If you have a truck or sport-utility vehicle (SUV), chances are at one time or another, you or your passenger have had a bit of a hard time climbing aboard since these types of vehicles usually have high ground clearance. Or when you've lifted your vehicle a lot higher than standard ride height.
Here is where running boards and nerf bars come in. Running boards have existed ever since the invention of the automobile. They're the platforms found at the side of the vehicle, just below floor level, and you step on them when getting in or out of the vehicle. They went out of style for several decades but have made a comeback when trucks and SUVs became popular choices for mainstream transportation. They serve as literal "stepping stones" for passengers of these types of vehicles.
Running boards create a step for someone to put their feet on when climbing on or off a vehicle with high ride height. They usually have a flat, non-slip surface around 6 to eight inches wide and run the length of the vehicle from the front inner wheel arch to the rear inner wheel arch. Running boards are usually made of rubber with a raised pattern that maximizes foot grip, making ingress and egress safe for everyone.
Running boards also protect the doors and lower side panels of your vehicle by deflecting sand, pebbles, and rocks thrown up by your vehicle's wheels. They can also stop other vehicle's doors from dinging yours in tight parking spaces. There are even running boards that extend to your vehicle's wheel arches, serving as mudguards. They can also act as doormats for wiping your muddy shoes on before entering the vehicle, which helps you avoid tramping soil or mud inside your vehicle.
While nerf bars basically perform the same function, they are not as effective as full-size running boards because they are usually only half as wide. Nerf bars started out as a protective device fitted to the side of an open-wheel dirt racer, protecting the sides of the vehicle as well as the driver. Nerf bars have since evolved into truck and SUV accessories, but still, basically perform the same function, as well as providing an extra step for vehicles with high ground clearance. In general, both running step boards and nerf bars don't lower the ground clearance of your vehicle.
A good comparison would be the Luverne Grip Step running boards and the Aries Nerf Bars. The Luverne Grip Step running boards provide a stepping surface that runs the entire length of the board while the Aries Nerf Bar just has a small stepping surface at each door of your vehicle.
If you are choosing between running step boards and nerf bars, the running boards would be a better choice. However, it all boils down to your personal taste. If you are going with running boards, though, just make sure that the running step board you buy can perform all the functions listed previously.
Bar Side Steps (Step Up In Style), Brush Guards (SS, Chrome Plated, Black), Bull Bars (Rugged Front End Protection), Bumper Guards (Prevent Bumper Damage), Headache Racks (Shields For Truck Cabs), Hitch Steps (Get A Leg Up), Hoop Steps (Assistance Up And Down), Off-Road Bumpers (Heavy Duty, 4x4, Winch Mount), Push Bars (Ultimate in Protection and Style), Rocker Bars (Helps Feet, Thwarts Boulders), Step Boards (Stainless Steel, Aluminum), Truck Bed Steps (Tailgate Steps & Ladders).
Westin, APG, Go Rhino, Steelcraft, n-Fab, Aries, AMP Research, Dee Zee, Raptor Series, Onki, Iron Cross, Romik, Black Horse, Tyger, Luverne Truck Equipment, Tuff-Bar, Vanguard Off-Road, Owens, Lund, CARR, RBP, TORXE, Broadfeet, TrailFX, Armordillo, Yukon Trail, Willmore, Smittybilt, Bully, Fab Fours.