Searching for the best studded snow tires? There are three things you need to keep in mind. The first is that studded tires aren’t allowed entry in some regions. So, before investing in them, make sure you can legally use these tires on roads where you do most of your driving.
Secondly, and this might seem obvious to you, studded tires struggle in the wrong conditions. Since studs are their primary point of connection with the road, these tires’ tread blocks make less contact with the surface. As such, they can be extremely slippery on clear roads.
Thirdly, metal studs add weight to the tire, increasing its rolling resistance. This forces your car’s engine to output more power to keep these tires rolling. This, in turn, will cause your vehicle to burn more gas, tanking its fuel efficiency and increasing your trips to the pump.
Despite all these potential roadblocks, you may have no choice but to opt for studded snow tires if you live in an area where it snows heavily throughout the year. That is why we have come up with this article to provide detailed reviews of the ten best studded snow tires.
#1. Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 – Best Overall
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 is currently the best studded snow tire on the market. This model was released in January 2021 as a replacement for the Hakkapeliitta 9, the previous market leader in this category, and features various improvements over its famed predecessor.
Compared with the Hakkapeliitta 9, the 10 features an increased number of studs whose placement is tailored by tire size. For instance, in its 205/R55 R16 size, this tire features 16% more studs than the previous version. The result is added traction and enhanced safety.
Nokian has also used more rubber at the base of this model. This is done to give the studs something extra to latch on to, helping them stay in place for much longer. A stiffened tread rib and added siping are also on offer to increase the tire’s steering feel and overall wet grip.
Road noise is also taken care of. Nokian’s “Silent Drive” sound absorbing technology reduces the peak cabin noise by as much as 6 dB to let you enjoy your drive in relative silence. The only thing we don’t like is that this technology doesn’t come on all versions of this tire.
On top of everything else, this tire is available in several sizes, from 14 to 22 inches. Such a wide size availability means you can put this model on most passenger cars, SUVs, and crossovers. What is more, the Hakkapeliitta 10 is also available for installation on EVs.
- Comes with pre-installed metal studs
- Offers remarkable snow and ice traction
- Incredibly quiet for a studded snow tire
- Offers better fuel efficiency than its predecessor
- Silent Drive technology is only available on the EV version
#2. Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra – Best Runner Up
The Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra shows that you don’t have to sacrifice daily-driver comfort for competent snow performance. It uses a winter-specific tread compound, rugged metal studs, and unique tread design to ensure your vehicle’s safety in a snowstorm.
Start with the tread compound. The WinterCommand Ultra’s tread compound has the flexibility needed to withstand sub-zero temperatures, the main requirement for any tire that claims to be stable on frozen surfaces. Thanks to this, it will stay useful on frozen roads.
Next comes the unique tread design featuring innumerable sipes to increase this model’s traction in winter conditions. Running alongside or sometime in between the sipes are circumferential and lateral grooves. These channels minimize the risk of hydroplaning.
While this model isn’t as quiet as our top pick, it doesn’t make the kind of roar that drive most people nuts about aggressive studded snow tires. At low speeds, this model’s noise isn’t noticeably louder than all seasons, a massive achievement for a studded snow tire.
Snow performance is the final area where this tire shines. Even when there’s inches of snow on the road, your car won’t face any trouble starting, turning, or stopping. As such, the WinterCommand Ultra is highly capable of letting you drive out of an un-shoveled driveway.
- Sure-footed performance on thick snow and ice
- Poses excellent resistance to hydroplaning
- Makes less tread roar than most aggressive snow tires
- Doesn’t come with a treadwear warranty
#3. Firestone Winterforce 2 – Best Mid-Range
The Firestone Winterforce 2 isn’t your average studded snow tire. Your standard snow tire isn’t available in as many sizes and is sold by as many retailers as this model. Neither does it come at such an affordable price. All these factors make the Winter Force 2 a must-have for you.
Just like every snow tire worth its salt, the Winterforce 2 comes with the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol. This symbol is standardized and controlled by EU authorities. Only those tires are awarded this marking that are suitable for harsh winter conditions.
