Best Studless Winter Tires

While studded tires have their merits, they’re not allowed everywhere due to the damage they can cause to road surfaces. Enter studless (also called Nordic) winter tires, which offer great traction without the need for metal studs.

These tires are designed with advanced rubber compounds that remain pliable in freezing temperatures, and their tread patterns are optimized for snow and ice traction.

Moreover, they also offer a balance of performance, quietness, and wear resistance, making them a top choice for drivers in severe winter regions.

Now, following are the top winter options here. Each tire offers some unique abilities, which actually put them in this list.

Continental VikingContact 7

Continental VIkingContact 7
Continental VikingContact 7

The ability of a tire to grip on wet surfaces depends on how well it can deal with water on the road.

This is where the tire’s grooves and sipes come into play. Grooves help in channeling out most of the water, while sipes work at a microscopic level, pushing out residual water, ensuring a better grip.

The Continental VikingContact 7 stands out in both these areas, where its multi-directional grooves clear out most of the water out, while its dual wave-like siping patterns come in later, efficiently clearing water off with great efficacy.

As the tire offers siping with multiple orientations/angles, you get wet grip in all directions, allowing the tire to brake and corner pretty quickly, relatively.

Michelin X Ice Snow

Michelin X Ice Snow
Michelin X Ice Snow

Navigating snow-covered roads demands a tire equipped to handle some unique challenges.

Let’s just say a good tire here needs thermally adaptive rubber compound, and should offer the ability to maintain snow-to-snow contact, while throwing out the excess snow, (as you don’t want to get your tires packed here as well).

Why snow to snow contact is important: The unique nature of snowflakes, with their interlocking structures, allows for greater friction when snow meets snow, compared to when rubber meets snow.

Moreover, you also need a tire that has optimal weight, width (or section-width), and contact patch. All these basically provide the necessary pressure on the lugs, so again, snow to snow contact could be achieved.

Now, the Michelin X-Ice Snow ticks all these boxes, offering you the best overall snow performance (at least according to my tests).

Its specialized directional pattern is adept at scooping up and pushing snow backwards, ensuring the tire keeps moving forward efficiently. And with it’s six distinct ribs and multiple in-groove notches, this tire maximizes snow-to-snow contact, leading to exceptional handling in snowy conditions.

And of course, the tire has a rounded contact patch, and that combined with it’s optimized weight and tread width, it’s performance is further enhanced.

To put its performance into perspective, in tests, the Michelin X-Ice Snow tire clocked the fastest laps on snow-covered tracks. It was, on average, a remarkable 2 seconds quicker than its close competitor, the Blizzak WS90, emphasizing its dominance in snowy terrains.

Now 2 seconds may not seem a lot. It’s A LOT given that you have the same car with similar other variables.

Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra

Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra
Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra

Noise is generated by a lot of variables and factors, but air is the biggest contributor here still.

When air fills the gaps within a tire’s tread, it produces a humming or buzzing sound, its like the difference between blowing over the top of a wide vs. narrow bottle.

The larger these gaps, the more pronounced the noise. Additionally, air particles, primarily entering through the tire’s shoulders, collide with the tread, creating added noise and resonances within the grooves.

Now having said that, it can be explained why the Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra is the quietest winter tire according to my subjective testing.

The tire doesn’t offer too more a shoulder voids, so air is restricted from entry to begin with.

Also unlike many (other) winter tires, with multi-angled siping, its lateral siping arrangement minimizes noise generation.

Furthermore, Goodyear’s advanced variable pitch compound produces diverse tone frequencies simultaneously when air particles interact with the tread walls, preventing noise amplification.

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

Ice performance evaluates a tire’s capability to achieve grip and stability on various icy terrains, which are of course very slick and offer minimal inherent friction.

That’s why tires need to have a great rubber blend and detailed tread design, as these elements play pivotal roles in overall ice performance.

In other words, a standout tire here should have abundant biters, capable of retaining their flexibility even in extreme cold.

And the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is a prime example here, outshining all other premium winter tires, right now.

The central rib of this tire features various notches positioned at angles, enhancing multi-directional grip. This design contributes significantly to the tire’s centered stability.

While it’s tread, offering a rich array of sipes, merging wavy and straight patterns, further enhance its ice grip.

To further explain…It’s V-shaped biters supply directional traction on ice. While the lateral and longitudinal notches on the shoulders, paired with zigzag slits, provide you with superb steering responsiveness.

So you get top notch overall ice performance on this tire.

Barum Polaris 5

Barum Polaris 5
Barum Polaris 5

What makes a tire good in terms of value? Well there are a lot of points to note here.

First off, of course, the tire shouldn’t be overly pricey. And it should be decent overall, in terms of snow and ice traction (basically overall winter performance).

And yes, you can’t leave out wet performance too.

Now I am not saying the Polaris 5 is the top notch is those areas, but given its price tag, its reasonable.

Moreover, one of its strengths is its fuel economy, attributed to its low rolling resistance, which further adds to its cost-effectiveness.

But overall, the main thing providing this tire the title of best budget pick is it’s impressive tread lifespan.

When compared to other winter tires, the Polaris 5 is among the longest-lasting, averaging around 40k miles, despite lacking a treadwear warranty. This longevity can be credited to the tire’s reduced weight and firmer rubber blend, ensuring minimal friction with the road and subsequently prolonging tread life.

Kleber Krisalp HP3

Kleber Krisalp HP3

Hydroplaning occurs when water gets trapped between the tire and the roadway, causing the tire to lose traction and potentially float atop the water. Since water can’t be compressed, if not efficiently redirected, it disrupts tire-road contact.

And that’s where the design of grooves come in.

These provide channels or pathways to water, throwing it away, avoiding aquaplaning (another word for it).

Now let me explain why the Kleber Krisalp HP3 is the best tire, when it comes to aquaplaning.

The tire showcases a distinct directional pattern with V-shaped grooves, interconnected laterally, ensuring effective water evacuation from the center to the tire’s shoulders.

And with a rounded contact patch, it has more pressure on the water particles in the middle forcing/pushing them out pretty quickly (towards shoulders), adding to the overall process.

