Time for reading: 6 min.

Side Steps - Choosing the right Fit, Style, Function

Side steps function as running boards, but include styles such as tubular bars, rocker bars, and hoop steps. We make recommendations based on anticipated use.

If you have a pickup, SUV, or a Jeep, then you probably feel, as we do, that 4x4s are attractive in nature and serve as great canvasses for creating an individual vehicle identity. Because the overall shapes of truck designs are unpretentious, lines tend to accentuate strength. And bright work (or black work) applied in the right fashion can heighten bold styling, accentuate luxury, or both. We know that running boards or side steps have potential to make a big impact in this category, and we understand form is just as important as function when it comes to selecting the right ones. That's why we offer a great variety of full-length running boards and step bars as well as short-length steps. We've even got steps that fit easily onto trailer hitch openings.

In the Running Boards & Step Bars section of our website, you'll see all of the products we offer and you'll be able narrow your search down by clicking on any of the categories in our "Shop by Category" section. Should you encounter product terms and expressions in this section that you're not familiar with, we've got helpful definitions and explanations in our Running Board and Side Step Glossary.

Shop By Category

All of the running boards, side steps, rocker bars, and other steps we sell typically come in a choice of metals and finishes which you'll see after clicking on any "Product Options" drop down box found on product pages. Once you enter vehicle make, model, and year, selections built to fit your specific vehicle will display. You may find corrosion-free aluminum and stainless steel versions (usually polished to a high metal shine), or the products you see may be built from traditional mild steel and coated with durable, weather-resistant powder coat or chrome finishes. Regardless, we've selected products from manufacturers that have shown the most consistent proven track records when it comes to quality and long-term durability.

What's Best For Me?

The first choice to make is deciding between a true running board (flat and flush-mounted) and a step bar (tubular in shape). If you purchased your 4x4 because you value high ground clearance for off-roading, you'll see products below that are designed to protect your rocker panels from damage without protruding a great deal downward or to the side of the vehicle. You'll also find running boards, step bars, and other types of steps that retract out of the way completely when desired. Think about what your priorities are, and whether you need a bar or board that leans toward serving passengers, or the vehicle itself.

THIS article features a selection of side steps for your vehicle. If you are also interested in reviewing a selection of running boards, you can find that article here.

Pickup Cab Length & How It Affects Wheel-To-Wheel Running Board Coverage

Wheel-To-Wheel Running Boards
Here, an example of a one-piece "wheel-to-wheel" running board is shown.

"Wheel-to-wheel running board coverage" refers to running boards that span the complete length of a pickup, van, or SUV between front and rear wheel well openings. Such running boards can come in the form of a one-piece section fitted to the exact length of the vehicle, or they can exist in the form of two separate but adjoining sections. In two-piece applications, the first section typically spans the length of a pickup truck's cab area while the second is cut to fit on the area below the bed - varying in lengths depending on short-, medium-, or long-bed configuration. In the Product Options field when pickup models are entered in the vehicle specifics field, under-cab sections and under-bed sections may be sold together or separately. Because sometimes, a step for just the cab area is all you need or want.

Side Steps

Side steps, or "step bars" offer a stylish way to make climbing into your cabin easier. Instead of a flat plank on top, step bars feature tubular metal construction that's round or oval in shape. If you feel that traditional running boards add too much visual mass to your vehicle, step bars provide a more discreet look that blends in - almost unnoticeably depending on the selection made. Or, they can make a bold statement when finished in chrome or polished stainless steel. While they do not provide as wide a stepping area, there are variations and larger diameters of step bars that should fit most needs.

Step Bars With Removable Auxiliary Steps

These truly let you have the best of both worlds - a slim, attractive step bar with a second step level that can be removed. If you prefer a full-length removable second step, we've got the Romik Max Bar Side Steps with Add-On. that's available with or without the second step. If add-on hoop steps (not full-length) are preferred, we've got the Iron Cross Round Sport Tube Plus Step with two small removable foot sections. Both are available in a choice of stainless steel or traditional steel with black powder coat, and both feature stainless steel grated foot plates on the secondary step areas.

