Indoor Vs. Outdoor Pickleball Balls: 6 Key Distinctions

What is the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Pickleball Balls?

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Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, with over 4.8 million participants in 2021 according to the USA Pickleball Association. As the game continues to gain popularity, more people are learning about the key equipment like paddles and balls that make pickleball possible. But what exactly is the difference between indoor and outdoor pickleball balls?

Indoor and outdoor pickleball balls are designed for their specific playing environments. The main differences come down to the materials used, size and number of holes, weight, bounce, and color.

What Material Are Indoor Pickleball Balls Made Of?

Indoor balls have a soft plastic polymer shell that allows them to play slower and bounce lower on indoor court surfaces like tile, concrete, or wood floors. As pickleball coach Mojo from PickleballJourney.com explains, “Indoor balls flex more on impact to produce better control.”

The softer plastic and larger holes (typically 26 or fewer) on indoor balls give players more control over ball spin, trajectory, and placement. The softness also helps avoid damage to indoor flooring.

What Material Are Outdoor Pickleball Balls Made Of?

Outdoor balls have a harder perforated plastic shell around a rubber core that allows them to bounce higher and faster off outdoor court surfaces like asphalt or textured acrylic.

The harder plastic and smaller holes (typically 40 or more) make outdoor balls more durable for rougher outdoor play. As pro player Anna Leigh Waters notes, “I prefer using outdoor balls on textured courts because they grip the surface better for more consistent bounces.”

How Does Weight Differ Between Indoor and Outdoor Balls?

On average, outdoor balls weigh slightly more than indoor balls. A typical indoor ball weighs around 0.78-0.80 ounces while outdoor balls are 0.80-0.82 ounces.

The extra weight for outdoor balls is needed to resist wind interference on open outdoor courts. The lighter indoor balls are intended for slower indoor play.

How Does Bounce Differ Between Indoor and Outdoor Balls?

Indoor balls generally bounce a little less than outdoor balls, due to the softer plastic material.

A 2021 study in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found indoor balls had more predictable bounces off concrete while outdoor balls bounced more variably.

The higher bounce of outdoor balls helps them play faster on outdoor courts. Indoor balls don’t need as much bounce for controlled indoor games.

How Does Color Differ Between Indoor and Outdoor Balls?

Most indoor and outdoor balls come in the standard bright yellow color that helps visibility on any court surface. However, outdoor balls are also commonly produced in orange or green hues as well.

The different colors allow players to select a ball that contrasts well against their playing surface. The variated colors also help differentiate between ball types.

6 Key Differences Summarized

To quickly recap, here are the 6 main differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball balls:

  • Indoor balls have fewer, larger holes and softer plastic material.
  • Outdoor balls have more, smaller holes and harder plastic/rubber material.
  • Indoor balls weigh slightly less than outdoor balls.
  • Outdoor balls bounce a little higher than indoor balls.
  • Indoor balls are typically just bright yellow.
  • Outdoor balls also come in orange or green.

Using the right ball for your playing conditions will optimize ball control, bounce, and durability. While you can play with either type of ball indoors or outdoors, choosing the optimal ball for each setting helps enhance gameplay.

Frequently Asked Questions About Indoor and Outdoor Balls

Can you use an outdoor ball inside?

Yes, you can use outdoor balls when playing indoors. The harder material will produce faster shots and higher bounces on an indoor court. Some players like the extra pace. Be mindful of potential court damage over time.

Can you use an indoor ball outside?

You can use an indoor ball outdoors but the lighter weight makes it more affected by wind. The softer material also wears down faster on rough outdoor surfaces. Outdoor balls are engineered to withstand outdoor conditions better.

Why are indoor balls bright yellow?

The bright yellow color provides maximum visibility on any indoor court surface, especially important for safety. Yellow offers better contrast compared to white or orange on most indoor floors.

Why are outdoor balls also orange and green?

Adding orange and green provides more color options to contrast well against different outdoor court surfaces. The colors help differentiate outdoor balls from standard yellow.

Do color options affect ball performance?

No, the color itself does not affect ball performance – weight, bounce, durability are not impacted. Color is simply an aesthetic option. Pick colors based on court surface and personal preference.

Can you use a paddleball for pickleball?

No, you should not use a paddleball in place of a pickleball. Paddleballs are much lighter at just 0.42-0.45 ounces. The lighter weight would not play correctly on a pickleball court.

What are indoor pickleballs made of?

Indoor balls have a soft plastic polymer shell, usually polyethylene or ethylene vinyl acetate. Materials like vinyl and other plastics allow more flex and control.

What are outdoor pickleballs made of?

Outdoor balls have a hard plastic like polypropylene or ABS plastic shell around a rubber core. The perforated plastic and rubber withstand outdoor play.

Where can you buy pickleballs?

You can buy pickleballs online through major retailers like Amazon or specialty shops like PickleballCentral. Local sporting goods stores will also carry a selection of popular indoor and outdoor balls.

How much do pickleballs cost?

Pricing can range from $1.50 per ball up to $4 per ball, depending on brand and bulk quantities. Expect to pay around $2-$3 per ball for good quality from reputable brands.

Outdoor balls made of more durable materials tend to cost a little more than standard indoor balls. Buying multi-packs can help lower the per ball price.

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