There are so many popular pickleball paddle brands making awesome paddles that it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Collectively, they make hundreds of paddles, and they all promise to be the best option on the market.
But how do you choose? That’s what this article aims to help you with. We’ll dive into all the factors to keep in mind when shopping for a pickleball paddle so you can confidently choose the right one for you.
Considerations When Choosing a Pickleball Paddle
We broke down all the elements that make a paddle good so you can create a simple checklist and easily find the paddle that will work best for your play style.
The first thing to keep in mind is the price of the pickleball paddle. If you are on an unlimited budget, this may not be something you’re worried about, but if it’s your first time buying a paddle, or you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you should consider how much you’re willing to spend.
Having a tight budget doesn’t mean you’ll have to settle for a poor paddle—there are many good options at affordable prices.
A good paddle will be around $50, but you can find paddles at anything from $15 to $35 that are still nice. Some of the most expensive paddles will likely be made from graphite and cost between $60 and $150.
Note that a cheaper paddle won’t be as powerful as the more expensive ones. They may also not be as comfortable to use, but if you’re still figuring out what kind of paddle works for you, it’s best to buy a cheap one and get used to how it feels before buying something more expensive.
One of the most important factors to consider when buying a pickleball paddle is its weight because this changes how you hold it. Typically, these paddles range from six ounces to 14 ounces with most of them being below ten ounces.
The weight of the paddle has an influence on how it feels when you hold it and swing it around while playing. People with injuries or wrist problems will have to choose a paddle that is lightweight to prevent getting hurt or having a hard time enjoying your pickleball game.
A heavy paddle can help you to better drive the ball, and you’ll have good stability while playing, but you’ll also have less control, so the ideal weight for you depends on your playing style.
A very light paddle, on the other hand, will improve your control over the ball but you won’t have as much power and drive behind your swings.
If you don’t like the weight of your paddle, you won’t enjoy playing as much, so it’s important to test out a paddle before investing in it.
If you want to play your best game, you need to have the right grip circumference that matches your hand. If you don’t have the right grip size, your paddle might slip, causing you to play poorly. This discomfort can even lead to elbow problems.
Small grips give your more wrist action that can result in a good spin on the ball and great control. You will also still have powerful serves and be able to pull off quick hand changes.
A large grip will give you enhanced stability while being much easier on your arm.
If you’re unsure, go with a smaller grip size at first and test it out. If you want, you can customize your grip with an over-grip and rewrap the paddle so it perfectly suits your preference.
The material that your paddle’s core is made of will affect its performance, so this is an important factor to consider.
Most commonly, polymer is used for the core and it’s a good choice. It has many names, such as poly, polymer, and polypropylene, and it’s a hard plastic material.
This material gives you a good balance of touch and power while being quiet and durable. Keep in mind, though, that not all cores are created equally. You’ll have a better core in a $150 paddle than a $30 paddle, but that’s something your budget will have to decide about.
While looking at the core material, you should also take note of the core density. A high density will result in a firmer feeling paddle and you’ll enjoy more power with these paddles.
There are paddles with aluminum cores but they’re not very common because it’s not used by good paddle brands. They won’t last as long and can even dent.
Another important factor that affects your performance is the thickness of the core of your paddle. A thick core will be about 16mm and this thickness ensures a softening feel while also increasing the control you get. A thick core also helps to stabilize the paddle and you won’t have as much wobble from off-center shots.
A thickness of 16mm is the most common option, and it’s also popular and player-friendly, which means it’s perfect for beginners.
You also get thinner cores that are between 10mm and 14mm and they don’t feel as good or give as much control, but they make the paddles quite powerful.
If you’re not sure what thickness to choose, you can choose something in the middle, about 14mm thick.
A fiberglass surface material (also known as composite) offers a lot of power and isn’t as stiff as the other materials. Carbon fiber feels better than fiberglass but offers less power and is a bit stiff. However, it’s very durable and has a larger sweet spot.
Graphite—a type of carbon fiber—performs similarly to carbon fiber but can feel better while still being really powerful.
There are hybrids that use all three of these materials and have performances based on the characteristics of the mixed materials.
Although the facing of your paddle doesn’t have as big of an impact on your performance as the core does, it’s still important. If you like a powerful paddle, go for one with a thin core and fiberglass face. If you prefer to have more control, a paddle with a thick core and graphite or carbon fiber face will suit you best.
The shape of your pickleball paddle affects the power you get, its maneuverability, and the size of the sweet spot. There are elongated shapes, classic shapes, and widebody shapes to choose from.
Elongated shapes are long and measure about 16.5” long and 7.5” wide and offer players more spin, reach, and power. However, they have smaller sweet spots and don’t have as much maneuverability.
Paddles with widebody shapes are about 8.5” wide and 15.5” long and have the largest sweet spot while giving you good maneuverability. However, you don’t get as much power and reach with them.
The classic shape is the original shape of pickleball paddles and it is typically 16” long and 8” wide. It sits between the other two shapes and offers a good balance of maneuverability, power, and spin.
You’ll find that pickleball paddles can vary in lengths between 4.5” and 6”. Keep in mind that the rules state a paddle’s total length plus width may not be more than 24”, so every inch that is added to the handle takes away from the surface area of the face.
The longer the handle of your paddle, the more spin and power you can generate. If you are one of those players who like to use both hands on your paddle, you’ll prefer a paddle with a longer handle. If that’s the case, you’ll need a handle that’s at least 5.25” long, perhaps even longer.
If you like to use only one hand, you should be happy with a length of about 5”, give or take a little bit.
As you can see, there are many factors to keep in mind when you’re choosing a new pickleball paddle. While they may all seem the same at first glance, there are differences that can affect how you play the game. Choose carefully and keep everything you’ve learned here in mind, and you’ll quickly and easily find the perfect paddle for you!