Updated: June 25, 2022
Learn How To Choose the Perfect Pickleball Paddle
This in-depth pickleball paddle guide describes in an easy-to-understand way, the criteria that are most important when buying a pickleball paddle.
7 Key Factors To Consider
- Core Material
- Grip Size
- Paddle Shape
- Surface Material
- Edge Options
If you’re looking to buy a pickleball paddle, here are some guides that can help narrow down your search:
Most experienced pickleball players agree that the weight of a paddle is the most important factor to consider when selecting a pickleball paddle.
#1 – Weight
Most experienced pickleball players agree that the weight of a paddle is the most important factor to consider when selecting a pickleball paddle.
It’s important to remember that there isn’t a clear set of rules that define what weight will work best for you, however, these guidelines will help you determine what weight will likely work best.
Pickleball paddles range in weight from 6 oz to 14 oz with mid-weight paddles weighing between 7.3 to 8.3 oz.
|Light-weight||under 7.3 oz|
|Mid-weight||7.4 oz to 8.3 oz|
Multiple factors come into play when trying to determine what weight is best, such as your personal preference for what feels good and your skill level.
Do you want to focus on ball control or hit the ball with more power? Do you have tennis elbow or arthritis or other injuries?
There are many pickleball paddles on the market, but not all of them are approved by the USPA for use in tournaments. If you want to be sure that you are buying an approved paddle, check the USAPA list of approved paddles.
Pros and Cons of Lighter and Heavier Pickleball Paddles
|Lighter Weight Paddles||– Better ball control|
– Less stress on arm, wrist, elbow
– Easy to maneuver grip position
|– Harder to hit the ball deeper|
– Less power
– Need a stronger swing
|Heavier Weight Paddles||– More power |
– Less effort to hit the ball further
– Easier to hit the ball harder
|– Less control|
– Stress on arm, wrist, elbow
– Easier fatigue
How to Choose the Right Pickleball Paddle Weight
Choosing the perfect pickleball paddle weight can be tricky. If you’re new to pickleball and you’ve never played a racket sport such as tennis, squash or racquetball, it’s likely best to try playing with a mid-weight paddle.
Tennis players who are transitioning to pickleball might do okay with a heavier paddle because they’re accustomed to a tennis racket which is heavier than a pickleball paddle.
However, a pickleball court is half the length of a tennis court which means it could still be very easy for a player to hit balls past the baseline more often than expected, with a heavier paddle.
Remember, it’s expected that a heavy paddle will provide you with more power and less control.
How to Avoid Tennis Elbow
When choosing a pickleball paddle, it’s important to choose one that feels like you’re getting the right balance of power and control, is comfortable and will help you avoid tennis elbow or injuries to your arm or wrist.
Heavy paddles at 8.4 oz or more and lighter paddles under 7.3 oz are at opposite ends of the spectrum and both can cause or aggravate tennis elbow.
Heavy-Weight Pickleball Paddles
A heavier pickleball paddle weighs 8.4 oz or more and will help provide more power to drive the ball harder with less effort but will provide you with less control. It can also put stress on injuries such as tennis elbow as well as increase arm and wrist fatigue.
How do you know if your paddle is too heavy?
If you are regularly hitting the ball behind the baseline when hitting overhead, then your paddle is likely too heavy.
A heavier paddle can provide you with more power but if it’s too heavy, your swing can slow down, and then the angle of your paddle when hitting the ball can be off.
If this happens, you’ll likely hit the ball out past the baseline, instead of at a downward angle, which would keep it in bounds. And if you find you develop tennis elbow or your tennis elbow flairs up, it’s likely because the paddle you’re using is too heavy.
Heavy paddles are best for more experienced players who are focused on POWER, NOT CONTROL, and have a good understanding of how to maneuver the ball
Here’s an example of a heavy pickleball paddle that is also USAPA approved. These days, many manufacturers make different versions of the same paddle only they modify the paddle to produce different paddles of various weights.
Light-Weight Pickleball Paddles
A lighter paddle weighs 7.3 oz or less and allows for improved ball control with less stress on the arm, shoulder, and elbow but often with reduced power.
A light paddle works well for players who prefer to dink and drop shots, rather than hard, more powerful shots. It’s also easier to have a faster response time when at the net.
Lighter paddles do lack power and are typically more difficult to hit longer shots. And surprisingly, players who use a lighter paddle are also at risk of developing tennis elbow because of needing a harder swing.
How do you know if your paddle is too light?
