While we were waiting for the padel court to be unlocked this morning Nacho and I went to the bar across the road for a coffee. The conversation turned to Nacho’s quest for a new padel racket. He had literally no idea what to choose from the hundreds of options available. So we put together a checklist that helped him narrow down the options a lot.
How to choose a padel racket?
- Frequency of play: No need to invest in an expensive racket if you play the occasional social game.
- Price: When all other factors are equal, price is often the decider.
- Weight: Heavier rackets allow you to wield more power when you hit the ball.
- Shape: Rackets come in three shapes, round-head, teardrop-head, and diamond-head. Each handles in a unique way.
- Balance: Padel rackets are either low balance or high balance.
- Thickness: Padel tacket thickness is largely standardized because factory molds are equally thick.
- Core: EVA rubber is cheaper and more durable while foam gives a better feel of the ball.
- Test: If possible test out the racket you want before making a purchase.
- Reviews: If you are not able to test rackets then be sure to read the reviews of players who are using the racket you want.
- Warranty: Many higher-end rackets come with a factory warranty against defects. Something not possible with a second-hand racket.
Knowing the type of player that you are is the first step to making sure you have the racket suited to your abilities or strengths. Unpacking these ten factors in greater detail will hopefully help you to make a more informed choice the next time you are shopping for a racket.
Key Factors For Choosing A Racket
Many padel players, especially those who are new to the sport, give almost no forethought to the type of racket that they intend to buy. This can make the vast array of choices quite confusing.
In the end, people often see a brand that they recognize, either from watching other players at their local court or from the World Padel Tour tournaments. They gravitate toward that brand and grab a racket without any idea about the specific properties of that racket. They may strike it lucky and buy a racket that works superbly well, though the odds are not in their favor.
Luckily, thanks to a couple of key factors you will be able to narrow your padel racket selection down to those that will actually benefit you as a player.
It is surprising how many players, especially beginners, have no idea that padel rackets not only have different weights but also how big of a variance weight has on how your racket handles.
From my perspective, weight is easily the most important factor to consider. The lighter the racket, the greater the amount of feel you have for the ball through the point of impact with the racket. Conversely, the heavier the racket, the greater the amount of power that you generate.
What I have tended to notice, even at a professional level is that most female players perform best with rackets that are in the 355 to 370 grams range while male players tend to use rackets of 370 to 385 grams.
Don’t forget to factor in your frame protector and your grip and overgrip/s as these can easily add an extra 20 grams to the weight of your racket.
As strange as it may seem, your choice of racket shape can be influenced by where on the court you prefer to play. Your court position is usually determined between whether you are more of an attacking or defensive player.
Generally speaking, right-handed attacking players play on the left-hand side of the court so that they can cover a greater area of the court with their powerful forehand shots. More often than not a ball down the middle of the court will be played by the player who can take the ball on their forehand.
Conversely, right-handed defensive players will play on the right-hand side of the court.
In case you are wondering what this has to do with your choice of racket shape, attacking players usually do better with an aggressively balanced racket that emphasizes power over control. Defensive players need greater control so that they are able to place the ball better.
2.1 Diamond Shaped Rackets
Buying a diamond-shaped racket is often a costly mistake that many beginners make. While it is true that world number one players Marta Morero and Paquito Navarro use diamond-shaped rackets to great effect playing those massive smashes that land high up in the stands, they can do that with a diamond-shaped racket because they are expert players.
A diamond-shaped racket has a very small sweet spot and it takes a great deal of skill as a padel player to connect in that sweet spot with every shot. Yes, these rackets do give a significant advantage in terms of power play, but only in the right hands.
In fact, there are some professional players who choose not to use a diamond-shaped racket as a way to reduce unforced errors. Therefore only consider getting yourself a diamond-shaped padel racket if you are an experienced padel player.
Diamond-shaped rackets have what is referred to as a top balance, which means that most of the weight is distributed away from the grip and towards the top part of the racket. Centrifugal force creates more racket head speed through the area of impact with the ball and gives a feeling that I can only describe not having a sensation of connecting the ball, but see it go flying.
This shape gives the racket a lot of power, but on the other hand, makes it way harder to control. If the racket face is marginally off-angle when you impact the ball you are almost certain to make an error and lose the point.
The sweet spot of the racket minimal, hence I would only recommend this type of racket to players who have mastered the full repertoire of padel shots. You also need to be able to consistently hit the ball with a fair amount of power and always with the very center of the racket.