Now to confirm, this mainly throws water out “side-ways”.

While, as tire features very wide in-groove notches, which act as water containers, these help throw out the water longitudinally too.

So in terms of float speeds, the tire excels in both cornering and straight line tests, evacuating water in both directions effectively.

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

A winter tire that’s suitable for SUVs should have specific characteristics that not only cater to the challenges of cold, snowy, and icy conditions, but also to the unique attributes of SUV/CUVs, such as their greater weight, (slightly elevated) center of gravity, and often their off-road capabilities.

Having said that, it makes sense why you need tires here with decent voids to tread ratio, a long with solid internal construction, and great tread depth.

And that’s where the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 comes in.

The tire offers a lot of XL sizes, which are really suitable to carrying heavier weight, as they can lift 2200 lbs to 2700 lbs, per tire, (depending on the size, you choose).

Moreover, the tire also offers tread depth of 14/32″, on all its XL sizes.

This not only adds extra layer of rubber, providing comfort, durability and tread life, but also provides slightly off road performance as well, as dirt particles are scooped out easily.

Moreover, the tire features a symmetric pattern with a lot of triangular blocks, these provide very powerful grip and in all directions too.

Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

The Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 is considered one of the top choices when it comes to fuel economy in winter tires, as it offers advanced rubber composition, that keeps its rolling resistance low.

Moreover, its optimized sidewall design is more aerodynamic, keeping the drag low, enhancing economy further.

Though most of its performance comes form its temparature reactive polymers in its rubber, these basically adjust the lugs stiffness, based on the temperature.

(In milder cold temperatures, where maximum softness isn’t needed, the tire remains slightly stiffer, reducing rolling resistance and conserving fuel).

Now the tire comes in 16 to 21 inches with speed ratings of H, V and W, tread depth of 10/32″ on all sizes, and weight going from 18 lbs to 32 pounds.

Now greater the speed rating, greater would be the grip. So out of all its sizes, the H rated ones offer the best performance here.

Moreover, as weight also effects overall fuel consumption, it best you also choose the size with minimal weight.


After a thorough examination of a variety of winter tires, I can conclude that each tire has its own unique strengths tailored to specific conditions and user requirements.

From wet traction, snow and ice performance, to quiet rides and value for money, these tires have been carefully reviewed to help you make a “correct” decision.

A key reminder is that the choice of tire can significantly influence driving safety and performance during the harsh winter months. Hence, selecting a tire that best aligns with your driving needs and regional conditions, is the main thing to look out for, here.

Lastly, I should add that as tire industry continues to innovate and introduce new technologies, it’s crucial to stay updated. And having said that, I will keep on including newer tires here, if I see them fit.

Make sure to revisit this space for the latest insights and recommendations.

Firestone WinterForce 2 Review

Durable and sturdy, the WinterForce 2 is Firestone’s commitment to winter safety. Let’s start things off, with this tire’s main highlights.

Winterforce offers decent fuel economy, given its a winter tire.

Main Highlights

The Firestone WinterForce 2 offers great performance in terms of:

  • Dry Longitudinal Grip: Its continuous central rib ensures steady road contact, which leads to faster braking.
  • Wet Traction: The tire’s aggressive siping strategy offers decent grip on wet terrains.
  • Enhanced Winter Performance: Notably on ice, it has above-average braking and acceleration figures, and its snow traction benefits from a decent snow scooping abilities.
  • Comfort Levels: The tire having softer overall rubber ensures a comfortable ride.
  • Tread Durability: With an average tread depth of 12/32″, its lugs resist excessive flexing, adding to longevity.

However, the tire lacks in:

  • Lateral Dry Grip: As the tire doesn’t offer good enough cornering (in terms of entering the turn).
  • Comfort in Noise Levels: Tire is relatively still loud, due to its expansive shoulder voids.
  • Fuel Economy: Though the tire features lugs with foundational supports, its overall fuel efficiency is just average.

Info on Sizes: The Firestone Winterforce 2 comes in 14 to 18″ rims, with all sizes having only “S” speed rating, and standard load ratings. Moreover, all sizes also have the same 12/32″ tread depth, and in terms of weight, they range from 15 pounds and go up to 35 lbs.

Tread Structure

The Firestone Winterforce 2 comes with a very aggressive directional pattern.

Firestone WinterForce 2 Review
Firestone WinterForce 2 have studable lugs.

There are 5 ribs in total, where the shoulder lugs (on outer 2 ribs) are the most streamlined.

These shoulder blocks make rectangular shapes, and come with wave-like siping on them, just like seen everywhere else on the tread.

In the middle the 3 ribs, being pretty voided up, interconnect all outer circumferential grooves together.

Though the central most rib is continuous running. And it features slanted notches facing both sides, laterally.

Moreover, you also see snow vices here too.

The adjacent ribs also have similar features, though they also have stud holes, which are also seen on shoulder blocks too.

Dry Performance

Tire traction on dry surfaces is vital, including for winter tires, and here the efficacy of this traction relies on two primary factors: the amount of rubber that makes contact with the road and the tire’s steering responsiveness.

Moreover, grip can be further segmented into two categories: longitudinal (directional) grip and lateral traction. Let’s get deeper into each of these aspects.

Dry Longitudinal Grip

This grip pertains to a tire’s ability to maintain traction in a straight line, where it largely depends on how efficiently the central portion of the tire contacts the road.

But why is the tread’s middle area here so crucial?

It’s simple. As the tire rolls, the central part gets to face the most weight, resulting in maximum road contact. Given that this grip is directly related to direction, it’s no surprise that its effectiveness is measured by the tire’s braking performance.

Having said that, let’s take a look at our tire.

So the WinterForce 2 as an example shines brilliantly in this aspect, all thanks to its continuous central rib, which ensures steady road contact, translating to shorter braking distances and faster acceleration (as seen on tests).

As a result, when it comes to braking performance, the Firestone’s tire stands head and shoulders above other elite winter tire options.

Lateral Grip and Stability

Lateral stability of a tire is crucial during maneuvers, where the tire’s shoulders/sidewalls are pivotal in providing balance and ensuring agile handling, especially when navigating aggressive turns.