If you’re missing shots that you would typically not miss (easy shots) or consistently missing the ball on serves or your shots are not as hard as you would anticipate, then your paddle is likely too light.
Light-weight paddles are best for players who want good ball control and are not concerned with power hits.
If you think a lightweight paddle will work best for you, check out this paddle set. It’s an excellent example of a lightweight paddle that is also USAPA approved.
Mid-Weight Pickleball Paddles
A mid-weight pickleball paddle is somewhere between 7.8 – 8.3 oz, and is preferred by a wide range of players, including beginner and intermediate.
Players typically find that a mid-weight paddle provides a good combination of power and control, meaning that it’s possible to comfortably play a dinking game but it’s also easy to manage power shots when hitting further into the court.
If you have tennis elbow, hand, wrist, or shoulder injuries, a mid-weight paddle is best.
Many players find that a heavy paddle can cause additional strain and a light paddle will likely require you to use more power in a long shot, causing strain as well – both options can increase the possibility of straining or aggravating tennis elbow or an arm injury.
This is why most players prefer a mid-weight pickleball paddle.
Mid-weight paddles are best for most players and for those who don’t have a strong preference for power or control
If you think a lightweight paddle will work best for you, check out this paddle. It’s an excellent example of a midweight paddle that is also USAPA approved.
#2 – Pickleball Paddle Grip Size / Circumference
Another important factor to evaluate before buying a paddle is the grip circumference.
Not playing with the correct grip can cause problems with your stroke and potentially cause tennis elbow or a sore arm, particularly after playing for a while.
To ensure you are set up to play your best game it’s important to select a paddle with a grip that works for the size of your hand.
Most paddle grips range between 4 – 5 inches in circumference with ⅛ inch increments.
A large paddle circumference or one that is too big for your hand can cause the paddle to slip out of your hand and can lead to tennis elbow.
However, a grip that is ‘just the right size’ for your hand, can improve stroke stability and be easier on your arm and elbow.
A small paddle circumference can allow additional wrist movement making it easier to put a spin on the ball and improve ball control resulting in a more powerful serve.
How to measure your pickleball paddle grip size?
There are 3 ways to determine the proper grip size
If you’re not sure which grip size will work best, lean towards the smaller grip. If you determine after playing that the grip is too small, you can make the grip larger by adding an overgrip.
METHOD #1 – Hold paddle by grip in dominant hand to verify grip size
To verify the paddle grip is the correct size, hold the handle with your dominant hand and slide the index finger of your other hand between your fingers and the heel of your grip hand. If your finger slides easily and snugly, then the grip is the correct size.
If there is extra space between your index finger and the heel of your hand or fingers, the grip is too big.
Or, if you need to move your fingers to get your index finger to slide into the space, the grip is too small.
METHOD #2 – Determine grip size based on ring finger measurement
Measure from the middle crease of your palm to the tip of your ring finger and this should equate to the paddle grip size.
If the measurement from the middle palm crease to the tip of your ring finger is 4 ⅛ then the grip size of the paddle you buy should be 4 ⅛.
METHOD #3 Determine grip size based on height
A general guideline to determine grip size is based on height.
The other 2 methods above are more precise but this is a general guideline which is reasonably accurate.
#3 – Pickleball Paddle Core Material
The third factor to consider when choosing a paddle is to determine what core material is the best for your game.
It’s important to understand the differences between each material and how it impacts the connection your paddle makes when hitting the ball and subsequently, how it affects your game.
I often notice that some descriptions about paddles can be confusing with respect to the materials used to manufacture the paddle. Sometimes the paddle description says ‘graphite paddle’ or someone will say they have a ‘graphite paddle’.
The paddle core is made of one of the types of materials I discuss in this section and the surface of a paddle has another material applied/wrapped around the core. This can be graphite or one of several other surface materials.
|COMPOSITE CORE MATERIAL||SURFACE MATERIAL|
Composite Core Materials
There are 3 types of composite material:
- Nomex™, and
The most popular core material is a composite called polymer.
Paddles with a polymer core work well for many people because it provides a good balance between control and power.
It’s also the quietest paddle so if noise reduction is important, a polymer core is best.
Polymer core is the newest core technology and paddles with the polymer have become the most popular because they allow for both ball control and maneuverability along with the ability to hit with a decent amount of power.
If you want to play with more control and are less concerned about playing with a ‘power’ paddle, a polymer paddle might work best.
