Table tennis rubbers are critical to your game because they control how the ball behaves with every stroke. But there are hundreds of different kinds and options, and it can be difficult to understand how they work or what to choose for your game.
In this guide we’re going to help you choose the best table tennis rubber for your game and recommend you some of our favorites for you to try next.
Table of Contents
The 7 Best Ping Pong Rubbers in 2021
Table Tennis Rubber Buying Guide
Before we move on to our table tennis rubber reviews later on in this post, we have Ping Pong Ruler’s guide to table tennis rubbers and what you need to know if it’s your first time putting together your own custom racket.
What is a table tennis rubber?
A table tennis rubber is the rubber surface of your ping pong paddle. It’s the part of the bat that impacts the ball with every stroke. It was first used on a racket in 1901 and then in the 1950s players started adding a layer of sponge between the rubber top sheet and the wood blade.
When we talk about a table tennis rubber today, we’re often referring to the combination of the sponge and the rubber topsheet. They quite often come already stuck together although you can purchase them separately.
What does the table tennis rubber do?
The rubber has a big influence on the ball’s speed when you hit it. It can absorb and reduce the speed of the ball slowing down your opponent’s attacks or helping you go on the offensive by bringing more power to play more shots with speed.
It also has a big impact on how much spin you can place on the ball. The stickier the rubber is (the tackiness) causes the ball to maintain contact for longer (the dwell time) which then allows you to generate different types of spin.
In short, the rubber you use can determine how the ball behaves after you hit it.
The three parts of a table tennis rubber
There are two main parts of a table tennis rubber but there are many variations in thicknesses and tackiness or different types of pimples. We’ll break down each part below and talk about how this affects the ball and which type of player it might suit.
The sponge layer
As we mentioned earlier, when people talk about a table tennis rubber, they’re not only referring to the outer red and black topsheet but also the layer of sponge between the rubber and the blade.
As a general rule, the thicker this sponge layer is, the more powerful and faster the ball bounces off the face of the bat. The thinner the sponge is, the slower and more controlled the bounce will be. The thickness of the sponge tends to vary between 1mm to 2.5mm.
Offensive players will often prefer to play with a thicker sponge (over 2.0mm) as this causes the ball to ping off the bat faster and give them more power. Defensive players tend to prefer thinner sponge or no sponge at all as this slows the ball down.
For table tennis beginners or all-around players, it’s better to use a bat with a sponge thickness of 1.5 to 1.9mm to give you more control over your shots.
The sponge layer can come in different levels of hardness as well. The harder the sponge the more it will bounce off the bat and the more power you’ll be able to generate to get more speed. And vice versa, soft sponges will slow the ball down and give you more control but less speed.
The rubber top sheet
Sitting on top of the layer of sponge is the rubber top sheet. This is typically red or black in color (although you can get them in all different sorts of colors) and has pimples (which we’ll look at next).
All table tennis rubbers have ‘pimples’ (also called pips) which are little nubs of rubber that point out (or in) from the flat surface of the rubber background. Pimples help the rubber be more responsive while reducing the surface area that makes contact with the ball. However, the pimples can be facing inward so that the smooth side of the rubber is hitting the ball.
The different types of table tennis rubbers
There are a number of different variations of rubbers that are suited to different styles of players. Some suit more attacking players who want more power while others are better for defensive players who want more spin and control.
When the pips are facing inward towards the sponge with a smooth outer surface, it is called an ‘inverted’ or ‘pimples-in’ rubber. These are the most popular type of table tennis rubber, as they allow for a wider range of strokes and playing styles. Because the ball is making contact with a flat surface (as the pimples are all pointing inwards) the surface area to contact the ball is larger so you’ll get a lot more control over the ball.
We always recommend going for an inverted pimples rubber when starting out as you’ll have more control and can get used to the types of strokes and movement of the ball.
Pimples-out rubber: Long and short
When the pimples are facing outward it’s called a ‘pimples-out’ table tennis rubber. Pimples out rubbers have less surface area in contact with the ball so they have less friction and grip. This means you’ll have less control over the ball which we don’t recommend for table tennis beginners. If in doubt go with ‘pimples in’ to start with before trying ‘pimples out’ as you progress.
Pimpled rubbers can come with pimples in different lengths: short or long. Short pimples out have tacky ends with less grip and less friction. These kinds of rubber reduce the effect of incoming spin and are preferred for smashing and blocking.
The other type is to have longer pimples. This slows and reduces incoming spin giving you greater control when returning shots. It can also allow you to reverse the direction of the ball’s spin and create unpredictable spin. Long pimples with little to no sponge are preferred by defensive players who want the greatest amount of control.