Interestingly, the Firestone’s tire, despite its noticeable voids, holds its ground here pretty well, as it matches the performance of elite winter tires, out there, such as the Michelin X Ice Snow (review this tire here).

But what’s the secret behind its impressive handling, even with its apparent shortcomings in directional grip?

The answer lies in its resilient rubber composition and the inclusion of a robust nylon cap ply in its internal structure. These elements bolster steering precision.

Although the WinterForce 2 approaches corners at a reduced speed (owing to its longer deceleration time), it compensates by delivering decent mid-corner feedback.

So you get pretty nice overall handling with this tire, overall.

Wet Performance

A tire’s wet traction is primarily dictated by its tread pattern and rubber formulation. This encompasses wet grip and hydroplaning resistance.

Wet Traction

Wet grip/traction, also hinges on the rubber’s contact with the road. But the thing is, water disrupts this bond, necessitating design features to counteract it.

These features mainly include two, grooves and sipes.

While grooves are responsible for displacing a majority of the water, sipes tackle the lingering moisture. They release air, producing a suction effect that extracts water and ensures consistent road contact.

Having said that, the Firestone WinterForce 2 showcases excellence in this realm with its aggressive siping strategy. It features a blend of dual wave-like and linear patterns, the latter focused on the central rib and the former on surrounding ones.

Thanks to these multi-angled sipes, the tire guarantees a multidirectional grip, anchoring it securely on wet terrains.

Though most of its traction is still attributed to its aquaplaning resistance (see in the next section).

Side Note: If you’re scouting for winter tires with superior traction, the Continental VikingContact 7 (review) stands out as a top contender. Just a tip.


Hydroplaning emerges when water accumulates between the tire’s surface and the road. And tires begin to float or hydroplane.

This is where the design of the tire’s grooves becomes crucial, serving to channel the water away and circumvent aquaplaning (another word for it).

Now, thanks to our tire’s pronounced voids, the Firestone WinterForce 2 excels in this area, delivering consistently high float speeds.

The tire’s distinct vine-shaped lugs, coupled with its directional tread pattern, efficiently dispel water and slush, yielding commendable hydroplaning resistance in both curved and straight paths, as validated by tests.

Tread Durability

The durability of tire tread is anchored in two interconnected elements: rolling resistance and tread depth.

The tread depth correlates directly with its lifespan, as a tire with more tread depth will typically take more time, reaching the regulatory minimum tread depth of 2/32″ (a standard in the U.S.).

Though, tread depth has an inverse relationship with rolling resistance, too, as deeper treads are more flexible, leading to increased heat production and heightened rolling resistance.

Now, this brings us to the Firestone WinterForce 2’s design.

As the tire is equipped with a good enough tread depth and lugs having foundations, it strikes a balance between durability and efficiency.

So even with an average tread depth of 12/32″, its lugs are designed to resist excessive flexing, ensuring consistent mileage.

So overall, you get above-average performance with this tire.

Comfort Levels

Tire comfort encompasses aspects such as noise reduction and vibration dampening, which are influenced by the tire’s construction, materials, tread pattern, and sidewall design.

Let’s start with noise.

Tread Noise

The primary source of noise is the collision of air with the walls of tire treads. In essence, tires with more significant tread gaps tend to be noisier.

Cutting down to the chase, the Firestone WinterForce 2 offers satisfactory noise levels, typical for winter tires. Its expansive shoulder voids, combined with multi-angled sipes, do contribute to a slightly pronounced hum.

However, the tire’s variable pitch tread design acts as its saving grace, efficiently reducing in-groove sound reverberations. It’s worth noting that among its peers, theWinterForce 2 is marginally louder, but the difference is minimal.

Bumps Absorption

Since tires come between the vehicle and road irregularities, they act as secondary suspension system. And how well they are depends on their ability to absorb road bumps, determining overall ride comfort.

Now in case of Firestone’s tire, its good enough efficiency in this regard rests on two pillars: its decent absorption capacity and overall stability.

The tire basically stands out due to its significant tread depth (of 12/32″), and softer overall rubber. Moreover as all its lugs have foundational supports, they also keep the stability in check.

(Tires with richer rubber depth contribute a lot to enhanced bump absorption, provided stability isn’t compromised).

Fuel Economy

The fuel efficiency of tires is intimately linked to their weight and traction attributes, both of which exert influence on rolling resistance.

Why is this the case?

Consider a tire with substantial weight and an aggressive tread pattern. It makes sense that such a tire is more prone to experiencing lug flexing during maneuvers due to the heightened pressure exerted on the lugs.

This flexing translates to energy diversion, where instead of rolling, energy gets wasted else where (mostly in to heat).

Having said that, the Firestone WinterForce 2 deals with this pretty nicely, the tire features lugs with foundational supports, so they aren’t allowed to flex a lot.

Though still, there’s a little room for improvement here, I should add.

I mean, the tire could have done a lot better here, if it had a little less overall tread depth.

So overall, tire’s fuel economy is just average.

Enhanced Winter Performance Overview

A tire’s winter proficiency primarily rests on its performance over two challenging terrains: ice and snow.

Let’s delve into each.

Ice Traction

Owing to the slippery nature of ice, a tire’s rubber composition and tread blueprint become pretty important.

For a tire to be considered adept on icy terrains, it should possess an array of pliable “biters” that remain effective even in sub-zero temperatures.

The Firestone WinterForce 2 impresses in this aspect. While there’s room for improvement in handling, it offers you with good enough (above average) braking and acceleration figures.

Moreover, with stud-ready lugs, its ice performance can be further augmented.

Snow Traction

Snow-covered roads, often soft and powdery in texture, present unique challenges for tires. Here, a tire must effectively penetrate the snow, creating a snow-to-snow contact, while also shedding excess snow to prevent buildup which can impede traction.

Why is this snow-to-snow contact crucial? It’s simple: snowflakes have an innate ability to cling to each other due to their intricate structures.

When trapped in the tire’s tread, they form a bond that’s far more gripping than mere rubber against snow.

