Extreme stresses can be produced in nanoscale structures; this feature has been used to realize enhanced materials properties, such as the high mobility of silicon in modern transistors. We show how nanoscale stress can be used to realize exceptionally low mechanical dissipation when combined with “soft-clamping”—a form of phononic engineering. Specifically, using a nonuniform phononic crystal pattern, we colocalize the strain and flexural motion of a free-standing silicon nitride nanobeam. Ringdown measurements at room temperature reveal string-like vibrational modes with quality (Q) factors as high as 800 million and Q × frequency exceeding 1015 hertz. These results illustrate a promising route for engineering ultracoherent nanomechanical devices.