Whether you are brand new to the sport and are looking for a good pickleball paddle or a veteran player who already owns one or more paddles, we’re guessing you landed on this page because you looking to buy a pickleball paddle.
Reading the descriptions of some pickleball paddles on the market, you’d think we were buying some futuristic gadget for a trip to Mars! “Nomex™ honeycomb”, “liquid graphite paddle face”, “polymer paddle core”…buying a paddle can be confusing!
Honestly, I think this trend is partly marketing hype…with more people starting to play, brands are competing and try to make their paddles stand out from the others.
However, there are 3 factors that really do matter when shopping for pickleball paddles.
If you are upgrading to a more advanced paddle, some of that new technology does make a difference which we’ll explain into more detail below.
Buying a Pickleball Paddle:
We wrote this guide to filter out the noise and simplify the buying process to help you find the best paddle, it should:
- Have a weight you can play best with.
- Have a grip size that fits your hand.
- Have a shape and build that matches your playing style.
And of course, the price should be within your budget since paddles range in price from $10 for a cheap wooden paddle to over $150 for the best pro paddles.
Below we explain how to determine your correct grip size, ideal weight and style (maybe in too much detail for some of you that are in a hurry)…so please continue reading to find out all the things to consider.
Here are a few of our most popular lists to check out if you’re looking for recommended paddles:
- Budget Pickleball Paddles ($30 and under)
- Best Beginner Pickleball Paddles
- Best Pickleball Paddles for Spin
- Best Pickleball Paddles in 2021 (these are the best overall if you have no limit on budget and includes pro-level paddles)
On the last list, we track newly launched pickleball paddles and update the list every time we see new paddles hit the market. If you are someone that likes to buy the latest and greatest sports equipment, that’s a good place to start your search.
If you still aren’t sure and want more options, check out our other top paddle recommendations. We’ve researched nearly every paddle there is to come up with lists by type, budget, playing style and more.
Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the US and along with the surge of new pickleball players many new pickleball equipment manufacturers, retail shops and online stores selling pickleball paddles have also popped up. With the growth of the sport, many major sporting goods stores are also carrying a selection of paddles.
The recent pickleball craze has been great for the players since there are lots of new options for pickleball gear but also makes it more difficult to choose between so many paddle options. The technology and materials used are also rapidly changing that it’s hard to keep up with all the different paddles coming out. So we do it for you…
Those of you that have been playing pickleball for some time know the history of the game and how simple the first paddles were, it was just a single piece of plywood cut in a garage with a bandsaw.
With new technology and materials being used, a new pickleball player is confronted with all kinds of paddles of all different styles and price points, often before they have even played their first game of pickleball.
This opens up a new set of questions to answer which can be very confusing to a new player: weight, grip size, core material (wood, polymer, Nomex, aluminum) and paddle face material (carbon fiber, fiberglass, graphite)?
Without boring you with all the details of each and every pickleball paddle on the market, this article is designed to give you a good overview of how different paddles are made, how the paddle face material and texture will affect the way the ball plays off the paddle.
We also help narrow down your options given your personal style of play and budget. Hopefully, this buying guide will help you select a pickleball paddle that works best for you and is in your price range.
Whether you are just getting started with your first pickleball paddle or perhaps you’re replacing or upgrading your current paddle to a more expensive one, we hope the following guide is helpful.
Factors to consider
Many shoppers prioritize their buying decision on price. While we understand the need to stay within your own budget, the price itself won’t give you the full answer. Just because a paddle is more expensive that doesn’t mean it’s a better paddle for you personally.
Most pickleball experts agree that weight should be the overall top priority when choosing a pickleball paddle and we agree.
Paddles range in weight from approximately 6 (lightweight paddles) to 14 ounces (heavy paddles). A few ounces may not sound like much of a difference but try carrying a can of soup in your hand and swinging it around for a couple of hours.
|Pickleball Paddle Weight Ranges|
|Lightweight Paddles||Under 7.3 oz|
|Mid-weight Paddles||7.3 to 8.4 oz|
|Heavy Paddles||8.5 oz and over|
Paddle weight will determine the “feel” of the paddle when you have it in your hand and the type of action you will get when you play with it on the court. In general, the weight of the paddle is a personal preference that mostly depends on your fitness level and style of play.
