What are the best Pickleball Paddles? There are over 60 pickleball paddles available in the market and unless you can demo each one, it is tough to make a final decision and purchase online. Whether you’re looking for a new pickleball paddle, or wanting to add another to enhance your skills on the court, here are a few things to consider:
Price – Wooden paddles start around $15 and increase from there. Starter / entry-level paddles are perfect for kids and schools where equipment will be shared and abused. Stepping up from the wood paddles, you can choose from composite, aluminum, graphite, and new high-tech materials (polymers, carbon fiber). These performance paddles range from $40 to $130.
Weight – Lighter does not always mean better, but this ultimately boils down to your age, strength and skill. A few ounces in paddle weight may not sound like much, but you’d be surprised at the difference it can make in your game. Most importantly, paddle weight affects reaction time and swing speed. A weaker player can sometimes benefit with a heavier paddle that has a higher deflection, making the ball travel faster and further with less effort. Power and tennis players will feel more comfortable with a heavier paddle, balanced or top heavy. Some players use a heavier paddle in singles matches to get power shots to the baseline, and also use a lighter control/touch paddle in doubles matches.
Size / Hitting Surface – The size requirements for a pickleball paddle are that the width and length combined cannot be more than 24”. So if you see a wider than normal paddle, say 9” wide, then it can only be 15” in length. This may cause the handle to be shorter (4”) and possibly won’t fit your hand. People that play tennis are used to a longer handle, and sometimes like to double up their hands on a backhand shot. There are many heavier paddles that have a longer grip with a larger circumference, which make it easy for tennis players to transition over to pickleball, or go back and forth.
Grip – The grip on your paddle should fit your hand, so you want to make sure there is sufficient length and that the circumference is correct. When gripping the handle, you want to have the width of one finger between your fingertips and bottom palm. It is easy enough to replace a grip or add an overgrip once you decide on a paddle if the stock grip doesn’t work for you. You can add extra cushion to help absorb paddle vibration and increase your control at the net. Gamma offers many grip styles including cushion, gel, and extra tack to avoid slippage. Paddles with overgrip help keep the paddle weight down, but typically aren’t that comfortable and don’t absorb much paddle shock.
Paddle Construction / Durability – Once you’ve played for several months, it is easier to classify yourself as to the type of player you are, along with your abilities and skill level. The type of player you are and where you play (inside / outside) is important to your paddle decision. Playing outside on asphalt and other rough surfaces, you may be better off purchasing a paddle with a protective edge. Integrated edges are a nice feature to have, but you may see de-lamination issues after you scrape the edges a few times on the outside court. Playing indoor on smooth gymnasium floors will not cause much damage. If you're a finesse doubles player, a lighter aluminum core and graphite face paddle will help your control and soft touch at the net, but you’ll be sacrificing a little power. Hard hitting power players and those playing singles will benefit from composite paddles with more pop. There are also paddles that are designed with both control and power in mind. Some newer paddles have UV protection, keeping colors vibrant for many years.
Deflection – A legal pickleball paddle must not deflect more than 5 thousandths of an inch at a test weight of 3 kg. Paddles that produce a trampoline effect, which is similar to a racquet with strings, are not allowed. The paddles are tested with both 3 kg and 5 kg of force, which shows us which paddles have more spring or bounce when hitting. A higher deflection number means you can hit the ball with less effort, but play will also be bouncier at the net, making dinks and touch shots more difficult. Lower deflection numbers mean less spring when hitting, making it easier to control the ball, but requiring more swing speed and strength.
Sound – Some Pickleball locations / courts have had to ban certain paddles due to noise complaints. Some paddles definitely “POP” louder than others, and there have been several new paddles to hit the market produced with new materials to help decrease the noise typically associated with Pickleball. This could be a consideration based on where you live and play. PickleBall.net does sound / decibel tests on all paddles we list to provide concerned consumers with quiet paddle choices.
Color / Design – Got to look good right? Intimidation is key, and quite possibly a colorful or loud graphic can catch your opponents’ attention right as they hit, and hopefully the ball comes right to your paddle. Go for contrasting colors, if your paddle is black, wear a bright colored shirt.
Compare multiple paddles side by side on PickleBall.net. Select the “Compare” button at the top of the product pages and then click on “Compare All” in the footer popup.