Running has always been my favorite exercise, so after giving birth to my son, I was desperate to get back into it. But running alone is very different from running with a child in a jogging stroller. I ended up taking a deep dive into the research to find out when it was safe to run with my son and talking to experts to understand how to start this new era.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the two of us to learn to love jogging together. I ran with my son almost three times a week and during my first trimester of pregnancy with my second son (and again when he was old enough to ride, too). I also recently tested the strollers for Wirecutter’s guide to jogging strollers. Here’s what you need to know about running with a child in tow.
Thule Urban Glide 2
This stroller is more enjoyable to push on pavement, and its light weight makes it easy to maneuver and convenient for everyday use.
BOB Gear Alternate
Robust suspension and thick treads make this stroller ideal for off-road adventures. But it’s heavier than our top pick and lacks a parking brake.
*At the time of publication, the price was $510.
Chicco Activ3 Jogging Stroller
The Activ3 offers adjustable suspension and a fairly comfortable ride for a significantly lower price than our other picks. But the overall weight limit is lower, and its storage basket is smaller.
When and how to start using a jogging stroller with a baby
Many jogging strollers have a minimum child weight of 5 pounds and allow you to click into a car seat. Some also come with a baby insert. But that doesn’t mean a newborn can join you on a 5K run. (And if you’re the biological father, you should also wait until your doctor clears you to exercise.)
It’s okay to use a jogging stroller to walk a baby, but babies must have complete head and neck control before strapping them into a jogging stroller. Neck control matches baby’s ability to sit up unaided; that happens at 6 months for some little ones, but for others it’s closer to 8 months (or even later). When babies can control their necks, they can handle faster movements like turning, stopping, and accelerating without risking damage to their tiny spines or developing heads.
If you are the birth parent, practice walking with the stroller first, and then practice jogging with it in shorter increments. (My physical therapist suggested alternating a minute of running with a minute of walking.) As your stamina increases, you may want to consider running longer distances and longer periods of time.
Why you shouldn’t run with a normal stroller
Regular strollers lack certain jogging safety features, such as a suspension system, durable bicycle-style tires, a locking front wheel, and, in many cases, a parking brake.
If you plan to run on bumpy terrain, especially off-road, choose a stroller with a suspension system to prevent your little one from bouncing. A more comfortable ride means a happier child, allowing you to travel longer distances. Most dedicated jogging strollers, and all of Wirecutter’s picks in that category, have a decent suspension system to absorb shock and protect the child’s spine. Of our picks, the BOB Gear Alterrain has the beefiest suspension and is best for rougher off-road riding.
Larger tread tires are another important feature you will find on jogging strollers. Most are air-filled, though I recently tried a few options that had foam-cored tires, including the inexpensive Chicco Activ3 Jogging Stroller. What is most important is that the tires are durable enough to handle the bumps in the road without blowing out and thick enough to absorb the impact. Again, this feature leads to a smoother, safer ride for children, and makes the stroller easier to push at high speeds.
A locking front wheel is possibly the most important aspect of a jogging stroller. Strollers that are not designed for jogging typically have front wheels that swivel, allowing you to maneuver more easily. Jogging strollers, by contrast, must have a configuration that allows the front wheel to spin or lock. As you start to move faster, the front wheel, if unlocked, will wobble and eventually crash the stroller. There are many locking systems available, but my favorites, like the BOB Gear Alterrain and Thule Urban Glide 2 systems, allow you to set hand tracking so the stroller doesn’t drift to the left or right.
Finally, many jogging strollers have a parking brake (or at least a wrist loop) to help you bring the stroller to a quick stop if it starts to pull away from you when you’re moving downhill.
How to learn to run with a stroller
If you were a runner before you decided to jog with a child in tow, keep in mind that jogging with a stroller requires some minor adjustments.
Don’t grip the handlebar too much
Pro racer Calum Neff, who told us he often sees new parents with a death grip on the handlebars, advocates a more fluid motion. He races with one hand on the handlebars while the other swings freely, switching arms every so often. “One hand is more than enough 99% of the time,” he said. “I often run almost to the side; there are times when I run with my son, controlling the stroller with one hand”.
Lean forward and shorten your stride
Marianne Ryan, a New York City physical therapist, said people jogging with strollers should lean forward. “If you are upright, you have to extend your back and neck. You should almost be at an angle, bending at the hip, not the back,” she told us. If you find yourself kicking the underside of the stroller, shorten your stride or run alongside the stroller instead of directly behind it. Regardless, shorter steps are better for engaging your core.
Prepare your child for success
Dress your little running buddy in an extra layer compared to what you’re wearing. If it’s a hot or humid day, make sure they have the right gear. And always, always bring a bottle and snacks—there’s nothing worse than getting stuck a couple of miles from home with a crying, hungry baby. (Additional diapers are also recommended.)
Make sure the child’s harness is snug enough; You should be able to fit two fingers, but no more, under the straps across the chest, just like with a car seat. And consider bringing a toy or two; When my son was 16 months old, we attached bells to his stroller and they kept him busy for quite some time. And don’t worry if your child isn’t happy with this setup for the first few runs. Hang there. Eventually, they’ll probably come to enjoy it!
Prepare yourself for success too
If you are breastfeeding, please bring extra hydration and snacks for yourself as well. For the first few races, do laps close to home, rather than the distance, so you can drop by home if you need extra supplies. Doing a quick and regular maintenance check every few weeks to make sure your jogging stroller’s tires are properly inflated and have no loose bolts will also keep your stroller in good shape for years to come.
Just a week ago, I took my daughter, now 10 months old, for a run in the Thule Urban Glide 2, which has been our go-to jogging stroller for years, and she whooped with joy the entire 3-mile ride. She would yell at the trees, wave at passers-by, and laugh every time we hit a pothole. We both came home grinning from ear to ear, a testament to how much fun racing with a child can be, although the new set-up takes time to get used to. Exposing my kids to nature while adjusting to exercise is, for me, a pure win-win as a parent.
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Kalee Thompson.