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Home → Guide to Choosing Table Tennis Rubber

Guide to Choosing Table Tennis Rubber

Updated: February 1st, 2024

See also: Blade Buying Guide


Butterfly Dignics 09C

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on selecting the perfect table tennis rubber! Picking the right rubber requires research and understanding of what suits your needs and budget. Sometimes, you might have your heart set on a particular model, only to realize it's either beyond your budget or not quite the right fit. Remember, choosing a rubber is a highly personal decision, influenced by factors like control, feel, level of play, and budget.

Understanding the Basics

Types of Rubber Sheets

  • Inverted (Smooth) Rubber - Inverted (Smooth) Rubber Sheets are renowned for their smooth surface that expertly grips the ball, significantly enhancing spin capabilities. These rubber sheets feature a topsheet with inward-facing pimples, seamlessly "sandwiched" above a sponge layer. The topsheets are designed with variations in tackiness, elasticity, and pimple structure to accommodate different playing styles. The thickness of the sponge - typically measured in millimeters (e.g. 2.1mm) plays an important role in determining the rubber's speed and spin dynamics. In line with ITTF regulations, the combined thickness of the topsheet and sponge is restricted to 4mm.
  • Pips-Out Rubber - Pips-Out Rubber Sheets stand out in the table tennis world with their unique "legs", columns, or pimples that protrude outward. These rubber sheets come in two main varieties: the 'sandwiched' type, where the pimpled surface is bonded to a sponge or textile material, and the 'OX' type, which lacks a sponge layer. This distinction gives players the choice between a more responsive (sandwiched) or a more direct (OX) playing experience. Pips-Out Rubber Sheets offer a distinct feel and playing style, setting them apart from traditional smooth rubber. See Pips-Out Rubber.
    • Short Pimples: Their structure is less prone to bending upon ball contact, resulting in superior grip at the tip compared to medium and long pimples. This high grip makes them excellent for aggressive, attacking play, especially effective in countering spinny balls. While this kind of rubber offers less spin than traditional inverted sheets due to their pimpled surface, they excel in producing disruptive effects, like knuckle-ball or skidding motions. This makes them ideal for players who focus on direct hits and spin manipulation, adding an unexpected twist to the game. Examples of long-pimpled sheets include Victas Curl P1V, Victas VO>102 and JOOLA Express Ultra.
    • Long Pimples - longest pimples flex upon contact with the ball, enabling a range of effects from creating spin to neutralizing it, and even causing the ball to wobble in flight. One of their most notable capabilities is reversing the spin of the incoming ball, a feature that often challenges opponents. Advanced players can leverage Long Pimples for varied spin effects, not just simple spin reversal. There are three primary styles of play associated with Long Pimples.
      • The first is a blocking style, typically used in the backhand, where players use the rubber to block and induce errors in the opponent's spin reading. This style tends to slow down the ball, potentially leading to timing errors from the opponent.
      • The second style is more aggressive, initiating attacks, particularly from the backhand. In this style, the ball can skid or hit the net, making it challenging for opponents to block effectively. Players using this style often choose harder Long pimpled rubber for their attacking benefits.
      • The third style involves defensive chopping, usually employing softer long pimple rubber. This advanced technique demands quick footwork and precise control, often executed away from the table, and is known for its complexity and tactical depth.
      Examples of long-pimpled sheets include Victas Curl P2V and Butterfly Feint Long II.
  • Anti-Spin Rubbers - are a unique category in table tennis equipment. These rubber sheets are characterized by their smooth, inverted surfaces, specifically engineered to manage minimal spin. This feature makes them exceptional in creating spin variations during play, offering players a strategic advantage. They are particularly effective for spin reversal, allowing players to counteract an opponent's spin with ease. Additionally, these sheets are adept at punch blocking techniques, making them a go-to choice for defensive players who prioritize control over speed. Examples include Butterfly Super Anti and Yasaka Anti-Power. See also: Anti-Spin Rubber