In this context, the Firestone WinterForce 2 establishes a pretty decent contact patch, yielding consistently positive outcomes.

While there’s room to enhance its snow handling capabilities, the tire still delivers above-par performance in snow acceleration and braking.

To Conclude

So overall, the tire offers a lot of pros and cons.

In dry conditions, the Firestone WinterForce 2 shines with impressive braking and acceleration due to its central rib design, where it also maintains stability during maneuvers despite its voided tread.

For wet performance, the tire offers multidirectional grip and strong hydroplaning resistance overall.

In winter conditions, the Firestone shows good performance on ice, adequate snow handling, and impressive acceleration capabilities.

Moreover, it also offers a comfortable ride with acceptable noise levels, thanks to its significant tread depth and softer rubber.

And yes, since its keeps its rolling resistance low, its not too bad in terms of fuel economy and tread longevity.

Barum Polaris 5 Review

Barum Polaris 5 is an affordable winter tire, where you don’t really compromise on a lot. Let’s check out its merits.

Winter Tire Comparison
Barum Polaris 5 is getting popular day by day, due to it’s superb value for money.

Key Takeaway

The Barum Polaris 5 excels in:

  • Dry Handling: Offers impressive steering responsiveness and balance, matching top-tier winter tires.
  • Snow Traction: Effective snow-to-snow contact due to its unique lug and siping structure, providing commendable snow performance.
  • Tread Longevity: Despite lacking a treadwear warranty, it lasts about 40k miles on average, making it a good value as a budget pick.
  • Fuel Economy: With an average tread depth and stiffer rubber, the tire shows reduced rolling resistance, aiding in decent fuel efficiency.

Though the tire needs improvement in terms of the following:

  • Dry Performance: Tread design limits rubber-ground contact, diminishing overall grip.
  • Wet Grip: Lacks flexibility in its sipes and misses an interlocking siping design, resulting in below-average wet traction.
  • Ice Traction: Performance on icy terrains is below average due to its stiffer rubber compound and limited siping.
  • Tread Noise: Generates more noise, lagging by 3 decibels compared to quieter winter tires.

Info on Sizes: The Barum Polaris 5 comes in 74 total sizes, in 13 to 19 inches wheels, with sizes having speed ratings of T, H and V, load ratings in SL and XL, and tread depth ranging 9 to 10/32″. Moreover, the weight ranges from 15 to 26 lbs, and the tire doesn’t come with any treadwear warranty.

Also Note: Since the tire is the best overall budget pick, I added it to my list of top winter tires, check it here:

Polaris 5’s Structure

The Barum Polaris 5 comes with a directional tread pattern, which is pretty typical in winter tires.

Polaris 5
Barum Polaris 5 tire offers one of the best fuel economy, among its direct competitors.

It’s tread comes with 4 ribs, as can be clearly seen from the image, where two outer elongated lugs are shoulder ribs, and the central ones combined, form 3 circumferential grooves.

All these ribs although have two common features, where they have longitudinal/slanted slits, and similar off-set edges. But there are still a lot of differences to note as well.

For example, the central blocks run in pairs, where every two of them are joined up with each other, with rubber ridges.

Moreover, these lugs carry a mixture of linear and wave-like siping pattern.

Moving towards shoulders, the elongated lugs have linear siping only, and lugs here are prominently separated by thick lateral grooves as well.

Dry Performance

On dry terrains, a tire’s traction is crucial. The quality of this traction is determined by the rubber’s contact consistency and adaptability to road surfaces.

Dry Directional Grip

Directional grip pertains to a tire’s performance in a straight-line, like when it moves on highways, for example.

This grip gets calculated by the tire’s braking effectiveness, and depends highly on how well the tire’s central rubber/tread area contacts the ground.

That’s why it makes sense why the Barum Polaris 5 isn’t doing so well here. If you consider its tread again, you’d see how it’s central area is full of voids, not allowing ample rubber to meet with the ground.

This results in limited overall grip values, (compared to its direct competitors).

Dry Handling

During maneuvers, a tire’s lateral stability becomes paramount. The shoulder regions of the tire play a critical role in ensuring balance and responsive handling during turns.

Now surprisingly, the Barum Polaris 5 being a budget tire, does pretty well here.

I mean it’s performance is on par with top-tier winter tires here, like the Continental WinterContact for example. So how is it doing that, even though its lacking so much in terms of directional grip?

Well, this has to do with the tire’s stiffer rubber, and robust nylon cap ply (in its internal construction), as they allow for excellent overall steering responsiveness.

Even though the tire enters the corners slower (since it takes more time to slow down), its still gives you superb mid-cornering feedback, relatively.

And as a result you get remarkable under and oversteering balancing on this tire, which translates in to top-notch overall handling capabilities.

Fuel Economy

A tire’s weight and traction profile dictate its rolling resistance, which in turn influences vehicle fuel efficiency directly.

Now, Barum Polaris 5 is a pretty decent pick here. The tire has an average tread depth between 9-10/32″, and that combined with its stiffer rubber, its lugs don’t flex a lot.

This is significant because excessive lug flex (as tire maneuvers), can increase energy demands, potentially compromising fuel economy.

In other words, greater the lugs move, more would be the rolling resistance, as lugs are more sticky towards the ground.

Wet Performance

Effective performance on wet roads hinges on tire’s design and rubber composition, both tailored to provide water displacement from the tread, and allow for good wet grip and resistance to hydroplaning.

Let’s check both these out.

Resistance to Hydroplaning

Now most of the water gets out with the help of grooves (on tires), and so they provide most of the hydroplaning resistance.

Or in other words, without efficient groove design channeling water out, there’s a risk of tires floating or aquaplaning

Now the Barum Polaris 5 provides most of it’s wet traction from its grooves. The tire has the edge of directional pattern which also includes grooves running at all angles.

So you get pretty decent overall float speeds with this tire.

Wet Grip

Wet grip mostly comes from sipes which manage residual water particles, (which weren’t cleared off with grooves).

And Barum Polaris 5 performs below average here. Although its groove do most of the work, its sipes lacking the needed flexibility, (mainly due to its stiffer relative rubber), aren’t able to provide, what one would say, good enough wet traction.