To achieve this rating, Firestone utilized a unique cold-weather tread compound and molded it into a full-directional tread pattern. The tread compound helps the tire stay pliable at sub-zero temperatures, while the tread pattern has the sipes needed for reliable traction on snow.
In addition to the biting edges, the tread pattern features multiple circumferential grooves, open shoulder slots, and wide lateral notches. All of these design elements help evacuate water from beneath the tread area. The result is excellent hydroplaning resistance and wet traction.
Lastly, while this model doesn’t come with pre-installed studs (a facility our top pick offers), any tire dealer or technician can insert the supplied TSMI #11 blue-colored metallic inserts. This is a minor but necessary inconvenience if you want to experience reliable performance on snow.
- Comes with the 3PMSF symbol
- Highly predictable at the limit
- Is reliable in sub-zero temperatures
- Comfort and noise levels could have been better
#4. General Altimax Arctic 12 – Best Budget
The General Altimax Arctic 12 shows that you don’t always have to blow your budget to land a set of high-quality studded snow tires. Its snow and wet performance, long-lasting tread life, and reduced vibration levels demonstrate that no corners have been cut to keep the price low.
A winter-specific tread compound has been molded into a directional tread pattern to increase this tire’s utility on ice- and snow-laden roads. In addition, the tread pattern features an intricate siping detail to give the tire the aggressiveness needed to stay stable in bad conditions.
Yet another thing the tread pattern does is ensure an even road contact. This is great news for anyone worried about the almost ever-rising oil prices. As the even road contact translates into low rolling resistance, helping this tire give a boost to your vehicle’s fuel mileage.
Multiple circumferential grooves are also on offer. These channels help evacuate water from beneath the tread area before it can accumulate and invite hydroplaning. The resulting improved hydroplaning resistance guarantees excellent winter traction in harsh conditions.
Not that this model is faultless. The Arctic 12 has a tendency to get very loud when the studs are installed, especially if you’re one of those drivers who don’t keep an eye on the speedometer. The absence of a treadwear warranty might prove to be another deal-breaker.
- Available at a budget price point
- Outstanding traction and handling in demanding conditions
- Incredibly short braking distances on snow and ice
- Zero treadwear warranty
#5. Michelin X-Ice North 4 – Best Premium
The Michelin X-Ice North 4 rivals the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10’s performance on wet, icy, and snow-laden roads. The only thing that could keep you from installing this tire on your vehicle is its braking distances, which are a tad longer than those of the Hakkapeliitta 10.
A winter-specific tread compound featuring Michelin’s Nordic compounding gives the tire the flexibility to thieve in cold temperatures. At the same time, when temperatures aren’t so bad and you’ve taken out the studs, the compound will remain stable on clear and/or dry roads.
This tire’s directional tread pattern features a V-shaped tread design for better snow and ice evacuation. It also contains multiple wide grooves to evacuate water and slush. Multiple interlocking sipes are also offered to give this tire the biting power to plow through ice and snow.
Another thing you might appreciate about the X-Ice North 4 is that it comes with pre-installed studs. So, you don’t have to drive to a tire mechanic and pay them to get the studs installed. As far as we can tell, the only other tire offering this feature is the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10.
That said, if Michelin really wanted consumers to pick this tire over the Hakkapeliitta 10, it should have paid attention to the X-Ice 4 North’s braking distances. We’re saying that because the Hakkapeliitta 10 out-brakes this model by a couple of meters in most conditions.
- Comes with factory-installed metal studs
- Brilliant snow and ice evacuation
- Performs reliably in tricky weather conditions
- Braking distances could have been shorter
#6. Cooper Evolution Winter
The Cooper Evolution Winter ticks several boxes for the average driver. This studded snow tire offers a long tread life, doesn’t make much noise in harsh conditions, and has excellent road manners. An excellent hydroplaning resistance further justifies its premium asking price.
The Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (3PMSF) is an indication of this tire’s extreme weather capability. As stated above, this rating is only awarded to tires that can plow through snow. For this reason, you can count on the Evolution Winter to keep you safe out there.
