It’s no secret that pickleball has reached the pinnacle of popularity. The sport—a mix of tennis, racquetball, badminton, and Ping-Pong—premiered in the ’60s, but it wasn’t until the 2020s that it really began to take off. Now pickleball is ubiquitous, influencing recreation and fashion trends alike (hello, chic court clothes).
But if you haven’t picked up a paddle yet, the prospect may feel a bit daunting—especially since tons of new brands have been hitting the scene over the last few years. “Paddles vary greatly, and the technology is rapidly evolving,” says Kris Miner, a pickleball pro at Life Time Target Center in Minneapolis. That means the choice can be difficult, particularly for new players. “In the end, it often comes down to which paddle feels great in your hand and gives you confidence on the court.”
Best Pickleball Paddles 2023:
That said, Miner does have some helpful criteria to keep in mind when shopping for paddles. “Look for a weight and thickness you feel the most comfortable playing with, a grip size that fits your hand, and a shape and build that works well with your playing style and strengths,” she says. Here’s how she breaks it down:
- Weight: “Most players use a midweight paddle in the 7.3-to-8.4-ounce range, rather than an extremely heavy or lighter paddle,” Miner says. Exceptions do exist: Younger players or those with previous wrist injuries might want to seek out a lighter paddle, whereas strong, athletic players might get more control and power using a heavier paddle. “In general, heavier paddles create more power and speed, while lighter paddles offer more control and ‘touch.’”
- Grip: Grip size matters, as the paddle should, above all, feel comfortable in your hand. As a general rule, Miner says you should be able to fit your pointer finger sideways between your fingertips and thumb when gripping the paddle.
- Material: Miner says the materials will play a big part in the quality, durability, and price of the paddle. Wooden paddles are great for younger players, or those on a tight budget, she says, but will not perform as well as higher-grade paddles made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Composite paddles (which are usually hybrids of fiberglass and carbon fiber) will give a better playing experience, she adds, noting there are a number of “reasonably priced” options on the market right now. “Graphite paddles are typically used by those playing the game at a higher level,” she says.
- Size: The thickness of the paddle will also impact the feel and your playing style. “Thinner paddles tend to transfer more power, while thicker paddles can be a bit softer, which helps with touch and resetting the ball,” Miner says. Thin paddles range from 9 to 13 millimeters, while 16 to 20 is considered thick. When evaluating thickness versus weight, Miner suggests going for a paddle that helps you address your weaknesses: Opt for a thinner but heavier paddle if you lack power, or perhaps a thicker, lighter paddle if you need more help with the soft game and precision.
Now that you know what to look for, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorites, including Miner’s recommendations, Amazon standouts, and a few that are, frankly, equal parts sporty and chic. If you’re new to the game, in need of an upgrade, or seeking a cute gift for your favorite pickler—these paddles are sure to be a smash.
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