What is a tacky rubber?
Tacky rubbers are the most popular type and it means that rubber is sticky. They have a lot of surface area impacting the ball, with a smooth, slightly sticky surface that allows the player to generate more spin as the table tennis ball grips the bat more when making contact. The downside to using very tacky rubbers is that they are affected by your opponent’s spin.
The video below shows how tacky a rubber can be. Tacky rubbers, however, pick up a lot more dust and can wear out quicker than others. You’ll need to clean your ping pong paddle more regularly if you have a very tacky rubber.
What is an anti-spin rubber?
Anti-spin rubbers are made to have a slippery surface that reduces friction and generates little to no spin. This kind of table tennis rubber will tend to cause the spin to reverse. For example, if your opponent sends a topspin shot at you, returning it with an anti-spin rubber will often have backspin on it. They tend to be coupled with a very soft sponge which slows the ball down and is popular with defensive players
ITTF approved rubbers
If you want to play in an official tournament you’ll need to get an ITTF approved (International Table Tennis Federation) rubber. This requires that the rubber you use meets two requirements.
It has to be the approved colors
The rules of table tennis require that one side of the paddle be bright red, and the other be black. It’s common for professionals to use a different playing style of rubber on each side of their paddle so they can vary the type of shot they want to hit. Players will ‘twiddle’ their bat during play to use the side that best suits the particular stroke they want to hit. This is why the bat has to be different colors so that their opponent can know what sort of shot to expect.
That being said the ITTF has announced that they will be allowing rubbers of different colors soon so we might find other colors popping up more and more soon.
It has to be an ITTF authorized rubber
Only rubbers with the ITTF logo (shown in the image above) can be used during official table tennis tournament play. This means that they’ve reviewed the specifications and it meets all the requirements and so can have the logo. However, the list of authorized rubber is updated about every six months, and simply having the logo doesn’t mean that your rubbers are still authorized.
For tournament play, you need to check the list of authorized rubbers on the ITTF website periodically to make sure that your rubbers are still allowed to be used.
Changing and replacing your rubber
There are two types of table tennis paddles: those made with a permanent rubber which cannot be replaced when it wears out and those made with a rubber that can be replaced over time when it gets old or damaged. This is the best option if you have a blade that you like and works well in your hand, but the sponge or rubber has broken down over time and doesn’t impart the desired amount of speed or spin.
If you want to change your rubber check out our easy step by step guide to replacing your table tennis rubber here.
For newer or intermediate players who may be looking for the best ping pong rubbers, it’s not a good idea to change rubber as you try out different types. Because different rubber types behave so differently, your playing style has to adapt with every new rubber, and it isn’t a good way to learn.
Instead, it’s a better idea to work on your technique and basic skills, and then choose the rubber that is best suited for your playing style and not the other way around. Even if you are happy with your rubber, it will naturally deteriorate over time with most casual players needing to replace their rubber once or twice a year.
To read more about pairing rubbers and blades check out our post on the best table tennis blades in 2021 here.
Our Top Table Tennis Rubbers Reviews
Now that we’ve learnt about how they all work we’ll take a look at some of our best rated table tennis rubbers in 2021. It’s worth mentioning that there are hundreds of rubbers available and then when you look at pairing them with blades the possible combinations are huge. The below are a few options that we’ve tried and enjoyed playing with but are not necessarily the best for you and your play style.
Don’t forget that you’ll need to purchase two rubbers, one red and one black for each side of your blade.
#1. Butterfly Tenergy 05 (Our favorite)
If you’re looking to try out a new rubber then we highly recommend you take a look at the Butterfly Tenergy 05. It’s used by players such as Timo Boll and is favored world wide with players looking for a high tension, tacky rubber to play with.
The Tenergy 05 was one of the first rubbers to use ‘Spring Sponge’ technology that gives the ball a longer dwell time and therefore allows you to get a lot more spin on the ball. We currently use it on our forehand and love how easy it is generate topspin and you’ll notice it instantly. It’s also available as the Butterfly Tenergy 05 FX (check price here) which is a little lighter, slower and less spinny and has a softer feel than the regular version. Then you also have the Butterfly Tenergy 05 Hard (check price here) which is even faster and heavier so better suits hyper aggressive players.
If you’re an offensive player who likes to generate topspin and speed then check out the Tenergy 05. You won’t be disappointed.
#2. Yasaka Mark V
No list of the best table tennis rubbers would be complete without mentioning the Yasaka Mark V. It’s probably the most used table tennis rubber in the world and since its introduction over 3 decades ago, it’s been used by some of the best table tennis players in the world and beginners alike.
