Essential Baby Gear: Choosing a Running Stroller

It’s amazing how much stuff a tiny human being seemingly requires. A minimalist at heart, I tried to buy only the most essential baby gear, forgoing the wipes warmer and other non-essentials, and also re-purposing things I already had, like using a pocket book for a diaper bag. I can’t say the same thing about running strollers. Case in point: my husband now jokingly refers to our garage as the stroller depot.
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Knowing I would use it often, buying a running stroller was one of my top baby gear priorities and I am not alone in that opinion. In a poll of Salty moms, the running stroller ranks as an absolute necessity. For many of us, our running stroller is the only way we are able to maintain mileage in the months and first years after our babies’ births. For others, the stroller becomes a great way to get a fussy baby to sleep and for us to get out and active with our running friends again.

Deciding which stroller to purchase can be confusing and expensive. Whether your first baby is on the way and you are considering a running stroller for the first time, or you need to upgrade to one that carries multiples, read on for factors to consider before you buy and reviews of some of our favorite joggers!

Factors to Consider Before You Buy

Frequency

How often do you plan on using your running stroller? Will it be an occasional, only when necessary piece of equipment, or an everyday item? Even when I worked full time with my first child, and had the opportunity to run during my lunch breaks, I still took her out running every morning. It got my day off to a better start, both by getting in some exercise and allowing me to spend extra time with her. When I switched to staying home with both my kids and had a husband who worked long hours, I knew a stroller run would be an essential part of our daily routine. Buying a quality stroller that would withstand the miles of use was crucial. Thinking about how often you actually plan to use your running stroller may impact how much you want to spend.

Purpose

Will you use your running stroller solely for running, or will it also be your all-around stroller you keep in the back of your car for errands and walks? This is probably where I’ve gotten into trouble with my stroller depot; I’ve built up quite a collection that all serve different purposes! I’m protective of my running stroller and don’t want it used for other purposes. I specifically bought a fixed-wheel stroller, since those receive the highest recommendations for faster/longer running, and while I find the fixed-wheel great for my running needs, it’s not great for maneuvering around stores or walking places. Some Salties who use their strollers for running and everyday use bought strollers that have a front wheel that can be fixed or non-fixed.

Travel

Does the stroller easily fit into your car or fold up to go on an airplane? If you plan on taking your running stroller with you when you travel, this is something you’ll definitely need to consider. My stroller is large and bulky, and takes up a lot of room even in the back of my SUV. Packing it for Christmas vacation doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else. Plus, I don’t want it to get banged up when gate-checked at the airport. Hence the stroller depot. When I bought a secondary stroller for non-running use, I bought a less expensive, used, smaller running stroller that I could use for travel and not worry about it getting beaten up.

JB was so excited for my comeback from plantar fasciitis! Not.
With one kid, Catnip could splurge on a BOB.

Occupancy

If you plan on having more than one child, don’t get rid of your single when you have to move up to a double: in a few years your first child will be too big for stroller running, so you’ll be back to a single with your second! Unless you really want to save money and space, then you could just buy a double to start with, and run with one seat empty.

Accessories

Back to the essential and non-essential baby gear, most strollers come with a giant list of accessories that you can add on to your basic stroller. What you find necessary or not depends and is really is up to you. I felt like my kids never needed a front tray or additional accessory cups, though some running moms find those useful. The one extra piece I have found extremely helpful is the weather guard. This allows you to run in the rain, allowing your kids some outdoor time when they might not otherwise get it, protects their faces on windy days, and keeps them warmer and the blankets intact when it’s cold.

Also, if your stroller doesn’t come with it, you may need to buy an infant car seat adaptor. While most stroller brands warn not to start running with baby in it until she’s at least six months old, when most infants can sit upright in the seat, your pediatrician might give you the green light earlier if your baby is on the strong side. But, with a carseat adapter, you can start as early as you want with them in their infant car seat. Additionally, some stroller backs lie down flat enough that you may feel safe putting your younger-than-six-month-old in without the car seat at all. Pimento started her daughter in the stroller at three-and-a-half months with the seat flat and her baby strapped in with a little u-shaped neck pillow for car seats to keep her head secure.

Reviews

When you start your research, reading all of the reviews can become a exercise in way too much information. You can whittle down your search by asking other stroller-running parents what they use. Look at different sources to read reviews from the general public and from running sites. If you can, try them out in stores. Since a lot of the higher-end brands aren’t available in many places, if you see someone out running with the stroller you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to ask to look at it. Ask friends to borrow their stroller for a test run before you buy, or search Craigslist to see if anyone is selling one you can try out.

Recommendations from Salty Parents

Did I mention we parents here at Salty Running love our strollers? Collectively, we, along with a couple of our readers, are an expert panel on the topic of the best running strollers. Below, we give you our tips on stroller running, along with the skinny on our strollers and what we love and sometimes don’t love about them.

What About BOB?

