- Kinesin‐5 motors fulfil essential roles in mitotic spindle morphogenesis and dynamics as slow, processive microtubule (MT) plus‐end directed motors. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae kinesin‐5 Cin8 was found, surprisingly, to switch directionality. Here, we have examined directionality using single‐molecule fluorescence motility assays and live‐cell microscopy. On spindles, Cin8 motors mostly moved slowly (∼25 nm/s) towards the midzone, but occasionally also faster (∼55 nm/s) towards the spindle poles. In vitro , individual Cin8 motors could be switched by ionic conditions from rapid (380 nm/s) and processive minus‐end to slow plus‐end motion on single MTs. At high ionic strength, Cin8 motors rapidly alternated directionalities between antiparallel MTs, while driving steady plus‐end relative sliding. Between parallel MTs, plus‐end motion was only occasionally observed. Deletion of the uniquely large insert in loop 8 of Cin8 induced bias towards minus‐end motility and affected the ionic strength‐dependent directional switching of Cin8 in vitro . The deletion mutant cells exhibited reduced midzone‐directed motility and efficiency to support spindle elongation, indicating the importance of directionality control for the anaphase function of Cin8.