What are Carpet Runners for Stairs?

Carpet runners for stairs, also called stair runner carpet, combines safety with style. Stair carpet runners are a popular choice for people who want a nice, clean look all the way up to the staircase. Runners are made of one long roll of carpet spanning the center section of the stairs with no gaps or separations. It’s typically installed over stairs made of hardwood or tiles. These runners come in many colors and patterns and are also available in different widths.

Why Add Carpet Runners on Stairs?

There are many reasons for adding a runner for the stairs. It’s not a necessity, but an apparent reason is for safety. Wood or tiled stairs can be quite slippery, which can be a hazard for children, pets, and people with mobility issues in the home. Having a runner provides a safe place to walk and prevents slips and falls. Plus, it creates an added comfort of the soft carpet underfoot.

Carpet runners also absorb noise more than hard surfaces, so adding a runner will make trips up and down the stairs a lot quieter. Lastly, a carpet runner has the potential to add style, elegance, and beauty to a staircase, depending on the runner you choose.

How to Choose Carpet Runners

Choosing a stair carpet runner can be tricky depending on the look and feel you prefer and what works in your household. When choosing, you have to take careful consideration to match and be sure to account for landing. Here are some factors to consider when choosing carpet stair runners:

Runner width and size

When considering a carpet runner for the stairs, the common concern is how wide it should be. The answer will depend on the width of your stairs. For stairs that are about three feet wide, a 27-inch wide runner would be perfect. It allows good coverage, yet it’s not too wide to overpower your stairs.

If your stairs are wider, like about 4-5 feet, a 32- or 33-inch runner will be a good option. This will be enough to cover a good portion of the stairs while still allowing the surface of the stairs to show on either side.  

But if you have a custom staircase that falls outside the standard sizes – especially those with unusual dimensions, unique turns, or angles – you can have your runner custom-made to fit properly.


For the most part, stair carpets can be made of any type of carpet or rug fabric. But since stairs are a high-traffic area for the house, your best bet is to choose a low-pile carpet made of very durable material. Avoid looped carpets as they can quickly show signs of wear and tear, and also avoid shag or sheepskin style carpets as they are not the most practical for places like stairs.

Usually, synthetic options work well for staircases. Plus, they aren’t so heavy on the wallet. A great synthetic option is nylon, as they are easy to clean and can handle heavy traffic. If you choose nylon, go for a low-pile, tightly woven one.

Low-pile wool carpets are also a great choice, but they are priced a little higher. Wool is naturally stain-resistant and flame-retardant, which is a great feature. These types of carpets also bounce back quickly after the furniture has sat on them.

Sisal is another excellent option that’s made of natural fiber. It’s incredibly durable and comes with a slip-resistant feel. But though it can last well on a staircase, it can be scratchy underfoot, and it won’t provide the softness that other materials can bring.

Colors and patterns

Stair carpet runners come in different colors and patterns. It’s best to pick a color that matches the current carpets in your home. Ideally, choose a color or pattern that can hide dirt well.

You may choose a runner with a pattern, but some geometric designs like diamonds or squares can be difficult to line up symmetrically on a staircase, so you may want to avoid those. And when there are angles and turns on your stairs, some patterns may look odd. Abstract or floral designs, like those commonly found in Oriental rugs, are your best bet. These designs don’t need the same precise matching as geometrics, therefore creating an attractive, finished look.

For the scale of the pattern, it’s best to go small on a staircase runner. Large patterns will not be noticed and will look uneven as the carpet bends over every step. Smaller patterns can nicely showcase the design of each tread and riser, plus it helps the stairs look wider.


A marble staircase with red carpet runner and gold rods 

Stair rods are an optional accessory for stair runners, which are installed where the tread meets the riser. It’s a hardware item that was traditionally used to hold carpeting in place. Still, with superior carpet installation techniques and stricter safety standards nowadays, stair rods simply serve a decorative purpose. It can also hide dimples in the carpet runner caused by staples or nail heads or conceal a pattern mismatch when the carpet runner was out during installation, and an extension was added.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are stair treads?

An option for stair carpeting is to cover only the tread (the horizontal part of the stairs that you step on) and leave the riser uncovered. This will create a different look than covering the whole stairs. It’s a great choice for minimalistic or modern decors. Generally, you must show around four inches of the stair’s tread on each side of the runner to expose the wood or tile for a visually appealing accent.

Does a carpet runner need an underpad?

Despite being a small piece of carpet, carpet runners still need a cushion or underpad. It must be a thin one, so it doesn’t raise the height of the runner too much and is slightly narrower than your runner, so it won’t be visible from the sides. A pad that’s ¼” thick is ideal for stairs. Rubber pads are also a good option because they are very firm and dense.

How often should you replace it?

The lifespan of a stair runner depends on several factors. If sunlight always falls onto the carpet, it would fade easier and may need a replacement sooner. If it already carries stains that are too tough to remove, and if it’s become threadbare in some places, it’s a sign for replacement. A general rule of thumb is to replace most carpets around ten years of regular use.