Romik Max Bar Side Steps with Add-On
Romik's Max Bar Side Steps with Add-On are available with a removable add-on second step that bolts on easily using hand tools.
Iron Cross Round Sport Tube Plus Steps
The Iron Cross Round Sport Tube Plus Step features two small removable foot "hoop" sections.
N-FAB AdjustStep Nerf Steps
N-FAB's AdjustStep Nerf Steps feature two foot pads that can be bolted on at different heights, or removed entirely.

N-FAB's AdjustStep Nerf Steps features a tubular bar which is positioned close to the vehicle frame for unobtrusive looks. Normally, the bar would be difficult to use for actual stepping. However, two removable drop-down foot pads are positioned right where you need them, offering maximum versatility with two mounting holes that allow them to be positioned 5. 5 inches apart. Put them higher up if clearance is an issue, or bolt them on the lower holes for a height that's lower than most step pads.

Step Bars With Permanently Affixed Auxiliary Steps

For those that prefer a step bar with a permanently-mounted second step level that runs all the way across, we've got several choices for you. First, the ICI Drop Step Bars (polished stainless steel only) feature a smaller-diameter bar positioned at normal height and a larger bar that sits below it in a position that's 3 inches closer to the ground than normal step bars. So they're really great for small children and adults that have trouble with steps. If you do off-road driving, you may appreciate the RBP RX-3 Side Bars, available in polished stainless steel or black textured coating. Mesh insert pieces cover most of the gap between the two bars to prevent rock and mud upspray from coming through on the trails, and two cutout areas provide easy stepping areas just where they're needed.

ICI Drop Step Bars
The ICI Drop Step Bars.
RBP RX-3 Side Bars
The RBP RX-3 Side Bars.

The next category of Step Bars with permanent steps are ones that have hoops to put your feet into while stepping, rather than an extra bar running all the way across. For starters, there's the GoRhino Dominator Round Side Steps with aluminum grip pads that can be removed for custom painting. Choose the 2.5"-diameter D2 version with two foot hoops or the 3"-diameter D3 version with three foot hoops. Or if you prefer the look of protective mesh, Ranch Hand 3" Round Nerf Bars has metal mesh sections underneath foot hoop tubes, and comes in wheel-to-wheel lengths only.

Should you prefer step bars with a tubular bar positioned closer to the vehicle frame for unobtrusive looks, N-FAB offers the N-Durastep Nerf Steps with two large enclosed foot stepping areas that stick out further to make up the difference. This comes in Wheel-To-Wheel configuration with two steps, or in "Bed Access" versions with an extra third step. If you've got a Hummer H3 or late-model Toyota Tacoma, FJ Cruiser, or 4Runner, N-FAB makes the similarly-styled 2" Nerf Steps especially for those vehicles. And if you go off-roading and need a step bar that delivers optimum clearance below the vehicle, the RBP RX-1 Side Bars and Smittybuilt 3" Nerf Bars are designed with foot loops that are positioned more out to the side instead of down underneath.

Rocker Bars - Purposely Built For Off-Roading

Rocker Bars

We offer a number of tubular rocker bar assemblies designed mostly for Jeep Wranglers. While their main function is to protect vulnerable rocker panel areas against damage during off-roading and rock crawling, some of them also double as step bars to varying degrees. All are crafted from hardened steel and finished in durable matte black powder coat. If you prefer discreet-looking bars that run closer alongside the vehicle, you may prefer Rancho RockGear Door Sliders or Smittybilt SRC Rocker Guards - the latter of which offers a choice solid tubing or perforated holes. Note that these bars are for agile climbers only because they do not provide much of a stepping area.

Rampage Rocker Panel Guard Side Steps In Retracted Position
Here, Rampage Rocker Panel Guard Side Steps are shown in the retracted position close to the body for off-road clearance. A second lower bar is fixed in place and protects rocker panels at all times.
Rampage Rocker Panel Guard Side Steps
Rampage Rocker Panel Guard Side Steps feature a release latch to swing the top bar downward and out for easy use as a traditional step bar.

