Lucky for you, we like the whole baby-product-research thing! 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! We are going to break down each feature you will find on a jogger, what to look for, and what to expect.
JOGGER OR RUNNER?
Before we get deep into the features, it is important that you assess how intensely you will be using your jogger. Are you training for a marathon with your stroller in tow? Or, are you more of the jog around the neighborhood or park type? Why does it matter? Well, if you are going to be hard-core running with this stroller we suggest that you don’t skimp on any of the features.You want to invest as much into the stroller in the beginning as you are going to invest time running with it. This will make the experience for you and your baby much safer and enjoyable! If you are going to use your stroller for jogging and around town use (like mall or zoo visits!) there are a few features we think you might not need so much of. Basically, you want to make sure that your jogger is going to be the best fit for the activities it will be a part of. *Remember that it is never recommended to jog with an infant before they are 6 months of age. Even if your baby is 6 months or older, it is recommended that you speak to your pediatrician prior to having baby join you on your runs.*
Obviously, the features are what make a jogger a jogger! It is impossible to avoid all of the debris, bumps, and uneven surfaces on a road. Everyday strollers are not designed to handle those ‘obstacles’ at the speed of jogging or running.Jogging strollers’ features have been fine tuned to offer the safest ride for your baby in such conditions. Every brand is slightly different, but overall the following features define a stroller as a jogger. So, let's break them all down and explain why each is so important. This should help you figure out what is best for you!
First and foremost, you should be sure that the stroller was actually intended to be a jogger. It should be explicitly stated by the manufacturer that the particular stroller model is intended for running and jogging. There are plenty of three wheeled strollers out there that have the look of a jogger at first glance, but lack most all of the other necessary features! All the other features of a jogger are much more important than the ‘look’ of it.
After making sure the stroller is intended to actually be a jogger, one of the first things you should make sure of is that the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has certified the strollers you are interested in according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. This gives you the assurance that your stroller has been through rigorous safety tests, and is fit for the use during running and jogging!
TIRES: NUMBER, TYPE, SIZE, AND PLACEMENT
One of the very most important things a jogger should be is STABLE! You need this stroller to be stable enough to take on bumps and curves without pitching side to side. The number of wheels and their placement satisfy this need. True joggers have three* pneumatic or air filled tires. Essentially that means you have mini bike tires on your stroller! Although this makes it possible to get flats, and requires that you check your tire pressure occasionally, you want this type of tires! 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 see what the tire PSI should be.) A stroller truly isn’t a jogger if its wheels are smaller than 12 inches in diameter.
Typically they have a ~12” tire in the front and ~16” or larger tires in the back. Typical everyday strollers have tires or wheels that are half this size. A larger tire contributes to a smoother ride over bumps and cracks, and transfers less force to the baby.
A true jogger also has its front wheel placed out in front of or ahead of the entire stroller. This placement of the front wheel allows for the stroller to maneuver through turns and over bumps with the least amount of change for runner and rider possible. This feature, of course, makes the stroller longer than others, but 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 so very important! Running or jogging with a front wheel that swivels is a safety issue. 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.
Now the question is, do you buy a model that has a completely fixed front wheel or one that has the option to let the front wheel be locked straight or to swivel?
Most jogging strollers on the market today have a front wheel that swivels, but can be locked into a straight-only position by the click or twist of a button. If you are a very serious runner, and are more concerned about distance, speed, and a very low roll risk a completely fixed front wheel is recommended for you. 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 that when you do get moving to lock that wheel forward!
Much like the suspension system in your car, the suspension system on your stroller absorbs shock as you go over different surfaces and obstacles. You don’t want the sweet cargo that you are pushing to feel every little bump and jar do you? Didn’t think so! Think about what types of terrain you will be running on, the rougher the ground the better the suspension system should be. Some jogging strollers have pretty impressive shock absorption features. 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. Suspension may not be something you notice as much as you run, but it can make a big difference for your little passenger.
INCLINED SLING SEAT AND FIVE-POINT HARNESS
Inclined Sling Seat:
A sling style seat with an incline is the most desirable and safe for baby. What does sling style mean? If a seat is a sling style seat it is suspended from the frame at an incline, rather than being a plastic seat with fabric and padding over it. So, a sling seat is essentially like a hammock if that makes better sense. This type of seat provides an easier ride for baby because it doesn’t have a hard surface that baby bangs against with each little bump. Instead it just easily sways with each change of movement. The incline of the seat reduces the stress placed on baby’s head and spine.Laying at an incline allows for the force of bumps and jars to be distributed throughout their whole body, instead of straight down their spine.
These harnesses (exactly like the ones in your infant car seats) are the safest out there. Coverage of both shoulders, hips, and between the legs better ensures that baby isn’t slipping out of there. 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 falling out or the tipping of the stroller.These professionals reported that they believed five-point harnesses could have potentially prevented those injuries. So, although we hope and hope and hope that the stroller never goes down with baby in it, there is always the possibility. Please don’t get a jogger without a harness like this, and ALWAYS make sure that your little lovey is strapped in 100% 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 run or jog anywhere with hills or places where speed of the stroller could rapidly change, a hand break might not be as much of a “need” for you.
This is kind of self-explanatory, but SO important! If you happened to trip or loosen your grip near oncoming traffic, or a body of water this can save your baby’s life.Once you have your stroller, pleased don’t make the mistake of not slipping that wonderful little strap onto your wrist!
ADJUSTABLE HANDLE BAR
If you and/or your spouse are taller or shorter than the average height of Americans (5’5” for women, 5’10” for men) this is quite a desirable feature. Since your running is going to be affected by pushing the stroller, you don’t want to affect your arm swing or the natural placement of your shoulders. This is especially important if one of you is taller than 6’, because a handlebar at the improper height could change the way you would have to run in a very noticeable way.
Do not underestimate the power of your sun canopy! Your skin may be seasoned from your years in the sun, but that soft baby or toddler skin surely isn’t, and I’m willing to bet a lot of money that they don’t love glaring sun in their eyes either. When it comes to your sun canopy think BIG and MULTIPLE POSITION OPTIONS.What good does a sun canopy do if it snaps into place high above your baby’s head and provides shade to the cement? This is especially important if you prefer to be out running as the sun rises or is in the process of setting.
A few other features that are useful, but perhaps not necessary:
Storage Basket: Will you need to carry things for you or your baby with you while you are out? Although it is suggested that you don’t carry much extra with you while you run, we all know that lots of things are needed at arms length when you have a little one around.
Peekaboo window: To keep an eye on the situation in the stroller without all of the stop-and-go.
Cup Holders:Although these are extremely handy, it is recommended that you make sure the cup holders are actually deep enough to keep things in place as you run and take on bumps and turns.
Although this isn’t necessarily something that affects you while you run, the folding process and size of the stroller after being folded are things to consider. As far as the actual folding process goes, just try it out a few times before you get somewhere without stroller guru’s or your instruction manual.Most joggers are relatively easy to fold, but they tend to be quite a bit different than typical everyday strollers. It is also important to be aware the jogging strollers just don’t fold down very small. If you have little storage space at home, or have minimal space in your car, I would suggest taking a close look at dimensions before you purchase so that you aren’t surprised! If you are local, come down to our retail store in Lindon and you can actually fold the strollers we have and put them in your vehicle to test out the space! *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-install them carefully so they are on there perfectly for the next time you go running.