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Buyers Guide: How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle

Image showing a stick figure person trying to decide how to choose a pickleball paddle

Navigating the world of pickleball paddles can be overwhelming for a newcomer. This “buyers guide on how to choose a pickleball paddle” will address your core questions – covering materials, weight, shape, and grips – and equip you with the knowledge to pick a paddle right for your start in the sport. Avoid confusion and find the best pickleball paddle for your new adventure without fuss.

Key Takeaways

  • Pickleball paddle performance is influenced by core material and thickness, with options like polymer honeycomb, aluminum, and Nomex offering varying power, control, and durability levels.

  • Paddle weight impacts power and control; light paddles provide maneuverability and reduced fatigue, middleweights offer a balance suitable for beginners, and heavy paddles deliver more power but may reduce control.

  • Key factors in selecting a pickleball paddle include the grip size for comfort and control, paddle shape affecting the sweet spot and playability, and surface material like graphite and composite influencing power and touch.

Table of Contents

Choosing Your Pickleball Paddle Core Material

A comparison of three common pickleball paddle core materials: nomex, polymer, and aluminum

The core of a pickleball paddle is its heart, influencing its performance by affecting power, accuracy, control, shock reduction, and vibration absorption. Primary core materials found in pickleball paddles are:

  • Polymer honeycomb: popular choice due to its durability, quietness, and balanced power and touch, making it a common preference for new players.

  • Aluminum: offers excellent power and control but can be heavier than other core materials.

  • Nomex: It provides a firm and responsive feel, ideal for players who prefer a harder-hitting surface.

Each core material offers unique benefits, so choosing one that suits your playing style and preferences is important.

Different core materials determine the durability and consistency of a pickleball paddle’s performance. For instance, a higher-quality polymer in the core can provide greater durability and a more consistent feel across the face. Core thickness also plays a significant role in paddle performance. Thick cores offer greater control and stability, while thin cores generate more power. So, whether you’re an aggressive player or prefer control, your paddle’s core material and thickness can be a game-changer!

Polymer Honeycomb Core

A polymer honeycomb core is a type of core used in pickleball paddles. It is constructed from a honeycomb-like structure made of polymer materials. This core design involves a series of small, interconnected cells resembling a honeycomb, typically made from materials like polypropylene. The polymer honeycomb core provides a softer and more forgiving feel than other core types. It offers reasonable control, dampens vibrations, and appeals to players seeking touch and finesse in their gameplay. 

Brands often refer to the core material in pickleball paddles as polymer, poly, polypropylene, or a similar variant. Essentially, this material is a durable and rigid type of plastic. 

It’s important to note that not all polymer cores are of the same quality. While some paddles priced at $50 may feature a polymer core, higher-end paddles priced around $150 often use a higher-quality polymer. The superior polymer in these higher-priced paddles doesn’t degrade as quickly, ensuring a more consistent feel across the paddle’s face over time.

Apart from polymer quality, descriptions of core materials might also include core density. Higher-density cores feature smaller honeycomb cells tightly packed within the paddle. This design creates a firmer feel and offers more power than paddles with larger honeycomb cells. Brands often note higher-density cores, while others who default to standard larger cells will not call them out. 

Aluminum Core

Aluminum core paddles are constructed with a core made of aluminum material. The face or surface of the paddle may also incorporate other materials like fiberglass or graphite for added durability or performance. Aluminum paddles typically offer decent durability, affordability, and a solid hitting surface.

However, aside from price and durability, we recommend avoiding aluminum core paddles (if you can find one). This is due to their heavier weight causing potential fatigue, less touch and feel compared to other cores, increased vibration and noise upon impact, and potential durability concerns with cracking or denting upon hard hits.

Nomex Core

Nomex core pickleball paddles feature a core made from Nomex, a type of aramid fiber. It is known for its durability, strength, and lightweight properties, making it a popular choice for applications requiring high performance and resilience. The Nomex core is constructed in a honeycomb pattern in pickleball paddles, balancing power and control. These paddles provide a lively and responsive feel, allowing players to generate good power on shots while maintaining decent touch and control over the ball. 


Nomex core paddles are often recommended for beginner pickleball players due to their durability, affordability, and balanced performance in providing both power and control. These paddles offer a sturdy construction that withstands beginner-level wear and tear, ensuring longevity without breaking the bank. Their ability to strike a balance between power and control assists beginners in honing their skills and developing consistency in their gameplay. For those starting out in pickleball, Nomex core paddles provide a reliable and cost-effective option to support skill development on the court.


Pickleball players might steer clear of Nomex core paddles due to their heavier weight, tendency to transmit vibrations, potentially louder sound upon impact, and limitations in catering to more refined playing styles for intermediate or advanced players. While these paddles offer durability and balanced performance for beginners, the weight and vibration might not suit everyone’s preferences, especially those looking for lighter paddles or experiencing discomfort due to vibrations. Players sensitive to noise levels during play or seeking precise control might also find Nomex paddles less accommodating. Consequently, intermediate and advanced players should opt for paddles made with different core materials like polymer or composite, as they might better align with specific playing styles, comfort preferences, or performance demands on the court.

