We’ve all probably come across the posts where people ask ‘how long will my paddle last’? It’s a fair question and one that probably everyone asks when first entering the game.
But it got me thinking about what people expect to hear as an answer. I have to assume that their expectation is based on the price point of a product and also the unfamiliarity of the game as a whole.
Having some sense of an answer to this question was really a gradual process for me: tries pickleball with the basic requirements; enjoys it and bumps up the paddle to an entry-level product; eventually realize I want an upgrade and then jumps down the rabbit hole.
I went through paddles enough times at the beginning where they didn't have the chance to break down. To be clear, the intent of this article is to not identify any one specific product, but to generally address the lifespan of essential pickleball products, based on my own experiences.
How long I know a product to last can be a different answer coming from someone else. But, if you are actually looking for specifics, the best bet is to head to the forums and discussion groups or read some product reviews which can easily be found on a retailers website, or dropping the product into a search engine.
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
So, let’s address the product that garners this question the most.
The beloved paddle.
If you’re a part of a pickleball group or forum on social media then search this topic. There are many players out there wondering the same thing and most of the answers they receive are pretty standard and for a reason.
The main consideration people have to factor in is “how often are you using the paddle?” Without that answer, it’s too hard to determine the life of your paddle. The next question you’ll want to ask yourself is “how rough am I with my paddle?”.
Simply put, an average person who paddle taps with their partner plays 3-4 times a week and does not knock their paddle onto the ground too often (as they’re dipping low to dig out that short ball); a paddle can often last well over one year.
Tipping past that one-and-a-half-year mark the paddle will likely start to perform differently and you may notice fading on the surface. But if you tend to drop the paddle or smack it against things like a fence or something else, then it’s not going to last as long.
Simple as that. Depending on the paddle itself, the core will eventually start to break down and you can actually hear plastic fragments rattling inside of the paddle; or a loosening edge guard that starts to lift off the paddle face is another clear sign the paddle is breaking down.
But, some other considerations that will determine the lifespan of your paddle are:
- How hard do you hit the ball - what kind of materials make up your paddle? A fiberglass surface is more delicate than graphite.
- Do you dink or are you into that harder, faster game?
- Avoiding moisture.
- Temperature changes - leaving the paddle in a cold car for days at a time can effect the longevity of it.
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
To the next popular question and that’s how long will a ball last? Hey, pickleball equipment isn’t exactly cheap, so anyone paying $4-$6 per ball has every right to ask this question.
The not-great news is that balls often crack, ending their lifespan before you’re done parting ways with it. I’m talking like 2-3 games and a ball can crack.
But, the good news is that you can find specific pickleball balls that will rarely break. Rather, the way to tell if they’ve lost their original bounce potential is by how soft and pliable it becomes.
Balls that crack quickly will do so if made from a firmer, glossier plastic - and keep in mind that the firmness increases when using these particular balls in colder climates.
On the other hand, these types of balls will turn “mushy” and soft in hot temperatures. They will still crack from overuse though, regardless of the heat. The lists below are balls that I’ve created from my own personal experience. I’m sure that not everyone will agree with this list and that’s okay!
Features that contribute to balls cracking:
- Firm plastic
- Glossy finish
- Cracks or seams
- Outdoor balls
Features that contribute to balls becoming softer over time and less cracking:
- Softer plastic
- Matte finish
- Indoor balls
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
Let’s go back to the question period: what shoes are you wearing and what surface are you using them on? Before you can start to think about how long shoes will last, these two factors must be considered.
Just like how certain playing surfaces can compromise the life of a ball, the same situation will happen to shoes. A gummier indoor shoe is soft and made for softer surfaces such as hardwood floors and not meant for pavement.
But that said, if you’re wearing the proper shoes for the surface you play on, again, if you’re an average player participating three to four times a week then shoes will last anywhere from three to eight months.
I would say, past that threshold, the shoe will naturally start to lose its support in the heel and toe box areas which are critical components of a court shoe.
Personally, I like to change out my shoes every four months, but my indoor shoes, which I use less, will last six to seven months. Hopefully using court shoes consistently are within your means because they are a serious game changer!
Pro Tip: some shoes that have more pliable material like fabric/breathable material versus rubber will wear down faster - this malleable material will often be around the top of the foot to the toes and with the amount of shuffling and lunging we do in pickleball, the feet will push up and the toes can start to break through quite quickly.
With this product I would highly recommend that you do your research before making the purchase. Of course, the life of a ball machine is dependent on the frequency (yes, again) and also, how well you care for the product.
But battery life is also a major consideration and every manufacturer will provide customers with that critical information. A coveted piece of equipment like the ball machine should be cared for just like you would with any other high end purchase.
Pro Tip: other factors that may compromise the life of a pickleball are firmer or rougher surfaces and using the balls in a ball machine (ball machines tend to “chew” up the glossier and/or brand new balls).
Grip and Overgrip
What gets more action on the surface of a paddle or the handle? It’s a no-brainer - the handle does. C’mon beginners, we well know that over-gripping the paddle in a vice grip is a no-brainer.
It doesn’t take long to replace the grip and thank goodness for the reasonable price point on grip or overgrip. Keep in mind that people often use overgrip because it protects the original grip, it’s thin and cheaper to replace.
A full replacement grip is more expensive and you may not get the exact same density or feel from a replacement ie. Your local retailer may not carry a brand-specific replacement grip so you’re left with purchasing a grip from a different brand.
Each brand has variations of tackiness and texture that should be taken into consideration.
Image credit: Sara McInnes
Generally, I would say any product - whether it's pickleball related or not - will eventually show visible deterioration.
I really love seeing some old, OG first-generation paddles that are completely worn out in the sweet spot area, but the player loves their bat so much they can’t bear to replace it.
Then one day they show up with a shiny new stick and you barely even recognize them because of the upgraded equipment.
Again, generally speaking, manufacturers are great at honouring their warranty policy, but keep in mind that general wear (and tear) on a product will never make a product eligible for warranty.
Pro Tip: follow maintenance/care instructions that any manufacturer may include on the packaging. Cleaning the equipment and proper storage can increase the longevity.
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