Sneakers for your Car


Black_Converse_sneakersYes, you read the title correctly. I know what you are thinking, “ah, Eric, my car has tires, not sneakers”. Well, technically you’re right. But, by the end of this article, I hope that I can help you understand that your tires are a lot like our shoes, er, sneakers. (not all shoes have rubber, most sneakers do…and tires are made of rubber….oh you get it). Moving on.

First, let’s look at this from a “shoe” perspective. When we walk, play, work, run we wear shoes. Those shoes are the only thing that’s keeping your body in control on the surface you’re walking or running on, right?  The bottom of your shoe is the “contact patch”. That patch is significantly smaller than you, but it does it’s intended job.

There are hundreds, thousands of shoes of every type imaginable. The short list can be, high heels, flip-flops, wingtips, sneakers, workboots….you get the idea. They all have a different job when we are walking, running, working or playing.

Close your eyes and imagine a ballerina, during a performance of Swan Lake with a pair of steel toe workboots on. How about a basketball player with high heels on, trying to run up and down the court. Maybe an iron worker with flip-flops on. Sounds ridiculous, right? It should, because specific shoes are designed for specific applications. We buy our shoes for style, protection, grip, durability, comfort and most importantly, safety. You should also buy your tires with the same mindset. I know, sounds a little dumb…..well, stick with me here, you’ll understand soon enough.

Back to sneakers on your car. The tires on your car, are it’s “shoes” (sneakers). Just like your shoes are to your feet, your tires are to you car. Just like your shoes, there are hunderds, thousands of tires of all types and purposes. The short list can be, off-road tires, snow tires, high-performance tires, high mileage tires, low-rolling resistance tires and of course, just plain ol’ black, round and made of rubber tires.

Make no mistake, the tires on your car/van are the most critical component you will ever purchase. At least they should be.

Your shoes help keep you in control while you are walking, running or playing sports, right? Your shoes are quite a bit smaller than you. Remember that “contact patch”? You are only a couple hundred pounds. Now compare that to your car. The average car weighs about 4,000 pounds. The “contact patch” for each tire is about the length and width of your hand.  The ratio of the “contact patch” between your shoe/your weight and the tires/car is remarkable. There is significantly less “contact patch” controlling far greater weight of the car verses the shoe controlling you.

Have you ever noticed the tires on a race car? How wide they are? The large diameter? Maybe on a high performance car? These significantly larger tires produce and equally significant larger “contact patch”, which helps the race cars perform better. Just like basketball player wears high top sneakers for ankle support. Better performance.

Let’s look at this another way. If the soles of your shoes were falling apart, the leather was tearing, would you continue to still wear them? Could you trust that they would perform for you like when they were new?  Look at your tires. Are they properly inflated to the recommended psi? Do you see cracks or bulges in the sidewalls? What does the tread look like? Is there any tread left?

Worst case scenario if your shoe fails, you might break an ankle. (I’m not down playing that, it’s still serious, but stay focused with me). What about if you didn’t wear those steel toe workboots that your employer requires and a 1,000 pound skid falls and lops off a few of your toes? These are issues. Broken bones hurt. But, let’s put the perspective of the tires on your car into this scenario.

First scenario, your backing out of your driveway and realize you have a flat tire. That never happens at a convenient time. Now the kids are going to be late for school and your boss is going to give you an earful, once you get to work. Worst case scenario your traveling down the highway with your family at 75 mph and a tire blows out?  You could easily loose control of the vehicle, causing a serious accident with a high potential of deaths. Obviously this is far worse than a broken bone.  The most recent statistics I could find were that 400 people died due to tire failures in 2014 alone.  The number of severely injured was over 10,000. I am speculating, but I’m sure those numbers are higher now.

Am I getting through to you? Are you beginning to understand the significant role the tires have on your vehicle? I’m not making some creepy attempt to scare you. I’m not getting any “kick-backs” from tire manufacturers. I spent a long time in the industry and all to often experienced severe wear on tires and the owners showed zero concern.  That saddens me.  (reminds me of the brilliant commercial by Michelin, with the little baby sitting in the tire, and the narrator states, “because so much rides on your tires”).  Many times, people just didn’t care.

So when you get a chance (do it now lol) check your tires. If you are not really sure what you are looking at and looking for, take it to a trusted auto technician. They will surely help you.

Remember, you wouldn’t put on a pair of shoes that were ragged, with torn leather and worn out soles out for a long run, right?

Please, check your tires and don’t go anywhere with worn out sneakers on your car.


For you environmentally minded folks out there, like myself, there is a company that takes recycled tire treads and makes sandals and shoes. Cool stuff.

Author: Global Auto Scene

Nearly 20 years experience in the auto industry. As a technician, parts specialist, service advisor and service manager. I have built several hot rods and race cars over the years as well. I Have worked closely with GM, Ford, Suzuki, Nissan, Infiniti, Porsche, Audi and others.

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