Why Do Tire Tread Designs Vary?

First, I’ll define what a tire tread is. Simply defined, a tire tread is the area of the tire that touches the road. You’ll notice that different types of tires have different tread designs (or patterns). These varying designs of ribs, sipes, blocks and grooves give drivers traction and accommodate for different driving styles, vehicles, terrains and elements – such as rain, snow or mud.

Now, let’s review the different types of popular passenger and light truck tread designs.*
I’ll also share “David’s Take” to help you better understand each type of tread design.

Summer Design

This design provides traction on wet and dry road surfaces. The design is usually void of tread sipes and the tread block elements are aligned in a rib pattern with wide grooves to help resist hydroplaning. This design is used primarily on High or Ultra-High Performance tires for handling, responsiveness and high-speed capability.
David’s Take … Performance tires provide excellent handling and a “sporty” ride.

All Season Design

This design provides traction on wet, dry and snow covered surfaces. It has additional traction edges, slotted shoulders and sipes for added snow traction. This design offers year round usage and is used in all basic tire categories: Passenger, Touring, Performance and Light Truck.
David’s Take … Today’s most popular tires feature an All-Season design and can be identified the letters “M” and “S” on the tires’ sidewall.

Winter Tire Design

This design will feature tread patterns, construction elements, and materials that provide improved winter performance and are excellent for use in severe winter conditions.
David’s Take …In addition to the letters “M” and S”, these tires can be identified by the mountain/snowflake pictograph.

Symmetric Design

This design features repeating ribs or independent tread blocks across the entire tread face.
David’s Take … This is a very popular tread pattern, and you’ll notice many all-season tires feature this design.

Assymetric Design

The outside should features large tread elements for dry performance, while the inner shoulder is comprised of a greater number of smaller tread elements to improve wet weather and snow traction.
David’s Take … This design gives you solid all-season traction as well as performance attributes.

Directional or Unidirectional Design

The tread block shapes and groves are aligned to direct water through the tire’s footprint in one direction to help wet traction while providing dry performance.
David’s Take … You’ll find this design is commonly used in Ultra-High (and High) performance tires.

All-Terrain (A/T) Design

This is a light truck tire tread design for use both on and off the road. This design will usually feature deeper tread depth, wider tread grooves, and larger tread block elements than a highway tread tire for increased traction capabilities off the road while maintaining on road handling, maximizing tread life and helping to provide a smooth quiet ride.

Max (Mud)-Traction (M/T) Design

A light truck tread design that differs from the All-Terrain and Highway design in that some of the tread bars run latterly to the direction of rotation.
David’s Take …The tread grooves are open at the shoulder providing excellent traction in mud and rocky terrain.

Don’t get overwhelmed!
Remember, if you are trying to determine what type of tire is best for your vehicle, we’re here to help! Visit your local, independently-owned Best-One Tire & Service® location. We’ll consult with you to determine your specific needs and help you make the correct tire selection.

David Mitchell, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist
*Images and tread design definitions courtesy of Bridgestone.