Football is a surprisingly versatile sport when you consider the ways in which it can be played. For example, what usually comes to mind is probably professional or college football and players with helmets, padding, and all the necessary equipment. Or maybe you think of high school football or a neighborhood league. But you can also play flag football in the park, touch football on the beach, or just toss the ball around in the backyard.
Top Football Comparison Chart
No matter how you choose to play, the one thing you will definitely need is a football. You might think all footballs are the same, but that’s not true. There is a football for any kind of play. Here’s a round-up of nine of the best and some information about how you can pick the one that’s right for you.
Football Buying Guide
Most footballs have four panels, eight lacings, and two white stripes. But some are neon colored. Some have ridges. Some are weatherproof and some need to be cared for. There’s even a football that syncs with your smartphone to keep track of stats and progress. While a football might seem like an easy thing to buy, there are actually a few key things to consider.
Footballs are typically made from three different materials: leather, composites, or foam. There are pros and cons for each.
Leather is what official National Football League (NFL) balls are made of. The leather is put through a special tanning process that makes them tacky and easier to grip. They’re of the highest quality and will last a long time if you care for them the right way. They have the most effective grip and are what modern football gloves are made for.
Initially, they’ll need some polishing right out of the box to get the grip to where it should be. If you want to make sure your leather football lasts a long time, you’ll have to apply leather conditioner occasionally, keep it clean, and and store it somewhere with good ventilation that’s not too hot or cold. Make sure the leather doesn’t crack or dry out. Some leather footballs are water resistant and can be used in the rain, but make sure to let them dry completely before putting them into a bag. They’ll need to air out a bit. While most leather footballs can stand some water exposure, it’s probably not a good idea to play with one where it will be exposed to water for extended periods of time, like in a pool or in the water at the beach. Leather footballs are intended to be used on turf or grass.
Composite footballs are basically made of fake leather. They vary in quality, some can look and feel almost identical to leather and some will be a little less refined. Composite footballs don’t require the upkeep that leather ones do and are much more tolerant to water and weather. They’re not as expensive as leather footballs, but the quality isn’t quite as high. The material is textured, making it easy to grip, but they usually don’t handle very well when they’re wet unless they have an additional special coating. They’re more durable than leather footballs and can take a little more rough play.
Foam footballs are a bit different from the other kind. They’re not typically used in any sort of official capacity as most leagues and schools prefer real leather or composite. But they are ideal for kids or just for a game of catch in the yard. They’re soft, inexpensive, and completely water friendly. Foam footballs are a great choice for kids just learning how to throw and catch. They’re soft and forgiving so there’s less chance of injury.
Size is important because, in order to throw the ball effectively and achieve a good spiral, you have to be able to get a firm grip on it. There are a few size options when it comes to footballs. Footballs that are labeled “official size” are the same weight and dimensions as the balls used in the NFL or NCAA. Other footballs might be adult sized but not conform to the exact measurements of the official footballs. They also make youth balls and pee wee balls for little kids who are just learning how to play. These balls are the perfect size for smaller hands to learn how to throw a spiral.
There are some nice options available on some footballs. You can get one with your favorite professional or college sports team’s logo on it. Some footballs glow in the dark and others have blank, flat white panels to collect autographs on. Some brands will even laser print your name, jersey number, or phrase onto a ball when you order it. Footballs have even started being equipped with advanced technology, using an app on your smartphone to let you know how much your gameplay has improved. You don’t necessarily need any of these things to play a successful game, but a few of the features available might be something you never thought you could find on a football and could be perfect for you or as a gift for a football lover. (One thing to note, autograph balls were not included in this list as it focuses on footballs used for playing. The white part of an autograph ball is meant to be signed by the athlete and then usually put on display and generally not played with.)
