The Best Pickleball Gear, According to an Instructor
The pickleball craze is sweeping the country, as the game has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Although it has traditionally been associated with older players, it's starting to catch on among all age groups. Luxury resorts are making space for pickleball courts and even celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are touting the sport as a new favorite. Thanks to the hype, sales of pickleball gear have only increased as the sport-turned-leisure activity has become a mainstay in many areas.
What Is Pickleball
Invented in the 1960s, pickleball is a family-friendly game that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. Played on a badminton-size court with a modified tennis net, pickleball can be played indoors or outside as either a singles or doubles game. The objective is simple: Players serve, volley, and slam the ball back and forth, with the first side to score the majority of points—determined by the type of match being played—wins. The basic rules are relatively easy for beginners to learn, but like most other sports, pickleball becomes more competitive and nuanced as the level of play increases.
Everything You Need to Play Pickleball
Taking up the game involves a relatively small investment in terms of gear. A couple of paddles, a ball, and a sturdy pair of court shoes are all you need to get started, but the type of equipment available varies widely in both price and quality. "Even though it looks like a simple game, just like with any sport there is always the risk of injury," says Ho Nguyen, certified pickleball instructor and President of the Santa Monica Pickleball Club. "That's why it's important to make sure you have the right gear."
If you don't have access to a pickleball court, you can even create your own setup at home. While pickleball starter sets — which include paddles, balls and, sometimes, a net — are widely available, budget bundles are typically meant for more casual play.
Ready to give pickleball a try? Read on to see top-rated picks for paddles, shoes, and more essentials.
Pickleball paddles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some specifically designed for more advanced players. "If you're a novice or you just want to play for fun, you don't really need to worry about having regulation-size paddles," says Nguyen. "But if you're serious about learning the sport, you'll need a paddle approved by the USA Pickleball Association for tournament play." With so many variations available, Nguyen advises new players to consider things like the type of material, grip size, and face shape.
ProKennex Pro Flight Pickleball Paddle
The Pro Flight carbon fiber paddle uses two patented technologies—one that distributes weight and one that dampens shock and vibration—to minimize the risk of wrist, elbow, and shoulder injuries. The brand collaborated with pro players on the design, which is USAPA-approved for tournament play. The paddle has a cushioned grip, replaceable edge guard, and micro-textured face that optimizes spin and resists wear and tear.
To buy: amazon.com, $190
Selkirk Amped Pickleball Paddle
Available in both lightweight and midweight versions, this USAPA-approved Selkirk Amped paddle is a great choice for beginners. The traditional paddle shape has a wide fiberglass face that delivers both power and control, and a larger sweet spot that allows for full contact with the ball. The long, thin grip is ideal for players with small hands.
Gamma 2.0 Pickleball Paddle
The Gamma 2.0 midweight graphite paddle is designed for every skill level, with an aluminum core and elongated face. The ergonomic grip has a perforated honeycomb design that allows for maximum freedom of movement, and the paddle has a thicker core for a more responsive feel. While it's sanctioned for tournament play, the Gamma paddle is also a great choice for less experienced players.
Head Radical Elite Pickleball Paddle
This affordable Head composite paddle is designed for mid-level players looking to cover more of the court while still being nimble at the net. The smooth fiberglass face delivers powerful serves but has less texture, which can lower the spin rate on the ball. An ergo grip offers reach and minimizes vibrations.
To buy: amazon.com, $60
Electrum Pro Pickleball Paddle
The USAPA-approved Electrum Pro paddle is designed for elite play with carbon fiber to maximize spin and speed. With features like a genuine leather grip, whole honeycomb Polypropylene core, and overlapping edge guard, it's a durable and balanced paddle that's worth the investment if you're ready to take your game to the next level.
To buy: amazon.com, $170
Regardless of your level of play, Nguyen says that wearing the right shoes is key to ensuring maximum mobility and preventing injuries. "Running shoes are designed for forward motion, but on the pickleball court you'll be moving laterally as well as forwards and backwards, so you want to have the variety of stability," he explains. "Newer players often twist an ankle because they're not wearing the right type of shoe." Look for a chevron or herringbone pattern on the sole, which Nguyen says will help prevent sliding and provide traction for sudden stops.
Fila Women's Volley Zone Pickleball Shoes
With a look that's inspired by vintage athletic wear, this Fila court shoe offers enhanced support and traction to provide stability during play. The leather and synthetic upper is easy to clean, and the perforated mesh upper is breathable. Several Amazon reviewers note that the shoe runs small, so consider sizing up.
To buy: amazon.com, from $99
Asics Women's Gel Remna Pickleball Shoes
The Asics pickleball shoe uses GEL technology cushioning to absorb impact during abrupt landings. Flexible grooves along the outsole provide a platform for multidirectional movement and minimize the risk of ankle injuries from excessive twisting.