There are many different polymer paddles to choose from which means that you have a good variety to select from.
And although there are some expensive polymer paddles available, there are plenty of options that are more affordable and well below $100.
Polymer core is best for a player who wants ball control and also wants to maintain the ability to play with a reasonable amount of power. The quietest paddle option.
Nomex™ is the original composite for pickleball paddles and is still popular with many pickleball players today.
It’s interesting because Nomex™ was never invented to make pickleball paddles.
It was invented to provide heat and flame resistance (to protect first respondents, fire-fighters, utility, and electrical workers) but then pickleball paddle manufacturers discovered that it would make an effective core material for paddles.
A Pickleball paddle with a Nomex™ core will provide a significant amount of power because the material is very hard but it’s still very light which makes it easy to swing.
This results in a very, very strong drive as well as an extremely loud pop when the ball connects – the loudest of the 3 composite cores.
Using these paddles will feel good and powerful but makes it challenging for some players to maintain ball control.
Inexperienced players will likely find it difficult to play and keep the ball in bounds.
A paddle with a Nomex™ core is best for the power player whose main concern is POWER NOT CONTROL or noise. Not recommended for the beginner.
If you think you want to give Nomex a try, check out this paddle Nomex paddle from ONIX. It’s one of the most popular and well-liked paddles on the market and it’s been around for a long time. And it’s USAPA approved for tournament play.
Aluminum core paddles aren’t quite as popular as Nomex™ core paddles but they’re still easily found and there’s a decent selection.
A paddle with an aluminum core is strong and lightweight providing the ability to play with control. However, because they are light, they lack power.
So, while you gain plenty of control with an aluminum paddle, you lose a lot of power.
Depending on what kind of player you are, this can work for you because it allows some forgiveness when hitting the ball – you know that you will need to hit it really hard to get it where you want it but there’s less chance of hitting the ball out of bounds.
Some players don’t believe that giving up this much power for more control is worth playing with an aluminum paddle but you’ll need to determine what’s best for you.
If you have tennis elbow or another arm injury, it might be worth considering aluminum because it is light.
A paddle with an aluminum core is best for the player whose main concern is ball control NOT power. Players with injuries might prefer this lighter paddle. Quieter than Nomex but noisier than polymer core.
If you think an aluminum paddle will work best for you, check out this aluminum paddle. There aren’t many aluminum paddles on the market but this is a good option.
The original pickleball paddles were made of wood and it’s still an option today for players who want to invest a minimum amount of money on their first paddle and are okay playing with a heavier paddle.
If you have tennis elbow or another type of injury, this is not the best paddle for long term or regular playing.
Wood paddles are also a good, cost-effective, and durable option for large quantity purchases being made by schools, kids camps, or community centers.
A wood paddle is best for the new player who is on a budget. Also good for recreation programs that require large quantities at a low price.
If you think a wood paddle will work best for you, check out this paddle set. It’s an excellent example of a wooden paddle set that is great if you’re on a budget and just getting started.
Other Factors To Consider When Choosing a Pickleball Paddle
Some descriptions about paddles can be confusing with respect to the materials used to manufacture the pickleball paddle core and the pickleball paddle surface.
When the term ‘graphite paddle’ is used, it’s actually referring to the surface material that is applied over the core material.
As an example, graphite is the surface material that is applied over the core material (Nomex™, aluminum, polymer).
There are 4 common types of surface material:
Graphite Pickleball Paddles
Graphite is a carbon fiber material and in some instances, people refer to paddles with a graphite surface as carbon fiber paddles. The terms graphite and carbon fiber paddles are referring to the same surface material.
Graphite is an extremely light and very stiff material that makes graphite paddles light and ideal for players who are looking for control, predictable touch and easier maneuverability.
The stiff make-up of the graphite surface helps distribute the energy of a ball over a larger area of the paddle making it easier for players to get a better feel for how the ball is connecting with the paddle.
You’ll notice that there’s a large selection of composite core paddles (Nomex™, aluminum, polymer) that have a graphite surface. Paddles with a graphite surface are usually the more expensive pickleball paddles.
Graphite is a good option for most players, including professionals and is often used in combination with a composite core.
Fibreglass Pickleball Paddles
Fiberglass has become a more common surface material in the last couple of years. It’s more flexible than graphite and produces more of a pop than graphite paddles.
Some players believe that the energy of the ball is more distributed on the paddle.
Fiberglass paddles can also have a lightly textured surface that some players prefer because they feel it helps with ball control.