It’s actually one of the weakest point of this tire.

Moreover, the tire also lacks highly needed interlocking siping design, particularly on its shoulder lugs, compromising its overall wet handling times, and steering response.

Though don’t get me wrong, its still not too bad, its just comparing other tires in the category, you see a noticeable difference.

Tread Noise

Noise generated by tire treads is a product of air oscillations within tread patterns. That’s why tires with larger tread voids, usually end up intensifying this acoustic output.

And it’s one of the main reasons, why the Barum Polaris 5 is pretty loud.

To give you an idea, comparing with the quietest winter tire, the Barum lacks by 3 decibels (as seen on tests).

Side Note: Out of all top winter budget picks, the Kleber Krisalp HP3 (review), offers one of the quietest ride, relatively.

Tread Longevity

When it comes to principal indicators of a tire’s lifespan, tread depth, it’s rubber composition and structural weight are the most crucial ones.

Having said that the Barum Polaris 5 provides a great value as a budget pick, since it lasts a good amount of time, relatively.

On average, the tire lasts about 40k miles, even though it doesn’t come with any treadwear warranty.

The tire with its lighter weight, and stiffer rubber composition, basically rubs its lugs with less friction with the ground, allowing for decent tread longevity, overall.

Overall Winter Performance

For a tire, winter conditions necessitate optimized performance metrics due to the specific challenges posed by cold temperatures, snow, and ice.

Ice Traction

This measures a tire’s proficiency on icy terrains, where key factors include the rubber compound’s responsiveness at low temperatures and the intricacies of the tread design, which enhance the tire’s adherence to this slippery surfaces.

Now the Polaris 5 lacks in both these key areas, resulting in below-average overall ice performance.

The tire comes with a pretty stiffer rubber, relatively, which don’t allow its biters to properly grip on the slippery icy surface.

Moreover, it doesn’t have enough biters to begin with. Unlike most winter tires having a lot of interlocking sipes, the tire has linear siping predominately across its tread.

And since such siping structure tend to stiffen up with extreme maneuvers, it doesn’t allow the Barum’s tire to have good enough overall ice performance.

Though its snow grip on the other hand is okay.

Snow Traction

Snow-covered roads present challenges distinct from icy conditions.

And here, efficient snow traction requires a tire to effectively penetrate and grip snow layers while simultaneously ensuring self-cleaning capabilities to prevent clogging.

Now the Barum Polaris 5 with more voided up structure provides exactly that. It’s lugs are act as scoops, throwing snow backwards, generating good enough acceleration, while it’s thick siping slits provide the needed snow to snow contact.

(This contact is important here, as snow isn’t that sticking towards rubber, and instead generates far greater friction, when it rubs against itself).

So overall, the Polaris 5 does pretty well, when it comes to snow performance.

To Sum Up

In evaluating this tire’s performance across multiple terrains and conditions, there are some notable observations. Let me share them with you in a short/quick manner.

When it comes to dry performance, the Barum Polaris 5 offers slightly limited overall traction, mainly because of its lacking linear grip.

Though it still good enough there, especially when you see its wet traction, which is the tire’s weakest point.

Moreover, as a winter tire, although its performance on icy terrains is subpar because of its stiffer rubber and limited siping, it excels in snow traction with its unique lug and siping structure.

Moreover, you also get a pretty loud tire here too.

But I guess it all evens out, considering that the tire comes in a budget, relatively, and offers more value as it generates relatively less rolling resistance.

So it offers you with better fuel economy, and tread life.

In other words, out of all winter tires, Polaris 5 provides you with the best value (according to my experience).

Michelin X-Ice Snow Review

The Michelin X-Ice Snow is the latest offering in the realm of studless ice & snow winter tires, where it’s designed for coupes, sedans, minivans, and crossovers. This tire is one of the best when it comes to snow performance. But what else does it have to offer? Let’s find out!

XL sizes of this tire do great for SUVs, though the X Ice Snow SUV tire is better suited for that.

So overall the key takeaway is this: The Michelin X-Ice Snow tire provides commendable performance in various conditions, notably excelling in icy grip, snow handling, wet terrain water dispersion, road shock absorption, and tread longevity. While its strengths are many, there’s room for enhancement in noise reduction, dry road steering responsiveness, and fuel efficiency.

Info on Sizes: The Michelin X-Ice Snow comes in 125 total sizes in 15 to 22 inches. They have following specs.

  • Speed ratings: T and H.
  • Load ratings: SL and XL.
  • Tread depth: 10.5/32″ on all.
  • Weight: 16 to 40 lbs.
  • Tread warranty: 40k miles.

Since the tire is one of best in terms of snow traction, I added it to my list of top studless winter tires.

Tread Design

The Michelin X-Ice Snow offers a unique, directional tread pattern.

Michelin X-Ice Snow
Michelin X-Ice Snow

Now although its directional, it doesn’t have what they call, “swooping” lugs, as they are pretty voided up, longitudinally.

This basically divides the tread in to 6 block columns, with the outer two being shoulders.

These (shoulder) blocks have thick lateral slits, and are highlighted by the jagged edges on the sides.

In the middle most area of the tread, there’s a very biting zigzag circumferential groove, courtesy of interlocking blocks on both sides.

These lugs offer a lot of biting edges, (off-set and chamfered).

Moreover, they offer multi-directional siping.

The adjacent ribs also have similar tread features, but again sipes vary here as well, in terms of their angles/orientations.

Dry Performance

Even in winter tires, dry traction remains a cornerstone, focusing on rubber-road contact. This can be divided into lateral traction, and longitudinal grip.

Let’s start with later.

Dry Longitudinal Grip

This grip evaluates a tire’s linear traction, predominantly determined by the central tread’s road engagement, and measured by tire’s braking efficiency/efficacy.

(And if you’re wondering why central, you should know that this area of the tread gets the most weight concentration during straight-line movement).

Now, Michelin X-Ice Snow offers a pretty good job here, where it only lacks to the best tire here by only 3 feet (on average), when it comes to braking tests, I performed (from 40 mph).

