Does Your 4Runner Need Running Boards?

Running boards are located at the bottom of vehicles on both or either side, typically at the base of the door. Running boards service to primary functions, the most obvious of which is to serve as a step. This is important, especially for taller trucks and SUVs like your 4Runner or if your passengers are on the shorter side. Without this extra set, getting into your SUV will feel like climbing a mountain.

The second function of running boards is to protect your SUV or truck from different types of road debris. When you drive your SUV, your tires kick up dirt, rocks and debris such as nails. Having a running board can block some of these things from being thrown high enough to scratch and damage your side panels and doors, thus reducing the risk of rust and corrosion to the body of your truck.

Another benefit of running boards is that they can help you to keep the interior of your SUV, van or truck clean. In this way, running boards act as a doormat in that passengers can wipe dirt off of their feet before they step into your SUV.

Since running boards essentially function as ladders into your vehicle, it’s critical that they be kept dry and clean to prevent slipping that could possibly result in personal injury. Some running boards have built-in gripping surfaces that can help increase traction, but these surfaces may wear over time. Still, if this happens, you can recoup the traction by using deck tape--the same thing that skateboards use to increase their grip on their boards.

Running Boards Vs Nerf Bars

It seems simple enough. Both running boards and nerf bars provide a secure stepping area to help you get into your 4Runner. Therefore, they must be the same accessory, right? Wrong. Although running boards and nerf bars are similar, they do have several key differences that could affect your purchase decision.

First, running boards provide a stepping pad that runs the entire length of the board. In other words, you and your passengers have secure footing at all times. On the other hand, nerf bars provide stepping pads only at each door and are often designed like pipe-like fixtures.

In terms of strength, running boards can typically hold up to 600 pounds, whereas nerf bars can usually hold a maximum of 500 pounds. Ultimately, running boards are typically viewed as more stylish and sleeker, so depending on the look you’re going for on your 4Runner, you may decide one is better suited for your needs than the other.

Types of Running Boards

When running boards were first installed on cars, they were usually located on both sides of the vehicle and served as a means of securing passengers’ footing as they stepped into and out of the vehicle. This is because vintage cars had a higher ground clearance than our modern cars, and as later model vehicles were introduced, they sat closer to the ground, and the need for running boards diminished. However, the benefit of running boards continues to be seen to this day.

Running boards come in a number of materials, including fiberglass, plastic, rubber, diamond-plate steel and a tube-like structure that is located around the perimeter of the SUV. There are also several design features to consider when shopping for new running boards for your Toyota 4Runner.

Running boards are flat, wide and mounted close to the body of your 4Runner. If you like the look of step bars but you need a more convenient foot placement area and more space for stepping, you could opt for a product that features an actual step bar as part of the main structural frame as well as a flat, horizontal stepping plate. Because the step plate is integrated into the design, it serves as a wide running board that adds to the sleek visual look of the running board itself.

Do you take your Toyota 4Runner in dark areas where the ground may be marshy or uneven in spots? Some running boards offer the option of LED lights that illuminate both the footing surfaces on top as well as the ground underneath. These products are equipped with built-in wiring that connects to your SUV’s door ajar sensor, so the running board lights automatically activate when you open any door.

If you’re in need of running boards that can handle large boots stepping in and out of your SUV all day long, whether it’s on the farm, on the job driving the team home from the baseball game, consider running boards designed for exactly that. Some products feature a perforated grate pattern that provides a full biting grip for nearly any footwear except heels. First, these runnings boards scrub all debris and water out of your shoe treads before promptly dropping the debris through its holes onto the ground below. In this way, you can remove large amounts of dirt, mud and muck before they end up inside your SUV. If you go this route, opt for heavy-duty 12-gauge steel to ensure the highest strength as well as a black powder finish that can resist corrosion and rust.


When you're looking for a new running board for your SUV, you must first choose between a step bar, which is tubular in shape, and a true running board that is flat and flush-mounted. If you purchased your SUV because you value high ground clearance for off-roading, you may opt for a running board that prevents damage to your rocker panels without sticking out of the side of your SUV. You may opt for a product that permanently secures to the side of the vehicle or other types of steps that retract completely out of the way when not in use. In any case, think about your priorities, needs and budget and whether you’d like to invest in running boards that lean toward serving your passengers or the vehicle itself.