Choosing the Right Pickleball Paddle Weight

Along with the core material, another vital element to consider when selecting a pickleball paddle is its paddle weight. Paddles are categorized as light, midweight, and heavy, with the typical recommended weight falling between 7 and 9 ounces. The paddle’s weight plays a significant role in determining the power and control a player can achieve. For instance, heavier paddles provide more power and stability with less swing effort, while lighter paddles enhance control and quick positioning for shots.

Consider that midweight paddles are often the go-to choice for beginners, providing a balanced mix of power and control. They cater well to players of all skill levels, making them an ideal choice for beginners. However, players do have the option to customize the weight of their paddles in order to achieve their desired swing weight. This can be done by adding lead tape to the edge guard of the paddle to increase its weight or by experimenting with different weights to find the most suitable option.

Light Paddles

Choosing a lighter paddle offers the following benefits:

  • Increased comfort

  • Reduced fatigue

  • Higher speed

  • Improved maneuverability

This makes it an excellent choice for players who prioritize agility and swift movements. Lightweight paddles are also good if you want to reduce strain on your arm and elbow.  Lightweight pickleball paddles usually weigh between 6.8 and 7.5 ounces, and players who have experience in ping pong or racquetball may find lightweight paddles more suitable for their playing style. Choosing the right pickleball paddle can greatly impact your performance on the court.

Middleweight Paddles

Middleweight paddles, typically weighing between 7.5 and 8.2 ounces, balance power and control, catering to most players. They are often recommended for beginners and intermediate players as they provide a balanced experience, offering a good mix of power and control.

So, when transitioning from lightweight to middleweight paddles, players should consider finding a paddle with a larger hitting surface to maintain agility and control while gaining power.

Heavy Paddles

For those who love to hit hard, heavy paddles, usually 8.2 ounces and up, provide more power, enabling players to hit harder shots and potentially overpower opponents. However, they can be more challenging to maneuver, require greater strength and effort to swing, and may offer less control and finesse than lighter paddles. Most professional pickleball players play with a heavy paddle. 

Would you like to learn more? Check out our blog on How to Pick the Right Pickleball Paddle Weight!

Choosing the Perfect Grip Size for Your Paddle

A paddle’s effectiveness heavily depends on the quality of its grip. The grip size should fit comfortably in your hand and provide you with the right amount of control, power, and maneuverability. Grip sizes are available in small, medium, and large, and the most effective way to determine the right size is by testing paddles with different grips.

The correct grip size will enable you to maintain control while maximizing power and spin. If the grip doesn’t fit perfectly, you can always build up the grip with some tape if it is too small. This adjustment can help you achieve a more personalized fit for better control and comfort.

Measuring Your Grip Size

You will need a ruler and index finger to measure the size of your pickleball paddle grip. The most effective method is to measure the distance from the bottom crease to the top of your ring finger, not your index finger, in inches.

Remember that selecting the appropriate grip size for your pickleball paddle is critical to avoiding strain on the hand and arms over time.

To measure your grip size accurately:

  1. Position your paddle hand with the palm facing up and extend your fingers.
  2. Notice the two side creases on your palm and the one curving toward your wrist.
  3. Measure the distance from the center lateral crease to the tip of your ring finger.
  4. Typically falling between 4 and 5 inches, this measurement represents the ideal circumference for your pickleball grip.

Following these straightforward steps, you can find the perfect grip size that suits your hand perfectly.

Picture of hand and tape measure showing how to measure pickleball grip
My ideal grip circumference is 4.5"
Perfectly sized pickleball grip that helps choose the right pickleball paddle
If your grip is correctly sized, you should be able to fit a pencil or pen betwen your middle finger and palm.
Image showing a pickleball grip that's too small
The Pro Kennex Pro Flight has a 4" grip, which is too small for my 4.5" grip circumference.

The Importance of a Comfortable Grip

A comfortable grip is not just about comfort; it also impacts pickleball performance by providing better traction, control, and a secure hold on the paddle. It can help decrease fatigue and increase flexibility, enabling players to sustain their grip and play for extended periods without experiencing discomfort.

Using a right paddle with a poor grip can lead to reduced control upon ball impact, causing the pickleball paddle face to rotate or knock backward and forward and hindering the ability to perform overhead smashes with your forehand.

How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle Shape

An infographic showing the four common types of pickleball paddle shapes

The shape of a pickleball paddle can significantly influence playability. The classic standard shape of a pickleball paddle, typically 16 inches long and 8 inches wide, determines the size and placement of the sweet spot, affecting the power and control during play.

