Fins Buying Guide

What are Fins?

Fins are an important part of the diving and snorkeling experience. Our feet simply aren't made for propelling the human body through the water. Fins help us do that quickly and effortlessly. With the proper pair of fins, the legs do all the work and hands are only used to make small adjustments. While fins are important for casual snorkelers they are essential for scuba diving. With the extra drag of the scuba equipment and the necessity to precisely control movement, having the right set of fins is paramount. This guide should help you deciding on the proper fin designs and options for your watersport experience. 


Types of Foot Pockets

There are basically two types of  foot pockets used in diving and snorkeling fins , Full-Foot designs and Open Heel . Each has its special purpose and works best for certain applications.



Full-foot fins are just shoes with fins attached. They have a heel part and you simply step into them. They are generally the most flexible and comfortable, but you have to make sure they fit just right as there aren't any adjustments. Full-foot fins are primarily used for snorkeling and warm waters. They are easy to put on and off, and there is no need to wear booties.


Open Heel fins  adjustables foot pockets, are what people generally wear for scuba diving. The rubber heel is replaced by an adjustable strap around the heel that keeps the foot in place. Adjustables are generally worn with diving booties which are pretty much mandatory when diving in even moderately cool water. This means that when you buy a set of adjustable fins, you need to try them on while wearing the boots. A big advantage of adjustables is that the straps can be replaced. If a strap breaks, you don't lose the (often considerable) investment in a pair of fins. Adjustable fins are generally more heavy-duty than full-foot fins, and they provide more thrust. In order to do that, their blades are stiffer and usually larger.  Fins come in many sizes and weights. If you travel a lot and like to travel light, that can make a difference. A smaller size fin is a whole lot easier to transport.

Fin Propulsion

The Fin Blade is what develops the forward propulsion in the fin. While all fins are designed to provide forward thrust underwater, there are numerous different blade designs. The blades may have side rails to provide extra stiffness. They may combine soft and firm areas in an effort to provide maximum thrust. The blades may have vents said to reduce drag. Some seem designed on a computer and use geometric shapes whereas others seem inspired by nature. Some have ribs that can make a blade firmer and keep it from wobbling. And there are split fins that create a propeller-like effect said to increase speed at reduced effort. No two pairs of fins are alike. There are several different designs and each has a different length and stiffness that also affects the overall performance.


Blade Stiffness

The proper stiffness of the fin blade has more to do with the diver and his ability,  level and leg strength. A large diver with a strong kick that is 200lbs or heavier definatly requires a stiffer fin than a small diver that may be new to the sport and has not developed a good kick yet.  If the blade is too stiff for you to kick then it will only wear you out.


Fin Blade Styles

  Paddle Blade  These have been around the longest and are usually the least expensive.  Usually have a pretty easy kick and are generally used by snorkelers.  Depending on manufacturer and their intended use the side rails can vary quite a bit making them very flexable to really stiff.


Channel Blade  They have stiff molded side rails with a flexible center channel.  Depending on manufacturer and their intended use the side rails and center channel can vary quite a bit.  Dive instructors and store staff can be very helpful to the new diver who can't decide which to get.  Know your kick strength and budget to get the most out of your choice.

  Split Blade  With split fins you will move with less effort and can take advantage of a shorter kick, but you have less power available.  Split fins have a range where they are very efficient in terms of effort used over speed and are great for people who have ankle problems or weaker kicking.  They can save effort which equals less air being used.  The downside comes in heavy currents or when towing another diver.
  Long Blade There are longer fins made for specialty divers who have unique needs for control such as free diving  or spearfishing.  

Desirable features
Quick adjust buckles or spring straps – Some scuba fins have buckles that allow you to snug or release them quickly, which is very convenient when gearing up and getting out of the water. Spring heels use encased heavy-duty springs in place of rubber straps. They stretch to fit exactly right and never need adjusting.


  • Buy a spare strap. Unless you have spring heels, you can count on the strap eventually wearing out and breaking. Inspect and replace them regularly, but always have a spare because they will always fail right when you’re pulling them on for a dive.
  • Mark the inside of the foot pocket. You should mark all your gear, but especially your fins, since they get tossed around and mixed in with others. This can be confusing on a crowded dive boat.

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