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What are running boards?

What are running boards?

A running board or footboard is a narrow step that fits under the side doors of a car or truck. They are primarily used on trucks and SUVs, where users often have difficulty getting in and out because of the high ground clearance. They were installed to provide better footing in and out of vehicles because vintage cars sat higher off the ground than our modern cars. As later model cars were introduced, their ground clearance was lower and running boards became less necessary. However, vehicles retained running boards for aesthetic reasons.

Types of running boards

Electric Running Boards

Electric running boards are the most expensive running boards on the automotive market. When you install these running boards on your truck, they swing out when you open the door and retract when you close the door. When someone opens or closes a vehicle door, electric running boards receive a signal from their control module. Sometimes, electric running boards come with LED lights to help drivers see clearly when exiting their vehicle at night.

Traditional running boards

Traditional running boards are stationary, flat steps that you can mount under your car's doors. They are often quite wide. The average width of a traditional running board is between 3 inches and 5 inches wide. Conventional running boards are long, rectangular treads that are mounted flush to the body of the vehicle. They run the length of the cabin in one piece below the doors.

Running board

Lighted Running Boards

These running boards have built-in lighting that makes them more visible, making it easier to enter and exit the vehicle in low-light situations. These LED lights illuminate both the top and bottom of the step, making it easier to avoid puddles and find your footing on uneven terrain.

Running Board Materials

Running boards are made of aluminum, stainless steel, fiberglass, or ABS plastic. Aluminum and steel are more durable and can have different finishes, but fiberglass and plastic can be painted to match the vehicle. Running boards help prevent slipping by providing textures and patterns.

  • Aluminum Running Boards - These have a metallic look and are not painted, but it can be finished to look like chrome. They can have longitudinal grooves or a textured finish, both of which help prevent slipping. There are two types of these sturdy aluminum running boards:
    • Diamond Plate Aluminum - molded with a diamond pattern to improve tractionand prevent slipping.
    • Extruded Aluminum-Smooth with no texture.
  • Fiberglass Running Boards-These are lightweight, but can be made more durable with a steel plate on the underside. They can be painted to match the color of your truck or SUV.

  • Stainless Steel Running Boards - These are the most durable options available and come in a variety of styles, some of which even look like chrome.
  • ABS Plastic Running Boards - These are made from a less expensive, but very strong plastic. It may not last as long as aluminum and steel, but like fiberglass, it can be painted to match the color of the vehicle.

Running Boards VS Side Steps

Running Boards

Running boards provide a flat, wide step surface that extends the length of the cab. Mounted directly to the vehicle frame with brackets, they are available in a variety of materials and finishes, including stainless steel, diamond plate, and extruded aluminum. Running boards create a finished and sleek appearance, making them a popular choice for people who want to maintain a consistent OEM look for their pickup or SUV.


  • Provide a step-up for shorter passengers.
  • Protect your vehicle from rock chips and other road debris.
  • Running boards help to keep the interior of your truck or van clean and tidy.


  • They can contribute to seat deterioration.
  • During the winter, running boards get dirty and full of snow.
  • They reduce ground clearance.

Side Steps

Side steps, often called nerf bars, typically have a tubular design that mounts close to the side of your vehicle. They are available in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, aluminum or coated steel. In terms of appearance, side steps tend to be more rugged or sporty, making them great for off-road enthusiasts or people looking for an aggressively styled truck.

side steps


  • Provide some protection to the sides of the vehicle against minor impacts
  • Offer less ground clearance for easier access on lifted vehicles
  • Offer individual, custom-positioned step pads


  • May be susceptible to rust or corrosion
  • Reduce vehicle ground clearance (in some cases)
  • Requires more frequent wiping as they can be slippery when wet

side steps

How to choose running boards

We'll discuss what to look for when buying running boards. Explore all the options of different designs, materials, sizes, etc. With so many great choices at reasonable prices, finding the perfect accessory for your ride will be easy.

  • Durability and Materials
  • Fit and compatibility
  • Traction and Grip
  • Weight capacity
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Ease of installation
  • Budget considerations: Balancing quality with affordability
  • Maintenance Requirements: Cleaning and Care for Longevity

When it comes to customizing your vehicle, running boards can provide both safety and convenience. Whether you choose a fixed or folding option, you can rest assured that your choice will be durable and easy to maintain. With proper research, you can find the perfect addition to make your life easier. Running boards are a must-have for those looking to customize their car, truck or SUV with affordable and effective solutions.

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