Volleyball environments are primarily broken down into three categories — indoor, outdoor and water (just for fun). Indoor volleyball is usually played in a gymnasium and takes place on a larger court with six players on each side. Outdoor volleyball, often to referred to as beach volleyball (the professional outdoor version), is played in doubles (two per team) on a smaller court (16m x 8m). Just think how difficult and tiring it is to quickly move in sand. Scoring is also different between indoor and outdoor volleyball. Indoor has five sets (25 points) while outdoor only has three sets (15 points).
The volleyball material and design are also quite different between the two games. Indoor volleyballs are molded and designed to be smooth and consistent with glued on outer panels. They are made of leather and heavier for faster movement and striking in the more team-oriented indoor game. Outdoor volleyballs on the other hand, are sewn together with composite materials so you can visibly see the threads that hold the panels together. This is to make outdoor volleyballs tougher and waterproof/water-resistant to withstand the elements better. They are also slightly larger, softer and lighter than indoor balls allowing them to float more in the air. This allows more experienced players to take advantage of the wind and weather. The colors of the balls are usually brighter as well so they are easier to see in sunlight.
Official volleyball brands
Molten makes the official volleyballs for indoor USA Volleyball (USAV), Wilson makes the official outdoor USA volleyballs for the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), and Mikasa makes the official volleyballs for both indoor and outdoor competitions for the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball and many other leagues outside of North America. Investing in a quality volleyball can make a huge difference, and in competitive leagues it is important to have a standardized volleyball to keep things consistent and fair.
Best indoor volleyballs
For competitive indoor volleyball, you’ll likely be playing with the excellent Molten FLISTATEC Volleyball. It was picked as the official game ball for USA Volleyball (USAV), the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championships, and is FIBA approved. It is nylon wound with a premium micro-fiber composite cover. Molten’s FLISTATEC Flight Stability Technology provides consistency, balance and flight stability by optimizing the air-current around the ball and improving grip. It offers excellent performance, good visibility, and accurate passing and sets which has led to international recognition as a high performance volleyball.
Mikasa is another excellent brand with much acclaim for their high quality sports products. They produce the official volleyballs for both indoor and outdoor volleyball competitions throughout the world and many leagues outside of North America. The volleyball that is used is the Mikasa VQ2000 Micro Cell Volleyball. It is not too hard or too soft but has an excellent feel. It uses their Accu-Balance technology for true shape retention and it has a fabric center. It offers some of the best value for price and works for a range of skill levels.
If you want a volleyball for advanced and professional players, we highly recommend the Mikasa MVA200 2016 Rio Olympic Volleyball. This was also the volleyball for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the official ball chosen by FIVB for professional games. Casual players will not like this ball and will find it harder to play with, with a higher learning curve. The cover is a dimpled microfiber material that provides good grip and creates turbulence in the air to improve flight stability. Blue and yellow also give faster reaction times because they are the easiest colors to see, especially against bright fluorescent lights. It has an 8 panel swirl design that provides more contact and improves passing and control, and feels slightly denser and harder compared to 18 panel balls. This means it is less forgiving and requires more precision which can take some getting used to. For example float serves will often drop right in front of you. For advanced players who can adapt and learn to play with this volleyball, it is better overall when you hit the sweet spots. This is a great ball for setters and hitters who like to hear those satisfying thumps on contact.
For kids and adults over 12 the Tachikara SV5WSC Sensi Tec Composite High Performance Volleyball is a high quality and durable recreation ball that is great for beginners. The grip doesn’t slip when you set it and the ball feels softer and doesn’t hurt as much as a regular ball. It uses Tachikara’s Sensi-Tech composite leather (for soft touch) and patented Loose Bladder Construction (LBC) for flight stability and performance. This ball is sturdy and holds up well over time and comes in a number of bright colors. You can even use it outdoors without issue and it cleans up easily when it gets dirty.
The Wilson I-COR High Performance Indoor Volleyball is a top of the line volleyball with a Japanese full-grain leather cover and i-COR construction. This means that it uses the best cover materials, has high power/rebound latex lining (provides maximum speed after contact like a trampoline effect), and uses a butyl bladder designed for optimal air and shape retention. The inner structural layer is attached to the bladder and foundation while the outer structural layer provides the actual shape and durability for the ball. It is also USA Volleyball and NFHS approved and often used for junior high and high school games.
