Winter tires are specially designed tires which provide maximum traction while driving in snow, ice, or mud. Winter tires typically have the appearance of standard tires, however, they are quite different. The rubber used to make winter tires is much softer than the rubber used to make standard tires. The softer rubber increases traction. The softness of winter tires causes them to wear faster when driven in dry or hot conditions, which is why it is recommended they only be used in winter conditions. The tread on winter tires is thicker and has larger channels than standard tires, which allows the winter tire to easily distribute snow or mud on the road more effectively. In order to provide maximum pressure on the tires surface, the width of winter tires is typically thinner than standard tires. For vehicles that may travel through deep snow or mud, wider winter tires are available.
Since most tires are unable to retain traction on icy surfaces, small metal studs may be used in the manufacturing of some winter tires. These metal studs penetrate the icy surface in order to "roughen" the surface, which helps the tire gain or retain traction. Using studded tires on roadways damages the road's surface, and studded tires are illegal in some areas. Tire studs are typically not needed for heavy duty vehicles due to the vehicle's weight, which helps the vehicle retain traction. Winter tires are identified by observing their labels which will read MS, M&S, or the words “mud and snow”. Using winter tires in the winter months makes winter driving conditions safer and easier.