Pickleball vs Padel Comparison: Similarities and Differences

Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Pickleball and padel are paddle sports that have become more popular as the years pass. But what are the similarities and differences between them? Which one is easier to play? Is there really a pickleball vs. padel battle going on in terms of popularity? To answer these questions, this ultimate guide will discuss their detailed comparison. 

How is Pickleball Similar to Padel?

Aside from being a paddle sport, pickleball and padel are almost the same age and have a colorful history. Both are played indoors and outdoors and have the same serving rules - the diagonal underhand serve and the ball should bounce once. Their courts are also smaller than tennis courts. More importantly, they are dubbed the fastest-growing sport in the world! But then, it still depends on who you are talking to.

Pickleball vs Padel: What are the Differences?

Despite some similarities, including how they started, pickleball and padel differ in so many ways. This includes the paddle, ball, court size, and playing rules. While you may notice them while watching matches, below are the full details:


Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 by three dads - Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in Bainbridge Island, Washington state. At that time, Pritchard and Bell noticed their families got bored, so they tried to play badminton. But because there was no proper equipment available, the two buddies improvised. Soon after, McCallum came into the picture and helped establish the rules, and pickleball was born.

On the other hand, the padel was invented in 1969 by a wealthy businessman named Enrique Corcuera in his holiday home in Acapulco, Mexico. During that time, he noticed his daughter playing tennis alone but letting the ball bounce off the wall. So, he built a wall, modified a squash court, and added some elements from another paddle sport, platform tennis. Padel was introduced in Spain in 1974 and later spread across Europe.

Governing Body

In the US, the governing body of pickleball is USA Pickleball (USAP), originally named the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA). The world governing body for the sport is the International Pickleball Federation (IPF), originally called the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) and founded by USAPA in 2010. As of the time of posting, there are more than 78 country members of the IPF.

Meanwhile, the International Padel Federation (IPF) is the governing body of padel. The IPF was founded in June 1991 in Madrid by the legal representatives of the Argentine Padel Association, the Spanish Padel Association, and the Uruguayan Padel Association. The organization now has over 90 country members worldwide, including the US. It also organizes the Padel World Championship every other year since 1992.

Pickleball Paddles vs Padel Rackets

Pickleball paddles and padel rackets have a huge difference. Although both paddles have a face and a handle, they differ in appearance and dimensions. To be approved by USA Pickleball, paddles should have a combined length and width of not more than 24 inches (60.96 cm). Moreover, the total paddle length should not exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There are no restrictions on the thickness and weight, though.

In comparison, the IPF allows maximum measurements of a padel racket (head and handle) or racket of 45.5 x 26 cm., and a thickness of 38 mm. The head must have a maximum length of 20 cm., 50 mm. wide (excluding the space in between) and 50 mm. thick, with a tolerance of 2.5 percent. Hence, pickleball paddles are much smaller than padel rackets. Both don't have weight limits, but pickleball paddles are much lighter.

However, the most obvious difference between pickleball paddles and padel rackets is their shape and appearance. The former have rectangular faces, while the latter have a more circular or diagonal shape. More importantly, padel rackets have cylindrical holes in their faces, while pickleball paddles have solid faces. There is no limit to the number of holes, provided each must have a diameter between 9 and 13 mm.

Pickleball Ball vs Padel Ball

The ball used in pickleball is a lot different than in padel. First, pickleball balls are made of hard plastic and should have a diameter of 2.87-2.97 inches (7.29-7.54 cm). They should weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces (22.1 and 26.5 grams) and have 26-40 holes. Each hole must have a diameter of 2.87-2.97 inches (7.29-7.54 cm). Outdoor pickleball balls must have more holes but are smaller than those used indoors. 

Meanwhile, padel balls are almost the same as tennis balls and mainly differ only in internal pressure. In fact, most of them have the same manufacturers because both balls have the same material and weigh 56-59.4 grams; therefore, they are heavier than pickleball balls. Padel balls have smaller diameters, between 6.35 cm. and 6.77cm., and are smaller than pickleball balls. Most importantly, they have no holes. 

Pickleball Court vs Padel Court

According to official standards, pickleball courts should be 20 x 44 feet (6.10 x 13.41 m), and the minimum playing surface must be 30 x 60 feet (9.14 x 18.29 m). USA Pickleball recommends a 10-foot (3.05-m) surrounding margin, making the total playing surface area measuring 40 x 64 feet (12.9 x 19.51m). The required net height is 36 inches (0.91 meters) at the sidelines and only 34 inches (0.86 meters) at the center.

On the other hand, the required dimension for padel courts is 32.8 x 65.6 feet (10 x 20 m.). The net's height must be 36.2 inches (0.92 m.) at the ends and 34.6 inches. 

(0.88 m.) at the center. The service lines are 6.95 m (22.8 feet) away from the net, while the center service line is 20 cm (7.87 inches) beyond it. Therefore, padel courts are bigger than pickleball courts and have slightly higher nets.

However, there are two key differences between pickleball courts and padel courts. First, the former has an area called the non-volley zone (NVZ). Also known as the kitchen, this area extends 7 feet (2.13 m.) from the net on each side of the court. As the name implies, players are not allowed to volley the ball while inside the NVZ or stepping the NVZ line. For more information, please read our guide about Pickleball Kitchen Rules.

Second, padel courts don't have a kitchen but are fully enclosed. The side walls should be 3 m. (9.84 feet) high, while the back walls must be 4 m. (1.3.1 feet) high. These walls can be made of concrete or transparent glass. Meanwhile, the minimum internal roof must be at least 6 m. (19.6 feet) high, without any obstruction. The IPF recommends a minimum roof height of 8 meters (26.2 feet) for new facilities.

Playing Rules and Strategies

Both pickleball and padel can be played indoors or outdoors. The former can be both singles and doubles, while the former is usually played as doubles only. As I mentioned, both sports start with an underarm serve diagonally, and the ball can only bounce once. But because padel courts have walls, served balls can hit the wall but not the fence. Otherwise, the ball is "out." After a point, the ball can now touch the fence.

All the other rules in padel are the same as those in tennis. Both sports also use the rally scoring system, where points are earned on every serve, regardless of which player or team serves. On the contrary, pickleball uses the side-out scoring system, where only the serving player or team can earn points. The receiving team or players cannot score points. For complete details, please read our guide about Pickleball Scoring Rules.

Is Pickleball Easier to Play Than Padel?

Judging by the court size alone, it's safe to say that pickleball is easier to play than padel. Although both require quick movements and running, the padel is more intense, and rallies tend to be relatively longer since the wall is also part of the game. In short, padel is a more physical game and can burn more calories than pickleball. But because padel tournaments are played only in doubles, players don't have to move too much. 

Additionally, the kitchen rules in pickleball allow players to relax a bit, even if the ball is in play. However, beginners in both sports may find these rules more challenging than the more straightforward rules in padel. The noise in pickleball courts can annoy them, although it is now being addressed. So, in general, pickleball and padel have advantages and disadvantages. 

Final Thoughts

I haven't played padel, but I find pickleball fun and an ideal form of exercise. How about you? Have you played both? Which one do you think is more enjoyable and easier to play? I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.

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