Like anything else, you don’t always need to go with the more expensive brand name when buying a football, but the quality is typically higher than generic or unrecognized brands. How much you want to pay and what brand to buy depend on who is using the ball and what they’re using it for. For example, it might not be a good idea to give your child an official game ball for his birthday and your spouse a neon foam football as a gift. Keep in mind that if you’re going to play hard with it, the ball will get more wear and tear. A cheaper brand might need replacing more often, but if it’s going to be used primarily by children, you might need to replace it every season anyway. Find a balance between quality and cost and pick the one that makes the most sense for you.
Once you’ve considered all of these things, you should have a good idea of what kind of football is a good fit and be able to find an appropriate option from our selections.
Best Football Reviews
This is an official game ball of the NFL with deep texture for enhanced grip. It has a three ply VPU bladder and strong double lacing. Because it is the official size and weight of an NFL game ball and bears the signature stamp of the NFL commissioner, this ball is more expensive than an average football. But it’s strong, durable, and the perfect choice for a die hard NFL fan.
It should be noted that, because this ball is leather, it will require some care immediately out of the box. The ball won’t look like a standard game ball when you first get it, it will look more dull and pale. This is normal. Care instructions are included which will instruct you on how to use water, a brush, and pressure to restore the tacky grip and get it to that familiar brown color. Some red dye will come off during this process, so be sure to use an old towel or something disposable when completing this process.
- Official NFL game ball
- Strong and durable
- High quality
- Requires initial care and ongoing maintenance to properly care for leather
- Should not expose to water for long periods of time
If you’re looking for a more reasonably priced leather football, consider the Spalding TF-Gold Varsity Top Grain Leather Full Size Premium Football. It has a leather cover for good grip and is made in a lighter color than other leather balls for higher visibility. It’s rubberized laces provide better grip and the water resistant lining makes sure it doesn’t absorb water, allowing its weight to stay consistent in poor weather. It’s four ply bladder really retains its shape well and it holds air so it won’t need to be reinflated frequently.
This ball offers all the benefits of more expensive leather balls at a price that’s a little more reasonable. It’s not an official NFL ball, but its a great ball for middle and high school games.
- More affordable leather options
- Water resistant
- Some maintenance
This offering from Nike is a favorite of quarterbacks. With it’s synthetic leather cover and tacky finish, it’s easy to hold on to. It has a spiral design to help get better height and distance along with more accurate aiming. It’s a great ball in most weather conditions and it maintains its shape and holds air well.
This is a good all around ball because it’s a good price, it’s easy to catch, and easy to throw. It’s a simple, straightforward ball that is great for most situations and it comes at a reasonable price.
- Good grip
- Easy to throw
- Not real leather
- Does not feel like an official game ball
This is a really strong and durable ball that can really take a beating. It has amazing air retention and will be able to maintain it’s shape no matter how hard you play. The thick composite cover has a laminated construction that makes it weather resistant and it can handle play on any surface. It has a great grip so it’s easy to throw and use in the wettest, coldest weather.
The Spalding J5V Advance Composite Leather Ball is a great all around ball that quarterbacks will love to throw, receivers will love to catch, and kickers will love to kick.
The Wilson NFL Super Grip Official Football is one of the brand’s lower cost options. It’s top of the line Wilson quality at a great price. This one is an official NFL sized ball and even has NFL branding on it. It’s high quality, composite leather construction is extremely durable and it has a multi-layered lining to help it maintain its shape.
This ball has good grip, but it doesn’t have the same feel as a real leather ball or even some other composite balls. The grip wears quicker than it will on other composite balls, but it’s such a good price that it won’t be too financially burdensome to get another one. This would be a good ball for kids or to take on a trip. It most likely won’t last for more than one or two seasons, but it’s still a great ball for the price.
- Lower cost Wilson brand option
- Not real leather
- Only lasts one or two seasons
The Under Armour Gripskin 625 football is a great ball to take to the beach. It has a unique spongetech cover that gives it excellent grip even when it’s wet. It’s called “gripskin” because it promises ultimate tack and grip in all kinds of weather, including in the ocean or inside a pool.