What on earth does a can of soup have to do with pickleball? OK, I get it- maybe it seems like a weird example -but the simple point is that something relatively lightweight will not seem heavy at first but when you play and swing hundreds of times it becomes very noticeable on your wrist, elbow and shoulder!
Those extra ounces on the heavier paddle weigh will start to wear on you, especially if you have injuries like tennis elbow or suffer from arthritis.
|Lightweight vs. Heavy Pickleball Paddles|
|Lighter Paddles||Heavier Paddles|
|Increased ball control.||More power|
|Better maneuverability||Less effort to hit ball harder|
|Less stress on elbow/shoulder||Easier to hit the ball deep.|
|Reduced Power/Drive||Stress on injuries, especially elbows.|
|Stronger swing needed||Less control, slower swing.|
|Harder to hit long/hard shots||Increases fatigue if playing for a long time.|
Power vs. Control
Heavy paddles are an easy way to increase the power of your shots, so if you’ve been playing pickleball and are looking to increase the force of your drive, go for a slightly heavier paddle.
On the other hand, if you are looking to improve ball control and touch (precise aim and carefully placed dink shots) chose a lighter paddle. One thing to ask yourself is what are your strengths and weaknesses as a pickleball player and also what kind of player are you (power vs. control).
“What if I have no idea what kind of player I am? If you are a beginner buying your first paddle it’s going to be hard for you to predict what particular style of pickleball you’ll play.
You really need to play for quite a few sets before you establish a style of play so it’s probably best to start with a mid-weight paddle (7.3 – 8.4 oz).
A final word on pickleball paddle weight: This is an important factor so choose wisely. If you have any elbow injuries or recurring tennis elbow, go with a mid-weight paddle.
If you really want extra power go heavy.
If you are a control player, go lighter. Check out our top picks for good paddles for control.
If in doubt – go for a mid-weight paddle.
If you have any wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries and especially if you suffer from “Pickleball Tennis Elbow” skip the heavy paddles since the extra weight will cause strain.
However, going for the lightest paddle is also NOT the best choice either since players will have to swing a light paddle harder to add power to their shot. A mid-weight pickleball paddle will be a better balance for you.
Players using a light paddle from the back of the pickleball court are at increased risk for developing or aggravating existing tennis elbow.
A heavier paddle will get the shot across the net with less force. Because of these factors we recommend a mid-weight (roughly 7.3 – 8.4 oz) graphite pickleball paddle or composite paddle for pickleball players suffering from tennis elbow.
Tip for tennis players:
If you are a former tennis player transitioning to pickleball, you’ll be used to the heavier weight of a tennis racket and therefore you should be able to handle a paddle on the heavy side of the spectrum.
However, if you put a lot of wrist action into your shots you’d probably be better off with a light to medium weight paddle which allows for more finesse and control.
When selecting a pickleball paddle, also look for “tennis style” grips which are shaped to mimic a tennis racquet handle. There are several new elongated grips that will appeal to many tennis players as they have a feel similar to a traditional tennis racket.
Find Your Grip Size
Once you have decided on the correct paddle weight, the next decision is the grip size. It is essential to pick a pickleball paddle that has the correct grip circumference to match your hand size. It sounds simple but you need to pick a grip that fits your hand!
Playing with a pickleball paddle that has the wrong grip size for your hand is like running in shoes that don’t fit.
A smaller grip allows for more wrist action, which makes it easier to put spin on the ball and improves control. Increased wrist movement can also add extra power to your serve.
A larger grip will help increase your stroke stability while easing the strain on the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. The caveat here is that using a paddle handle that is much too large for your hand can lead to elbow strain.
This can lead to tennis elbow and/or joint pain, especially after playing for an extended time. A key part of paddle selection is determining on the correct grip size so please make sure you measure your grip and choose your pickleball paddle accordingly.
