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> Nerf Bars and Running Boards Comparison

Nerf Bars and Running Boards Comparison

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The difference between running boards and nerf bars may seem very small at first glance. But when you start to analyze each truck accessory, you realize there is a world of differences that set these upgrades apart.

The function of a nerf bar or a running board is to make it easier for you to get in and out of your truck, SUV, CUV, or even your van. People have been adding them as upgrades since the first truck rolled off the production line - thanks, Henry Ford!  Both have specially molded surfaces that provide a non-slip gripping area for your feet. It’s the perfect solution for clearance issues (let's say you cranked your truck up real high and you're getting tired of jumping into it), as well as dealing with the elements such as ice, snow, mud, and water.



First, let’s talk about the lengths available for both nerf bars and running boards.

  • Cab Length: This means the accessory only runs along the length of your cab. It stops right at or close to the beginning of your truck bed.
  • Wheel to Wheel: The step will go from the rear of your front wheel to the front of your rear wheel.  The step will essentially cover the entire length of your vehicle.
  • Bed Length – These are only available in select running board styles. They match current cab-length running boards and fit the gap between the cab and the rear wheel to complete the look. You get full wheel-to-wheel appearance with two pieces.



Each size is available in different finish options in the various brands RealTruck carries. 

Size is the second-largest factor considered when determining the difference between nerf bars and running boards. It is super easy to distinguish size differences in nerf bars. They come in easy-to-understand shapes and diameter options. You can choose from oval or round.  Both offer diameter options in inches, ranging from 2 inches to 6 inches.

Oval nerfs offer the largest diameter options with sizes reaching up to 6 inches, whereas round nerf bars offer the smallest, most miniimal styles with 2-inch options.

Running boards aren’t typically offered in size increments, but do provide for a wide stepping base.  They start at a minimum of 4 inches in width and get up to around 7 inches or even larger on some select styles. Because running boards are custom fit to the year, make, and model of your pickup truck, some sizing may vary from product to product.

The biggest difference between nerfs and running boards when it comes to size is the shape. Nerf bars are tubular and running boards are flat - most often rectangular.  Some running boards have rounded edges, giving them a more “tube-like” look, but because of their rectangular and flat construction, they’re classified as side-step boards.


Materials and Finishes

Material and finish options can drastically alter the look of a running board or nerf bar. These choices open the door to many different options when it comes to upgrading your truck’s look! Both are constructed with almost identical materials that hold many of the same properties. However, running boards do allow for more finish options than nerf bars.

Nerf bars can be purchased in the following finishes:

Running boards have a wider selection of options:

Because running boards have more options, folks sometimes feel they add more flash and style to trucks.  Don’t let the idea of a small finish selection fool you. Nerf bar product selection varies greatly between brands, especially on  So take some extra time to look around and see what you like when it comes to looks and functionality.