It’s a regulation-sized football so it’s large and may not fit the small hands of younger children, but the enhanced grip makes it a little easier for them to catch and hang on to than some other footballs. It’s not real leather, but you’d never really know. It arrives in the packaging inflated and ready to go. There’s no special care required for this ball, you can open the package and take it right to the beach to play.
- Good grip
- Not real leather
This is a junior sized football that’s perfect for those kids that just don’t want to stop playing. It has high visibility panels and glows in the dark. This is a good ball for kids who are just learning how to play. It’s smaller size will help them learn how to hold onto and throw the ball properly and also how to catch. But it’s also big enough that adults can play with their kids without having any trouble.
The surface is a little smooth, especially if it gets wet, so the grip is not as good as some other options. The glow in the dark feature is good for football games that last until the sun starts going down, but it has mixed results for how bright it glows at night.
- Glows in the dark
- Junior size for kids
- Reasonable price
- Smooth surface makes it a little difficult to grip
The POOF foam football has grooves in it for better grip so it can be thrown more accurately. This ball is a great way to introduce someone to the game because it’s lightweight, easy to throw, and not so heavy that it will hurt to catch. Because it’s foam, it’s safe to play with anywhere – in the pool or in the ocean that beach. It’s also a great ball to use for indoor school sports programs or gym classes.
Because it’s made of foam, it won’t hold up very well to wear and tear. It could easily tear or be ripped apart if a young child or pet gets a hold of it. You may not even get one season out of this ball, but it’s exceptionally affordable and won’t cost much to replace.
- Safe for water play
- Will need frequent replacing
If you’re looking for a football that takes it to the next level, you’ve found it. This football syncs with a smartphone app and gives user five different games modes to play: QB Warm Up, Elimination Mode, Precision Mode, Game Time, and Final Drive Mode. It then tracks each throw, recording the spin rate, velocity, spiral, and distance. The ball never needs charging so it’s always ready to go.
The app keeps score for up to eight players, and the point of the game is to meet targets in various parameters. Players who don’t meet the targets are eliminated from the game.
This is certainly not a football for everyone. If you’re just looking for a ball to throw around in a game at the park, you should think about a different option. But, if you’re interested in recording and tracking your stats, this ball can provide you with a lot of information that you won’t find anywhere else. It could also be a good motivator for people who are really into playing video games to get outside and integrate real-life play with technology.
- Pairs with any smartphone
- Monitors stats
- Keeps score for competitive game modes
- Some features unnecessary if you just want a ball to play with
Conclusion & Recommendations
That’s the list of our nine best footballs of 2017. Once you figure out the way you’re going to play, you’ll be able to see which one is the best fit for you.
If you’re looking for a high quality, real leather option that’s an official ball of the NFL, then the Wilson “The Duke” Official Game Ball is a great choice. But If you want a real leather ball that’s a little less pricey, the Spalding TF-Gold Varsity Top Grain Leather Full Size Premium Football is a great choice.
There are a lot of great options for composite leather balls. The Nike Spiral Tech 3.0 Official Football is billed as a quarterback’s favorite thanks to its good grip and how easy it is to throw. The Spalding J5V Advance Composite Leather Football is great for even the coldest, wettest weather. The Wilson NFL Super Grip Official Football is a reasonably priced option from one of the top brands with great grip and multiple layered lining to help it maintain its shape and last a long time.
The Under Armour Gripskin 625 Football is the perfect ball for the beach thanks to its spongetech cover that gives it exceptional grip. The Poof Spiral Football is a foam ball that’s perfect for the beach, too, and is so inexpensive, it won’t be a problem to replace it if it gets lost or damaged.
The Franklin Sports NIght Lightning Football is a junior size and glows in the dark, making it the perfect choice for kids who want to keep playing into the summer evenings.
If you want to take it up a notch, the Wilson X Connected Football syncs to a smartphone app and can not only give you stats about your throw but can also keep track of eight profiles so you can play against your friends.
As you can see, there are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing a football. Use this list to help you figure out which is the best one for you.