The album peaked at number 37 on the U.S. Billboard 200, a considerable fall in sales from Carlisle's 1987 album, Heaven on Earth, though it fared better in Europe and peaked at number 4 in the UK where it was certified platinum.
Allmusic reviewed the album as not being as strong as Heaven on Earth but is still generally likeable and appealing. The album made its debut on the Billboard 200 on October 21, 1989 and after seven weeks of slowly moving up the charts it reached its peak position of number 37, a lower position than her previous two albums. The album spent a total of 25 weeks on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA. Runaway Horses was Carlisle's last album to chart in the U.S.
The album debuted on the UK Albums Chart on October 30, 1989 at number four which was the album's peak position, matching that of her previous album. The album moved up and down the chart over the next 18 months, and re-entered the top 10 in 1990. Five singles from the album reached the UK Top 40, two of which were Top 10. The album spent a total of 39 weeks in the UK Top 100 and was certified platinum by the BPI. Carlisle was presented with her platinum disc live on the Saturday morning children's television show Going Live! on BBC One.
The album was also a success in Australia peaking at number six, and was certified double platinum and became the 24th highest selling album for 1990.
Six singles were released from Runaway Horses, and were successful in most markets; the album giving Carlisle four more international top ten hits. "Leave a Light On" was the first song released from the album and became a top ten hit around the world including the UK where it hit number four (and certified Silver), Australia where it hit number five and Canada where it hit number six. The song narrowly missed the top ten in the United States peaking at number 11. "La Luna" was the second song released from the album and became a top 40 hit in Australia and the UK, also becoming her third top ten in Switzerland. "Summer Rain" was the third song released and became a top ten hit in Australia and a top 30 hit in the U.S (where it was released as the second single) and the UK (where it was released as the sixth single in December 1990). "Runaway Horses" (the title track) was the fourth single released, but was not as successful as the previous singles, only managing to reach number 40 in the UK. "Vision of You" was the fifth song released and became the lowest charting single on the album only peaking at number 41 in the UK, and a re-release in 1991 reached 71. The sixth and final song released from the album was "(We Want) The Same Thing", becoming Carlisle's fifth top ten single in the UK. For its single release, "(We Want) The Same Thing" was totally remixed from a heavily accented punk rock staccato mix to a pop song.
Runaway Horses Re-released on August 26, 2013 in a 2CD+DVD casebook edition from Edsel Recording ( EDSG 8026 ) featuring the original album RE-MASTERED, the single versions, remixes and B-sides. The DVD will feature the videos from the album and an exclusive interview with Belinda, discussing the album.