After putting the top jogging strollers through months of testing, we learned a lot about what makes one stroller better than another and which features make the best jogging machine. Our goal is to share the lessons we've learned so that you can make the best buying decision for your family.
You may also enjoy our related review of the top standard-size strollers.
Why Buy a Jogging Stroller?
After 9+ months of pregnancy, many Moms find themselves ready for exercise or time outside. A stroller you can jog with is an investment in your health and mental well-being that, happily, is a form of exercise you can share with baby once they have developed strong enough neck muscles to handle the stress of jogging (8-12 months with your pediatrician okay). Most babies love to go jogging, and most parents find it an easy, cost-effective way to get active and into an exercise routine. Even if exercise isn't your goal, getting out of the house and into the sunshine can do wonders for your emotional and mental well-being, which could be out of whack with fluctuating hormones.
The following details will guide you through the important features of jogging strollers and help you decide which stroller and features are right for you.
Running with your baby in a jogging stroller and biking with your little one in a child bike trailer can expose your baby to stressful forces that can be harmful. Consult with your pediatrician to ensure your child has sufficient neck and core muscle strength before you begin using a jogging stroller or child bike carrier.
Dr. Spurrier, a pediatrician and founder of BabyGearLab, notes, "It's important to avoid running and biking with young babies due to the jarring and jostling stresses that can occur. All babies need to have adequate neck and core muscle strength before they can safely participate in any jogging or biking activities. This strength generally does not occur until at least eight months of age."One of the top manufacturers of joggers, BOB Gear, recommends waiting until your baby is at least eight months old before jogging. We would go one step further and say that running and biking with your baby should be strictly limited to smooth surfaces between 8 to 12 months. At a minimum of 12 months, children can begin to ride on rougher terrain, provided they are adequately restrained in a 5-point harness with proper padding and support. Also, children riding in a child bike trailer should wear an appropriate bike helmet. All of this is still true even if your younger baby is in an attached infant car seat carrier.
How are Joggers Different?
Even the best full-size strollers are not safe for jogging with a baby. They lack the design features necessary to reduce the jarring shocks a baby could experience as parents jog over uneven surfaces. It's hard to avoid hazards like bumps in the road, curbs, uneven sidewalks, and sections of non-paved surfaces when you are running, and non-jogging strollers lack the ability to navigate these hazards at speed safely.
Jogging strollers have several features designed to reduce the impact of the road:
- Larger pneumatic (air-filled) rubber tires — A jogger typically has 16+ inch wheels in the rear and a 12+ inch wheel in the front (double the diameter of most traditional strollers). These larger wheels roll over bumps easier and result in less stress for the baby. The bigger wheels also create less rolling resistance, so long runs require less effort. Traditional strollers usually have smaller plastic wheels that do nothing to reduce shock and are unsuitable for running.
- Effective suspension systems — A jogging style stroller should include some kind of suspension to reduce further jarring. Most joggers have rear suspension and a sling-style seat that helps absorb some of the motion involved in jogging.
- Locking/Fixed front wheel — If you try to jog with a traditional stroller or even a jogger with the front-wheel unlocked, you will find that the front wheel(s) start wobbling. This wobble creates strong vibrations in the stroller and makes jogging uncomfortable for you and your baby. This movement can also result in the front wheel(s) turning so sharply that the jogger tips over. All strollers designed for jogging provide the ability to lock the front wheel fully, and better products offer adjustable tracking for straight movement.
- Long distance between wheels — Strollers designed for jogging push the front wheel forward and away from the baby's center of gravity. This allows the front wheel to bounce in the event of a bump in the road with less stress transferred to the baby's body.
Your Multi-Purpose Stroller
Many jogging strollers could be considered as a multi-purpose solution, doing the work of a jogger and traditional stroller in one product. We rate each product on its run-ability, and our test scores favor running performance, but many parents rely on their jogger as a stroller for everyday activities as well. Because of this, we rate each jogger on a variety of additional metrics that impact serious running and daily activities. This information can help you decide which stroller will work best for you. So while the award winners may be great for jogging, many are often good for "running" errands as well.
Overview of Basic Features
The common features you might see in a jogging style stroller are:
- Three wheels with pneumatic (air-filled) tires: This means a smoother ride, but also that you'll need to check the pressure regularly like bicycle tires, and you'll need a pump to inflate them should they go flat.
The recommended pressure for inflating stroller tires is often different than the pressure shown on the side of the tire. ALWAYS double-check the stroller manual or company website for inflation guidelines. Do NOT rely on the pressure shown on the tire.
- Five-point harness: Goes over the shoulders, across the hips, and between the legs to secure the baby in the seat and minimize injuries in case of a crash, similar to the harness in infant car seats. The 5-points are crucial in the event of a stroller flip due to user error or a faulty front wheel assembly.