Poppy: When I was pregnant with my first I took an informal survey of a few of my guy running friends who I knew regularly ran with their kids. Almost everyone had a BOB Revolution SE (459.99) and raved about it. That was easy enough for me, so we went with that. I have loved the BOB since we got it. So much so, that we got the double version, the BOB Revolution SE Duallie (669.99), when we had our second kid. What I like about them is the option to keep the front wheel fixed or unfixed. We almost always keep ours in the unfixed position, so that it can swivel easily while rounding curves or handling bumpy terrain. We routinely run with the kids on our area rail trail and a large majority of it is crushed gravel.  Having the front wheel freely moving allows for smooth navigation of that terrain.

Our double jogger has an added feature that our single doesn’t, which is the adjustable handle bar. This is great because my husband and I have different comfort levels with the height of the stroller, so having the option to adjust it is a win for everyone. We’ve also used both of our BOBs as regular strollers. They are great for navigating grass, like when spectating cross country races or track meets, and have several storage compartments that make it easy to carry extra stuff with you.

The BOBs have pockets in the back of the seat, small pockets on the side of the seat (good for storing toys that are easily accessible to the kids), and shelf underneath that can hold quite a few things. You can also get add-ons like a drink console, that you can hook up to the handle. It’s pretty easy to break down to transport in the car, though the double is obviously more bulky than the single. The wheels come off (and go back on) easily and the stroller folds in half to make it easier to store.

Nevermind. Pushing a two and three year old in a stroller while 27 weeks pregnant is totally easy. Photo by Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com
Running with all three kids.

Salty: I have both the BOB Ironman Single (419.99) and Duallie (569.99). I love them both so hard. I have run many miles with both over the last seven-plus years. My kids have drawn on them, played on them, eaten many lunches in them, and enjoyed so much quality time with me in them. While my oldest are now six and seven, I keep the double. Last year, it came in super handy when my seven year-old son was home from school with a fever. I packed him and my little one up and ran while he got some fresh air. As long as we’re still under the 100-pound weight limit, I’ll keep it just in case!

I don’t have much to add to what Poppy said, other than if you want a stroller to run fast with, consider a fixed wheel stroller. The ones with the swivel wheel can shake and veer off course sometimes at higher speeds (although, Poppy likely runs pretty fast with hers and has not had that experience). Also, I highly recommend parents invest in a weather shield. With a weather shield your kids will be comfortable in almost any weather. I’ve taken my kids out in the 20s and snow and they were peachy keen all snuggled in there. Also, the double is enormous and can be a pain to get in and out of my SUV, because it only fits in the middle row. I’m not sure if there’s a more compact double option out there, but I wanted to share this point because it’s the biggest drawback I find with the BOB.

What about BOB versus Cheaper Alternatives?

Olive: I used the Bob Revolution Duallie for both kids and the Jeep single (discontinued). The Jeep is much cheaper but I liked it because it doubled well as an everyday stroller. The Bob is a dream: it turns on a dime, is easy to fold and push. But it’s pricey. The Jeep all terrain stroller is great because my infant car seat could clip directly in, so I could start taking my baby out in it when she was a newborn. The wheel can lock into fixed, which is easier to run with, or can be unlocked so you can also take it out and about. It folds up with just one button, AND it’s less than half the price of a BOB.

slack_for_ios_uploadPimento: I use the BabyTrend Expedition (119.99). I went for this stroller, rather than the spendier BOB, because a sub-elite guy friend of mine recommended it as well as a couple of marathoning parents I know. I did run with a BOB that I borrowed from another friend a few times before making my purchase, so I can compare. The Expedition rides straight and true, has a front wheel that locks or swivels (so you can use it for running or walking around like a normal stroller), is light-weight and more compact than the BOB, folds and stows fast and simply, and now with well over 2000 miles on it has never had a single issue, no flat tires or anything.

The sun cover moves enough to always shield my daughter from the sun, the little basket underneath has plenty of room to stow anything from water, diapers, snacks, or my Yorkie, who rides under there when it is too warm for him to run. There is a tray with two cup holders for the child, and I have one up top too, along with a little snapping drawer that keeps my phone and keys dry and safe. The ONLY thing that the BOB had that mine doesn’t is the emergency break bar that gets triggered if you drop the leash. However, I never run anywhere or had an incident where I wished I had that. I absolutely suggest this stroller to any running parents; the quality is great and the price saving is huge.

Messages Image(1598661928)Salty Reader Margaret: I use the Schwinn (InStep) Arrow Double ($299). It’s a great double running stroller at a very good price. I feel for the price you’re getting exactly what you need, lightweight and great for long distances. The stroller’s front wheel is fixed, which I like. I’ve taken it on trails and on long runs up to 12 miles. I used the stroller almost daily when the kids were babies. They are now three and four years old and even with their weight, the stroller handles great. The kids fall asleep during the runs so it must be comfortable. I started using the running stroller before the manufacturer recommendation with a neck support for the babies and would recline the seats. It also comes equipped with a speaker to attach your phone and listen to music. The sun shades pull down or pushed up neatly.

