Best Running Boards & Nerf Bars on the Market [2021 UPDATE]
What are the best running boards on the market in 2021? That’s exactly what we will look into today.
We have taken 5 top-selling running boards designed for a range of vehicles, to bring you the low down on where you should spend your hard-earned money.
To view our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For an in-depth review of each of our selected boards, plus a detailed buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
- Best Truck Running Boards – Top 5
- Running Board Reviews
- Running Boards & Nerf Bars – A Buyer’s Guide
- The Difference Between Running Boards and Nerf Bars
- Advantages of installing Running Boards or Nerf Bars
- Running Board & Nerf Bar FAQs
- Nerf Bars Vs. Running Boards – Which Is Right for You?
Best Truck Running Boards – Top 5
OUR #1 PICK:iBoard
5" Custom Fit
350 lbs Capacity
600 lbs capacity
5 year warranty
4" Oval S/S Side
3" Side Rails
Running Board Reviews
With the many models, brands, types, and qualities of running boards and nerf bars available, knowing what to buy can be difficult.
To help you, each of our chosen running boards has been rated on construction quality, design, and price-benefit value.
Here are the results.
1. TOP PICK: iBoard IB-D5208A Running Boards Review
Our top pick running board is this well-constructed and durable high-quality 5-inch wide set called the iBoard IB-D5208A.
The boards can be custom fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck, especially the 2009 Dodge-Ram Pick-up 1500s models and the latest 2010-2017 Ram 2500/3500 Pick-up truck models.
They have a rectangular cross-section and a flat top which defines it as running boards. They are 5.5 feet in length and are therefore suited to standard double-cabin pickup trucks whose cabin length is approximately the same.
Trucks with a slightly smaller cabin length can still use these running boards. However, they will span from wheel to wheel hence making them wheel-to-wheel side steps.
This also gives a person the option of using the back region of the footboard to climb into the truck-bed.
The boards are covered along their entire top surface with a high-quality, wear-resistant rubber that has been corrugated and threaded to create a lasting (durable) anti-slip stepping surface.
Its 5inches width gives the user an extra-wide stepping area.
They feature a polished exterior finish and are designed to be bolted into the mounting holes in the vehicle frame.
The product contains the following items:
- the 2 running boards,
- model-specific mounting brackets,
- installation hardware, (allowing any competent person to easily install the boards to the vehicle).
The boards are made from corrosion-resistant aluminum, make them durable, strong and extremely lightweight.
For example, each of these boards has a maximum loading capacity of 350pounds, yet the total weight of both boards is around 46pounds.
The stepping surface is not only secured properly to the underlying aluminum board but is also designed for comfort.
Likewise, they come with fully-welded metal caps that ensure that the edges of the boards never lose their curves or glossy appearance.
The rubber stepping surface is contoured to ensure water flows off the boards, hence ensuring that one does not slip on them when climbing into the vehicle as it rains.
On the downside, during a snowfall, the icy snows that fall on top of the stepping pads cannot slide off quickly, and the resulting ice layer can create a very slippery surface.
The iBoard IB-D5208A Running Boards are compact, well-constructed and durable high-quality 5-inch wide footboards that can be custom-fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck.
The high-quality design and a high price-benefit value makes these the top choice in our top 5 review round up.
2. AMP-Research 75138-01A PowerStep Review
This well-constructed set of power running boards (feature an integrated LED lighting system) can be custom fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck, including the 2009 Dodge-Ram Pick-up 1500s models and the Mega Cab 2010-2011 models.
The PowerStep comes with retractable brackets that feature low-maintenance precision pivot pins that are made from durable high-quality stainless steel.
The boards are 5.5 feet in length. Like our top pick iBoards, these can be installed in standard double-cabin pickup trucks as cabin-length running boards, or single cabin trucks using a wheel to wheel configuration.
As the name suggests, the boards are designed, built, and tested by AMP Research as part of the Power Step series of running boards.
Powered by the vehicle’s battery, the running boards need to be installed to the vehicle frame before its plug-and-play wiring can be connected.
The boards are made from high-quality, corrosion-resistant aluminum with their top surface being textured to maximize grip, while the powder-coat finish gives these surfaces a glossy appearance.
The high construction quality of the durable aluminum boards maximizes their strength while reducing their overall weight.
The maximum load capacity of each of these boards is 600pounds. Meanwhile, the total weight of the 2 boards is about 56pounds.
This model comes with high-quality, durable, and very strong brackets which operate as the linkage arms that allow the boards to retract into the frame, or be lowered for use.
These linkage arms are made of anodized die-cast aluminum alloy which has been further coated to make them corrosion-resistant.
The foot-boards are tucked away under the vehicle when not in use, and this gives the vehicle its maximum ground clearance.
The operation of the linkage arms is automated to slide down when the door is open so that they can lower down the foot-boards which provides the user with a stepping platform.
