It can be hard to stay on top of all the pickleball information and trends.
As players we face constantly changing rules, paddle recommendations, and other gear questions like what type or brand of pickleball to play with.
In this post, I’m here to help you understand the pickleball ball market. You’ll walk away with a clear picture of the best indoor and outdoor pickleballs you’d want for every possible scenario.
You’ll learn how the top pickleballs stack up in key metrics, like:
- Indoor/outdoor usability
- Weather interactions
- Skill friendliness
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the indoor/outdoor ball label really refers the playing surface of the court, not the roof or covering above where the game is played.
It would be more clear if we stopped referring to them as outdoor and indoor balls, and instead used the terms hard court and wood/gym surface.
If you want a detailed discussion on the differences between ball types, visit our indoor vs outdoor ball page.
Is there an official ball in pickleball?
No, just like there isn’t a universal ball in tennis. Dunlop is the official ball of the AUS open, Wilson is the official ball of the French and US Open (although totally different balls due to surface), and Slazenger is the official ball of Wimbledon. In fact at the US Open the Women’s and Men’s balls are even different; regular vs heavy duty felt respectively.
Alright, let’s get to the rankings.
The best indoor pickleballs of 2023
The most widely used ball for indoor pickleball. Not too soft or too hard. Fast and responsive with plenty of bounce.
The best performing ball for higher-level indoor play. Plays lively, fun, hard, and fast the like top-performing outdoor balls, i.e. DuraFast & X-40.
The best ball for senior/beginner players and anyone who prefers a softer, more control-oriented style of play. The lava color also provides excellent visibility.
1. Onix Fuse
The Fuse indoor ball is the most widely preferred ball among indoor pickleball players. It’s the official ball for a number of indoor championships.
Note that this ball shouldn’t be confused with the Fuse G2 outdoor ball, which is marketed to have indoor/outdoor hybrid capability. The original indoor fuse is the superior ball to play with on polished hardwood courts.
- How it plays. The Fuse is lightweight, plays fast, and provides plenty of responsiveness. It also has a good deal of bounce. It’s not as fast and hard as the Gamma Photon, but it’s not soft, either.
- Durability. The Fuse is prone to cracking and warping, but provides adequate durability overall, especially for how active it plays on the court. They crack less in warm weather.
- Value. Not the cheapest ball nor the most durable. But performance wise, the tradeoff is well worth it for most players.
- Best color choice: Orange is the clear preference among players. Some like the yellow Onix balls, but the yellow often blends in with lighter colored floors.
2. Gamma Photon
The number #2 indoor ball is the Gamma. This is the preferred indoor ball for high-level play because it plays harder than the Onix Fuse. It plays similarly to hard outdoor balls like the DuraFast and Franklin X-40. but is also less forgiving and more prone to breaking.
- How it Plays. It’s on the firmer side and plays most similar to an outdoor ball while still maintaining the clear characteristics of an indoor ball. Generated good speed, bounce, spin, and true flight. Onix balls feel slower and mushy by comparison. Gammas are perfect for players who demand a fast and hard ball but want to avoid using actual outdoor balls that skip and skid on an indoor court.
- Durability. Gammas are the least durable balls on our indoor ball list. Like all hard balls, cracking is their achilles heal. They won’t crack is fast as an outdoor DuraFast on a cold day, but won’t last as long as the Onix indoor ball, either. If you can avoid having them crack, they’ll last a long time due to their hardness. They won’t go soft or indent like most indoor balls after long periods of use. Best durability in warmer temperatures.
- Value. They’re on the expensive end and are prone to cracking. The tradeoff is that they offer the best playability for most players. If you value consistent, high-level performance over price and reliability, the Gamma Photon is your ball.
- Best color choice. The bright neon green color is the best. It’s contrasty and highly visible on most indoor courts.
3. Penn 26
While not as popular as the Onix Fuse or Gamma Photon, the Penn 26 is still loved by many and earns a top spot on our best indoor ball list. The Penn gives pleasant touch and consistent, dependable play. Highly recommended for seniors and players below the 3.5-4.0 level range.
- How it Plays. They’re a bit softer, slower, and less lively/bouncy than the Onix/Gamma balls. This makes them more easily controlled and forgiving for beginner players. They also skip and skid much less than the Fuse and Proton. Might feel like hitting a marshmallow to high-level players, though.
- Durability. The Penn balls are more reliable than the Onix and Gamma balls due to being softer. They still do crack on occasion, though.
- Value. The Penn 26s are the least expensive ball in our top 3 list and also offer the most durability. As a result, they win in the value department.
- Best color choice. The lava color is super popular as it provides great visibility in contrast to the yellow-ish hues of indoor flooring. If you care most about tracking the ball, this is your best option.
- Franklin X-26 indoor balls. I’ll mention the X-26s because they’re moderately popular, but I do not recommend them. They skip and skid a lot on indoor surfaces. Their durability is also poor as they tend to crack easily. Overall, they simply don’t play well or last long enough to recommend. If you get them, skip the blue. It might seem like it helps visibility, but they end up not being easy to track.
- Core indoor. These balls are nice but didn’t quite crack the top 3 on our list. If you get them, avoid the yellow color. It doesn’t contrast well enough against shiny wooden floors.