Pros: it’s easy to push for long walks or runs, large wheels and fixed front wheel, adjustable handle bar, compact enough to fit in the back of my minivan without having to fold down the third row, optional weather shield and the price is right.

Cons: the in-stroller speakers are nothing to brag about (I rarely used it anyway because the kids would be asleep), and the sun shades are a little short so the sun is beating on their face when it’s sunny.

Bottom line: if you want to run a lot on a budget this is your stroller.

High-End BOB Alternative

I use the Bob Ironman, single and double. I LOVE them both. I call the double my Cadillac. Sure, it’s big and bulky, but I feel like it’s extremely solid and gives my kids a smooth ride. It can withstand a lot of use on a variety of surfaces. I had a little competition going with my husband when we lived in Northern Virgina and he often commuted to work via bike: who would put in more miles? I won, by putting in more miles with my running stroller!

For my travel running and everyday stroller, I have a Phil & Ted’s Sport ($499.99). This converts from a single to a double with an attachable underneath the seat, so is the smallest, least bulky double stroller I could find. While this might not even technically be a running stroller, I use it for easy, shorter runs, and find it extremely convenient for travelling, although I wouldn’t use it for everyday running.

Salty Reader Amy: When number two came along, we chose the Chariot (689.95) because it was both a jog stroller and a bike trailer in one. You see, we had just moved to the Pacific Northwest and suddenly found ourselves with far less square footage than we were accustomed to. Adding just one more vehicle to our garage sounded appealing. I don’t think anyone gets up in the morning saying, “Yes! I get to do six with the double today!” but I liked the Chariot for what it was: a chance to get out of the house in relative speed and comfort, even with two wee ones in tow.

Pluses include that it fits in the trunk of my Civic and I can lift it even with a bum back. It easily converts from jog stroller to bike trailer, has a nice sunscreen and rain cover, is highly maneuverable in tight places, has a sweet “trunk” that was way more convenient than trying to pull things from underneath, has a rather protected seating area for kids (nice in winter) but with windows so they could see, and I think (but not sure) a lower handlebar than my single BOB.

Things that were drastically different than my BOB: the baby sling, which my son loved, but which didn’t give you the ability to transfer stroller to car without waking a sleeping baby, no separation between children, so they had to learn to share their space from the beginning, disassembly and reassembly (handlebars off, wheels off, folding the main carriage portion) to get it into and out of my car added a few minutes on each end of every run, lots of accessories (including some essential ones like front wheels) to buy, which add to base price quickly. I did learn that the stroller wheels were good for running as long as you were on paved surfaces (I probably tested them up to a slightly sub-8 pace). They have the swivel action that most people love in their BOBs; the running wheel that is sold is fixed, so you have to lift the front wheel to handle curves, etc.

The biggest drawback would probably be space. By the time my kids were 2 and 4, it was getting a little tight in there with winter coats on, but shortly after that my daughter started riding along on her bike, so we were all good. As a bike trailer it worked great, and the entire thing is designed so that you can carry all the parts to transition from one use to another on the body of the stroller, which makes it ideal for triathletes, I suppose, or for bike commuting to somewhere where you’re going to need a stroller.

Oh, and the most important thing: when you use the fixed front wheel designed for running, it has this bar on the front that’s just the perfect distance off the ground to ram it into the Achilles of the dude who stops dead in front of you for no reason and with no warning. I felt a little bad about that, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t entirely honest about his pace when he lined up.

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There you have it: a round up of some of our favorite tried-and-true running strollers and, though we have varying opinions on which is the best, we all agree that your jogger will prove to be a piece of baby gear that ranks almost as necessary as diapers!

What stroller do you use and suggest to future running parents?

Army veteran, now Army wife with 3 daughters (aka: single married mom). I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids.

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7 comments

  1. Thank you for this very informative article! I currently have put about 1000 miles on my Baby Trend Expedition and have been very happy with it. I thought about a BOB single but ended up going with the less expensive option and have been really satisfied. Now onto the double decision…

  2. Yes, I got my Phil & Ted’s used. It was already a little banged up so I don’t have to worry about it when traveling!

  3. I had both the BOB and Chariot. Definitely give the Chariot an edge over the BOB. I found it easier to push and love the dual purpose of using it as a bike trailer. Definitely recommend buying used and the re-sale value on both is great!

    1. I bought a BOB Sport Utility Duallie from Craigslist, but decided I wanted a newer one so I could get a carseat attachment and have separate sun shades and resold it for the same price I paid, no prob! When I eventually sell mine, they’ll be cheap. They’ve been very loved!

  4. Great round up. I have clocked thousands of kilometers on my single Bob aND also have a double chariot. Love them both. One great tip is to look for second hand strollers. Lots of people buy and rarely use!

    1. SO true… I didn’t mention that I got my stroller at a second-hand sport shop for $70– it clearly had never been used (nubs still on the tires) but was covered in garage dust/grime. Someone’s well-intentioned purchase that was never used!