Polymer Faced Paddles
Polymer has become more popular on paddle surfaces in the last few years and it’s believed that a polymer surface can improve durability.
It’s technology that’s similar to what is used on equipment in other sports such as hockey and allows for digital printing designs on the pickleball paddles.
Hybrid Pickleball Paddles
Hybrid pickleball paddles combine multiple face materials.
These paddles start with a composite core and then use a combination of graphite with poly face materials to create a paddle that is heavier and allows for a lot of power.
Edge or Edgeless Pickleball Paddle?
Most pickleball paddles have an edge guard that helps to protect the paddle from being damaged when dropped or banged against an opponent’s paddle.
More recently, edge-less paddles (without an edge guard) have been introduced.
Some players prefer edge-less because they like a slightly larger hitting surface.
And sometimes playing with a paddle that has an edge means that it’s always possible that the ball can land on the edge and go in a direction not desired by the player.
Playing with a paddle that doesn’t have an edge, avoids this problem.
If you are prone to dropping your paddle, or colliding with other paddles during a game, then an edge-less paddle might NOT work well for you.
A traditional paddle with an edge is likely your best bet if you want longevity for your paddle.
Pickleball paddles are available at a wide range of prices, making it a very affordable sport or hobby for almost anyone.
Cheapest Pickleball Paddle
Wood paddles are the most cost-efficient (cheapest) but you can buy a non-wood paddle for a bit more if it’s in your budget.
The original pickleball paddles were wood and they certainly did the job.
I played my first game with a wooden paddle – it worked but I tell ya, once I bought my first “cheap” composite paddle for $40, I could immediately see and feel the difference.
If your budget allows for it, consider buying a paddle that is suitable for a beginner but will also work well for you, should you decide to get more serious with your game.
There are plenty of composite paddles on the market starting at $40+ which is fine if you’re just starting to play and not sure if you want to continue.
Or, maybe you only plan on playing once every week. A paddle in the $40 price range will do the job and is a much better option than buying a wooden paddle.
If you’ve already played a game or two and are hooked (this is what happens to many people, including me), then it makes sense to invest a bit more in a paddle. You can certainly upgrade from a $40 paddle by paying somewhere between $60 – $100.
If you’re someone who wants to go big, you’ll have no problem finding a fantastic paddle for $120+ – not necessary but an option.
Pickleball paddle manufacturers are designing pickleball paddles that come in an assortment of colors. There is no shortage of options. In some cases, the same paddle design will be available in 8 different colors. Plenty of options – that’s for sure.
Pickleball Paddle Shape
Pickleball paddles are available in 3 shapes and various sizes.
According to the USA Pickleball Association paddle regulations, the combined length and width, including any edge guard and butt cap, can’t exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There is no restriction on paddle thickness or weight.
Standard Pickleball Paddle Shape
A standard pickleball paddle is approximately 15-16 ” long and 8″ wide. This is the paddle that is most common is the best paddle shape for a beginner to play with.
Teardrop Pickleball Paddle Shape
A teardrop pickleball paddle is around the same size as a standard pickleball paddle shape but is wider at the top and gets more narrow towards the handle shaft – hence the reference to tear-drop. These paddles work for some players but are also known to feel top heavy.
Elongated Pickleball Paddle Shape
The elongated pickleball paddle is a rectangular shape but the paddle head is longer than a standard or teardrop paddle.
The paddle must still meet USAPA size regulations but with the elongated paddle players are given a longer paddle head but it’s slightly more narrow.
This shape of paddle is tricky for many to play with because although it appears to give you more surface due to the length of the head, it’s narrow, and does take time to learn how to play with it.
The other thing to note about an elongated pickleball paddle is that the handle is shorter. For players who like to play with two hands, this paddle won’t work.
When hitting the pickleball ball with a paddle, there can be quite a loud noise. Especially with a paddle that has a Nomex core. The Onix Z5 is a well-known paddle that has a Nomex core and can give off quite a loud ‘pop’ which may be frowned upon by some players.
In fact, in some neighbourhoods, people in surrounding homes will complain about the noise from pickleball paddles hitting balls – and it’s not just the noise from a Nomex core.
It’s the accumulation of all the paddles hitting the balls that contributes to the noise factor. Restricted hours are sometimes put in place to ensure people aren’t disturbed late at night or early in the morning.
Hopefully, pickleball is getting to the point where its reputation for being such a fun, friendly social game will outweigh the complaints.
