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The Difference Between Tacoma Running Boards & Side Steps

The Difference Between Tacoma Running Boards & Side Steps

There’s no going back once you use some sort of step to get into the cabin of your vehicle. Even for a truck like the Toyota Tacoma, they make a world of difference. This type of modification is almost overpopulated with options and variants which can make it somewhat confusing to choose the option that is best for your particular Tacoma. One major contributor to the confusion is trying to understand the difference between side steps and running boards.

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Running boards are a great appearance added as well as serving as an easier means of getting in and out of your lifted Tacoma. The main difference between various running boards is their length to complement the various cab styles. Another thing to consider is some running boards are dedicated to protecting your Tacoma's sides rather than being used as steps.

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The Difference Between Boards & Steps

The difference between running boards and side steps is very small. Both work on the same principle and both look very similar. Though, not using the correct terminology can easily lead to one either spending money on something they don’t actually want or simply missing out because they might think that what they want isn’t available for their vehicle.

Tacoma Running Boards

Running boards are step platforms that run the length of the cabin of the vehicle and sit very close to the body of it. This design gives them an almost factory appearance. The step itself is flat in design. The body of the boards can have some height but generally don’t have any round features like a side step. Running boards usually don’t come much lower than the door sill which makes them an excellent step option for factory ride height vehicles. 


  • Flush to the body of the vehicle
  • Clean/Factory Look


  • Not suitable step option for lifted vehicles

Tacoma Power Running boards

Power running boards may look very similar to typical running boards but have some major characteristic separations. These units are designed to tuck up against the body of the truck when the doors are closed and to drop into an appropriate step position when they are opened or on command.

The distance of the step board from the sill can also be modified making them a great option for lifted vehicles. The cost of them makes them something you would want to keep off an off-road Tacoma. 


  • Tuck neatly against the body for the cleanest appearance
  • Great option for lifted trucks


  • High cost

Tacoma Side Steps

The biggest separation of side steps from running boards is the shape of the body of the step itself. Side Steps are round in design, which makes it very easy to tell that they are aftermarket units. The advantage of this design is the fact that there are so many variants on the market with key features to make them versatile options on any type of truck. Lifted trucks can be fitted with side steps featuring drop steps, work trucks can have the step rail extend to the rear of the truck for bed access, and those looking for just a basic step surface are in luck too.


  • Many Configurations making them suitable for all trucks


  • Heavy aftermarket appearance (can easily be a pro)

Toyota Tacoma Cab Lengths

Picking the right steps for your Tacoma is all about knowing the right terminology. This isn’t just true for the design of the step type either; it comes into play when getting the right length. In order to pick up the right boards for your pickup truck means you have to know what cab your truck has. 

The trouble in this comes into play because of the fact that every manufacturer uses different terms to describe the cab type of their pickups. Tacoma’s are naturally subjected to this so you will need to know the right terms.

Regular Cab: The Regular Cab is the single cab edition of a Tacoma. This model features two doors with no rear seats whatsoever. 

Access Cab: The Access Cab is next in terms of length. This model features two full-size doors and two half doors. In the rear are smaller seats that employ function over comfort. 

Double Cab: The Double Cab is the longest cab option. This features four-full doors and will generously compensate passengers in both the front and rear of the truck.

Which Type Should I Get for My Tacoma?

You may have read over the differences between the step types but may still be concerned with which is right for you. If it’s a style driven choice, there’s nothing wrong with that but for particular applications, this isn’t always the best way to decide.

Standard Truck: For daily drivers that see little action and have little modification, any one of the step options will work. Though, drop steps and power boards may be a little redundant considering Tacoma’s sit fairly low in factory form.

Lifted Street Truck: Lifted trucks that don’t see much off-road action can get by with any step type. The height of the cab makes going for drop step type side steps or power boards the best options. This is because they come down lower, making it easier to step up into the cabin.

Work Truck: Work trucks are going to be used and abused. Side steps are almost the obvious choice considering they can run the length of the cab and even to the bed. This makes it easier to get to the toolbox if one is present.

Off-Road Truck: For an off-road truck a lift kit is almost always present. Because of the rugged characteristics of the tubular design, side steps with drop steps are the way to go. There are running board options that feature similar designs but the cost of which makes tubular much more comforting.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro