Many different types of skateboard wheels exist, each with different characteristics that will affect the way the board skates.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one type that is great for all styles and terrains. You’ll have to determine what style of skating you prefer and what type of wheels will work best for you and your board.
The main variations to look out for are wheel hardness (durometer), size (diameter), riding surface, and profile.
Get familiar with the guidelines of each characteristic and what types of wheels are best for your specific skateboard so you can get started with testing them out for yourself.
Wheel Size (Diameter)
A key differentiator of the skateboard wheels on the market is their size. The most important dimension used to measure this is the diameter.
Typically, small wheels span from 50-54 millimeters. The biggest benefit of small wheels is their high responsiveness. If you’re looking to conquer technical skating tricks like flipping your board, these wheels are great.
Big wheels are typically 55-60 millimeters. Because they are heavier than others, they enable skaters to easily maintain speed and cross rough pavement without being stopped or slowed down. If you’re skating as a mode of transportation or mainly practicing transition skating, these are your best bet.
If you’re just starting out with skateboarding, shoot for wheels with a diameter in the middle of 50-60 mm (around 53 to 54 mm). This will be a happy medium between giving you the ability to accelerate, maintain speed, and clear bumps and cracks on the road. This size will be well suited for different terrains whether you’re wanting to street skate or hit bowls and ramps.
Refer to the table below for a rough idea on the best size wheel for different styles of skateboarding:
Wheel Riding Surface (aka Contact Patch)
The wheel riding surface, also named the contact patch, refers to the outer part of the skateboard wheel that makes direct contact with the ground.
This aspect of the wheels is responsible for the distribution of your weight and directly impacts your momentum.
Generally, a wider contact patch will give you more grip and stability than a narrower contact patch.
Technical tricks are best performed with narrow contact patches. Larger wheels are often equipped with larger contact patches.
Wheel Shape (Profile)
Wheels come in different shapes, referred to as profiles.
This component will also differ in how the board skates. Typically, wheels with rounded edges are best for slides.
Alternatively, sharper edges make for a higher grip and better grinds. Learn what you need to know about the most common shapes.
Let’s kick off with narrow wheels, as these are the most common out there.
Their smaller lip radius gives you less contact with the ground. Because of this, they are highly responsive and great for technical skating.
Wide wheels have a larger contact patch and are great for reaching high speeds.
Because of this, they are awesome for hitting the skatepark, vert ramps, transition, and bowls. They offer stability but aren’t the best option out there for performing tricks as they’re harder to get off the ground.
Classic Shaped Wheels
These wheels are most commonly sold for cruiser boards. They support sustained momentum through the high grip. They’re your go-to if you want a smooth ride. Street skaters shouldn’t go for these because they are harder to control.
Conical Shaped Wheels
The conical shape is defined by a wider core than the edge (aka wheel lip). This construction is beneficial because it provides a relatively wide contact patch with a relatively low weight. This shape is often recommended for those skating on the street and in parks who want to perform tricks.
Wheel Hardness (aka Durometer)
The durometer of the wheel is a measure of how hard it is. Skateboard wheels are constructed within a range of durometers that spans from soft to hard.
Typically, wheels within the 78a to 90a range are classified as soft, those within the 90a to 98a are in the middle, and those above 99a are hard.
What does this all mean? Well, that depends on what type of skating you are doing. Hard wheels are great for conquering skate parks and street skating. Soft wheels enable an awesome time cruising, getting around town, and longboarding. If you’re a beginner, go for medium wheels to protect you from frequently getting stopped by each pebble and crack.
Learn more about soft vs. hard skateboard wheels.
Types of Wheels By Skating Style
Now that you’re well versed in how different characteristics affect the ride each set of skateboard wheels will give you, let’s dive right into the different types you’ll come across in skate shops. Choosing the right wheels for you comes down to the type of skating you want to do. If you have an idea of what style of skating you’re shooting for, you can jump right into that section to find information on what wheel type is best suited.
As a street skater aspiring to master tricks, you’re going to want light, responsive, smaller wheels.
They need to be hard enough to provide the stability needed to land a kickflip yet the right size to move successfully through a grind.
Look for a set of wheels with the following specs:
- Harder durometer (between 99A and 101A).
- Diameter between 50 and 55 mm.
- Round or conical-shaped profile.
If your main objective is to cruise, go for the smooth ride that larger wheels are great at delivering.
Many setups with larger wheels are best paired with riser pads to prevent them from scraping on the bottom of your board, otherwise known as wheel bite—which can make even the most experienced skater eat it.
Look for these features in cruiser wheels:
- Diameter of 60mm or above.
- Softer durometer (aim for around 78a).
- Either square or round lip profile.
- Large and wide contact patch.
Cruising and Tricks Wheels
If you’re looking to both cruise and perform the occasional trick, the wheels you’ll want will differ a bit from those above.
They should be of the medium durometer to offer both a smooth ride and the occasional pop of the deck. Go for something with a:
- Durometer between 86A to 95A.
- Diameter of 54mm to 58mm.
Mini Ramp Wheels
Typically, slightly larger wheels are great for mini ramps.
These wheels will also let you move between transition and street skating with ease.
- A diameter of 54mm or higher (the higher the diameter, the less you’ll have to pump).
- A durometer between 97A and 101A.
- A conical shape.
Bowl and Pool Skating Wheels
Bowl and pool skating require you to maintain speed for long periods of time. Large diameter wheels will be your best friend for this style of skating because they’ll help with that.
Go for wheels with:
- A durometer of 80A-99A.
- A diameter between 54mm and 60mm.
- A largeer contact patch.
A Vert Skateboarding Wheels
Vert skateboarding is best performed with large-diameter, high-grip wheels so you don’t slide uncontrollably.
The best wheels for this type of skating will have:
- Durometer in between the range of 97A and 100A.
- A diameter of 56mm to 58mm.
- High grip.
- A large contact patch.
Skatepark and Transition Skateboarding Wheels
If you’re transition skating or often visiting skateboards, you’ll want wheels that offer both momentum and agility to perform technical tricks. Look for wheels that are:
- 53 to 54 mm in diameter.
- Have a durometer of 96A to 101A.
- Round lip or conical profile.