- Safety tether: A safety strap with one end attached to the stroller and the other end worn around your wrist. This strap prevents the stroller from rolling away from you and could save your baby's life if you accidentally let go of the handle with traffic or water nearby (please use it, we can't stress this enough).
Parking brake: Engaging the parking brake every time you park the stroller is critical. Double-check that the brake engages fully by attempting to move the stroller back and forth before letting go.
- Canopy: This will protect your baby from the sun and potential headwinds. The larger the canopy, and the more you can position it, the better.
- Peek-a-boo window: Usually a covered window on the canopy to keep an eye on your child while jogging.
- Reclining seat: For baby's comfort.
- Under-seat storage basket: Storage for the things you and baby might need when out and about. This storage area is key since the low center-of-gravity helps keep the stroller stable and avoid tip-overs. You should never put heavy objects on the handlebar, such as your purse or diaper bag. These items can cause the stroller to tip and create a safety risk.
- Wheels that are easy to take off and put back on: Most strollers we reviewed have mechanisms that make it easy to install and remove the wheels, making them more compact and easy to store. When replacing wheels, use caution to ensure they are mounted correctly.
- Folding mechanism: All of the strollers we tested are relatively easy to fold, but keep in mind that folded joggers are not small. And, even though the wheels can be taken off, joggers still may take up more space in your trunk than other kinds of strollers.
- Cupholders: While a cup holder is convenient, we fear they invite temptation to place hot liquids above your baby's head. Adding to that fear, most of the cup holders we tested were relatively shallow, and in our experience, most resulted in falling water bottles when going over small bumps. A cup holder less than 3 inches deep is unlikely to retain a tall water bottle as you navigate the stroller. Please be very careful with items placed in a cup holder; just because it has a holder doesn't mean it is safe to use it. If you rely on a nanny or caregivers, you might consider removing the cup holderto eliminate the risk that a hot cup of joe will be placed there at all.
Avoid carrying children while holding hot beverages; never place a hot beverage in the cup holder of a stroller.
How do I decide which stroller is best for me?
There are many jogging options on the market. However, no stroller has it all, so you should choose the features that best fit your lifestyle and goals. For most parents, this means being honest about your real running prowess. There is no judgment in this realm. However, there is also no need to buy more running stroller than you need, and being honest with yourself can translate into saving money and time. If you are a regular runner, who ran avidly before pregnancy, you will likely want to invest more in your jogger. If you jog once a week and are more likely to find yourself running to catch a bus than running for fitness, then you probably don't need the highest-end model and will be happy with a cheaper option.
First: Fixed or Locking Swivel Front Wheel
The photos above show the fixed wheel on the Thule Glide 2 (above left) and the swivel wheel of the Thule Urban Glide 2 (above right).
Jogging-style strollers come with either a permanently fixed front wheel or a locking swivel front wheel. When jogging, having the front wheel fixed (or in locked mode) is a must! The locked wheel ensures that the stroller tracks straight and doesn't shoot off in an unexpected direction as it goes over a bump or loose debris. This feature also makes turning difficult, so you aren't able to accidentally make a sharp turn at high speed and risk rolling the stroller with your baby on board. Some serious runners believe that a fixed wheel is the only way to go for running, and as a result, they shy away from the options with a locking swivel wheel. However, in our tests, we discovered that this isn't as big of a concern as it used to be. Some of the new swivel wheel designs have locking mechanisms that lock the wheel with little to no play at all. The rotating wheel adds functionality to the stroller that makes it easier to use for everyday activities outside of running.
A swivel front wheel offers better maneuverability and easier navigation in tight or crowded spaces like a store or festival. All of the swivel wheel products we reviewed can lock the front wheel in place, a necessity for jogging. However, some of the locked swivel wheels aren't as stable as a fixed-front wheel. We gave an Editors' Choice award to the Thule Urban Glide 2 and the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 because we feel both are an exception to this dated belief that fixed wheel is best. When the front wheel is locked, both products perform better than their fixed-wheeled counterparts made by the same companies.
You might ask, "If the Thule Urban Glide 2 performs as well as a stroller with a fixed front wheel, and it offers the maneuverability of a swivel wheel, why would I consider a fixed wheel stroller?." Well, you may not want to. We understand this statement flies in the face of a long-held belief in the world of runners, but the newer swivel wheeled strollers performed as well or better than the fixed options in our tests.