Another excellent model is the reasonably priced Tachikara Softec ZigZag Volleyball. This ball is more for recreational/just for fun volleyball and works well for all skill groups and ages. It features Techikara’s SoftTec technology for little to no sting when hitting which helps to encourage beginners to keep playing. You won’t be getting any more complaints about the ball hurting!
The Molten Recreational Volleyball is designed for both indoor and outdoor use and comes in a range of bright colors and a few funky designs. It is machined stitched with a tough but soft PU (leather) cover for any level of play. This is a great all-purpose volleyball for summer camps, beaches, or any type of recreational play. It is a bit more bouncy than regular balls and it won’t hurt nearly as much if you get spiked in the face. This ball is not for competitive play.
Best outdoor volleyballs
Outdoor volleyball is also often referred to as beach volleyball. It’s great fun, good exercise and competitive (plus a good tan). But it is important to bring a volleyball that is designed to hold up to wind, water, sun and sand or you might find it falling apart or getting heavy from absorbing too much water and moisture. Below we have included the best outdoor/beach volleyballs that cater to different levels of play.
The official outdoor game ball for the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) is the conveniently named Wilson Official AVP Outdoor Game Volleyball. It is designed for competitive matches and features a premium microfiber composite leather cover with an 18-panel hand sewn construction for superior beach performance. This cover is able to resist dirt, wind and moisture and provides long lasting durability for heavy usage. There is also a butyl bladder for better rebound and air retention and yellow branding to improve visibility. This ball has become a favorite among beach volleyball players and can last through many years of play. The major complaint against this ball is that it can feel waterlogged and heavy if it falls into a pool of water. Compare that to the King of The beach below that feels full waterproof.
The Spalding King of the Beach Volleyball is the official volleyball of the King of the Beach tour and other USA beach tournaments. It is hand switched with an 18 panel, all-weather composite cover. This is the go-to beach volleyball for many elite players around the world. Some players prefer this ball over the Wilson because it does a better job and is easier to control when wet. Many players report it seems to be waterproof and plays and feels the same even after landing in pools or water. The downside is that it tends to wear out faster and doesn’t look as good over time. The branding and colors fade quickly and it starts to look permanently dirty, even though it still functions the same and is only the aesthetics that wears down. If you are playing outside and there’s a decent chance it might get hit into water, go with this ball.
The official beach volleyball of the FIVB is the Mikasa Beach Champ Volleyball. It has reinforced, double cloth panels to maintain a perfect spherical shape and a durable, water resistant outside cover for less weight fluctuations. The feel is solid and hard but with little sting and a nice grippy texture which makes it feel quite different. It utilizes a a unique curved 10 panel design to enhance sturdiness and provide better control for passing and hitting. This makes it easy to play with and it consistently ranks as one of the top beach volleyballs on the market. Many players in fact prefer this ball over the Wilson AVP and Spalding KOB.
The Molten Elite Beach Volleyball (BV5000) is FIVB Approved and the official volleyball of NORCECA. It has a hand-stitched soft polyurethane cover and sealed valve and tends to feel lighter, softer and floats more. A nice and durable alternative to the top three choices.
For beginner and intermediate players, we have the Wilson Soft Play Outdoor Volleyball. This rubber ball has a synthetic cover and utilizes Wilson’s SoftPlay technology. It utilizes an 18 panel machine sewn construction and a sponge backed cover for a softer feel. For some casual fun with friends this is a perfect choice and ideal as an intro volleyball. The feeling is soft enough not to hurt hands and wrists but still provides enough heft and weight to feel like a regulation ball. Holds air well and is very durable and should last you years.
We wrote about the Molten Recreational Volleyball earlier but we’ll bring it up again here because it is designed for both indoor and outdoor use. It comes in a range of bright colors and a few funky designs. It is machined stitched with a tough but soft PU (leather) cover for any level of play. This is a great all-purpose volleyball for summer camps, beaches, or any type of recreational play. It is a bit more bouncy than regular balls and it won’t hurt nearly as much if you get spiked in the face. This ball is not for competitive play.
A great friend, but an even better ball. If you love Cast Away and you love volleyball, the Wilson Cast Away Volleyball is a no brainer. You need it. While it is a replica version of Wilson from the movie, it’s still a fantastic ball. A synthetic leather cover and 18 panel machine sewn construction provide enhanced durability, with a butyl bladder for better air retention. The price is very reasonable especially for the amount of heads you’ll turn with this at the beach. Plus it’s great for one-sided conversations.
