A Basic Guide To Choosing Scuba Fins
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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!