Paddles come in different shapes, with the three main types being elongated, wide-body, and hybrid paddles. Each shape offers unique advantages depending on the player’s skill level and playing style.

Elongated Paddles

Elongated paddles offer specific advantages, particularly for more experienced players. With a longer length and slimmer width, they can generate more power and provide increased reach, enabling players to make shots that would otherwise be difficult to reach. However, the elongated shape comes with a smaller sweet spot and reduced maneuverability compared to other shapes, which could impact control during play.

Wide-Body Paddles

Wide-body paddles, on the other hand, feature a wider face, approximately 8.5 inches, and a shorter paddle length, around 15.5 inches. This results in a larger sweet spot and enhanced control, making them particularly suitable for beginners. However, some drawbacks of using wide-body paddles include a potential decrease in maneuverability due to heavier weight and a less maneuverable feel than standard-sized paddles.

Hybrid Paddles

As the name implies, a hybrid shape falls between an elongated and wide-body paddle. Hybrid paddles have an approximately 16.3-inch length and 7.7-inch face width. Hybrid paddles are control-oriented and great for advanced beginners and intermediate players. The hybrid shape was made popular by Vatic Pro. Read our Vatic Pro Pickleball Paddle Review

Surface Material and Texture: Power or Control?

Five pickleball paddles with different face materials like graphite, carbon fiber, Kevlar, and a aluminum

The material used for the face of a pickleball paddle is essential for determining its power and control. It greatly influences the characteristics of the paddle in terms of power and control during gameplay. It can have a significant impact, as various surface textures affect the friction and adhesion of the ball. The three main types of paddle surfaces are graphite, carbon fiber, and composite.

Graphite and carbon fiber are known for their hardness and energy-absorbing properties, providing players with enhanced control. On the other hand, fiberglass, commonly found in composite paddles, is a softer material known for its flexibility, creating a trampoline effect and delivering greater power.

Graphite Paddles

Pickleball players favor graphite paddles due to their lightweight nature, which enables swift movement and ability to provide touch and control. These attributes are particularly beneficial for players who prioritize finesse over power. Furthermore, the graphite surface of the paddle enhances control and accuracy when handling difficult shots.

Making a graphite pickleball paddle involves weaving and encapsulating carbon fibers in a graphite shell. This combination of surface layers gives the paddle its strength and distinguished characteristics.

Carbon Fiber

Pickleball paddles crafted from carbon fiber are favored for their lightweight strength and durability. This material offers exceptional strength while maintaining a light overall weight, aiding players in better control and maneuverability during gameplay. Carbon fiber’s stiffness ensures enhanced responsiveness, allowing for precise ball contact and efficient power generation in shots. 

Its natural ability to dampen vibrations contributes to a more comfortable playing experience by reducing the impact felt upon ball contact. Overall, carbon fiber in pickleball paddles combines strength, lightness, responsiveness, and durability, making it a sought-after choice among players seeking high-performance equipment.

Carbon fiber pickleball paddles offer exceptional strength, lightweight maneuverability, and responsiveness, but they come with drawbacks. These paddles are more expensive, their stiffness may not suit all preferences, and they can transfer noticeable vibrations upon ball contact. While providing power, they might lack the finesse of softer paddles and can be susceptible to structural damage from extreme impacts. The carbon fiber weave also gets crushed down over time, resulting in loss of power and spin. 

Do you want to learn more about why carbon fiber is used in pickleball paddles? Check out our blog on Carbon Fiber

Composite or Fiberglass

Fiberglass was widely used in the past, but carbon fiber has become more prevalent. Among the three primary facing materials, fiberglass tends to deliver the highest power output. Occasionally referred to as composite, fiberglass remains synonymous with this term. Unlike carbon fiber and graphite, fiberglass isn’t as rigid, functioning somewhat like a trampoline that absorbs energy from the ball and promptly rebounds it. However, its lower stiffness might reduce the size of the sweet spot in comparison to paddles made from carbon fiber or graphite.


Kevlar-faced paddles are growing in popularity and we’ll see many more options in 2024. Kevlar is employed in crafting pickleball paddles for its exceptional strength, durability, and lightweight nature. Its impressive impact resistance and durability, characterized by abrasion resistance, imply that the paddle surface is likely to endure for an extended period, showcasing greater resistance to wear compared to current carbon-faced paddles.

Choosing the Right Pickleball Paddle Handle Length

The length of a pickleball handle significantly impacts a player’s grip, comfort, and control during play. An appropriately sized handle ensures a comfortable grip without causing finger bunching or overextension, contributing to better maneuverability and shot execution. Finding the right handle length is essential as it’s a matter of personal preference and hand size; a handle that suits one player might not suit another. 

