There are two types of balls generally used: indoor and outdoor. There is also what we term a "hybrid" ball that provides an interesting option, particularly if you are just getting into the game.
When distinguishing “outdoor” from “indoor” play for shoes and balls, we are referring to the surface of play and not the fact of being inside or outside. Indoors refers to wood or polished concrete floors like in gyms. Outdoor refers to a tennis court surface, usually rough, regardless of whether the tennis court is under a roof.
Outdoor balls will generally not play well on gym floors because they are designed for the rough surface of tennis courts. Indoor balls are the opposite: good on gym floors but not designed for rougher surfaces. Hybrid balls will work on either surface.
If you are a beginner, start with a hybrid ball. The two we like are the Onix Pure 2 and Penn 40. The hybrid balls offer the best "feel" for someone getting started in the game, will generally not break, and will provide you with countless hours of enjoyable game play. Regardless of these balls being labeled as “outdoor” balls, you can also them indoors or out.
Indoor balls are the softest of the balls and will last longer than outdoor balls. Indoor balls usually do not break – they just get too soft for continued use.
Indoor balls are often provided by the facility where you will be playing. If you want to buy indoor balls, just get a 3 or 6 pack (the above options are good choices). The Jugs ball is one of the original balls used for indoor pickleball. The Onix Fuse ball is slightly harder and will give you play that is more similar to an outdoor ball (still can be used indoors though).
For outdoor play, you will usually need to have your own ball with you. Outdoor balls are made of a harder plastic and will break after some play. You will usually want to buy 6 or 12 (if not more) at a time.
The Dura Fast 40 and Franklin X-40 are the most commonly used outdoor balls. Both of these balls are made of harder plastic than the hybrid balls, will not bounce as high and will normally crack at some point. We recommend transitioning to these balls once you are ready for them or if you are playing in a tournament.
We recommend that you use one of the balls listed above. Off-brand balls will not give you the same playability.