To achieve this rating, Cooper equipped this tire with a winter-specific tread compound. One that doesn’t only stay flexible in sub-zero temperatures. But whose molding into a directional tread pattern provides the driver with shorter braking distances on ice and snow.
Snow-Groove technology takes care of snow and ice traction. It does that with the help of high-density, multi-angle sipes that supplement the tire’s built-in sipes for added traction on hard-packed and unpacked snow, ice, and even slush. The technology also improves wet traction.
Treadwear Indicators are also on offer. These are narrow rubber bars that show the driver how much tread is still remaining. Cooper recommends replacing the tire when these bars become completely flush with the tread’s surface, beyond which the snow traction will be poor.
- Has the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol
- Comes with tread wear indicators
- Quiet and comfortable for a winter tire
- Not as cheap as most other Cooper tires
#7. Laufenn I Fit Ice Studdable
The Laufenn I Fit Ice Studdable is another budget-friendly winter tire. This model’s snow and ice traction might not be as good as that of our top picks. Yet compared with its mid-range counterparts, the I Fit Ice is a reliable performer in difficult weather conditions.
Snow traction is the one area where this tire excels. Even without the studs on, this model won’t make you feel as if you’re driving a budget tire. The traction, handling, and snow & ice traction will all be as superb as those of premium tires, a huge achievement.
Similar is the case with ice traction, provided you always have the studs on. This tire will come to a stop very quickly on icy surfaces and will be equally reliable when it comes to sharp turns. Its acceleration, braking, and handling will all exceed your expectations too.
Take off the studs, and you won’t have any complaints about this model’s wet performance. Its circumferential and lateral grooves will perform an excellent job of water evacuation, with the directional tread pattern reducing the risk of skidding and slipping.
Treadlife is the only area where this tire lets its users down. Drivers who have used this tire in harsh wintry conditions complain that its treadlife is much shorter when compared to premium tires.
- Competitively priced
- Excellent ice and snow traction for the price
- Offers refined ride quality with the studs off
- Treadlife is shorter than that of its premium competitors
#8. Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter
The Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter has been on the market since 2012. This model was one of Goodyear’s first attempts to make a space for itself in the winter tire market. That we’re talking about this tire more than a decade after its release shows Goodyear has succeeded.
Everything great about this tire’s winter performance has its roots in its directional tread pattern. These include the biting edges (which improve this model’s snow traction), three wide circumferential grooves (which help with water evacuation), and the 3PMSF symbol.
The directional tread design also helps improve this model’s steering responsiveness. It does that via a rigid center rib that gives maximum feedback to the driver. The steering’s responsiveness also makes sure that this tire responds to your steering inputs within seconds.
Its high-density siping detail not only improves this model’s traction. The biting edges also shorten the Ultra Grip Winter’s braking distances on snow and ice. In addition, the extra surface grip provided by the sipes boosts the maneuverability of this model in harsh weather.
All of this is not to say that the Ultra Grip Winter ticks all boxes. Nothing in this tire could stop the harmful impact of its sipes, lug-type tread pattern, and soft tread compound on its fuel economy. So, be ready for reduced fuel mileage with this tire.
- Decent tread life
- Excellent maneuverability in harsh weather
- Has the 3PMSF symbol
- Will have a negative impact on your vehicle’s fuel economy
#9. Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3
Uniroyal tires are known for their budget-friendly prices, long tread lives, and decent road manners. Luckily, the Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3 isn’t different. In fact, the only difficulty you may have with this tire is saying its name in one go (as it’s a mouthful). There won’t be any other complaints.
If you want to get its best snow performance from this tire, make sure to attach the studs. With their help there aren’t many challenging wintry conditions that this model cannot conquer. Without them, though, this model’s traction and grip would be nowhere near reliable.
The installation of studs will also improve the tire’s wet handling. Its braking distances too will see a marked improvement with the studs on. The only thing the studs cannot do is enhance this model’s responsiveness, which is below average, especially on dry pavements.