The limitation of pickleball paddles is that the combination of their total length and width can’t exceed 24 inches. And the length can’t exceed 18 inches. For this reason, handle length will fall between 4.5 to 6 inches. There are several factors to consider when choosing the best handle length. 

Reasons to Pick a Short Handle

  1. Beginner player: You’re a beginner player and want a wider paddle for more control. A wider paddle means a shorter handle. 
  2. Small hands: Players with smaller hands often find shorter handles more comfortable to grip. A shorter handle ensures better control and a snugger fit for smaller hand sizes, reducing the risk of overextending fingers or discomfort during play.
  3. Finger on paddle face: If you like to have your index finger on the paddle (like holding a ping pong paddle), you’ll want a shorter handle. 

Reasons to Pick a Longer Handle

  1. Larger Hands: Players with larger hands often find longer handles more comfortable. A longer handle provides more space for a secure grip and reduces the risk of fingers feeling cramped or extended beyond their comfort zone.

  2. Two-Handed Backhand: Some players prefer a more extended handle to accommodate a two-handed backhand. This grip style can offer more stability, control, and power in certain shots, especially for players who use both hands during gameplay.

  3. Enhanced Leverage for Power and Spin: Longer handles can increase leverage, translating to more power and spin in shots. The extended length allows for a more forceful swing, contributing to greater shot power and spin

  4. Former Tennis Players: Tennis players that have converted to pickleball feel more comfortable with a handle similar to a tennis racket. 

I currently play a Speedup 14mm paddle with a 6-inch handle designed for powerful shots, maneuverability, and two-handed backhands. If you want to learn more, please read our Speedup Pickleball Paddle Review

How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle: A Step-by-Step Process

With many pickleball paddle options on the market, selecting your first paddle can appear overwhelming. However, by considering factors such as:

  • Weight

  • Grip size

  • Material

  • Shape

  • Handle length

You can make an informed decision that suits your preference and playing style.

Begin with considering the core material and shape. A polymer core and a classic or wide-body shape are recommended for beginners.

Next, consider the weight and grip size of the paddle. The ideal weight for beginners is around 7.5 oz, but it’s advisable to experiment with different weights and grip sizes to find a paddle that offers a comfortable and balanced feel.

Finally, don’t forget to test out different paddles. This allows you to experience variations in materials, weights, and grip sizes, enabling you to select a paddle that aligns with your preferences and is suitable for your level of strength and play.

Ready to shop for your first pickleball paddle? Check out our Best Pickleball Paddle Sets


In conclusion, choosing the right pickleball paddle can significantly influence your performance on the court. Each feature is vital in how you play, from the core material to the weight, grip size, shape, and surface material. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, understanding these elements can help you decide and select a paddle that best suits your preference and playing style. So, are you ready to take your pickleball game to the next level?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a pickleball paddle for beginners?

When choosing a pickleball paddle for beginners, opt for a midweight paddle. Experienced players can consider any weight based on their game knowledge and preference. Additionally, consider your height and playing style when selecting the right size and grip for the paddle.

Is there really a difference between pickleball paddles?

Yes, the thickness of the polymer core in pickleball paddles affects control and power. A thicker core provides more control, while a thinner core offers more power. Consider picking a paddle with a polymer core for versatile play.

What is the difference between carbon fiber and fiberglass pickleball paddles?

The main difference between carbon fiber and fiberglass pickleball paddles is the stiffness. Fiberglass paddles are less stiff and more power-driven, with a smaller sweet spot.

What is the importance of a comfortable grip in pickleball?

A comfortable pickleball grip is crucial for better control, shot accuracy, and reduced risk of mishits. It also helps prevent hand cramps and fatigue, allowing players to enjoy longer periods of play without discomfort.

How can I determine the right grip size for my pickleball paddle?

You can determine the right grip size for your pickleball paddle by measuring the distance from the bottom crease to the top of your ring finger in inches. Testing different paddles with various grip sizes can help you find the perfect fit.

Can you customize your pickleball paddle?

Yes, you can add weight, replace the grip, or add over-grip. Lead tape can increase the sweet spot, swing weight, and overall power. If you want to experiment with adding weight, please read our blog on How to Add Lead Tape to Your Pickleball Paddle

How to tell if your pickleball paddle is dead?

  1. Loss of power or “pop”.
  2. Decreased sweet spot.
  3. Unwanted feedback or vibrations.
  4. Cracks, dents, or delamination.
  5. Unusual sounds

How do I care for my pickleball paddle?

The material used in your pickleball paddle will determine how you care for it. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Wipe it down after each use with a damp cloth (do not wipe down a carbon fiber face).

  • Make sure to store it in a cool, dry place.

  • Avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures or humidity.

  • Please do not leave it in direct sunlight.

Following these simple tips can help extend your pickleball paddle’s life. Please read our blog on How to Care for Your Carbon Fiber Pickleball Paddle for specific instructions for carbon fiber paddles. 

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