Dry Handling

Comprehensive dry handling combines, both lateral traction with the tire’s steering responsiveness.

Now here, lateral traction of a tire hinges on its shoulder design, while steering depends on flexing of the lugs.

That’s why although Michelin X-Ice Snow although offers pretty decent overall traction values (compared to other winter tires in its category), it’s overall handling times aren’t that great, with its lagging steering response.

The tire although offers good enough braking and acceleration, its mid-cornering feedback is a little vague, where you don’t get the clear idea of how much traction is there.

So you get a little over-steering prone handling with this tire.

Overall Winter Performance

The efficacy of a tire in winter conditions hinges on its aptitude across two primary terrains, namely ice and snow.

Ice Traction

This traction underscores a tire’s capacity to cling to and navigate (relatively more) slippery ice terrains.

Given that icy roads are inherently slick and lack ample natural friction, the rubber composition and well made tread designs are highly needed here.

Meaning, optimal tires in this context should have numerous biters and retain their flexibility (as things get extreme cold).

Now talking about top-tier winter tires here, the Michelin X-Ice Snow is one of the highest ranking ones on ice.

And its superb performance can be attributed to a distinctive tread pattern that integrates multi-directional snow vices and well engineered angled incisions.

Basically all its ribs have unique siping pattern, where they vary in widths and angle orientations.

When this sophisticated aggressive siping strategy allow for grip in all directions. And as a result, you get notable braking distances and handling precision, (basically above average overall performance).

Snow Traction

Snow traction relates to the tire’s ability on snow-laden roads, (where there’s soft, salt-like snow). Here tires need to offer good enough ability to penetrate, grip, and subsequently shed snow particles.

This allows for snow-to-snow contact, which is pretty important as snowflakes’ distinct interlocking structures create more friction here, compared to rubber to snow contact.

Now this terrain is the expertise of Michelin X-Ice Snow tire, as it offers one of the best performance values, especially in terms of acceleration and handling.

The tire, coming with a directional pattern provides efficient snow scooping abilities (pushing it backwards), generating forward momentum and accleration.

While it’s 6 ribs, forming in-groove notches everywhere, allow for efficient snow-to-snow contact, resulting in best overall snow handling.

To give you an idea, the tire offers quickest snow laps (on tests), where it’s 2 seconds faster (on average), compared to Blizzak WS90, (review this tire here), which comes in the second quickest place here.

Wet Traction

The wet performance of a tire is dictated by its tread blueprint and rubber blend, influencing its wet grip and resistance to hydroplaning.

Wet Gripping

Wet grip revolves around the tire’s rubber-road contact in moist conditions, but as the intervening of water disrupts that (direct tread contact), how well tire disperses off water is the most crucial point here.

And this is achieved by the strategic interplay of grooves and sipes.

While grooves handle bulk water displacement to counter hydroplaning, sipes work at a micro-level, utilizing their inherent air expulsion to induce a suction effect, facilitating better ground contact.

Having said that, it makes sense why the X Ice Snow does pretty great here, offering a mixture of varying sipes (I talked about in the ice traction), and it’s weight (which basically helps hydroplaning, explained in the next section).

To give you a rough idea about its performance, the best tire in this (wet performance) category is the Continental VikingContact 7 (review), and in comparison, the Michelin X Ice Snow only lacks half a second, on average, in handling lap time tests.

Resistance to Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning emerges when water intrudes between the tire and the road, a result of water’s incompressibility. To combat this, tires are equipped with grooves to channel out water, staving off hydroplaning.

And since Michelin here throws out water very effectively, it puts less burden on sipes to begin with, improving its overall wet performance further.

So what’s helping the tire here?

Well, it offers 5 (tough-passing) longitudinal/circumferential channels, which are also interconnected with each other as well, thanks to the tire’s directional pattern.

This pattern of multi-angled grooves, offer water clear paths to run off and out of the tread in all directions, where the tire’s weight (being relatively greater), puts more pressure on lugs and water, so its pushed out with greater force.

The result: You get one of the best tire in terms of aquaplaning resistance.

Side Note: If you’re looking for a winter tire for your SUV, consider Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 (review), the tire offers top notch hydroplaning resistance.

Tread Longevity

Tread longevity intertwines with the dual concepts of rolling resistance and tread depth.

Where rolling resistance depends on tire’s weight, and tread’s composition.

Now looking at all these factors, it can be seen why the Michelin X-Ice Snow pretty decent overall tread life.

Now, even though the tire weighs a lot (relatively speaking), it’s Flex-Ice tread compound and technology still resist wear, as it allows for that weight to be distributed more evenly among its lugs.

Moreover, the tire’s tread rigidity, combined with tread depth that goes up to 10.5/32″ also help here, allowing for above-average overall tread longevity.

And that’s backed by it’s 40k miles treadwear warranty, (which is pretty significant, as almost 90% of the winter tires don’t provide you with any).

Comfort Levels

A tire’s comfort defines elements like road noise suppression and shock absorption, for the most part. And both of these are influenced by factors such as tire’s structure, material composition, tread design, and sidewall architecture, to name the most important one.

Let’s start with noise.

Tread Noise

Now tread noise primarily stems from air molecules colliding with tire treads. Meaning, if a tire has an expansive tread gaps, it’s more prone to elevated noise generation, unless its saved by other factors which include tread pattern and composition.

Now, the Michelin X Ice Snow does okay here, nothing fancy. I mean its good enough for a winter tire.

It’s shoulder voids are basically more open and allow for slightly more air to come in, and that combined with it’s multi-angled siping, you hear slightly more growling sounds.

Though it’s performance is still above average here, mainly thanks to its Piano Acoustic Tuning (a name Michelin gives to variable pitch producing tread, which keeps in-groove resonance low).

Bumps Absorption

Tires act as suspension system for vehicles, cushioning against road discrepancies through both their internal and external configurations.

And in this regard, the Michelin X-Ice Snow is one of the best.

This is mainly because of the tire’s thicker/more-absorbing internal construction, followed by it’s thick tread with independent lugs.