The LED lighting system features a 5-minute auto-off lag which ensures that the lights go off 5 minutes after the footboards have been lowered.
This rock-solid set of running boards is powered by a weatherproof, heavy-duty motor-drive system which also comes with a safety feature, the anti-pinch technology.
The PowerStep running boards are backed by a 60-month warranty.
The PowerStep running boards are a well-designed option that can custom-fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck
They come with retractable brackets that feature low-maintenance precision pivot pins that are made from durable high-quality stainless steel, as well as LED lighting and durable surface.
If you are willing to pay the extra price for the power-retractable features, this is a highly recommended set of boards.
3. Tyger-Auto TG-RS2D40078 Riser Review
The Tyger-Auto Riser boards are a well-constructed 4-inch wide set of running boards that have heavy-duty step bars and can be custom fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck.
(The range of vehicles includes the 2009 Dodge-Ram Pick-up 1500s models and the latest 2010-2018 Ram 2500/3500 Pick-up trucks).
They have a rectangular cross-section and a flat segmented top which defines it as running boards.
This segmentation is caused by sliding heavy-duty open steel tubing to areas of the board which are designated to serve as the stepping pads.
This tubing is made from mild steel that has been powder-coated and subjected to ultraviolet (UV) light treatment so that it becomes corrosion resistant.
A tubing is fitted into each designated step surface, and thus 4 steel tubings are fitted to form the 4 stepping pads.
On the top surface of each step pad is a textured non-slip surface. As the name suggests, this model is designed and built by Tyger Auto.
This model is suited to the standard double-cabin pickup trucks where it functions as a set of cabin-length footboards.
The Risers feature a polished black exterior and are designed to be bolted into the mounting holes in the vehicle frame.
The full shipped package contains the following items:
- the 2 running boards,
- 4 step-pad open steel tubings,
- model-specific mounting brackets,
- and installation hardware, (allowing a qualified worker to easily install it to the vehicle).
The boards are made from high-quality, corrosion-resistant material ensuring that they are durable, strong, and lightweight.
Similar to our number one pick iBoards, the Risers each have a maximum load capacity of 300pounds, with the total weight of the 2 boards being about 36pounds.
The stepping surface can be easily slid across the board which allows you to change the position of the step pads as deemed convenient.
Snowfall can be problematic as the resulting ice layer creates a very slippery surface.
The Tyger-Auto TG-RS2D40078 Riser running boards are an attractive 4-inch wide set of boards that have heavy-duty step bars and can be custom-fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck.
They feature a segmented stepping surface with sliding heavy-duty open steel tubings serving as the stepping pads. While this design will appeal to some, others may find this additional inconvenient.
An otherwise great set of boards worthy of consideration.
4. VioGi WM-D09S0101 Nerf Bars Reviews
The VioGi Nerf Bars are a durable 4-inch wide set of straight nerf bars that come with slip-resistant plastic step-pads.
They can be custom fitted to any 4-seater double-cabin pick-up truck, especially the 13 Silverado/Sierra 1500 models and the 2500/3500 EXT extended cab models.
The footboards have an oval cross-section and the plastic step pads providing a flat stepping surface, and these qualify them as nerf bars.
These nerf bars are made of heavy-duty chrome-polished T304 stainless steel. They can be installed in standard double-cabin pickup trucks where they will function as cab-length nerf bars.
They can also be fitted to trucks with a slightly smaller cabin length where they will function as wheel-to-wheel side steps which can allow a person to use the back region of either footboard to climb into the truck-bed.
Their 4-inch wide plastic pads give the user an extra-wide stepping area. This model is designed and built by VioGi.
The bars feature a chrome-polished exterior finish and are designed to be bolted into the mounting holes in the vehicle frame.
The shipped package that contains the following:
- the 2 nerf bars,
- model-specific mounting brackets,
- an instruction manual,
- and installation hardware.
The bars are made from corrosion-resistant material and are designed to be strong and durable, each bar can support a load weighing 450pounds.
The plastic stepping surface is secured properly to the underlying bar. This step pad is also designed to provide comfort to the user.
The top surface of the step pad is contoured to ensure water flows off them, hence ensuring that one does not slip on a wet pad.
Also, due to the oval shape of the bars, snow or ice that lands on its surface can easily fall off. However, the flat surface of the stepping pads allows snow to form a slippery ice layer.
These nerf bars are designed to provide a clean chrome-colored finish, while their construction allows them to give vehicles a low-profile design.
The VioGi nerf bars are strong, well-constructed, and durable. They are 4-inch wide and come with slip-resistant plastic step-pads. Made of heavy-duty chrome-polished T304 stainless steel, they are certainly built to last.
If Nerf Bars are what you are after, these offerings from VioGi come highly recommended.
