What is The Difference Between Nerf Bars, Running Boards, And Truck Steps

Manufacturers equip many trucks with Nerf Bars, Running boards or step systems from the factory. These “stock” running boards or nerf bars aren’t always the highest quality or appealing to the eyes. They have a very important function though. Nerf Bars, Running Boards, and other truck step systems make getting in and out of your truck easier. They also add much needed protection to the sides of your truck. The stock running boards on my  2017 megacab saved me big time. Last year I was driving through a parking lot and an old Camry backed into me! It only bent my running board in a little bit. It easily bent right back, and it saved my truck from some serious body work. Up until that incident, I was never a believer in running boards or nerf bars. Now, I wouldn’t drive my truck without them.

What’s The Difference Between Nerf Bars, Steps, and Running Boards?

Even though nerf bars, running boards, and other truck step systems serve the same purpose, they aren’t the same thing. Here’s the breakdown:

Nerf Bars

Nerf bars vary in size, and can be oval or round shaped. Depending on the Nerf bars, there can either be steps that extend from the bar or they can be one long stepping “platform” like running boards. The grip section is found in two or three areas, beneath the doors and possibly one by the bed. These help prevent you from slipping and give you better grip when stepping in and out of the truck. Some Nerf bars have steps that “drop” significantly lower than running boards or other nerf bars. They are very beneficial for owners of lifted trucks.


Sometimes placed under the Nerf Bar category, steps are another option for diesel truck owners. Instead of extending alongside the cab, they mount only in certain areas. They’re not as flashy, however, they offer truck owners a less invasive, low-profile stepping platform. Truck steps are placed beneath the doors for easy access into the cab.

Running Boards

Running Boards are “boards” that run along the cab of your truck.  They are typically rectangularly shaped or slightly rounded. When they feature a rounded shape, the stepping area is flat which allows you to comfortably step up from any position on the running boards. Many feature grip sections along the entire board, however some have grip sections underneath the doors and by the bed. Running boards can be electric! When you open a door to the truck, they detract. When you close the door, they retract and sit flush alongside the truck.

Now that you understand the difference between the three, it’s up to you to decide which option makes the most sense for your truck. There are a lot of available options out there!

If you’re looking for a set of running boards check out our N-Fab Growler Step System review! These are the running boards we are running on our Diesel Resource truck! We love them!

N-Fab Growler Step System Review

Running Boards Built For Work

Running boards serve an important purpose. They make getting in and out of the cab easier, while simultaneously adding some extra protection to the side of your truck. Most trucks come from the factory with running boards, but they’re often of a lesser quality, unaesthetic, and offer less than satisfactory performance and durability. Many truck owners turn to aftermarket steps. There are literally hundreds of options out there for every make and model truck. About a month ago, we received a free set of N-Fab’s Growler Step System from RealTruck.com to try out on our 2018 Ram 2500 Megacab. After installing the running boards and using them on my truck for a couple weeks, I wanted to give you guys my honest opinion about these new steps. Here’s what I thought!

N-FAB Growler Step System

Running boards or Nerf Bars come standard from the factory on most diesel trucks for a reason. They make getting in and out of your truck easier, while simultaneously adding some much needed protection to the sides. While factory running boards or nerf bars get the job done, there is a lot of room for improvement. One aftermarket company, N-Fab,  just released two new sets of step systems for truck owners, the predator pro nerf bars, and the Growler step system. In this article, we’re going to be going over the Growler running boards. For the Predator pro nerf steps, click here.

Meet the N-Fab Growler Step System

N-Fab’s Growler step system is the ideal running board for truck owners wanting a good looking and functional step system. These running boards are 7 inches wide, and feature a “Tread pattern” to optimize grip. Unlike some nerf bars or running boards, this step system gives the truck owner grip on the entire length of the running board. This makes it ideal for people living where it snows, or rains frequently. An all aluminum construction and a textured black powder coat make the N-fab growler step system tough, durable, and appealing to the eyes. Their bolt-on design makes installation seamless on most trucks, and they are backed with a 5 year warranty on finish, and a limited lifetime warranty on workmanship.


  • “Tread” design on entire running board for maximum grip
  • 7″ Wide All Aluminum running boards and end caps
  • Textured black powder coat finish
  • Bolt-On for most trucks
  • Available in Cab Length


  • 5 year warranty on finish
  • lifetime warranty on workmanship


Love these running boards? Check them out at Realtruck!