It’s an ideal option for beginners building their first custom paddle (we recommend going for a thinner thickness) but is also very popular with advanced players who want to retain good control and reasonable spin.
The Mark V is an incredibly durable rubber that will last a long time and while it’s not the fastest one we’ve played with, it’s one that we highly recommend, even for offensive table tennis players (just get a thicker version).
#3. DHS NEO Hurricane 3 (Budget choice)
Up next we have the DHS Hurricane 3 Neo which is a very popular classic Chinese rubber. It has a particularly tacky topsheet on top of a hard sponge which is standard for the Chinese style of players. As a result, it’s a great choice for players who like to play top spin shots and want goodw control when placing the ball.
When it comes to speed the DHS Hurricane 3 Neo is very receptive to your stroke. If you play a slow, passive shot it will be slow, but if you use more power it reacts to your input and the result can be a lot of speed.
The downside is that you’ll have to work a lot harder to create the speed so it can be tiring and not easy to play with for beginners. We’d say the DHS Hurricane 3 Neo could be a good option for players who like to play close the table and don’t want to spend a fortune as it’s a very reasonable price.
#4. Butterfly Dignics 05
Up next we have the Butterfly Dignics 05 which is the most expensive table tennis rubber on our list. It’s was released in 2019 as a high speed and spin rubber that uses the same inverted pimple shape as the Butterfly Tenergy 05 but with an advanced Spring Sponge X technology that has more elasticity allowing you to generate even more spin and speed for very attacking players. This rubber is not for beginners and will really catapult the ball off the face of the racket and is not easy to control at all.
It’s above average when it comes to durability so you won’t be replacing these too often but, the one downside is the price which is very expensive. It can start a costly habit switching to Dignics but if you have the budget definitely give them a try as the reviews of players are very, very good.
#5. Yasaka Rakza 7
Another great rubber, is the Yasaka Rakza 7 from the same Japanese table tennis brand as the Mark V. It’s a fast and spinny medium hard rubber that grips the ball well and has more control than some of the other rubbers. If you don’t like the catapult affect of rubbers like the Butterfly Tenergy and Dignics rubbers then you’ll like this one and is perfect for non professional players.
The Yasaka Rakza 7 is also at a very affordable price point but the one downside of this rubber is its durability which reviewers have mentioned isn’t quite what you’d expect. The Rakza 7 will definitely require cleaning to extend its lifetime and keep it in the best condition possible.
#6. Tibhar Evolution MX-P
If you wanted to try something similar to the Butterfyl Tenergy 05 but at a cheaper price point, then we’d suggest taking a look at its rival the Tibhar Evolution MX-P table tennis rubber. Since its release back in 2012 the Evolution MX-P has been a very popular option for players looking for high speed and spin without loosing all sense of control over the ball.
MX-P stands for max power and if you’ve tried these rubbers then you’ll understand why. It’s very, very fast and without the Tibhar branding you’d think it was a Tenergy rubber. It’s also available in a few other models like the Evolution MX-S (Max spin) or if you like even faster and more spin harder check out the Evolution MX-P 50 which has a harder sponge.
The one downside is the durability which is a little bit below average when it comes to the lifespan of the rubber but still considering the cheaper price tag we think the Tibhar Evolution Mx-P is definitely worth checking out.
#7. Xiom Vega Pro
Last, but by no means least is the Xiom Vega Pro which is a highly durable and affordable table tennis rubber for those looking for an all round option for their game. It’s a lot more controllable than the high speed Tenergy rubbers so is much more suited to an intermediate player who doesn’t like the catapult affect that some fast rubbers give.
The Vega Pro is for those looking for lots of spin in their shots but if you’re looking for more control check out the Xiom Vega Europe which is softer with even more control and an ideal choice for kids or beginners.
There are hundreds of different types of table tennis rubbers and there is no ‘best’ rubber for table tennis. Only the best ping pong rubber for your particular playing style, ability and what feels right for you. Knowing all the different options will help you consider and choose the right rubber for your table tennis game.
That being said, when looking at which rubbers get rave reviews from table tennis players at different abilities and levels we can start to narrow down which ones are going to be good for you.
In our opinion the Butterfly Tenergy 05 is one that offensive and advanced players should definitely try out. It’s a real speed and spin daemon and you’ll notice it’s quality instantly. For an even faster rubber we’d recommend the Butterfly Diginics 05 which is unreal and definitely not for beginners!
Try them out for a few months and then try out something else and see which ones feel right. You can also try them on different blades and they’ll feel totally different!