5. MaxMate WB2C35007 Custom Fit Running Boards Review
The MaxMate custom fit running boards are designed for extended cabs and come with 3-inch slip-resistant heavy-duty stainless steel step-pads.
It can be custom fitted in extended double-cabin pick-up trucks, especially the 1999-2018 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500/2500 LD models, and 2001-2013 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500 extended double-cab models.
The footboards have a circular cross-section (which can also qualify them as nerf bars). Each of the bars features 2 shallow depressions just below the front and back entry doors, and each depression is fitted a non-slip step pad.
The MaxMates need to be installed as cabin-length footboards, and one is discouraged from using them as wheel-to-wheel footboards.
This model is designed and built by MaxMate.
Just like the VioGi, the MaxMate WB2C35007 comes as a package that contains the following:
- the 2 nerf bars,
- model-specific mounting brackets,
- an instruction manual,
- and installation hardware.
The bars are lightweight, while still being strong enough to support a load weighing up to 400pounds.
The steel stepping surface is secured properly to the underlying nerf bar, and this ensures that it does not slide off even when subjected from extreme stress, for example, from a heavy load.
This step pad is also textured to provide grip and comfort to the user. The top surface of each of the step pad is contoured to ensure water flows off them, hence ensuring that one does not slip on a wet pad.
Likewise, due to the round shape of the bars, snow or ice that lands on its surface can easily fall off. Even so, the flat contoured surface of the stepping pads allows snow to form a slippery ice layer.
These nerf bars provide a clean chrome-colored finish, while their construction allows them to give vehicles a low-profile design.
The MaxMate WB2C35007 Custom Fit boards are a durable, high-quality set of nerf bars designed for extended cabs. They come with 3-inch slip-resistant heavy-duty stainless steel step-pads.
Overall, a worthy addition to our top 5.
Running Boards & Nerf Bars – A Buyer’s Guide
Before we dive into the buyers guide, an important issue to clarify is what running boards and nerf bars are, and exactly what the difference is between them.
What are running boards?
A running board is a narrow footboard that is fitted next to the underside of the doors of a vehicle where they function as steps that aid entry into the vehicle, especially high vehicles.
These flat platforms have their origin with horse-drawn carriages. Passengers needed to step up to enter the carriage. With the emergence of the automobile, this feature was used in the designs and was included as part of the chassis.
For the most part, all cars had running boards until 1936, with trucks having them as standard until the 1950s.
However, with car manufacturers striving to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, running boards no longer came as standard.
This hasn’t stopped them from being popular with truck and SUV owners. In the last few decades, aftermarket running boards are being added to vehicles en masse. They make getting in and out of high ground clearance vehicles much easier.
What are Nerf Bars?
Nerf bars have their origin in the racing industry. They were attached to the side of racing cars to defend against aggressive drivers and to help stop passing maneuvers on the track.
In racing circles, the word “nerf” meant to “bump” one another’s cars during the race.
Today, they are added to large vehicles, and much like running boards are used so that the driver and passengers can get in and out of the high clearance vehicle with ease. They are also useful for off-road driving as nerf bars can protect the rocker panels and doors too.
The Difference Between Running Boards and Nerf Bars
So we’ve ascertained that despite coming from different origins, running boards and nerf bars serve the same function. However, there are some distinct differences that you should be aware of in order to choose the right option for you.
The shape is probably the biggest difference between running boards and nerf bars. Running boards have a flat, rectangular shape and therefore have a flat surface for stepping onto. (The edges are normally rounded to give a tubular finish to the boards).
Conversely, nerf bars are rounded on the top. If one views the bar from the end, you can see that they have a circular or oval shape to them.
Both nerf bars and running boards have grip pads across the top to help provide better traction. However, the grip pad on nerf bars is thinner, due to having less topside surface area.
Running boards are generally four to seven inches in size across the top, (custom boards can be even larger).
Due to the majority of nerf bars being a circular bar shape, nerf bars are measured in diameter. The most common size is 3 or 4 inches. Oval-shaped nerf bars sometimes reach up to 6″ in diameter.
The length of a nerf bar or running board varies depending it runs the length of the cab or from wheel to wheel (more on that below).
- Related Content: Buying the best intake manifold – top 5 picks
3. Weight Capacity
Nerf bars generally have a lower weight capacity than running boards. The average nerf bar can hold up to 300lbs. per tube, however, some models can reach up to 500lbs.
If you need anything more than this design, you will need to look towards running boards where some designs will hold 600lbs and higher.
The materials used for nerf bars and running boards are similar, as a few choices are available for both.
The important issue here is strength and durability. The most common options are steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Stainless steel is the best choice out of the steel options due to the anti-corrosive properties of the material. Steel also benefits from being stronger than aluminum.
Lower quality nerf bars and running boards are built using plastic. We would recommend you stay away from these as they have a lower weight limit and are not as durable as steel or aluminum options. They are more affordable, however.