If you are switching to a diamond-shaped padel racket for the first time from another type of racket, choose one that is lighter than you have been using. That will compensate for the balance being skewed towards the top. Adding an extra overgrip will also shift the balance of the racket slightly lower, making the transition easier.
2.2 Teardrop Shaped Rackets
Teardrop-shaped rackets have that delicate balance between still having some of the power of the diamond-shaped racket but maintaining a lot of the control that round rackets have.
Players from intermediate all the way through to advanced level are able to get the maximum benefit from a teardrop-shaped padel racket.
As you start to gain the experience to start playing more power shots, having a teardrop-shaped racket will ve more forgiving with its far larger sweet spot.
For many players, the teardrop-shaped racket will be the second racket that they buy. For many of us, we won’t become strong enough players to warrant a diamond-shaped racket but we can have years of enjoyment using a teardrop-shaped racket.
As racket shapes go, these are by far the most popular shape of rackets. This is the model that accounts for the greatest sales volume in the padel racket market, and manufacturers are very aware of that.
Skilled professional padel players find these rackets much easier to use because you can feel the ball on the racket as you play your shots.
That is why during the Mexico Open padel tournament in 2019 many of the professional players why favor the power of the diamond-shaped padel racket actually switched to teardrop-shaped rackets to be able to cope with almost 8000ft altitude.
2.3 Round Shaped Rackets
Round-shaped rackets are the ideal rackets for beginner padel players. This especially holds true for padel players that come from a tennis-playing background.
The reason for this is that round padel rackets are weighted toward the handle. This weight distribution takes most of the power out of the shots that you play. This is a good thing for new padel players who have a tendency to hit the ball long.
The baseline of a tennis court is almost 6ft (2m) further beyond the net than a padel court so having a padel racket that takes a lot of the power out of your shots will help you adapt to playing padel from your tennis background.
Another feature of round rackets is that they have a sweet spot that extends across most of the racket-face. This makes them the most forgiving option as you start learning to hit the ball nearer and nearer to the center of the racket.
Even intermediate padel players who play more defensively will benefit from having a round-shaped padel racket. Round rackets provide excellent control of the ball, making them ideal for players whose major strength is ball placement and never play smashes.
3. The Core Of Your Racket: EVA Or Foam
There were two different types of padel racket core that made the selection process much easier. The two types of core material used will be either EVA rubber or foam rubber (Polyethylene).
In the past rackets would be one or the other. These days manufacturers are increasingly using a blend of the two. EVA has a higher mass density than foam allowing different models of rackets to have a different center of balance based on the ratio of EVA to foal across the racket head.
A good starting point will be to examine how these two materials are different. That way, based on your needs as a player, you will be able to make a better choice between the two or even whether a blend is what you need.
EVA rubber is a lot more hard and rigid. Rackets made of EVA rubber are ideal for high-speed matches where the ball travels faster and feels lighter. By way of example, during the height of summer, the heat causes padel balls to have more bounce as the internal gasses warm up. The same applies to courts that are slightly higher altitudes.
Conversely, during winter when the colder, damper padel balls feel heavier, using an EVA racket makes controlling the ball much more difficult.
The lack of flex in an EVA core makes it more durable than those made of polyethylene. As a material, EVA is a lot cheaper than polyethylene. This combination of durability and price make EVA the ideal core for beginner/entry-level padel rackets where the price point may be a barrier to entry for new players.
Rackets that have a soft foam (Polyethylene) core will help you feel every shot much more. Additionally, you won’t need a lot of power to control a ball that comes at your racket quickly.
Because a polyethylene core racket has more flex through the point of impact with the ball, you will get the sense that the racket is “holding” the ball a little longer. You can use this slightly longer contact time with the ball to create more spin on each shot.
The downside of a polyethylene core racket is that the springiness of the foam is that you will have substantially less power in smashes.
Over time the polyethylene foam becomes more compressed, meaning that the bond between the core and outer shell gets weaker. This is what gives polyethylene core rackets the reputation of not being durable.
There are some padel players who play with hard EVA foam in summer and switch to soft polyethylene foam in winter to compensate for how light or heavy the ball feels between the two seasons.
For me, that has never been an issue. I like to think that it is because I play weekly and the way I play changes gradually across the seasons to compensate for the heavier or lighter balls. In truth, it is more likely that my padel skills are below the level where it makes a noticeable difference.
On a practical sense these days, many manufacturers have started using a hybrid of polyethylene and EVA rubbers to make their racket cores. This gives rise to a greater variety to the different models of rackets available. It also means that you can have largely EVA rackets that can behave in a similar way to a polyethylene racket.
