Nerf bar feature image


Much like hitches, running boards and nerf bars (and their little cousins—side steps) are among the most useful truck accessories available.

But unlike hitches, they are used virtually 100 percent of the time drivers and passengers hop into the cab, and they provide the awesome bonus of significantly improving how a truck looks.

Running boards, nerf bars, or side steps are usually easy to install. Choosing between them pretty much always comes down to personal preference.

But you still have some choices to make. Here are some things to consider.

How to Choose Running Boards or Nerf Bars

1. Choose Between Running Boards or Nerf Bars

What’s the difference?

Both running boards and nerf bars serve the same function—to provide non-slip stepping surfaces to help people get in and out of trucks, and deal with the elements, ranging from mud, to rain, snow, and ice.

Either will get the job done, as both are built from the same materials. The key differentiators are size and finish options.

2. Choose a Size (and Shape)

Whether you choose running boards or nerf bars, you will have a few choices to make.

First is length. Cab-length nerf bars and running boards are only as long as your cab, and will stop right around where the rear of the cab meets the truck bed. Wheel-to-wheel nerf bars and running boards start where the front wheel ends, and cut off just before the rear wheel, covering the entire length of your truck.

The second size consideration is step width (or diameter, in the case of nerfs). Running board width (and shape) is typically predetermined depending on the specific one you might choose for your particular truck make and model year.

Tubular-shaped nerf bars come in a variety of diameters, ranging typically from two- to six-inch round or oval step bars.

3. Choose a Finish

You have a variety of looks and finishes to choose from, including:

Black powdercoated



Textured powdercoated



Anodized aluminum

Running Board/Nerf Bar Buyer’s Guide

Dee Zee UltraBlack Round Size Step Bars

Dee Zee UltraBlack Nerf Bars

These black powdercoated steel nerfs have a diameter of three inches, and feature molded, non-skid step areas.

Owens Products ClassicPro Series Diamond Tread Running Boards

Owens Products Classic diamond aluminum running board

Features the classic stamped aluminum diamond tread pattern for good looks and sure footing to protect you and your hardworking rig for years.

Westin E-Series Step Bars

Westin E Series step bar

These Westin nerf bars are available in both polished chrome and black finishes, have a three-inch diameter, and feature thoughtful, corrosion-resistent design enhancements.

LUND Factory Style Running Boards

LUND factory style running boards

These LUND running boards are built from aluminum-reinforced, corrosion-resistent polymer, feature a patented EZ Bracket mounting system, and are made to look like a factory installation.

AMP Research PowerSteps

AMP Research retractable step bars

AMP Research’s PowerSteps are full-length automatic electric-powered running boards that fold out instantly when doors are opened, and retract when doors are closed, to aid in aerodynamics and ground clearance. They also feature LED lighting to help illuminate the step at night, and more generally, look awesome.

Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.