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What’s the Difference Between Directional, Asymmetrical and Symmetrical Tread Patterns?

When you’re on the hunt for new tires, you might notice the manufacturer highlighting that the tire features one of three tread patterns: directional, asymmetrical or symmetrical. These tire tread designs incorporate specific features for optimum performance in different conditions.

All tire tread patterns use these parts of a tire:

  • Continuous ribs
  • Independent tread blocks
  • Circumferential and lateral grooves
  • Sipes

It’s how tread designs use each of these features to deliver certain functions—hydroplaning resistance, for example, or long wear and a smooth, quiet ride.

So, what’s the difference between directional and asymmetrical tread patterns? How does an asymmetrical tread pattern use these features to give all-weather tires year-round grip? Here’s a breakdown of the four types of tire tread designs.

Directional tread patterns (aka unidirectional tread patterns)

A directional tread pattern is designed to roll only in one direction. That’s why you’ll see arrows on the sidewalls pointing in the direction that tire needs to be mounted. They can only be rotated front to back.

Lateral grooves on both sides of the tire point toward the centre, creating a ‘v’ shape. These grooves pump water through the tread so the tire can maintain contact with the road to help resist hydroplaning.

Type of tire – Performance tires

The benefits

  • Excellent wet traction and hydroplaning resistance at high speeds
  • Superior dry performance because tread dissipates heat while a solid centre rib keeps the tire rigid for high-speed stability.

Symmetric tread patterns

A symmetric tread pattern is the most common. It uses continuous ribs or independent tread blocks across the entire tread face, that often create a wavy design. The pattern on each side of the centre is the same.

Type of tire – All-season tires, winter tires

The benefits

  • Even wear and long tread life
  • Smooth, quiet driving
  • Spring to summer performance
  • Multiple front to back, side to side or diagonal rotation positions are possible

Asymmetric tread patterns

Asymmetric tread patterns combine the features of other tread designs for equally strong dry and wet performance.

On an asymmetric tread pattern, you’ll usually find larger tread blocks on the outside to create a bigger contact patch for cornering grip. This also helps reduce tread squirm for better stability, and breaks up heat build up.

The outside also features large lateral grooves designed to pump water out the side of the tire.

The inside features smaller, independent tread blocks and smaller grooves to increase contact area and improve grip. On an asymmetric tread pattern, the sidewall will have ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ markings so you know which way they need to be mounted.

Type of tire – All-weather tires, performance tires


  • Year-round grip
  • Hydroplaning and slushplaning resistance
  • High speed stability
  • Multiple tire rotation patterns

When you’re looking for new winter tires, year-round all-weather tires or off-road tires and performance tires, be sure to ask the tire experts at Kal Tire to help you find the tire that fits your budget, your driving needs and your vehicle. Visit a Kal Tire location near you, or chat online with one of our team members today.