This can all start getting very confusing. That is why some manufacturers have taken to printing a “Salida De Bola” rating on their packaging. This rating refers to the amount a ball will bounce off the racket face.
In other words, a racket that has a hight “Salida De Bola” rating will have a great deal of springiness and the ball will bounce off the racket quickly. These rackets will behave in much the same manner as the “old” EVA only rackets. It is quite possible that these rackets will have EVA-only cores.
Conversely, rackets with a low “Salida De Bola” rating are more soft and spongy that give you much more of a feeling the ball on the racket all the way through the shot. My guess is that these padel rackets will be just about completely polyethylene rubber.
Under most circumstances, it can be hard to distinguish what foam is used in a racket just by looking at it. However, thanks to the “Salida De Bola” and the very different sound they make on impact with the ball makes it easier to identify.
The two factors that we’ve just talked about are what affects the balance of your padel racket. Those being the shape of your racket and secondly how the blend of EVA and foam rubbers are distributed within the core of your racket.
Padel rackets are labeled as low, mid or high balance. A low balance racket is one where the center of balance is near the handle and imparts greater control at the expense of power. A high balance racket has a center of balance much further up the face of the racket toward the tip. This is better for playing power shots, although it requires greater skill to control the ball.
If you have a racket that is high balance and you are struggling with controlling your shots, consider adding an overgrip. The couple of grams of the overgrip will shift the center of balance closer to the racket handle and thereby give you greater control over your shots.
According to padel regulations, the maximum thickness is 38 millimeters (an inch and a half). Therefore you will see that virtually all padel rackets are that thickness.
The reason is simple. No matter what materials the core or outer skin of the racket is made from, the racket will be pressed in a mold as part of the manufacturing process. It will, therefore, require the factory to completely retool in order to make a racket of different thicknesses. It is not only costly to create molds of different thicknesses but there is also a loss of production time while retooling a factory.
6. Frequency of play
One of the factors that will determine how much you are prepared to invest in the quality of your padel racket will be the frequency that you will be playing and thereby the level of play that you aspire to.
If you plan to train for and play padel competitively, even if at club level, then it makes sense to get a racket that is best suited to your style of play.
If padel for you is nothing more than an occasional social event, then all you need is an inexpensive racket that will still allow you to enjoy your time on the court.
7. Test before you buy
When you are in the market for one of the more top-end rackets the best possible thing for you to do will be to test out a couple of the different rackets prior to making your selection.
Many stores have test rackets that you can try and some have a practice wall so that you can hit a couple of balls to get a feel for how the racket plays.
What I have also seen happening at some of the larger padel clubs, for instance in Madrid, that there will be a racket testing day where some of the brands will be present with a representative and a number of their new models for players to try out on-court.
The other alternative is that if there is a player at your local club that has the model of racket that you want to buy, chat with them and ask if you can try out their racket for a game to see if it will suit your style of play.
For the vast majority of us, the price of a racket will be the determining factor once we have narrowed our selection down to two or three options.
This again links back to the earlier point of how often you play padel.
If you play padel often, though at a lower level, like so many of us then spending a couple of extra dollars on a racket that will last you two or maybe even three seasons will be money well spent.
If you are just trying out the sport then, by all means, get yourself one of the cheaper models of rackets. These often cost as little as $50 or sometimes even less if there is a stock clearance sale.
Just know that these very cheap rackets will have fiberglass outer skins that will start to chip and possibly delaminate after a couple of months.
That said, the very cheap rackets are almost always round head rackets that give maximum control over your shots and are the easiest types of rackets for a beginner to use.
9. Search reviews or reviews of shovels
If you do not have access to different models of padel racket to try out before making your selection then reading reviews written by other players will give you some insight into whether you are making the correct choice for your style of play.
This is most often the case if you will be buying your padel racket online from somewhere like Amazon. To make the process easier coming soon right here on World Padel Insider will be a review page of the leading models of padel rackets that are available on Amazon at all different price points. That will give you access to my opinion of each racket and links to the hundreds of Amazon reviews.
Many of the higher-end models of padel racket have some form of factory warranty that will cover you in terms of manufacturer defects. Obviously, damage caused during active play like smashing your racket into the wire mesh wall won’t be covered by a warranty.
When you purchase your racket from a padel store you will almost always get some degree of after-sale services like assistance with attaching frame protectors and overgrips.
Buying a second-hand racket will always be a cheaper option but be aware that a second-hand racket will be not be covered by any factory warranty and hence you will be the one to carry that risk.
Likewise, online shopping will be cheaper than a store but you won’t have anywhere near the same level of after-sale service.