A Basic Guide To Choosing Scuba Fins

A Basic Guide To Choosing Scuba Fins

Black scuba fins

- Parinya Keawkum

Scuba fins are one of the most important scuba investments you will make.

There are many options and it’s all down to personal preference. What is your swimming style? Do you want power or economy of effort?

Will you be mostly shore or boat diving? Will you be travelling with them often?

Let’s look at what to think about when choosing your fins.

Here's our article about  Dive Gear: When To Buy What.

Foot vs. open heel

Full foot fins fit like a shoe. They are great if you’re looking for something for dive travel and are not shore diving. They are lighter than pocket fins and do not require booties so the energy needed to swim is reduced.

Open heel fins work with a range of foot sizes but require a bootie to be worn.

I prefer open heel fins for shore diving because you can walk out with your booties and put the fins on later. Personally I find they are more comfortable if you are spending a lot of time in the water.

Scuba fins left on the sand

Full foot scuba fins - Credit: EmiDelliZuani

Buckles vs. straps

There are a few different ways open heel fins can be attached to your feet. A basic buckle lets you adjust fin tension once your foot is inside. I am not a fan of these as I find they can start to loosen after a while.

Some types of buckles have a quick release so you can adjust the fit once and then never have to change it. These are easier to put on while in the water than most full foot or basic strap fins.

Here's more on Finning Techniques – How To Get The Most Propulsion From Your Kick.

I Love my spring kit system which entirely replaces the buckle and straps originally supplied with my fins. Spring tension cannot be adjusted, so I took my fins and booties into the shop and tried several sets before I found the right size.

Now I can put my fins on in seconds and they remain comfortable and secure for my entire dive.

Scuba fins straps closed

Fin straps closed - Credit: Torben Lonne

Blade Style

Now what about blade style? There are a lot of options, the most common of which I’ve tried to group into categories. The best one for use depends on where you want to use it, its weight, and your swimming style.

Standard paddle fin

Your basic flat surface fin, usually with some reinforcement on the sides to keep water on the fin and provide greater strength.

Channel or Jet fins

Channel fins have different designs designed to contain water efficiently and releasing it as a focused ‘jet’. They are more popular with professional and technical divers than with novices. They tend to be heavy, which can help maintain balance if you are kneeling to teach, but makes them less convenient to travel with.

Here's an Equipment Review on Turtle Fins.

They work well with various swimming styles, but I find they are the best for power when using frog kicks.

Split

Split fins are inspired by fish fins, split up the middle to reduce drag. They provide better propulsion than a single blade fin with less effort. Some people find them too floppy, but it all depends on how you swim with them.

I get the most speed when using long vertical kicks. When I am guiding I can also use an unconventional horizontal side-to-side style to move slowly while not disturbing sand or silt.

In case you disturb sand and silt, Here's How To Survive A Silt-Out

Split type design scuba fins

Split type scuba fins inspired by fish fins - Credit: Torben Lonne

Force Fins

Look a bit like a whale tail, and are supposed to provide the best power. They are light and efficient and cost an arm and a leg. Swim with a short flutter stroke for best effect.

Hinged Fins

Hinged fins have a pivot point where the foot meets the blade allowing the angle to be adjusted according to your needs. They are also useful for shore diving as the fin can be worn with the blade lifted out of the way allowing you to walk more easily.

Final Thoughts

I believe that good, comfortable fins are second only to a comfortable mask when diving. They are one of the most important equipment purchases you will make.

Rented scuba fins

Rented scuba fins are best for trying out - Credit: Oculo

I always recommend renting or borrowing several different kinds of dive equipment and trying it out before purchase.

Finally, always try new fins on before getting into the water and kick your foot a bit to make sure it stays on!

What kind of fin do you use? Tell us why you use this specific fin, what do you like about it? Leave a comment below! 

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3 Comments

  1. Edit Lee

    I have the jet fins. they are heavy, but always works in any condition. Not suitable for travel hence the weight, but perfect for any type of diving.
    With other fins my legs tend to go upwards in the water, with the jet’s it’s not so bad.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      No jet fins are not perfect for travel, but darn they are good for diving! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rob C.

    When I started snorkeling more than 25 years ago, I used a full foot type of fin and it was good for ponds or pools. I ditched those about 20 years ago and got a set of Scubapro Jetfins and have been using them ever since. I am 6’6″ tall, roughly 200lbs. and ride a 24″ bmx a lot (no foolin, close to 10 miles a day A LOT) to help condition my legs for the punishment those ducted foot anchors put on them, especially the calf muscles. They are a quality fin. I’ve been through 3 pairs of boots but have been using those fins with the original heel straps since I purchased them back in the mid 1990’s and aside from a few scuff marks, look and perform like new.

    Reply

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