A finite element‐based method to analyze the severity of internal cracks in cord‐rubber structures is presented. The method includes materials testing to characterize rubber fatigue behavior, a global‐local finite element analysis to provide the detail necessary to model explicitly an internal crack, and use of the J‐integral and virtual crack closure techniques for energy release rate evaluation. Analysis of the multiaxial and cyclic fracture situation is carried out by considering the cycle of each mode of fracture separately and then combining the effect of each mode to determine the total effect. Crack growth rates in the structure are assumed to be the same as the crack growth rate in a laboratory specimen at the same level of cyclic energy release rate. Results are presented for a material change in a critical tire region.