road less traveled.
While they might not produce the smoother ride of some other tires, all-terrain tires are a good fit for those whose road conditions aren’t always paved. If what you want is to be able to go anywhere, no matter what path takes you there, like a good boot, all-terrain tires are meant for those situations.
Performance tires: the basketball shoes of the car world
Like a sweet pair of kicks, performance tires aren’t always purchased for their performance. Style often plays a factor in that purchase. Still, when it’s game time, you want a shoe that can handle every hard cut, plant, and acceleration. That’s what a performance tire is for your car.
Not only are performance tires capable of producing better results at higher speeds, but they’re made to grip the road in wet weather to keep your handling tight and your cornering smooth. Like a good basketball shoe on a court, performance tires grip the road and keep you grounded while you make your move.
Winter tires (studded): the cleats of the car world
When things get truly icy, as climbers head up the mountain to reach the summit, you eventually reach the point where you need something a little more extreme to break through the ice. Studded winter tires, like cleats or ice crampons, aren’t meant for everyday use. In fact, they’re not even legal for that in all places.
Still, when the roads get sketchy or you have to make it up the mountain, having something designed for one job and one job only can be a great thing. If you find yourself routinely driving in icy weather, or you’re a diehard ski bum trying to reach the mountain dozens of times a year, having a reliable pair of snow tires won’t hurt.
Winter tires (non-studded): the snow boots of the car world
Not every state allows studded tires, of course. When that’s the case, or if you just don’t want to worry about studded tires, there are still options out there. Winter tires without studs act a lot like a snow boot would. They’re designed to give you additional grip and comfort in those cold, snowy times without messing up the pavement around you.
Both types of winter tire are rated for the condition, so it will come down to personal preference, what works best for your vehicle, and what your state allows on the roads!