By independent lugs, I mean, all blocks aren’t restricted to flex around, soaking up the bumps potential energy in to kinetic.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy in tires correlates with their mass and traction. Specifically, a denser tire with prominent tread gaps undergoes pronounced lug flexing during activities, consuming energy which otherwise would be directed to rolling, instead of reshaping lugs or heat production.

Now, the X-Ice Snow although offers a good enough rolling resistance here. It’s overall fuel economy is not so impressive, relatively.

And it makes sense since the tire carries a lot of weight, and has independent lugs, missing foundational supports. Moreover, with a lot of in-groove notches and multi-angled biters, the tire generates a lot of grip, translating in to greater fuel consumption compared to other tires.

So overall, the Michelin tire offers a fuel economy, which is slightly below average among other top ranking winter tires.


So overall, the Michelin X-Ice Snow tire exhibits pretty decent performance across varied conditions. Let me break it down for you in an easier manner.

So the tire excels when it comes to:

  • Superior grip on icy terrains due to its unique tread pattern.
  • Quick acceleration and impeccable handling on snow-covered roads.
  • Efficient water dispersion on wet terrains, reducing hydroplaning risks.
  • Effective absorption of road inconsistencies, ensuring a smoother ride.
  • Above-average lifespan, bolstered by its Flex-Ice tread compound and supported by a significant treadwear warranty.

While its performance can be improved in:

  • Noise reduction, as it offers only average suppression of road noise.
  • Steering response on dry roads, which is marginally slower.
  • Fuel economy, which is slightly below average when compared to other top-tier winter tires.

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 Review

The Japanese Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 offers strong performance in winter’s harshest conditions, where it’s one of the best, when it comes to icy terrains. But is this tire really for you? Let’s find out.

Testing on Ice.

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 delivers exceptional icy terrain grip, efficient dry braking, and impressive wet performance. While its snow traction could be improved, the tire stands out for reduced road noise and superior comfort. Overall, as a winter tire, the WS90 is one of the top choices, combining safety and ride smoothness.

Info on Sizes: The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 comes in 52 total sizes in 15 to 19 inches (wheels) with following specs.

  • Speed ratings: T or H.
  • Load ratings: SL or XL.
  • Tread depth: 11 or 12/32″.
  • Weight: 17 to 29 lbs.
  • Tread warranty: None.

Tread Appearance

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 offers a sophisticated directional tread pattern, exemplifying top-tier tire design, when it comes to winter tire world.

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90’s shoulders are laced with a lot of snow vices.

This tread comprises three distinct ribs, with the central one being continuous, featuring wave-like sipes and straight, interconnected slits seamlessly paired with in-groove notches.

The tire also includes V-shaped notches pointing outward, enhancing traction.

Similarly, shoulder lugs have notches facing both the central rib and along their sides.

Although the whole tread is filled with a lot of tiny wave-like siping. These notches connecting to longitudinal slits, further enhance the tire’s snow and wet performance.

While with wide lateral grooves, connecting the two circumferential channels the central most rib make with the shoulders, you get efficient resistance to hydroplaning, and those channels effectively throw out water in all directions.

Overall Winter Performance

How great a tire is in winter conditions, depends on it’s performance in two main terrain types, ice, and snow.

Let’s talk about them both one by one.

Ice Traction

This refers to the tire’s ability to grip and maintain control on icy surfaces. Icy conditions are slippery and offer very little natural friction. Effective ice traction relies heavily on the tire’s rubber compound and fine tread features.

So a good tire here is the one with a lot of biters, which can also keep those biters flexible (with harsh freezing temperatures).

Now Blizzak WS90 is one of the best when it comes to icy tracks, compared to other premium options out there, and this is all thanks to its intricate biters all over the tread.

The tire’s central most rib for example comes with V-shaped notches (that bite from all directions, due to their slanted positions), adding to the tire’s on central feel.

And yes you also get abundant siping here, with a mixture of interlocking tiny (wavelike) and linear slits. And both of these further add to the tire’s gripping/biting abilities on ice, combined.

Basically the V shaped biters (predominately) offer you with directional grip on ice, the lateral+longitudinal notches on shoulders, combined with zigzag slits there provide superb cornering abilities as well.

That’s because while central area defines longitudinal grip (braking), in terms of handling, the tire’s shoulder lugs are the key components.

And biters there (on shoulders), are positioned in a way, assuring improved grip from every angle, allowing for greater steering responsiveness along with lateral traction.

Note: Since the tire is the best performer on ice, I decided to add it to my list of top winter tires (stud-less). check it out.

Snow Traction

This pertains to the tire’s performance on snow-covered roads. Snow traction is about the tire’s capacity to dig into and bite the snow, as well as release it to prevent buildup.

In other words tires have to make an effective snow to snow contact here.

Snowflakes have unique interlocking arms, which really like to stick with other snowflakes, so its crucial that tires collect snow in their tread feature and form this contact, which generates more friction compared to rubber to snow contact.

Now the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 isn’t coming on top here, as it’s tightly packed, less aggressive tread pattern doesn’t catch as much snow, resulting in a lower snow collection efficiency.

Though, don’t get me wrong, the tire is still pretty great here.

To give you an idea, it only lacks less than half a feet, in the acceleration test, compared to the Michelin X Ice Snow (review), which is the top performing tire here.

Dry Performance

Dry traction is a critical component of tire performance, even when it comes to winter tires.

It depends on grip, (which gets determined by the extent of rubber contact with the road), and tire’s steering.

Moreover, the grip part is further divided in to two, the directional grip and the lateral traction. Let’s check them all out.

Dry Longitudinal Grip

This grip is the tire’s straight line grip and depends on mainly on how well the tire contacts the road from its central area.

But why central?

This is because that area makes the most road contact (as it has most weigh on it, as the tire rolls linearly).

That’s why with this grip being a directional metric, it makes sense why it’s measured by tire’s braking efficacy.

Now the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 truly excels in this domain

Its continuous central rib maintains consistent contact with the road, leading to reduced braking distances and quicker acceleration times in tests.

Consequently, this tire offers unparalleled braking efficiency among other premium winter options.

Dry Handling

Overall dry handling is the mixture of two key elements, overall lateral traction and tire’s steering feedback.