Anatomy of a Rubber Sheet

  • Top Sheet
    • Types - Rubber sheets are generally categorized into two types: inverted and pimples-out, described earlier. Inverted top sheets come in two primary varieties: grippy and sticky. Sticky top sheets, often found in Chinese rubber, are known for their enhanced spin capabilities. However, many modern European and Japanese rubber sheets now feature semi-sticky top sheets, designed to emulate the spin characteristics of Chinese rubber.
    • Color - ITTF requires that one side of the racket must be black and the other side must be a bright color, distinctly different from black and from the color of the ball. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that opponents can easily distinguish between the two sides of the racket during play, which is important because the two sides can have very different surface properties that affect the spin and speed of the ball. Traditionally, the top sheet colors have been red and black, but in 2021, ITTF changed the rule to allow other colors. See also: Rubber Sheets Available in New Colors.
  • Sponge - this part that resembles foam. In accordance with ITTF equipment regulations, only inverted rubber sheets are required to have a sponge; pimple out rubber can either have a sponge layer or not. Modern sponges are typically porous, with varying pore sizes to reduce weight. The choice between soft and hard sponges comes down to personal preference and playing style. Softer sponges, compressing more easily, tend to be chosen by players who engage in more direct hits, allowing for deeper ball penetration into the sponge, which aids in generating spin and makes blocking easier. On the other hand, harder sponges cater to players seeking greater speed and power, offering a higher performance limit when subjected to strong force.

Choosing the Right Rubber for Your Playstyle

Offensive vs Defensive Rubber

The choice between offensive and defensive rubber sheets is closely tied to a player's skill level. Beginners and intermediate players often gravitate towards slower rubber sheets and blades, which offer better control and adaptability as they hone their skills. Your playing style plays a significant role in this choice. If your strategy focuses on defensive maneuvers like blocking or chopping, thinner sponge rubber is ideal for their control capabilities. Alternatively, long pimple rubber sheets are excellent for creating disruptive effects, such as spin reversal or slowing down the ball to throw off an opponent's timing.

For players who adopt a more aggressive approach, rubber rated for offense align better with their needs. These sheets are designed to enhance attacking play, offering greater speed that complements an offensive strategy. It's essential to remember that the speed and suitability of a rubber also depend on the player's level, ensuring that the equipment matches their stage of development and style of play.

Speed, Spin, and Control Ratings

Remember, each table tennis equipment manufacturer has its own unique rating system, meaning one company's ratings can't be directly compared to another's. When it comes to speed, a more straightforward approach is to categorize it as defensive, all-around, or offensive. Within these categories, there are further distinctions, often indicated by a '+' or '-' sign. For instance, 'offensive +' signifies a very fast rubber, while 'offensive -' suggests a moderately fast one.

Players need to note that control and speed are usually inversely related: generally, as the speed of a rubber increases, its control decreases. This balance is important for players to consider based on their playing style. In terms of spin, traditionally, sticky top sheets - often found in Chinese rubber - have been known for their high spin capabilities. However, many modern rubber sheets produced by Asian and European manufacturers are now highly competitive in spin, offering alternatives that can match or even rival their Chinese counterparts.