We've also got Rampage Rocker Panel Guard Side Steps which offer the distinct advantage of a top bar that pivots down into position for easy use as a wide step. When you prefer it out of the way close to the body, simply release a latch and swing it up. A second lower bar is fixed in place to protect rocker panels at all times. Note that if you own a Hummer H3 or Toyota 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, or Tacoma, N-Fab offers the Rockrail in sizes for those models as well as Jeep Wranglers.

N-Fab Rockrails
If you take your Hummer H3 or Toyota 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, or Tacoma, off-roading, N-Fab Rockrails are available in sizes for those models.

If you want a rocker bar with heavier-duty construction, consider the Smittybilt XRC Rock Sliders. While the other rocker bars we offer feature .12"-thick steel, XRC tubes are crafted from .18"-thick steel that's best suited to rock crawling and heavier impacts. XRC Rock Sliders also come in sizes fitted for Jeep Cherokees and CJs, and offer an optional horizontal step for most body configurations (see Product Options) that effectively blocks stones and muck from flying up onto the vehicle.

Smittybilt XRC Rock Sliders
Smittybilt XRC Rock Sliders for Jeep Wranglers, Cherokees, and CJs shown here offer the heaviest-gauge steel construction, and are available with optional horizontal shelf plates.
Rugged Ridge RRC Side Armor Guards
Rugged Ridge RRC Side Armor Guards feature three tubes rather than just one or two. This allows these rocker bars to function fully as a step bar and an off-road bar for rock crawling.

And if you do need to actually use your rocker bar as a stepping bar, you'll find tubular bars that protrude farther from the vehicle such as the Paramount Off-Road Rocker Guards (see Product Options for choices), Body Armor Extreme Rock Rails, and Rugged Ridge RRC Side Armor Guards. Best suited to rock-crawling among these choices, the Rugged Ridge RRCs feature three tubes rather than just one or two. One tube projects fully out to the side as a useful step bar, the second tube points down to protect against clearance issues, and the third one runs close alongside the vehicle's rocker panel for extra strength.

Hoop Steps

Hoop Steps

Hoop steps provide full stepping convenience without the extra weight running boards add to your vehicle. Since they only cover a limited amount of space, they won't have the visual effect of changing your vehicle's overall lines. Yet quality materials and designs allow them to look like original equipment, not like afterthoughts that have been tacked on. For those who prefer a hoop step that retracts out of the way, the Go Rhino Single Spring Step features a round tube bar step pad area. When you want to use it, unlock the hinge latches, pivot the hoop step assembly downward, then lock it in place.

Go Rhino Spring Step
The Go Rhino Spring Step is designed to unlatch and pivot out of the way when not in use. It's available in polished stainless steel or traditional steel with chrome or black powder coat finishes.
Ranch Hand Truck Steps
The Ranch Hand Truck Steps.

We also offer a selection of fixed hoop steps. For those that prefer the look of an oval step bar, Steelcraft offers the 4" Oval Drop Step crafted from stainless steel. And if your truck's equipped with diamond plate mud flaps, bedliner, or toolbox, we've got hoop steps to match. There's the Bully Truck Bed Side Steps crafted from aluminum and the Outland Chrome Truck Step, which offers best value with steel construction and chrome finish. We've also got aluminum hoop steps from CARR in 7-inch and 20-inch widths that offer a rare choice of black or titanium powder coat finishes if that's preferable over polished bare metal. And for those who like the look of steel mesh, take a look at the black powdercoat Ranch Hand Truck Steps that mount directly to truck frame rails.

We understand you may still have questions about what's right for you, so we encourage you to contact us seven days a week with any questions you may have before purchasing.

Items Discussed in Article
Shop Now
Low Prices Price match guarantee
Guaranteed Fitment Always the correct part
In-House Experts We know our products
Easy Returns Quick & Hassle Free

All manufacturer names, symbols, and descriptions, used in our images and text are used solely for identification purposes only. It is neither inferred nor implied that any item sold by is a product authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufacturers displayed on this page.