To buy: amazon.com, starting at $70
K-Swiss Express Light Men's Pickleball Shoes
Comfortable, lightweight, and breathable, the K-Swiss Express is designed for use on both hard and clay courts and is recommended for players of any level. Though they may take some time to break in, the brand promises that the herringbone outsole and arch support can help improve reaction time. Drag guards prevent wear at the toe and heel.
To buy: amazon.com, starting at $95
FitVille Men's Wide Width pickleball shoes
FitVille's wide-width shoe features a honeycomb insole and Ortholite material for added arch support, a big plus for players with plantar fasciitis. The mesh and microfiber upper is breathable and odor-resistant, and the durable non-slip outsole helps absorb shock.
To buy: amazon.com, $90
Not all pickleballs are created equal. Balls made for outdoor use are typically made from heavier, molded plastic and have smaller holes for play in various weather conditions, while indoor balls are more pliable and forgiving. "A lot of the lower budget bundle sets come with balls that are not really designed for outdoor surface play. Tournament balls are faster and more responsive," explains Nguyen, who recommends the USAPA-approved balls from Franklin Sports and Dura Fast.
Franklin Sports X-40 outdoor pickleballs
Franklin's X-40 balls are made from a single piece of plastic with precise, machine-drilled holes. Designed for play on all surface types, the balls are heavier and slower, and come in a bright neon yellow color for maximum visibility.
To buy: amazon.com, $25 (originally $30)
Dura Fast 40 outdoor pickleballs
Like the Franklin X-40, Dura Fast balls are seamlessly molded with machine-drilled holes but are lighter weight and play faster in comparison. Designed specifically for outdoor use, the balls can withstand turbulent winds and hard-court surfaces.
To buy: amazon.com, $40
Franklin Sports X-26 Indoor pickleballs
Franklin's competition-grade X-26 indoor balls are weighted and sized for maximum balance and bounce. They perform well on all indoor surface types, including wood and concrete.
To buy: amazon.com, $30 (originally $36)
If there isn't a pickleball court near you, it's relatively easy to create one at home. You'll need a concrete or asphalt surface measuring at least 30 by 60 feet, a means to mark the boundaries and lines, and a net. "Look for a net that's lightweight and has white — not black — tape along the top, which will give you added visibility," says Nguyen. "And be sure that the height of the net is the correct height and made from materials that will stand up to the wind and stay taut."
A11N Portable Pickleball Net
The portable A11N net has a sturdy, interlocking frame that can stand up to windy conditions without toppling over, but at 20 pounds it's still light enough to transport and store as needed. The knotless net is regulation size and made with a durable PVC that won't sag in the middle. It's easy to set up (no tools required!) and comes with a carrying bag for travel and storage.
To buy: amazon.com, $130 (was $180)
Zeny Pickleball Net
A steel support frame and fiberglass middle post give the Zeny net added stability. Setup and break down takes just a few minutes, so you can pack it up in the included soft case and take it along on your next camping trip or to your Airbnb rental. It's regulation size for pickleball play but can be used for a variety of family-friendly net sports.
To buy: amazon.com, $85
3.0 Portable Pickleball Net
This 3.0 tournament net system features powder-coated steel poles that are both lightweight and sturdy. Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, the net has buckles on either side to adjust the tension. Each part is numbered for easy setup, and the included nylon case has compartments for your balls and paddles.
To buy: amazon.com, $160 (originally $190)
There are no rules or regulations when it comes to pickleball bags. More than just a place to stash your gear, the right tote lets you put your off-court style on display. Whether you prefer a backpack, sling, or handheld tote, look for a bag that's roomy enough to hold your paddle, shoes, balls, and personal items like a towel, water bottle, and wallet.
Franklin Sports Pickleball Sling Bag
This unisex sling bag is sleek, spacious, and lightweight. It can hold up to six paddles and has pockets for small items like a cell phone and keys and a built-in fence hook. The shoulder strap is adjustable, and it's designed with pressure-reducing back supports to prevent muscle strain.
To buy: amazon.com, $35 (originally $45)
Sucipi Pickleball bag
Made of water-resistant nylon, this backpack-style bag can also be worn as a crossbody sling. In addition to the main compartment, it has a felt-lined tech pocket, zippered front pockets, and an outer mesh pocket that fits a water bottle or umbrella.
To buy: amazon.com, $39
Pik'le'Ball Women's Pickleball Bag
Stash your paddles in the fully lined front pocket of this bag and use the ventilated main compartment to carry bulkier items like shoes and towels. Additional pockets for a phone, water bottle, and balls keep your gear and belongings organized. The polyester exterior is available in three bright prints, and rubber "feet" on the bottom help protect the bag from wear and tear.
To buy: amazon.com, $50
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