Factors to Consider When Buying

  • Thickness of the Sponge - this should align with a player's level and playing style. Players at lower levels or those who prefer defensive or blocking strategies often benefit from thinner sponges, which offer enhanced control. In contrast, attacking players or those at a more advanced level typically require thicker sponges. These provide better speed and spin, essential for an offensive playstyle.
  • Durability and Longevity - these factors greatly depend on how frequently and intensively you play. Players at higher levels, who often engage in extensive training sessions including activities like multi-ball drills, might find themselves needing to replace their rubber sheets more frequently - approximately every 3 weeks to 2 months. This quicker wear is due to the intense usage, which can reduce the rubber's grip and elasticity over time. On the other hand, average players, who might play around 2 to 3 hours for 3 days a week, generally require rubber replacements every 4 to 5 months. It's important to note that different sheets have varying levels of durability.
  • Price and Brand Reputation - Brands like Butterfly, especially with Tenergy 05, are highly popular, though brands like DHS with DHS Hurricane 3 are also favored for their affordability and usage by top Chinese players. While Butterfly rubber sheets are on the higher-priced side, European-made brands have also seen price increases. Well-known brands that offer German-made rubber sheets include XIOM, Tibhar, JOOLA, Donic, Gewo, Nittaku and Yasaka.
  • ITTF Approval for Competitions - For competition play, it's essential to use only rubber sheets that are recognized in the ITTF LARC (List of Approved Racket Coverings). This ensures that all equipment meets the standard regulations. Any modification to a rubber that could change its fundamental properties, such as speed and spin, is prohibited. The only exceptions are treatments applied during the manufacturing process. Additionally, rubber sheets exceeding a total thickness of 4mm are not permitted in competitive play. Be aware that some sheets may bear the ITTF logo but are not currently listed in the ITTF LARC. This could be due to reasons like the manufacturer not renewing the rubber's certification or discontinuation of the product. Therefore, it's advisable to regularly check the ITTF LARC to confirm the legality of your rubber for competitive matches.

Popular Brands and Recommendations


Tenergy 05 remains the best seller in Butterfly's rubber selection, but the Dignics series with sheets Dignics 05 and Dignics 09c are also very popular. For long pips, Feint Long II and Feint Long III are popular, while the Impartial XS and Impartial XB series are their well-regarded short pimple rubber sheets.

Chinese Brands

DHS Hurricane 3 Neo stands out as the most well-known Chinese rubber for high levels of play. Other popular rubber sheets include RITC Friendship Super 729 FX and Sanwei Target National.

European Brands

Victas and XIOM lead as the most popular European-made rubber brands (although both are headquartered in Asia) with their V Series and Vega series respectively. Tibhar's Evolution series, Donic's Acuda series are also highly favored. Gewo's Nexxus variants and Andro's Rasanter series are also popular. Nittaku and Yasaka, Japanese brands with European-made rubber, are well-respected, with Nittaku's Fastarc and Yasaka's Rakza series being their best-sellers. Stiga's DNA series rubber sheets are gaining popularity. Brands like Der Materialspezialist, and Sauer & Troeger, though less popular, are known for their excellent pips-out rubber.

Tips for Maintenance

Cleaning Your Rubber

It's important to clean your table tennis rubber sheets after each game. Use a wet sponge and water for cleaning, then allow the rubber to air dry. Once dry, protect them with a plastic film. For stickier Chinese rubber, a standard plastic covering works well, as it adheres easily. However, Japanese and European rubber sheets often require a stickier type of plastic film for effective protection. Remember, never use alcohol for cleaning, as it can reduce the grip of your rubber's topsheet. We recommend REvolution 3's Cleaner to keep your rubber in top shape.

Storing Your Racket/Rubber Sheets

Always store your rubber sheets in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing it to high temperatures and high-humidity, as these conditions can adversely affect the rubber's structure and longevity.

When to Replace Your Rubber

The frequency of replacing your rubber depends on how often you play. For those who play three times a week for about 2-3 hours each day, German and Japanese rubber typically need to be replaced every 3-4 months, whereas Chinese rubber could last about 4-5 months. Less frequent play will naturally extend the lifespan of your rubber.


Discovering the ideal rubber and blade for table tennis is akin to a quest for your own perfect match. Many players, especially those new to the sport, often select rubber and blades that aren't well-suited to their playing style or skill level. It's a common misconception among beginners that the fastest rubber or blade will automatically enhance their gameplay, but this isn't always the case. While online reviews can offer valuable insights and perspectives on different equipment, there's no substitute for personal experience. The best approach is to try out someone else's blade or rubber to really understand how it feels and performs. This hands-on experience is crucial as the tactile sensation and responsiveness of the equipment significantly influence your choice. Although there are widely recommended rubber sheets and blades that many players find effective, personally testing different options is the most reliable way to ensure you select the equipment that truly complements and enhances your playstyle.

Additional information

Rubber Sheets