How to Determine the Hardness of a Skateboard's Wheels

Peter Cade/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The wheels of your skateboard can help or hurt your ride, so choosing wheels with the proper hardness is vital. Softer wheels provider more grip, making them a good choice for street skating, but they are slower than harder wheels, which are a better choice for smooth surfaces, particularly skate parks.

Companies use a durometer scale to indicate the hardness of the skateboard wheels they make. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. Most manufacturers use the Durometer A Scale. For example, a skateboard wheel with a hardness of 78a would be considered very soft, while one labeled 100a would be hard.

The Durometer B Scale is 20 points lower than the A scale and tends to be more accurate, particularly for measuring harder skateboard wheels. In other words, a wheel marked 80b has the same hardness as one marked 100a.

A Guide to Skateboard Wheel Hardness

Most skateboard wheels fall between 78 and 100 on the Durometer A Scale. 

78a to 87a are soft wheels appropriate for rough surfaces like sidewalks, roads and other surfaces with pebbles, rocks, and cracks because they provide a smoother ride and grip better. Longboards or street boards typically have soft wheels. 

88a to 95a have a little less grip but still grip well, making them suitable for rough surfaces and street skating. They are just a bit harder and faster.

96a to 99a are good wheels for all-around use. They offer a balance between grip and speed, making them a beginner's choice for both street skateboarding and for smooth surfaces like skate parks and ramps.

101a plus are professional wheels. They are the fastest and hardest with the least grip and are used only on smooth surfaces. 

Although softer wheels grip the ground better, they get torn up or develop flat spots rather quickly. Harder wheels may last longer, but they don't grip as well. Longboards often have very soft wheels, whereas street skaters might want harder wheels if their riding surface isn't too rough.

Some manufacturers make it easy for buyers by designing their wheels specifically for a particular purpose.

Skateboard Wheel Diameter

Another number to know when choosing skateboard wheels is the diameter, which generally ranges from 50 mm to 75 mm. Larger wheels are faster and more appropriate for longboards and cruisers and for rough surfaces that you encounter in street skating. Smaller wheels are slower but are the best choice for tricks on a shortboard and for smooth surfaces that you find on ramps, bowls, and skate parks. For beginners, an average wheel size of 54 mm to 59 mm is usually best.

Because your weight and height also factor in when choosing wheels, ask for the help of an expert at a skateboard shop.

Skateboard Contact Patch

The contact patch is the part of the wheel that touches the ground. The size and shape of the wheel dictate the proper size contact patch. Getting the right size patch ensures optimal performance by properly distributing your weight.