- A11N indoor. Not a terrible ball, but they do feel a bit off to me. They also are prone to cracking and developing soft spots. They’re also hard to find online as of January 2023.
- Selkirk Hybrid balls. They play alright, but they’re not reliable and break easily at the seam. Their short lifespan is their achilles heel.
The best outdoor pickleballs of 2023
Dura Fast 40
The fastest and hardest outdoor pickleball and ball of choice for most pros and 5.0+ players.
The best all-around outdoor pickleball. Extremely common in rec play due to its good balance of cost, speed, and decent durability.
Onix Pure 2
The most durable ball for cold weather and banger play. This is one of the go-to balls when the weather drops below 50 degrees.
1. Dura Fast 40
- How it Plays. Duras play very fast. They’re the fastest option on the market, which makes them the preferred ball of most pros and 5.0+ players. They fly true and their heavier feel and makes them feel best for windy conditions.
- Durability. Duras may play the hardest and fastest, but they rarely have long lives. These balls crack quick, especially in temperatures below 50 degrees. On the plus side, they’ll be the last ball standing on hot summer days where most balls turn to sponges in the heat. Duras hold up until about 110 degrees when they begin to succumb themselves. The best durability range for Dura Fasts is 80-110 degrees.
- Value. If you value performance above all else, the Dura Fasts are the go-to ball for high-level play. If you value cost, then you’ll be wincing every time your Duras inevitably break.
- Best color choice. The yellow Dura Fast is my preferred choice and seems to play better than the neon version. They seem to be less prone to cracking and getting out of round for some reason.
2. Franklin X-40
- How it Plays. X-40s may play softer, slower, and lighter than Dura Fasts, but they’re harder and faster than everything else. Yes, top players may condescendingly call X-40s a beginner ball, but the X-40 offers all around good play. It’s truly the jack-of-all-trades, master of none ball. All skill levels use it, and it’s a commonly used tournament ball. It performs decently in wind, but not as well as the Dura Fast.
- Durability. While more durable than Dura Fasts, they’re not wildly durable overall, especially in lower temperatures. They can go out of round easily and will crack in sub 50 degree temps. I don’t recommend playing with them at all below 40 degrees. While our first two outdoor balls are not good in cold weather, the next ball on our list is.
- Value. X-40s are more durable than Duras and they’re usually a cheaper, too. As such, they’re a better value than Duras while still offering good performance.
- Best color choice. The neon green color works great.
3. Onix Pure 2 (most durable)
- How it Plays. The Onix Pure plays much softer than the Dura and X-40. They don’t have nearly as much speed and pop as those two, making them less ideal for higher level players. They are a superior ball for new and low-skill level players, though.
- Durability. This is where the Pure 2 shines. These balls will simply last in cold weather and with hard banger when Duras and X-40s will easily break. If you don’t want to deal with balls cracking every 5 minutes, then put aside your Duras and X-40s when the temp drops below 50 degrees. While the Onix balls won’t crack easily, they do end up losing their bounce and going soft after about 3 months of play.
- Value. These aren’t the top performing balls, but they earn their value in wintertime play. You will not suffer ball cracking left and right in cold weather if you use these.
- Best color choice. The orange is ideal.
- Core Outdoor. These balls almost beat out the Onix Pure for the 3rd spot. They don’t crack as easily as Duras/X-40s and play more similarly to an X-40 than the Onix balls do. But, I’m getting a lot more reports this winter (2022-23) of them breaking in cold weather. Otherwise, they’re a good balance between the Duras and X-40s with more resiliency to cracking (though they do lose form easily in warm weather). But if you want a middle ground between Dura Fast and the Onix balls, Core should be your choice since they play faster than X-40s and prove more reliable.
- Wilson Tru32. Another great all around ball that does not crack easily. They play relatively hard and fast, but I’d choose Core over them.
- Penn 40. The outdoor Penn balls are a good beginner friendly option. They’re softer and rarely crack. They also do well in moderately windy conditions.
- Find whatever ball works for you and your court. Every surface, especially wood surfaces, play differently and the lighting always varies. Visibility is key, and it might require some experimentation to find out what works best for your court.
- Practice with the official tournament ball before you compete. Practicing with the sanctioned tourney ball will help you prepare to the best of your ability. The 2 most popular outdoor tournament balls are, unsurprisingly, the Franklin X-40 and Dura Fast 40.
- Sometimes you’ll have to conform to a certain groups preferred ball. Many groups and regions favor a type of ball and stick with it for years. They might not be interested in the insights you have to share with them from posts like this. That’s just the way it is, unfortunately.
- If you can’t change the ball, change your paddle. If you must play with a hard ball but love the soft dinking game, consider getting a control paddle. If you prefer to play hard but are stuck playing with soft balls in your group, get a power paddle.
- Sometimes you have to play with less durable balls if you want to use what the higher level players use. Yes, your balls might crack often, but if you want to get well acquainted with the top level tournament balls, it’s a necessary evil.
The balls we play with on the pickleball court truly make a difference.
What has your experience been with pickleballs? Are you picky? Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) ball that you’ve played with?
Let us know your thoughts below in the comments.
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