Our complete guide to Longboard wheels. How to choose the right longboard wheels for your style of skating.
On the surface, longboard wheels seem pretty simple. Round shape, smooth rolling, larger than skateboard wheels… But when you break down the technology, you’ll find that theres a whole lot of factors that affect how your board rides. Each section below explains how a wheels design will change how well it rides. Remember that all of these apply to every wheel so when you are looking for the right one, consider all factors.
Scroll further and check out which wheels are best for each style of longboarding.
Longboard Wheel Diameter - Size
The diameter or height of a wheel causes it to either roll faster, or accelerate faster. Typically bigger wheels also have a larger contact patch for more grip. Longboard wheels are much larger than skate wheels at 60mm-100mm.
Skateboard wheels are typically under 60mm and often around 48mm. This is why skateboards work great for tricks where fast acceleration is necessary.
Longboard wheels are slower to accelerate but carry a much higher top speed and feel more solid and stable under foot.
Larger however is not always better. Ideally you’ll want a wheel somewhere in the 65-75mm range for most styles of skating. The large wheels can become difficult to fit on boards and will sometimes cause wheel bite (ouch). This can be avoided with a board with deeper cutouts or wheel wells and adding a high riser above the trucks.
A 65mm-75mm wheel should be plenty large for smooth cruising over cracks and bumps in the road and on sidewalks. But the largest wheels are definitely the smoothest for this type of riding.
Durometer - Hardness
Wheel hardness is important for different skate styles. Harder wheels don’t grip the road as well and are ideal for sliding. Softer wheels have more friction/traction and are perfect for cruising, carving, and speed. Longboard wheels are softer than traditional skateboard wheels. They are intended for more speed.
The durometer of the wheel is a scale that’s ranked on this hardness. The hardest wheels have a 100 durometer. Most longboard wheels are in between 75a-85a.
Slide wheels will work best with a higher ranking although you can make any wheel slide with enough practice!
One of the most common wheel durometers is 78a and it’s what we typically use on our own cruiser longboards. This provides a great amount of grip and is still able to slide depending on the lip profiles and the width.
Width - Contact Patch and Lip Profiles
This concept is pretty simple, the more wheel touching the ground, the more grip. The wider the wheel, the better your board holds to every turn and the more responsive it feels.
There’s more than one factor when you are looking at wheel width. The contact patch and the lip profile. The contact patch is how much of the wheel actually touches the ground and its affected by the lip profile.
The wheel lips or edges are either square or rounded. Rounded wheels help you slide by releasing traction more easily. Square lips hold much stronger and make it tougher to slide. There are wheels that have lips that blend both which are preferred for freeriding.
Wheels are made out of Polyurethane and will leave urethane on the road when you slide. This is where “Thane” lines come from. Longboarders will often compete to see who leaves the longest Thane line.
If you are cruising, carving, or commuting, a square lip wheel with a wide contact patch is ideal. When you want to slide you’ll want a rounded lip and thinner contact patch to make it easier to disengage.
Core Material and Setting
The core of the wheel is what keeps it all together and where all the force ends up. It’s generally the most overlooked part of the wheel by new skaters. It can be built in several different ways but is most commonly made of plastic. This is the cheapest option and what you’ll see the most.
Downhillers will look for aluminum cores for better heat distribution and a faster roll with more even wear. The other option is a Urethane core which will feel the most dampened for cruising but costs a bit more than plastic.
The setting of the core is where things get really interesting. We told you theres a lot more to wheels than you thought! There are three common core settings:
Offset: The core is set a bit closer to the board. This is the most common setting for a good reason. It provides the best balance between traction and sliding. The main issues with this setup is having less traction than center mount (traditional skateboards), and it can’t be flipped as it gets worn out.
Center: The core is placed smack dab in the middle. This makes the most traction but is a bit tougher to engage into a slide. For carving and more controlled style skating this is your best bet.
Sideset: The core is set way towards the inside of the longboard wheels, closest to the board. For sliding this is your best bet. Tougher to control when cruising but engaging a slide is much easier. This will wear your wheels much quicker (Sliding wears wheels much quicker in general).
Overall Wheel Performance
The best performing all around wheel does not exist. It really just depends on your riding style. Some people actually prefer a somewhat harder wheel with more contact for sliding. This could create a more controlled feeling slide. Others prefer the hardest wheels to be able to slide easily.
In our opinion, you’ll want to look at the manufacturers websites to see what they have to say about each wheel model. There’s generally room to decide within each wheel series based on durometer.
Choosing the Best Longboard Slide Wheels - Freeride and Freestyle
It helps to narrow down the best sliding wheels by looking at all the above components as you search. Keep in mind that sliding will wear the wheel out over time since you literally leave "thane" (urethane) lines on the road. This is why picking less expensive options can be great for sliding and your wallet.
The less contact your wheel has with the ground the easier it slides. Look for a wheel with a mid-range to higher durometer and a smaller contact area. You don't need to have a stone ground wheel but it will slide better right off the shelf if you do. Longboard slide wheels should also have a radiused or beveled lip to enable a smooth engagement into a slide.
Choosing the Best Cruising, Commuting, and Carving Longboard Wheels
So you want to roll smooth, keep traction, and carve a bit? Then you definitely want a larger wheel for comfortable cruising. A square lip will keep the wheel engaged on the road, and a softer durometer will make the wheel more comfortable and forgiving over bumps and cracks. Also look for a centerset core so it lasts longer with the most possible traction. Centerset lets you flip the wheel as you wear it out on each side carving.
Picking Wheels for Downhill Longboarding
Downhill is it's own breed. These are skaters who want speed, control, grip, and slide all at once. Obviously there are trade-offs for grip and slide.
Because downhill skaters are moving so fast, it's easier to initiate slide. This is why they want more traction.
You'll want to choose downhill longboard wheels that have an offset core to help with sliding, large contact patch (square lipped edge), and a larger diameter with mid-soft durometer.
The Best Wheels for Dance
Longboard dancing is rooted in quick acceleration for tricks and the ability to slide. For this style it's best to use a wheel that's a little softer for comfort and forgiveness on rough roads.
You'll want a wheel that has a smaller diameter for fast acceleration, has bevelled or curved edges, and a narrow width. The smaller contact patch will make it easy to slide at slower speeds, while the softer durometer will keep it engaged as you need.
Here’s a few links to some brands we think you’ll be stoked on: