So, you have decided that a jogging stroller is the right choice for you. Congratulations! Every type of stroller is so different, and jogging strollers are no exception, so we want to help you make sure that you are making your investment in the jogging stroller that will bring you and your sweet babes the best experience! Let's break down each feature you will find on a jogger, what to look for, and what to expect.
ARE YOU A JOGGER OR A RUNNER?
This is the first question you need to answer: Are you a jogger who wants to take a spin around the block occasionally, or are you a marathon runner who needs to bring your child along as you train for the next race?
Why does it matter? If you are going to do serious, long-distance running with a stroller, we suggest that you don’t skimp on any features. You should invest as much in your stroller as you do in your running. This will make the experience for you and your baby much safer and more enjoyable! If you are using your stroller for occasional jogging and days out at the mall or zoo, there are a few features you could do without.
*Remember that it is never recommended to jog with an infant before he/she is six months old. Even if your baby is six months or older, you should speak to your pediatrician prior to running with him/her.*
Everyday strollers are not designed to handle debris, bumps, and uneven surfaces at jogging/running speed. Jogging strollers have been fine-tuned to offer the safest ride for your baby in such conditions. Every brand is slightly different, but in general, the following features define a stroller as a jogger. So, let's break them all down and explain why each matters.
First and foremost, be sure that the stroller is actually intended to be a jogger. The manufacturer should explicitly state that the particular stroller model is intended for running and jogging. There are plenty of three-wheeled strollers that have the look of a jogger, but lack most of the other necessary features to truly make it one.
After making sure the stroller is actually intended to be a jogger, make sure the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has certified it according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. This ensures it has been through rigorous safety tests and is fit to use for running and jogging!
TIRES: NUMBER, TYPE, SIZE, AND PLACEMENT
A jogging stroller must be stable! It needs to handle bumps and curves without pitching side to side. Joggers are therefore engineered with a specific type, number, and placement of wheels. True joggers have three pneumatic (air-filled) tires. Essentially that means you have mini bike tires on your stroller! Although they can get flat, and you must check their pressure occasionally, pneumatic tires are what you need. The plastic wheels found on most strollers just don’t handle bumps and debris well.
Make sure you read the safety and instruction manual for your stroller to find the correct PSI.
A jogger should have a 12-inch tire in front and a 16-inch (or larger) tire in the back. Everyday strollers have wheels that are half this size. A larger tire provides a smoother ride over bumps and cracks, and transfers less force to the baby. A stroller isn’t a true jogger if its wheels are smaller than 12 inches in diameter.
A true jogger has one front wheel placed out ahead of the entire stroller. This placement allows the stroller to maneuver through turns and over bumps with the least amount of change for runner and rider possible. It makes the stroller long, but it is well worth the extra length when you are cruising around those turns smoothly!
*Some double jogging strollers do have four wheels, and those strollers are still in our top jogging stroller picks, but we do suggest that you ‘test drive’ them if you are going to be putting your stroller through a rigorous training schedule! Some may say they don’t notice a difference, and some may prefer to stick with a three-wheeled option.
FIXED OR SWIVEL LOCKING FRONT WHEEL
A front wheel that always faces forward (fixed) is very important! Running or jogging with a front wheel that swivels can be dangerous. If you happen to hit even a small piece of gravel while you are running, that swiveling wheel could jerk and send the stroller with your precious cargo off in an unplanned direction. You definitely want to keep that stroller moving in a straight path. Having a fixed front wheel also reduces road resistance, which keeps vibrations while running/jogging to a minimum.
Some models have a permanently fixed front wheel, but most jogging strollers on the market today have the option to let the front wheel be locked straight or to swivel.
If you are a very serious runner and are mostly concerned about distance, speed, and a very low roll risk, we recommend a completely fixed front wheel. If you aren’t going to be using your stroller strictly for running, then a swivel wheel with the capability to lock straight might be best for you. A swiveling front wheel allows for better maneuvering in tight or crowded spaces like at a fair or a shopping mall. Just make sure to lock that wheel forward when you do get moving!
Suspension may not be something you notice as much as you run, but it can make a big difference for your little passenger. Much like the suspension system in your car, the suspension system on your stroller absorbs shock as you go over different surfaces and obstacles. Some jogging strollers have pretty impressive shock absorption features, which is great news if you plan to run over rough terrain. Their suspension system can be adjusted for terrain types as well as for the weight of your child--the lighter the child, the tighter the suspension should be.
INCLINED SLING SEAT AND FIVE-POINT HARNESS
A sling seat with an incline is the best and safest for baby. Unlike a plastic seat covered with padding, a sling seat is suspended from the frame at an incline, very much like a hammock. This type of seat provides an easier ride for baby by easily swaying with each movement. The incline of the seat reduces the stress placed on baby’s head and spine. With baby lying at an incline, the forces from bumping and jarring are distributed throughout his entire body, rather than directly on his spine.
A Five-Point Harness like the one in your infant car seat is the safest way to secure your baby in a stroller. Straps on both shoulders, hips, and between the legs ensure that baby doesn’t slide out of the seat. Research studies done by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that 50% of all stroller-related injuries from 2008-2011 were due to the baby falling out of the stroller, or from the stroller tipping over. The studies determined that five-point harnesses could have potentially prevented those injuries. So, although we hope that the stroller never goes down with baby in it, there is always the possibility. Please don’t get a jogger without a five-point harness, and always make sure that your little one is strapped in correctly.
HAND BRAKE AND SAFETY TETHER
A hand brake allows you to navigate slopes and hills without having to change your running form. Without a hand brake, you typically have to pull your weight back into your heels to counter the added weight from the stroller on a hill. The hand brake takes away that need, so you can keep proper form without feeling like you are being towed down the hill. If you rarely go running anywhere with hills or places where the speed of the stroller could rapidly change, a hand break might not be as much of a “need” for you.
A safety tether is a strap you slip on your wrist to keep your stroller from rolling out of your grip. If you happened to trip or loosen your grip near oncoming traffic or a body of water, the safety tether can save your baby’s life. Make sure the jogging stroller you choose has a safety tether. And please don’t make the mistake of not slipping that wonderful little strap onto your wrist!
If you and/or your partner are taller or shorter than average (5’5” for women, 5’10” for men) an adjustable handlebar is quite a desirable feature. Since your running is going to be affected by pushing the stroller, you don’t want the stroller to impede the swing of your arm or the natural placement of your shoulders. This is especially important if one of you is taller than 6 feet because a handlebar at the improper height could really hinder your form.
Do not underestimate the power of your sun canopy! Your skin may be seasoned from years in the sun, but that soft baby or toddler skin surely isn’t. When it comes to your sun canopy, think big and multiple positions. A canopy does no good if it only provides shade to the cement. Make sure you have the option to position it at many different angles. This is especially important if you prefer to run at sunrise or sunset.
Although this isn’t necessarily something that affects you while you run, the folding process and size of the folded stroller are things to consider. Before purchasing your stroller, practice folding it a few times to make sure you can do it on your own. Most joggers are relatively easy to fold, but they tend to be quite a bit different than everyday strollers. It is also important to be aware that jogging strollers don’t fold down very compactly. If you have limited storage space at home or in your car, scope out the stroller’s folded dimensions before you purchase so that you aren’t surprised!
*Tip: Most back wheels on jogging strollers come off easily with the push of a button or lift of a lever. Removing the back wheels makes it more compact for storing and transport! Just remember to re-attach them correctly for the next time you go running.