Best training volleyballs
One of the best training volleyballs is the Mikasa MGV500 Heavy Weight Volleyball. It weighs in at a heavy 16 oz and has a nice composite cover and soft feel. This is a setters training ball that can help both novice and advanced players strengthen their hands, wrists and fingers and improve ball control. A regulation volleyball weighs 10 oz, so this ball is noticeably heavier which helps to learn proper setting techniques. Mikasa, as usual, is a great brand and has made an excellent training volleyball here.
Another high quality weighted training volleyball is the Tachikara TB-18, The Setter. Its listed weight is 15.7 – 17.5 oz which is 75% heavier than standard regulation volleyballs. It uses a butyl bladder for better air retention and the cover is made from their Sensi-Tech micro-fiber leather composite. The ball has excellent feel and will help any setter increase the strength of their arms, hands and fingers.
A different sort of volleyball training tool is the Tandem Sports Volleyball Pal. As you can see in the picture, this consists of a velcro strap that goes around the waist and connects via elastic cord to a neoprene pouch holding the ball. This allows the player to practice their serves or arm swings without having to chase down the volleyball. The elastic cord pulls the volleyball back after being hit allowing for faster and more focused practice sessions without needing another person. Our one concern is that if you are too tall the elastic might be too short for a proper overhand serve or it might pull the volleyball back very quickly.
Best volleyballs for kids
When playing volleyball with kids (ages 12 and under), you need a volleyball that is lighter and softer so kids don’t get hurt or discouraged. You want to them to have fun and to practice without their hands and wrists getting too sore. Plus, kids grow at different speeds and you want a softer volleyball to make it easier and fair for everyone. We recommend the Tachikara SV-MNC Volley-Lite Volleyball because of its lighter weight composite design and soft Sensi-Tech synthetic cover. It is the same size as a standard regulation volleyball but a bit lighter and spongy. Regulation volleyballs can hurt hands and wrists especially for younger kids who are practicing a lot and not used to playing. This volleyball allows your young ones to be more successful when serving, bumping and spiking helping to boost their confidence. This is a quality volleyball at a very reasonable price! Your kids will have fun with these!
Our runner-up is the Molten VBU12 Light Volleyball which is also a lighter and softer volleyball that is ideal for kids 12 and under. It uses a soft micro-fiber composite cover that won’t sting your kids hands. This volleyball is also USYVL Approved and is great for volleyball club practices. If you want a similar volleyball but a bit cheaper, take a look at the Molten Light Touch Volleyball.
Best pool volleyballs
The thing about pool volleyballs is that you don’t want them to hurt, they need to be waterproof and they need to be lighter and easy to play with. For this, we recommend the Mikasa Squish No-Sting Volleyball. This is the best pool volleyball we could find that is specifically for use in the water. It is lighter than a regulation volleyball and made of different materials to reduce the “sting” when your are hit. It’s perfect for casual play and for something lighter to hit around with a group of people for fun and any skill level. It weighs about 9 oz when inflated and comes in an assortment of bright colors. If you want a volleyball for the beach or park, take a look at the best outdoor volleyballs we recommended above.
Another option is the Dunn-Rite Water Volleyball which is a bit harder and has a more rubbery feel. It is still decent quality and waterproof for use in the pool, but we prefer the Mikasa Squish.
Best volleyball air pump
When you buy a volleyball it often doesn’t come pumped, especially if you buy it online. Volleyballs also lose their air over time and need to be regularly pumped to keep them optimally inflated. The best air pump we could find is the Tachikara TP20 Dual-Action Inflation Pump. This eight inch handheld pump quickly injects air with both push and pull of the piston inside. This dual action makes pumping twice as fast and efficient. Often pumps will lose their seal over time, hoses will break or interior valves will stop working. This pump however, is very well built, sturdy and portable which makes it perfect for any situation and why we picked it as our favorite over other pumps. The needle also slots in nicely at the top of the handle (remove the sticker) so it doesn’t get lost and you don’t have to wonder where you put it. This means you don’t need to keep everything together in a bag and can put this little pump in your car or garage. This air pump is also surprisingly inexpensive and a great option in any home or vehicle emergency kit.