I have been hearing about studded tires and how they are best for driving on snow and ice. Is this just another name for winter tires or are they something all together different?
While studded tires are for winter driving, not all winter tires are studded tires. Studded tires feature a series of metal studs, which are built right into the tire tread. These studs are designed to penetrate snow and slush, and grip into ice that lies beneath. Winter tires without studs, or studless tires feature a softer rubber than all season tires, which is intended to provide better gripping. The open tread design is another feature that gives winter tires better handling capability on slush and snow.
Like tire chains, the problem with studded tires is that if the studs are not digging into snow and ice, they are digging into the road surface. This is why studded tires are not allowed many areas. Typically if studded tires are permitted, it is only for specified times during the year. While studded tires do offer handling advantages such as better cornering ability, increased traction and more powerful braking force on snow and ice, they can actually cause a poorer handling on non-icy roads due to increased friction. Unless you are an ice road trucker, you are probably better off with studless winter tires.