There are hundreds of pickleball paddles to choose from. Each brand claims that their paddles are the perfect mix of power and control.

This makes it very difficult to determine what the difference actually is between all these paddles. Our guide aims to explain the differences so you can look past the marketing and objectively determine which paddle is right for you.

We start with a simple table that indicates which properties influence the performance of a paddle.

This is followed by a detailed description of what you should pay attention to when purchasing a pickleball paddle.





40 cm or less

40 - 42 cm

42 cm or more


16mm or more

14 - 15 mm

13mm or less




optical fiber


± 114mm

± 127mm

± 133mm

How do you choose the right paddle?

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a pickleball paddle. In our opinion, the most important are the following five. Each element plays a role in power, control, forgiveness and spin of a paddle.

1. Core

2. Hitting surface

3. Shape

4. Weight

5. Handle length

1. Core


Polymer is the most commonly used material. Brands refer to them as polymer, poly, polypropylene or the like. The material is essentially just a very hard plastic.

Polymer is durable, quiet and offers a good balance of strength and feel, which is why it is the most popular material.

Not all poly cores are of equal quality. You can find both cheap and expensive paddles with a polypropylene core.

The more expensive paddles use a higher quality polymer that does not break as easily and provides a more consistent feel.

In addition to the quality of the polymer, reference is often made to the core density.

A higher density core uses smaller honeycomb cells, so more total are incorporated into the paddle. This gives the paddle a harder, firmer feel and provides more power compared to larger cells. Unless a brand states that they use a higher density core, you can assume they are using the standard larger honeycomb cells.

Ultimately, there isn't much a brand can do to differentiate their core from other brands other than density and quality.

Sometimes you will also come across aluminum cores, but these are less used by major paddle brands.

Aluminum is cheaper but is more susceptible to dents and wear.


Nomex is an older material, originally invented in the 1960s for helmet use.

It is a strong and durable material that is not heavy. That's exactly why pickleball paddle manufacturers have started using nomex cores.

Nomex is a great option for players looking for ultimate power. If your ball control is at a pro level, maybe try a nomex core. See if you can maintain the same level of control with the extra power. However, for 99% of players we would recommend a poly core.


The thickness of the core plays a major role in a paddle's performance.

A thicker core is ± 16 mm thick. Paddles with a thicker core are known to soften the impact of the ball and increase control. They help stabilize the paddle so it wobbles less on off-center shots. 16mm cores are the most popular and most forgiving to players. If you are a beginner, we highly recommend a 16mm core. That thickness is also often preferred by the best players in the world.

Paddles with a thinner core are between 10mm and 14mm thick and are known to have more power and pop at the expense of some feel and control. They are not as stable as a thicker core and will give you more feedback if you hit an off-center shot.

The general rule is that as the core thickens, the softness and control increase.

Conversely, as the core becomes thinner, the paddle feels harder and the force increases.

So if you are an aggressive player who likes to attack, you will like the thinner paddles with a polymer core.

If you prefer power control, you will prefer thicker paddles with a 16mm polymer core.

If you want something in the middle, it is best to choose a paddle with a polymer core of about 14 mm thick.

2. Hitting surface

Optical fiber

Fiberglass used to be the most common material, but carbon (carbon fiber) has taken over.

Of the three most common cladding materials listed here, fiberglass provides the most strength.

Sometimes it is called composite, so know that composite is the same as fiberglass.

Fiberglass is not as stiff as carbon fiber and graphite, so it acts like a trampoline that absorbs the ball's energy and returns it directly. Because the material is not as stiff, it will also have a smaller sweet spot compared to carbon and graphite.

Carbon fiber (carbon)

Carbon fiber is known to feel better than fiberglass, but provides slightly less strength.

It is a very stiff and durable material. Because the material is so stiff, the energy of the ball is spread across the entire clubface and into the handle at impact. This gives a better feel and a larger sweet spot, but takes away some power because less energy is returned to the ball.


Graphite is a type of carbon fiber that is slightly more cost effective for manufacturers, but comparable to a carbon fiber surface.

It is also known for better feel than a fiberglass face surface and produces a similar amount of power to carbon fiber. It is difficult to see or feel the difference between graphite and carbon fiber.


You will regularly encounter combinations of the above materials, so these paddles deliver performance based on the mixed materials.


Spin can be an important part of one's game.

There are two types of grit you can encounter on a paddle.

The first is sprayed or painted, which feels like sandpaper and often wears out very quickly.

The second is integrated into the paddle (relief), lasts longer and can produce more spin.

3. Shape

The shape affects the size of the sweet spot, power and agility.

According to the rules, the combined length and width, including any edge protection, must not exceed 24 inches (61 cm) and the length of the paddle must not exceed 17 inches (43 cm). So those are the parameters within which producers have to work.

You can find pickleball paddles in all kinds of shapes. As long as it complements the core and hitting surface, you're good.

For example, if you want an elongated paddle for extra reach and power, try to find one with a carbon hitting surface to increase the sweet spot. If you have an oblong shape with a fiberglass hitting surface, those are two elements that reduce the sweet spot, which may not be the best combination.


This form is longer and usually about 42 cm long and 19 cm wide.

An elongated shape gives you more reach, power and spin, but has a smaller sweet spot and is less maneuverable compared to other shapes.


These are wider paddles of approximately 22cm and a shorter length of approximately 39cm. This shape offers the largest sweet spot and high maneuverability, but at the expense of reach and power.


This is the original shape and usually approximately 40 x 20 cm.

This shape is somewhere between the elongated and wide shapes and, as you can guess, it offers a balanced mix of power, spin, forgiveness and agility.

4. Weight

Pickleball paddles weigh between 200 and 240 grams. Anything between 200 and 215 grams is considered lightweight, 215 - 233 grams is considered middleweight, and anything heavier than 233 grams is considered heavyweight. Some manufacturers use a different range for each weight class, but this classification gives a general idea.

What is the influence of weight?

The lighter the paddle, the easier to maneuver, which can be a big advantage at the net.

The disadvantage of a lighter paddle is that you have to swing harder to get power from it.

With heavier paddles you can produce force more easily because there is more weight behind the ball. This is useful when dinking because shorter strokes reduce the room for error and it gives you more time to get back into position.

Heavier paddles are also slightly more stable on impact and 'wobble' less as you hit the ball closer to the edge of your paddle. This increases consistency and reduces errors.

It is not uncommon to add lead tape to the edge of a paddle, so if you get a lighter paddle and want to weigh it down, you can always add some lead tape.

5. Length of the handle

The length of the handle can vary from 114 to 152 mm.

Since the total length + width of a paddle cannot exceed 61 cm, every cm added to the length of the handle takes away part of the hitting surface.

We have not verified this ourselves, but tests would show the following 3 things.

- The longer the handle, the more power and spin you can generate.

- Longer paddles equal more power and spin.

- Lower level players on average generate more power with a shorter, wider paddle because they are not as consistent in hitting the ball.

In summary

If you're looking for a new pickleball paddle, look at the core material, thickness, hitting surface, shape, weight and length of the handle to determine which paddle is right for your game.

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you can cut through the marketing jargon and choose the right paddle.

It always helps to check out and read reviews about the paddle you are interested in.