Nerf bars and running boards also have a lot of similar finishes that can be chosen. Polished steel, polished aluminum, and diamond plate are finishes that are available on both. These are extremely popular as they provide a beautiful shiny finish.
Powder coat black is another option a lot of truck owners go for. It is durable and looks sleek too.
Finally, there is the painted finish, with bars and boards coming in a range of colors to suit your truck.
Advantages of installing Running Boards or Nerf Bars
The ground clearance is the distance between the ground to the lowest point of the underside of a chassis.
This clearance allows cars to navigate uneven roads, drive smoothly over rocks or bumps, and also drive across off-road tracks.
- Related Content: best tonneau cover for your money
Another advantage of running boards is that they offer some protection to the sides and tires of a vehicle when it is involved in a road collision where another car hits the sides of the vehicle.
This makes the running board analogous to the bull bar that is fitted at the front of the vehicle where it protects its front-side (of the vehicle) from damage during a head-on collision.
Added safety when entering or exiting your truck
Generally, the running boards span the entire length of the cabin, which allows for only two (one on either side) footboards to be used to access all the front-seats and backseats.
Anti-slip stepping pads are usually fitted on the step areas of the board.
Sometimes, the entire top surface is corrugated or textured into an anti-slip surface that allows people to safely enter into the vehicle.
- Related Content: Buying the best utility trailer in 2021
Reinforcement for off-road terrain
If fitted to an off-road vehicle, the underside of the running board is reinforced to withstand wear and tear caused by hitting rocks, and this type of running board is called a rocker bar. This rocker bar also reinforces the body of the vehicle.
Added style to your vehicle
Nerf bars, along with running boards, not only add functionality to the vehicle, but they also change its appearance, adding a stylistic edge to your truck depending on the color and design of the boards that you choose.
For instance, some high-end running boards come with LED-fitted stepping pads that light up in dark environments so that one can see the stepping areas.
- Related Content: Best EVAP smoke machine to suit your budget
Running Board & Nerf Bar FAQs
Here are some common questions and answers for those looking to buy and install running boards and nerf bars to their truck or SUV.
Q. How do you install running Boards & nerf bars?
Running boards and nerf bars come with installation brackets that allow them to be attached to the frame of the vehicle. They are usually fitted to the rocker panels of the vehicle frame.
These brackets are either bolted or welded onto the frame. Depending on the manufacturer of the model, the running boards can come with either universal or model-specific brackets.
Model-specific brackets are usually bolted into the pre-existing (manufacturer-drilled) mounting holes in the frame, while universal brackets require one to drill the right bolt holes in the frame.
It is recommended that nerf bars are fitted to the frame rails of the car body, rather than the body itself because it allows the bars to support the vehicle weight when they (the bars) are used as jack-points to lift the vehicle off the ground, for example, when changing a burst deflated tire.
Q. How many step pads are required?
As mentioned above, most nerf bars will have a step pad beneath each seating entrance point. Furthermore, the average SUV nerf bar will have 2 step pads per bar.
The configuration for trucks can be different. Standard cab trucks will have 1 step pad, with larger extended cabs and crew cabs having 2 step pads. If you opt for a wheel-to-wheel bar, there will often be an extra pad at the rear wheel well.
Q. How much weight can nerf bars and running boards support?
The going rate of weight capacity for a nerf bar is approximately 300lbs. at any one time, (some go as high as 500lbs.)
However, more robust running boards can support over 600lbs.
The holding capacity is also impacted by the fact the bars and boards mount directly to your vehicle’s frame. If this is weakened or rusted, the holding capacity will be diminished.
- Related Content: Best gooseneck hitch on the market
Q. What is the difference between cab length and wheel-to-wheel side steps?
Cab length side steps run the length of the doors of your truck, whereas wheel-to-wheel models will extend between each wheel well. In cases of the latter, there will be an extra step for easy access to the truck bed.
Q. What are power running boards?
Some of the high-quality running boards are the powered models which are usually tucked away under the vehicle when not in use and are then automated to slide down when the door is open so that they can provide a stepping platform.
Likewise, these powered models allow one to adjust how low they can get so that small kids and short people can easily step into the car.
Nerf Bars Vs. Running Boards – Which Is Right for You?
So between nerf bars and running boards, which is the right choice for you?
This will generally come down to the look you are going for, and the fully intended usage. Cost, size, shape, material, and finish are also variables you need to consider.
However, to narrow it down, if your priority is to make your vehicle safer for people getting in and out, the wider, superior traction offered by a running board, makes the better choice.
If you prefer the style and look of nerf bars, and extra grip is not required…, you know which direction to go.
Both will provide strength and durability assuming you go for material and quality that will deliver. If after all of this info, you still can’t decide, you might just have to browse around until something really stands out for you.
Either that or its time to toss a coin. 🙂