If you’ve played or watched tennis or other racket sports, you are most likely familiar with wrapping the grip with “overgrip” or tape to customize the circumference to better match your hand size and personal preference.
If you buy a high-end paddle they will usually come with a premium grip (from makers such as Gamma or Pro-lite) which adds a level of comfort and also absorbs sweat. However, if your paddle came with an inferior grip (or it is worn after you have used it for some time) you could also consider replacing the stock grip with a new premium grip.
One of the most overlooked pickleball accessories is the grip.
Adding an extra layer of overgrip to your existing grip or replacing the existing paddle grip can help match your ideal size to get a comfortable fit for your hand. Proper grip size is key to finding the right pickleball paddle.
How to measure your grip size.
One important thing to remember is you can always increase the size by adding an overgrip …but there is no way to decrease the grip size, so when in doubt buy a size that is one step down (⅛ to ¼ smaller) and then add overgrip or tape to match your grip size as needed. Most paddles come with standard grips from 4 to 4 ½ inches.
A quick and easy way to decide the correct grip size is based off your height. Please note, this is not as exact as the hand measurement method below.
|Easy Way To Measure Grip Size By Height|
|Your Height||Grip Size|
|Under 5’2″||4″ Grip|
|5’3″ to 5’8″||4 1/8″ to 4 1/4″ Grip|
|5’9″ & taller||4 1/2″ Grip|
If you have small hands and need a smaller 4″ grip, we’ve put together this recommended list of light pickleball paddles with small grips,
We originally put that list together since there are younger players in recent years- but except for one pickleball paddle on this list designed for kids, the rest are quality adult paddles, they are all lightweight and have small grips so would be good for anyone looking for a smaller grip – it may save you some time with your search since unfortunately, many online stores don’t give you an easy way to filter by grip size.
A more exact way to measure can be seen here (this video was done for tennis rackets but the same technique is exactly the same for a pickleball paddle).
Ring Finger Measurement:
A pickleball player can measure his or her grip size with a ruler to determine the correct paddle grip size.
Measure the distance from the tip of your ring finger, down to the middle crease in your palm. Your palm has three creases.
To check if the grip size is correct, grab the paddle with your normal natural grip. Now slide your index finger from the opposite hand between your fingers and the heel of your grip hand. You should be able to snugly fit your finger without having to move your fingers.
If you have extra space between the heel and your fingers and your index finger isn’t touching the grip is too big. If you have to move your fingers to get your index finger to fit in the gap, the grip might be too small. If you are choosing between two sizes, choose the smaller size.
Wood: heaviest and cheapest.
Graphite: often the most expensive option but also light and powerful performance on the court.
Composite: a compromise between a wood and graphite paddle. Variety of prices and weights. Gaining popularity since paddle face texture helps impart spin on shots and there are higher priced composites.
Wood Pickleball Paddles
Wood is still a viable option for beginners pickleball players looking to invest a minimum amount on their first paddle and are fine with a heavy pickleball paddle.
It is important to remember that the original pickleball paddles were made out of wood so they are definitely usable and these newer wood versions have been improved over the original paddles with the addition of grips and safety straps to prevent the paddle from flying out of your hand.
If you are purchasing a large quantity of pickleball equipment (for schools, YMCA, community center, summer camps, etc) wood paddles can be a decent option. These type of sports programs were paddles are heavily used, the wood can take quite a beating so can be a good option due to durability and low cost.
Also, kids playing for pickleball for 45 mins in P.E. will probably be less sensitive to the paddle weight compared to a senior player playing pickleball frequently.
Wood paddles can also be a good solution when you have visitors coming to visit (i.e. grandkids flying down to FL for visit). It’s an easy way to have a few extra paddles around for rookies or friends that want to try their hand at pickleball.
For everyone else not mentioned: we would recommend you skip the wood paddles and look for a mid-range composite or graphite pickleball paddle. The prices have come down in recent years and you can find very affordable paddles.