Here, the lateral grip of a tire, which reflects its overall sideways traction, largely depends on its shoulder lugs.

But why is that?

Well, these shoulders/sidewalls get to meet up with the road better, as the tire turns, so “how well” they meet with the road is significant.

And here, two things are judged. One, how well those lugs meet with the ground as the tire turns. And two, how much lugs bend, during.

And in both of these aspects, you get to see, the Blizzak WS90 has the upper hand.

It’s closed up pattern forms a greater contact with the ground, and with it’s lighter weight, its lugs don’t want to flex/mold too much as the tire corners.

You see, during cornering, most of the tire’s weight goes towards shoulders, and their bending limits the over and under steering balance, causing a delayed steering response.

Tread Longevity

Tread longevity hinges on the balance between rolling resistance and tread depth.

Now the irony here is that tread depth is inversely proportional to rolling resistance, though its directly proportional to tread life.

Meaning, greater tread depth although allow you to reach down to the legal minimum tread depth of 2/32″ (in USA), slower, it also leads to greater rolling resistance, as it makes lugs susceptible to heat and bending.

So tires need to find the right balance here.

Enter the Blizzak ws90.

The tire offers an innovative tread compound, which is considerably firmer and less susceptible to rapid wear compared to most top performing winter tires out there.

Where with reinforced foundations, and continuous running ribs, the 12/32″ tread depth allow for great tread life, relatively.

For Your Info: The tire is equipped with winter wear bars, which tell you about the 2/32″ tread depth mentioned earlier.

Wet Traction

Wet traction is dependent on the tire’s tread design and rubber composition, affecting two critical aspects of overall wet performance, namely, wet grip, and hydroplaning resistance.

Let’s take a look at both one by one.

Wet Gripping

Wet grip, similar to dry grip, relies on the amount of rubber in contact with the road. However, the presence of water creates a barrier, preventing full tread-to-surface contact and necessitating water displacement.

This task is performed by grooves and sipes.

While grooves expel the majority of water, providing hydroplaning resistance (discussed later), sipes handle the remaining water particles at a micro level.

These sipes basically having air in them, expel it out to create a suction effect, which sucks up water particles coming underneath, and this way, water is further cleared off the surface, and the tire’s rubber is able to form a more proper contact with the ground.

Now here, although most of the winter tires do great with a ton of siping, and their pretty soft thermal adaptive rubbers, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 still comes in the list of most efficient ones here.

This is because, this tire features a lot of both rectilinear and interlocking sipes, which soak up water particles coming beneath, in a better way.

And as they also get to have multiple angles to them, you also get superior gripping values, as the tire corners, for example. Water gets soaked up in the slits, and biters/sipes parallel to the direction of tire’s movement provide the needed grip.

Resistance to Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning resistance, is a phenomenon which happens when water comes in between the tire and the road. And this happens because water has to go somewhere (as it’s not compressible). So if it’s not going out, it would cause the complete loss of traction.

This is why tires have grooves, which channel out the water, preventing hydro or aquaplaning.

Now, Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 not only has the edge of it’s directional pattern, which naturally offers quicker water evacuation, but it’s thick central two circumferential channels combined with lateral voids on shoulders furthers that process too.

Moreover, the tire’s tread depth going up to 12/32″ is also pretty helping here, allowing for more water out at a given time (compared to many other winter tires with smaller average tread depth).

For Your Info: The overall wet performance is better on Continental VikingContact 7 (review), one of it’s direct competitor.

Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency in tires is directly related to their weight and traction, both of which influence rolling resistance.

So why is that?

Well, as an example a bulkier tire with more aggressive tread voids tends to experience more lug flexing during tire maneuvers, as lugs have more pressure on them.

This flexing diverts energy from the tire’s actual rolling, resulting in wasted effort restoring lug shape or generating heat.

Now the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, with its streamlined and aligned ribs, although minimizes rolling resistance. It’s overall performance here can still be improved.

Though its still above average, and it makes sense given it’s compact tread design, which ensures energy is utilized for tire movement rather than unnecessary lug flexing.

Comfort Levels

Tire comfort is largely determined by two variables, road noise mitigation and vibration absorption. These factors are basically judged, looking at the tire’s construction.

Let’s discuss both these variables one by one.

Tread Noise

The primary source of this noise is air particles colliding with the walls of the tread, with the shoulder area serving as the main gateway.

So you can say, the smaller the shoulder voids, the less noise gets produced.

In this respect, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 scores pretty decent points with its relatively more compact design.

By keeping the shoulder voids small, it restricts the amount of air entering and hitting the tread walls.

But yes, it can still do a little better, I believe, even though it’s a lot better already compared to its predecessor, the WS80.

For Your Info: My tests show that the Goodyear WinterCommand is the quietest tire, comparing all top-tier winter tires.

Bumps Absorption

Tires act as secondary suspension system of a vehicle, since they are the first things contacting the bumps of the road. So how well they’re able to soak up the road imperfections is the key.

And this depends on the tire’s both internal and external build.

Now the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is doing pretty great here, with its softer overall tread compound. Where the tire’s Multi-Cell compound and greater silica density (in tread) offers great absorption capacity.

Moreover, unlike many other tires in its category, the tire offer more tread depth going up to 12/32″. This technically gives more rubber for vibrations to settle down, before reaching the cabin.


In conclusion, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 demonstrates appreciable performance across a range of conditions and metrics.

When assessing its winter performance, it showcases excellent traction on icy terrains due to its innovative tread design and features, though it could improve slightly on snow-covered roads.

On dry surfaces, it leads the pack in terms of braking efficiency and offers superior handling characteristics. While tread longevity is a balancing act, the WS90 strikes it well with its innovative compound.

In wet conditions, it presents efficient water displacement and maintains a good grip, thanks to its uniquely designed sipes and grooves.

Though the tire has room for improvement in fuel efficiency, it stands above average in its category, and its design promotes less rolling resistance.

Lastly, comfort is one aspect where the WS90 truly excels. With reduced road noise due to its compact design and superior vibration absorption from its soft compound and greater tread depth, it ensures a smooth ride.