The tread – differences between different types of tires

At first glance, all tires are “black and round” – but there are big differences! They start with the tread. If you take a closer look at the indentations in the tires that distinguish the tread, you can quickly tell different types of tires apart:

Profile of a summer tire

Summer tires

The profile of summer tires is clearly designed for higher temperatures and unsuitable for winter:

summer tires have coarse tread incisions and do not have sipes, unlike winter or all-season tires. Your tread is not suitable for winter.

Like sandals, summer tires are just the right decision in the warm season.

Profile of a winter tire

Winter tires

The profile of winter tires is clearly designed for winter road conditions:

Winter tires have clearly recognizable sipes on the entire tread up to the tire shoulder. Sipes are fine, usually zigzag-shaped incisions in the tread blocks (highlighted in yellow here). They form numerous grip edges that ensure optimum grip on snowy and icy roads.

Winter tires are virtually the “lambskin boots” for the car – perfectly adjusted to the winter.

Profile of an all-season tire

All-season tires

You can compare all-season tires, often called all-weather tires, with transitional jackets – theoretically, you can use them all year round. In winter and in heavy rain the jacket is too thin and does not protect properly, in summer it is too thick and you sweat. Are all-season tires therefore just as safe as summer or winter tires?

Due to different types of treads incorporated in the all-season tire, the all-season tire represents a compromise between winter and summer tires. The tread of all-season tires is designed for both summer and winter use. The sipes that provide the interlocking effect with the road surface are generously distributed over the entire tread of winter tires. In all-season tires, these sipes are usually located only in the central part of the tread, which noticeably reduces efficiency on snowy or icy roads.

Disadvantages compared to winter tires

All-season tires, which are used in winter, must by law in any case the M+S marking (“mud and snow; engl.: Mud-and-Snow). However, there are no test specifications for M+S tires. Tires with the snowflake symbol, however, must pass a test on snow. Well-known tire manufacturers offer their winter tires and their all-season tires almost only with the snow flake.
The tread of all-weather tires is also designed for winter conditions, but it does not provide the full possible level of safety that a high-quality winter tire would bring. All-season tires are generally not as efficient in more extreme weather situations as the specialized winter or summer tires. However, the quality of the tires must also be taken into account here.

Disadvantages compared to summer tires

Even in summer, an all-weather tire is not the perfect choice. All-season tires have a comparatively soft rubber compound. This results in a longer braking distance, regardless of the weather, and is also responsible for lower mileage than a high-quality summer tire.
In addition, all-season tires rub off more quickly at high temperatures and lose their shape sooner than summer tires do. The tread of an all-season tire also transports far less water and is therefore far less efficient in the event of aquaplaning.


DVR recommends using summer tires in summer and winter tires in winter. All-weather tires may provide a solid tire base at all times in moderate weather conditions. But if you have to drive your car in all weather conditions, specialized tires are simply the safest way to go.

Jurgen Eigenbrodt

Expert tip

Jurgen Eigenbrodt, Nexen Tires, Sales Director:

“Winter and summer tires are specialists in their respective fields – the all-season tire is a generalist. This means that compromises have to be made: All-season tires are subject to higher wear, are overtaxed in extreme winter conditions, and may perform worse in the values relevant for the tire label. Current tire tests also come to similar conclusions.”

Tread pattern of an all-terrain tire

Off-road tires

All-terrain tires, with their relatively coarse tread, are only suitable for winter use to a limited extent:

So-called SUV or off-road tires are generally only lightly or lightly snow-treaded, despite the M+S marking. coarse siping (here: small zigzag sipes). Their winter suitability is therefore extremely limited. Use on cold, wet roads is possible, but driving on ice and snow is not recommended!

To stay with the shoe comparison: All-terrain tires are like hiking boots designed for hiking in summer. For trekking and alpine would choose others again.

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