On the other hand, you should know some perks to the fixed wheel. Many fixed wheel models sport a handbrake that makes slowing the stroller easier as you go downhill or up to a traffic light. This slowing mechanism can be an important safety feature, and it also helps tired runners ease to a complete stop with less exertion than body power alone. While it does not stop the stroller by itself and is not a parking brake, it is something to consider when looking at fixed wheel options. Only a few of the swivel wheel options have a hand brake, and none of the top scoring swivels had them. Also, most of the fixed front wheels we reviewed have a larger front wheel than the swivel products (16-inch vs. 12-inch). Some long-distance runners looking for speed and reduced rolling resistance may prefer the larger wheels for an easier push. Last, some fixed wheel options are lighter than the swivel wheel products making them easier to push for long distances.
If you are serious about running, run more than a few miles every day, and you don't plan to use this stroller for other kinds of trips, then you might go for a fixed front wheel stroller with a handbrake; it's tough to beat the performance and safety features. You may also want to consider a handbrake if you run in a hilly community where the downhill slide might be easier with the use of a handbrake to slow your roll. However, for those that mainly walk, take frequent shorter runs, or the occasional jog, a locking swivel wheel stroller is a better all-around solution that gives you the best of both worlds but can still graduate up to serious running if it turns out to be a hobby that sticks.
We believe the Thule Urban Glide 2 has the best features for both worlds and that serious runners and occasional hobbyists alike will enjoy the quality and performance no matter what the day has in store. Alternatively, our professional runner/tester indicated she preferred the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 over the competition. The BOB Rambler is similar enough to the Revolution that you might consider this swivel wheel winner if budget is a concern.
Arguably, a more important feature than a fixed vs. swivel wheel is the ability to adjust the tracking of the front wheel. The better jogging products have adjustable tracking to keep the front wheel running straight. If the stroller pulls or veers in one direction while running on a flat surface, you can use the adjustment mechanism to keep the front wheel tracking straight and the stroller moving on course. Think of it as a quick front-end alignment on your stroller like you regularly get on your car. Alternatively, those products without adjustable tracking can result in chronic veering and constant manual correction while running. The manual correction will increase overall fatigue, and the experience of running will be far less enjoyable. All of our award winners, except for the Baby Trend Expedition, have adjustable tracking. While it lacked tracking adjustment, we found that the Baby Trend we purchased tracked straight enough for the occasional jog.
Second: Adjustable Handlebar
An adjustable handlebar can come in handy if you (and anyone else who will regularly use the stroller) are taller or shorter than the average person. The average height of American women is 5'5 inches tall; the average male is closer to 5'10 inches tall; this alone is a big disparity if mom and dad plan to use the same stroller and are within the average range. To further complicate the issue, if one of you is over 6 feet tall, the non-adjustable handle might change your running style. It could result in inefficient running, possible injury, or increased fatigue. Luckily, stroller companies seem to be "grasping" the handlebar height significance, and several offer an adjustable handlebar. The top-scoring Thule strollers, the Thule Urban Glide 2 and Thule Glide 2, both have adjustable height handlebars, as does the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0, and Thule Chariot Cross 2 with jog kit.
In the past, we felt that most of the adjustable handlebars made the stroller feel sort of "squishy" due to the up/down play found at the adjustment point. However, the handlebars in this review are very easy to adjust and generally do not have noticeable play. On the contrary, they seem to have similar precision responsiveness as the fixed handlebars. In the end, we feel that being able to adjust the height of the bar is a crucial component of running if you aren't in the average height range. Given that it can impact your running biomechanics and thus your ability to run for longer durations and avoid injury, we can't find a reason not to choose an adjustable handle.
Having good suspension provides smooth strolling over uneven terrain, just like your car. Most joggers offer shocks on the rear wheels to help prevent the baby from jarring bumps in the road and make the whole experience more enjoyable. Most true jogging products will have excellent suspension. Historically, BOB strollers set the standard for great jogging products, partly because they have an impressive adjustable suspension that can be altered depending on the type of terrain you are going over and your child's weight. Not to be outdone, the Thule Urban Glide 2 and Glide 2 options also have nice rear wheel suspension (though they aren't adjustable). The Thule Chariot Cross 2 also has adjustable suspension similar to the BOB strollers.
What kind of suspension to consider will depend on how often you plan to run and the kind of surfaces you plan to run on. In short, the rougher the ground, the better the suspension should be. Many of the cheaper models in our review did not have individual shocks, which leads us to believe that the manufacturers don't really expect you to run with them. Our Best Value winner, the Baby Trend Expedition, is a good example of this. Its lack of shocks and adjustable tracking make it a poor choice for serious runners, but its other features make it good for moving over uneven surfaces.