Composite Pickleball Paddles
These paddles are constructed with a composite core and of a fiberglass or carbon fiber hitting surface. The core of the paddle is made of either Nomex™ (rigid nylon), polymer or aluminum. There are pros and cons to each paddle core type, which we go into below.
Composite pickleball paddles are also becoming more popular because the textured surface makes it easier to put spin on the ball. If you are looking for a good composite pickleball paddle take a look at our recommended paddles for spin here.
Graphite Pickleball Paddles
The majority weigh from 6 to 9 ounces. Graphite paddles are also built with a core (Nomex, aluminum or polymer) similar to composite paddles. The graphite face on both sides of the paddle is what differentiates this type of pickleball paddle.
The layer of graphite is thin, usually only a few mm (about the thickness of a fingernail). Light and strong, graphite paddles are some of the best selling paddles.
Competitive players like the quick action off the graphite face. If you are sold on the idea that this is the right kind of paddle for you, see our top picks for graphite pickleball paddles here.
The basic difference between the three common types of composite cores:
These paddles offer lighter weight, aluminum cores. The internal honeycomb aluminum structures make for a stronger paddle while still being light enough to give great action and control. The aluminum core can be a great option for the “control” player who is willing to sacrifice some drive and power for more finesse and maneuverability.
Aluminum is softer which gives them the “touch” some players refer to and the reason they lack some power. Quieter than Nomex but not as quiet as polymer.
Nomex Honeycomb Core
Nomex™ has many tech applications and in recent years has been used to create durable pickleball paddles. The process starts with a material resembling cardboard which is subsequently dipped in resin to create a very durable material that can be used to construct paddles by arranging it in a honeycomb pattern.
Nomex was the first material used to create composite paddles and is still a leader in the pickleball industry and many serious players still prefer a Nomex core pickleball paddle.
These are the hardest and loudest paddles and give that well-known “popping” sound that you hear on the pickleball court. If you are looking for speed and power on your shots, this is probably the best choice.
A Nomex core is also a good choice for singles play where you need an extra boost of power and a fast style of play.
Polymer (Poly) Core
The polymer core paddles are made of a plastic blend, while considered the newest core technology on the pickleball market today it’s also one of the most popular. Polymer pickleball paddles are considered the quietest paddles on the market. This fact could be an important part of the buying decision if you are living in a gated community, shared gym space or recreation center where the noise produced by pickleball can be a negative factor.
Apart from being the quietest of the three cores, these paddles are softer. While you can still put power behind your shots with a good polymer core, the core does dampen the shot so these are a better pick for a control player.
With more and more pickleball courts opening, especially those in closed communities, the issue of pickleball noise is becoming more of an issue and does create some conflict between pickleball players and non-playing local residents. Some communities and courts have actually come up with lists of approved and paddles and actually ban players from playing with certain models of pickleball paddle.
More and more gated communities, pickleball clubs and 55+ retirement communities are putting restrictions on pickleball noise. As we’ve written about pickleball noise issues here on our blog, the issue has gotten so heated in some areas there have even been lawsuits
If noise is a potential issue where you play pickleball, buying a polymer paddle is the safest option.
However, some clubs have come up with lists of paddles that are either Approved (Green Zone) or Banned (Red Zone) base on the noise that each paddle produces so if that is the case where you live, just buying a polymer core may no be enough.
Although it’s not an official rating system or certification, like private clubs they are able to determine which paddles are accepted based on their own criteria. There is one well-known list circulating on the internet that is now being used by many clubs as the standard to qualify “Quiet Paddles”. Some paddle makers have started to mark their paddles with a ¨Green Zone” approved seal.
If you live in one of these communities or have neighbors close by that might be annoyed, check out this comparison table and list showing the approved “Green Zone” quiet pickleball paddles that have been tested and confirmed to be less noisy.
Edgeless Pickleball Paddles
“Edgeless’ refers to the lack of a protective guard that normally protrudes slightly around the of the pickleball paddle. The guard is to protect the edge from chipping due to paddle being dropped or banged against hard surfaces.