FAQs – How to Choose A Pickleball Paddle
How do you pick the right pickleball paddle?
When picking the right pickleball paddle, there are 3 important factors to consider:
1. Weight – Experts agree that weight is the most important factor. Pick a mid-weight paddle unless you are a tennis player who prefers a heavier paddle.
2. Grip – Ensure that the grip is the right size for your hand. Too big or too small and you’ll run into difficulties holding the paddle. The simplest way to figure out your grip size is by height. If you’re 5’3″ – 5’8″, a 4 1/8″ to 4 1/4″ grip size will work. You can always add grip tape to make the grip bigger, if necessary.
3. Core – For the beginner or intermediate player, a paddle with a polymer core is best. If you’re more experienced and like a paddle with power, try a paddle with a Nomex core (Onix z5).
What is the best pickleball paddle for a beginner?
When picking the right pickleball paddle, there are 3 important factors to consider:
1. Weight – For most beginner pickleball players, it’s best to pick a mid-weight paddle that weighs between 7.4 oz to 8.3 oz.
2. Grip – The simplest way to figure out your grip size is by height. If you’re 5’3″ – 5’8″, a 4 1/8″ to 4 1/4″ grip size will work. You can always add grip tape to make the grip bigger, if necessary.
3. Core – For a beginner, pick a paddle that has a polymer core.
In summary, you want a paddle that is mid-weight, with a 4 1/4″ grip and a polymer core.
What is the most popular pickleball grip?
The most popular pickleball grip is the Eastern pickleball grip. It’s a neutral grip that allows for hitting a forehand or backhand shot without having to reposition your hand mid-play.
How long does a pickleball paddle last?
A pickleball paddle should last about 2 – 3 years but it will depend on how often you play and how well you take care of the paddle. Of course, the quality of the paddle needs to be taken into consideration. A cheaper-made paddle will not last as long and will develop dead spots on the paddle face.
What shape pickleball paddle is best?
A standard-shaped pickleball is best for the majority of players. If you’re a more experienced player, you may want to try an elongated pickleball paddle that gives you a longer paddle surface but it’s more narrow than a standard-shaped pickleball paddle.
What is better for pickleball paddle graphite or composite?
Graphite pickleball paddles are lighter than composite pickleball paddles but the composite paddles usually have more texture which is helpful when you want to apply more spin to the ball. Some players also prefer the texture because they believe it helps them connect better with the ball.
Is a thicker pickleball paddle better?
A thicker pickleball paddle is better for players who want to hit the ball with more control, touch and consistency. There’s also plenty of power.
Which is better aluminum or wood pickleball paddle?
An aluminum pickleball paddle is better. Aluminum paddles are available at a low price point, will be easy to play with and will last, unlike the wood paddles which are heavy, harder to play with and chip/crack easily.
What is the difference between 13mm and 16mm pickleball paddles?
The difference between 13 mm and 16 mm pickleball paddles is that a 16mm paddle will provide a softer feel and better control than a 13 mm paddle.
Is carbon fiber or graphite better for pickleball?
Both carbon fiber and graphite are good for pickleball paddles and it comes down to budget and personal preference.
Carbon fiber is the most expensive, most durable and lightest material. It provides great ball control but can lose power.
Graphite provides a light and responsive surface and is hard and strong providing good ball placement.
SUMMARY – How to Choose the Perfect Pickleball Paddle: A Comprehensive Guide 
For most people who are beginner to intermediate players, a pickleball paddle that meets the following criteria should work:
- Medium weight (7.8 – 8 oz), with
- A polymer core, and
- A graphite or fiberglass surface, and
- $50 price range
Which Pickleball Paddle Is Best for Your Game?
If you want some additional help narrowing down your options, have a look at The Best Pickleball Paddles for Every Budget where I provide a breakdown of various paddle options by price range and include reviews.
I researched pickleball paddles for 5 categories, from budget-friendly to paddle sets, to $100+ paddles to ensure that The Best Pickleball Paddles for Every Budget provides you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.
What is the best pickleball paddle for your game? It’s time to figure it out.
I hope that this pickleball paddle guide will help you find a pickleball paddle that you enjoy playing with.
Pickleball paddles with longer handles for players who like two-handed backhands or forehand shots, try a pickleball paddle that has a longer handle (5.5″), like the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion. Keep in mind that some models are considered to be at least midweight paddles. If you’re looking for a paddle with a thicker core, try the Engage Encore EX 6.0