Other features that can help cushion the blows associated with jogging are the style and padding of the seat. All the products we tested claim to have a padded or comfortable seat for babies, but not all seats are created equal. Thestyle of the seat seems more important than the padding to complicate things further. The sling-style seats, which suspend from the surrounding frame, offer a more comfortable experience for the baby because they lack a hard surface for the baby to bounce. It is similar to sleeping in a hammock or on a hardboard. The hammock will give with the bumps, and you won't be banging against a hard surface as you bounce up and down, while the board creates a hard surface to hit.
Given that happy cooperation from your baby will directly affect your running experience, you'll want the baby to be as cozy and safe as possible. Most of the true running strollers in this review had sling-style seats with enough padding to help adequately cushion the baby from any jolts remaining after the shocks work their magic. Alternatively, despite the added padding, the Chicco Tre has a hard plastic seat that doesn't absorb any impact from running.
Fourth: Additional Features
Extra features like cup holders, pockets, snack trays, built-in speakers, and odometers came with some of the models we reviewed. Some features are essential, such as infant car seat adapter for strolling with babies under eight months old. Others are handy, like a parent tray with space to store your keys, wallet, and cellphone. Still, some are useful, but have trade-offs, like snack trays for the baby that add to the stroller's weight, make it less aerodynamic, protrude in awkward ways when folded, and are virtually useless for a baby when you are moving quickly. However, some features are rather useless in practice, like built-in speakers. In the end, a boatload of features can be useful in a standard stroller, but keeping joggers simple is usually best.
Final Consideration: Tell the Truth
The most important factor you need to consider, above all other things, is how much running you will REALLY do. This consideration is important because, for everyday errands, you will value good maneuverability and ease of use over run-ability. You may be able to save a few dollars by skimping on the running features if you aren't a daily runner. However, if you are a serious runner, you will need a stroller with high marks for run-ability with the performance and features necessary for dedicated running. The more extensively you plan to use your stroller for running, the more you should be willing to pay for the sake of improved performance and safety for your baby.
We believe that joggers have improved so much in quality and design that you can have it all. You can have a swivel wheel for better maneuverability around town, and you can lock that wheel in a fixed position for running and fun outdoor adventures. The Editors' Choice winners, the Thule Urban Glide 2, BOB Rambler, and the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 offer versatility, high-quality, and functional features that will last for many years and babies to come. These strollers came in top overall and in key metrics like run-ability and maneuverability. The upside is all of these options are less expensive than some of the higher-ranking traditional strollers.
Alternatively, if you aren't really a jogger, and the majority of your time will be spent walking with only the occasional run, then our Best Value choice, the Baby Trend Expedition, is a nice stroller with useful features that has a locking swivel wheel and is easy to push and turn. This stroller is a budget-friendly choice for parents who want the jogging style but aren't committed to the jogging lifestyle.
Can a jogging option be my only stroller?
You could use a locking swivel front wheel jogger as your only stroller, depending on your specific situation. But remember that joggers do not fold small, are sometimes heavier, and are cumbersome to carry around, so they are not the ideal stroller for commuting or city life. Also, if you plan to stroll with a baby younger than 6-8 months, you'll need to make sure that the stroller is compatible with an infant car seat. Joggers also offer a smoother ride for babies, especially on rough roads, so if you are moving over a variety of surfaces, the versatility of a swivel wheel jogger could be a good fit as your main/only stroller, as a standard stroller may not have the best performance over uneven terrain. The BOB Rambler is smaller and lighter than some full-size options and most joggers, which means it could be a viable everyday choice for city life depending on where you live and your needs.
Jogging strollers are really cool, no two ways about it. In general, they are the most versatile, high-performance strollers on the market in any category. We like that most of them offer suspension, easy folding, giant sun shades, 5-point harnesses, sling-style seats, and a wide child weight/age range for years of use. We also think these strollers can work for many families as their only or primary stroller.
All of our award winners are great options depending on your needs, and a few of the other products have features you might want but are not available on our winners. The Thule Urban Glide 2 has the best of many worlds, with high scores in most metrics. The Baby Trend Expedition is a good all-around option that is budget-friendly and functional enough for everyday use with the occasional jog. And the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 was preferred by our experts in the field.
A final word of caution for this category of strollers is that most of the lower-priced models lacked in performance or quality, and in the end, are not the best options for parents who want to run with their baby. While the price tags for the better joggers are higher, they are still lower than most of the top-performing full-size strollers, and we think parents should look at this factor when deciding what jogger to buy or if their jogging stroller could be their only stroller.
About the Review Team
Our review team for jogging strollers includes our usual BabyGearLab research analyst team to test basic functionality, such as folding, maneuverability, and more. But, we also created this review hand-in-hand with a professional running coach and national class runner, Carrie Vickers.Carrie is a running expert and a mother of three lovely little girls. She is a professional consultant in biomechanics for running and an avid runner herself. You can read more about Carrie's background here.