Some serious players prefer an edgeless pickleball paddle as it maximizes the playing surface of the paddle face. Although these paddles do normally have a thin tape around the edge of the paddle to protect it without interfering with the face of the paddle, it may not be enough to protect it from impact so this kind of paddles are more susceptible to chips or nicks along the paddle edge.
Wide Body Paddles
The official pickleball regulation for the dimensions an approved pickleball paddle states that the combined length and width, including any edge guard and butt cap, shall not exceed 24
inches (60.96 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There is no
restriction on paddle thickness.
The most common classic shaped pickleball paddle is a “wide-body” measures approximately 8 inches wide by 15¾ inches long (20.32 cm x 40 cm).
Many pickleball paddle manufacturers now design oversized paddles by adding length to the face and shortening the length of the handle, therefore keeping the total length of the pickleball paddle the same and within regulation.
Elongated Pickleball Paddle
There is a new pickleball paddle category on the market that includes paddles such as the “Encore Blade” that sacrifice face width to allow for increased the pickleball paddle length to up to 17”.
This is the maximum pickleball paddle length allowed by the USAPA. This type of paddle would be more of a specialty paddle for a more experienced player looking for added reach.
Part of the challenge with this category of pickleball paddle for newbies is the small “sweet spot”, think of it as the perfect part of the face where you get the best percentage shot. The longer, thin paddle shape gives these a narrow sweet spot which makes it harder for novice players to hit consistently.
2018 Update: since we originally published this guide, this style has become more popular and it seems almost every major brand is now competing in this space. Most pickleball brands have come out with their own elongated pickleball paddle (click to see our comparison and reviews if you are considering buying this kind of paddle).
For most players, we recommend sticking to the classic or wide-body shaped paddle. The extra-long ‘blade’ style pickleball paddle would more appropriate for an experienced player looking for added reach. Also, if you are planning to play singles-then these would be a good match. If you are planning on participating in tournament play, make sure your new pickleball paddle falls within USAPA guidelines.
Many people would say the price is the top priority when buying a pickleball paddle. Although we understand that everyone has their own personal budget and limit to how much they are willing to spend on particular items, one thing to keep in mind is that if you take good care of your it, a pickleball paddle should last you years. If you are budgeting how much to spend on pickleball gear, I would definitely prioritize a good pair of pickleball shoes before spending a ton on a paddle.
If you plan to play even just once a week, over a year the difference between the cheapest wood paddle and a decent mid-range graphite rod may work out to pennies per game.
Although you can drop well over $100 on a good quality paddle there are plenty of affordable options and compared to sports like golf, the total investment in pickleball equipment is pretty low.
Pickleball paddles range from under $15 for the least expensive wood paddles to $150+ for the top of the line graphite and composite paddles.
Mid-priced paddle on the price scale (from around $50-$120): you’ll find many good composite and graphite pickleball paddle options in this price range.
The top end of the scale is for high-end graphite paddles used by expert and competitive pickleball players and the Pro level (yes, there are professional pickleball players and national tournaments) or people that really like investing in quality sports equipment.
If you are a beginner buying your first pickleball paddle and can afford to, we recommend you skip wood options and going at least one rung up the ladder to a decent composite or graphite paddle.
Cheapest Pickleball Paddles
Wood pickleball paddles are by far the cheapest pickleball paddles available on the market. Normally made of 7 ply maple or Baltic birch wood, these paddles are the most affordably priced. You can currently find the lowest priced wooden paddles for around $10 up to about $25 for the most expensive wood options.
You can also find pickleball paddle sets that come in a bundle along with balls, like this one with two paddles and four pickleballs. This format is the most affordable for a couple or family looking to buy multiple paddles and also need balls.
If you are looking for the most affordable options, here are our recommendations on best cheap pickleball paddle picks for beginners. They are mostly wood but we were able to find one composite budget option also.
A small step up in price would be low-end composite pickleball paddles. Some people refer to these as “club paddles”. They are still relatively affordable and are a good option for clubs, camps and community centers that team together to buy a large volume of paddles.
