Soft vs Hard Tire Sidewalls: Which Is Better for You?
Soft tire sidewalls are better for noise and comfort whereas hard sidewalls are better for performance and handling.
If you’re looking for a new set of tires, you may have heard about soft vs hard tire sidewalls and which are the best choice for you. Both have their pros and cons, so it can be tough to decide which is the best option.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of both soft and hard sidewalls so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your needs.
Soft vs Hard Tire Sidewalls, which is the better choice?
There are a lot of varying factors between both soft sidewalls and hard sidewall. The decision of whether to choose soft or hard tire sidewalls is one that depends on your individual needs and preferences.
If you are looking for a tire that provides better grip, comfort, and traction, then soft sidewalls may be the better choice for you. We would recommend a soft sidewall for anyone looking for a tire to drive day to day.
However, if you are looking for a tire that is more resistant to punctures and damage or one that provides better responsiveness and handling, then hard sidewalls are the way to go. Harder sidewalls are less suited for daily driving and are more common on supercars to make the most of their high performance.
UHP (ultra high performance) tires and race tires also mainly have hard sidewalls to withstand the high cornering forces and high speeds. These tires are also designed with a much smaller ratio of tire sidewall to the rest of the tire which makes the ride less comfortable but increases performance.
What is the tire sidewall?
The tire sidewall is the portion of the tire that extends from the edge of the tread to the bead. It is the part of the tire that is most visible when looking at any vehicle.
It is an important part of the tire because it helps to protect the inner workings and cords in the tire and provides support for the tread. The sidewall has a large effect on how a tire performs overall.
Tire sidewalls come in a variety of different sizes and aspect ratios, with large tire sidewalls more common on larger vehicles such a trucks and SUVs. The aspect ratio is the difference in size between the height and width of a tire. A lower aspect ratio means a smaller sidewall compared to the width of the tire, and vica versa for large aspect ratios.
Performance tires tend to have a lower aspect ration with smaller sidewalls. This helps to the tires to be resistant to too much flexing when under high stresses, giving better handling, responsiveness and overall performance at high speeds.
What does a hard or soft sidewall mean?
When describing a tire sidewall as hard or soft, this is referring to the flexibility of the sidewall. A hard sidewall means that the sidewall has been manufactured to be harder and is less likely to flex, while a soft sidewall is designed to be more flexible.
Tires that are designed to be harder will have a thicker sidewall than tires designed to be soft. This thickness varies from between between 6 and 15mm in thickness or around 1/4 to 5/8 inches.
All tires come with a tire treadwear indicators which are printed on the tire sidewalls and form part of the US Uniform Tyre Quality Grading system (UTQG). These numbers range from 60 to 800 and describe the hardness of a tire and how long a tire tread is expected to last.
60 is the shortest treadwear life expectancy and 800 is the longest. This can be used as an indicator as to whether the tire has a hard or soft tire sidewall and whether the tire has been designed for performance or longevity.
The benefits of soft tire sidewalls
One of the main benefits of having a soft tire sidewall is that it provides better grip. This is because the softer material can conform to the shape of the road surface more easily, providing more contact with the ground and therefore more grip.
This is especially beneficial in wet or icy conditions where traction is essential. Soft sidewalls also help to make a vehicle more comfortable as they absorb vibrations and bumps from the road surface better than hard sidewalls.
Softer sidewalls will have less steering responsiveness however compared to hard sidewalls. This is due to the fact that they can flex more when cornering, resulting in less precise handling.
Pros of Soft Sidewalls
- More comfortable ride
- Quieter ride
- Better grip in poor conditions
- More suited for daily driving
Cons of Soft Sidewalls
- Worse fuel economy
- Less steering responsiveness
- Less suitable for rough terrain
The benefits of hard tire sidewalls
Harder tire sidewalls are not as good at absorbing vibrations and bumps from the road surface, but they have other benefits. One of these benefits is that hard sidewalls can help to improve fuel economy. This is because they are less likely to flex and deform, meaning that there is less resistance and therefore less drag.
Harder sidewalls can also improve handling as they provide more support to the tire tread, especially at higher speeds. This can help to prevent the tread from deforming under heavy braking or cornering, providing a more stable and predictable ride.
Harder sidewalls also tend to be more resistant to punctures and damage. However, they can be more uncomfortable on rough roads and may not provide as much traction in off-road conditions.
Pros of Hard Sidewalls
- More suited for high performance vehicles
- Better fuel economy
- Usually have a longer tire life
- More resilient to damage
Cons of Hard Sidewalls
- Less comfortable ride
- Less grip in harsh conditions
- Noisier ride
Which is the better choice for you?
As you can see, there are a lot of varying factors between both soft sidewalls and hard sidewall. The decision of whether to choose soft or hard tire sidewalls is one that depends on your individual needs and preferences.
If you are looking for a daily tire that provides better comfort and a quieter ride and you will be driving on smooth roads, then soft sidewalls may be the better choice for you.
If you are looking to maximise the life of your tires or are more interested in tire that maximise the handling and performance of your vehicle, then a hard sidewall will be more ideal for you.
Which type of sidewall is better for you will also depend on what vehicle you are driving. Sedans and smaller cars will be limited to choosing tires with a smaller aspect ratio, unlike pickups, trucks and SUVs which have much more wheel clearance and suit a much larger sidewall and aspect ratio. This is part of what gives them their superior off road performance.
This all needs to be taken into account in your choice between soft vs hard tire sidewalls. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which type of tire is best suited to your needs.
For the best tires for your vehicle, check out our tire review guides where we outline the best tires for all vehicles.
We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch via email or through social media and we will read and respond to every comment, email or question. Thanks for reading!
Can I pick tires that have benefits of both hard and soft sidewalls?
Yes, there are plenty of tires that are designed to be a happy mid way point between both hard and soft sidewalls. Although they wont be as good as a tire with dedicated hard vs soft tire sidewalls, they will definitely have some of the benefits of both