Other than responsiveness, this model works pretty well on clear roads. The level of noise it makes on dry pavement is nowhere near as loud as that of dedicated snow tires. Furthermore, people who have used this model have plenty of good things to say about its treadlife.
- Excellent snow traction and braking with the studs on
- Available at a pocket-friendly price point
- Safe and quiet on dry and wet roads
Handling could have been better on dry roads
#10. General Grabber Arctic LT
The General Grabber Arctic LT is a studded snow tire for light trucks. This model’s higher-than-usual load rating makes it an exciting option for towing and hauling heavy loads on snow and ice. That too at a price most truck drivers would gladly pay.
General boasts on its website that the Arctic LT features a robust cut- and chip-resistant tread compound that can maintain its flexibility in freezing temperatures. If true, this would make this model a reliable performer for all but Antarctican winters.
An interlocking siping pattern kills two birds with one stone. On the one end, it helps this model grip the road reliably in ice, snow, and wet conditions. On the other, the siping pattern reduces block deformation and squirm for an even wear and long treadlife.
A symmetric tread design soaks up road vibrations and deflects road noise for a comfortable driving experience on wet and clear roads. The Arctic also comes with pinholes where you can attach 11mm studs to improve this model’s traction on icy and snowy surfaces.
- Offers a long treadlife
- Performs reliably on icy roads with the studs installed
- Quiet and comfortable for a studdable tire
- Might struggle on ice-glazed hard-packed snow
Studded Tires Buying Guide
What are studded tires?
Studded tires have small, lightweight pieces of metal (studs) added to their tread area. These studs are meant to go 1/32″ inside the tire’s upper surface. Once locked and loaded, the studs, under the full weight of the vehicle, claw at the road surface underneath like pickaxes.
As studded tires rotate on the road, their studs help break through the snow- and ice-covered roads to give your vehicle better traction. The studs’ sharp edges help break snow and ice into tiny pieces so that the inner surface gets exposed for the tire to latch onto.
What are the differences between studded and studless snow tires?
Here are the major differences between studded and studless snow tires:
- Studded tires are much louder on the road. That is especially the case with cheap/inexpensive studded snow tires. Or in conditions in which the ice and snow on the road is thin for the studs to bite into the road surface.
- Studded tires perform better on tightly packed snow. While modern studless tires like the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 can keep you and your vehicle safe on snow, studded tires have an undeniable advantage on hard-packed snowy surfaces.
- Studded tires cannot be used year-round. That is not the case with studless tires, which can come in handy at any time of the year. Still, it’s recommended to replace studless tires with all-season ones in warmer weather.
- Studded tires perform better on ice. Here is one area in which studded tires are the clear winner. The presence of studs in their tread area help these models perform much better on loose and hard ice than other winter tires.
What to look for when buying the best studded snow tires?
Here are the features that distinguish the best studded snow tires from the also-rains:
Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) Symbol
Studded tires with the 3PMSF marking are suitable for the harshest winter conditions. This symbol is standardized by EU authorities and guarantees that the tire bearing it has met the rater’s strict criteria for performance in challenging weather conditions.
The M+S marking stands for ‘Mud + Snow’ and is only found on tires that have a soft rubber compound and a tread with a unique sipe pattern and deeper grooves. Any tire with all these design elements will be a better winter performer than any model lacking them.
How can I make my winter tires last longer?
Follow these tips to make your winter tires last longer:
- Make sure the tires are properly inflated all the time. Check the side of your tire or your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find your ideal tire pressure.
- Drive slowly in harsh weather conditions. Tires wear out faster when used on snowy or icy roads. Driving slowly can reduce the wear rate.
- Store the tires properly during the summer season. This means cleaning your tires and washing away any remnants of salt. If left on the tread area, salt particles can eat into the rubber.
Cheap studded tires might cost less upfront, but they could also jeopardize your well-being. It is therefore suggested to bite the bullet and opt for premium models. The best studded snow tires will keep you safe by ensuring your vehicle’s stability in challenging weather conditions.