Usually made of some form or honeycomb polymer core, these composite club paddles are durable and long term will stand up better to repeated wear and tear compared to a wooden pickleball paddle that will begin to chip along the edges and at some point may break down where the individual layers of wood begin to separate or “de-laminate”. Club paddles are normally priced one step up from wood in the roughly $30-$35 range.
The Selkirk Sport Club Paddle is a good example of this type of paddle.
A question I occasionally get from readers is…
What is the most expensive pickleball paddle?
I don’t have an exact answer. There are so many different sporting goods stores selling online and thousands of online sites that sell pickleball equipment that it’s almost impossible for me to compare all of those to find “the most expensive pickleball paddle”.
Just going off of MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), the new paddles being released in 2018 are some of the most expensive paddles to date, some selling for ~$130 such as the Selkirk Sport Pro S1 and the ProLite Titan Pro ($124.99 MSRP at the time of publishing). Both of these paddles are considered “Pro” paddles by the respective companies. More recent paddles, like the Poach Advantage by Engage or the Selkirk AMPED line of paddles, sell for around $150. I could be wrong, but I expect the top end priced paddles will continue to rise.
With the continual evolution of paddle technology and high-cost materials being used on these paddles, I would not be surprised to see even more expensive paddles in the near future. If we just look back to how the tennis industry evolved from wooden rackets to high-end tennis rackets that now sell for $300-$400…or even more.
There really isn’t a whole lot to comment on color or graphics on the surface of the paddle. It really comes down to personal preference. Some pickleball partners buy matching paddles while others buy more unusually colored paddles to help quickly identify their paddle among all the other paddles at busy pickleball clubs or tournaments. Some people have even been known to match their pickleball outfit with their paddle color!
We have heard a few people claim that playing with a yellow paddle face gives a slight advantage as the ball blends in with the paddle when it comes into contact with the ball and makes it more difficult for the opponent to read the shot.
However, there are now pickleball balls in several common colors including white, orange and yellow and now some companies that dye pickleballs into bright colors like pink and blue…so unless you always play with the same colored ball it’s not clear how much of an advantage the paddle color could really have in a pickleball competition.
We wanted to address some other questions we’ve had since originally publishing this article.
Indoor vs. Outdoor: I think this question comes from the fact that pickleball balls are sold for either indoor or outdoor play. You do not need to consider this – paddles are not specific to either. However, you definitely should consider the surface you are playing on when selecting a good pair of pickleball shoes!
Where to buy:
There are so many brands now that sell directly on their sites (see our list of brands from the main menu) or through online distributors. As mentioned, many brick-and-mortar stores and sporting goods shops also now sell pickleball paddles. Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, sells Monarch brand pickleball paddles. Large online retailers like Walmart and Target also sell paddles.
Amazon also sells a wide selection of paddles from almost all the major pickleball equipment makers.
Where to get deals? Again, there are so many places to buy. Manufacturers sometimes run specials or offer free shipping. You can also find used pickleball paddles if you are looking to save some money although it’s a trade-off between dealing directly with the company for customer service and the ability to return a new paddle if it doesn’t work out for you. Some retailers also offer a demo program where you can test one out for 30 days before you decide. You could also check out this guide to finding used pickleball paddles or search here on Ebay.
Selecting a new pickleball can be confusing, especially with all the options that have flooded the market and the new technology and features that are constantly being introduced. To simplify, here are a few basic take-aways:
- First, decide that weight suits you. If you have any injuries to the wrist, elbow or shoulders or “Tennis Elbow” buy a medium weight pickleball paddle.
- If your budget allows: avoid wooden paddles and start with a mid-level composite or graphite paddle.
- Pick the right grip size. Use one (or both of the methods above) to confirm your correct size. When in doubt buy one size smaller and build up grip if needed.
- The most expensive paddle is not necessarily the best paddle for you.
- Don’t be distracted by the colors, fancy graphics or catchy model names.
- Focus on weight grip size first, then your style of play to find your ideal paddle within your budget.
We hope this guide has been helpful to find your next pickleball paddle – if you have any questions or comments please leave them below and we’ll get back to you. If you are just getting started and want to learn more, see our tips and strategy here.