There are several things you need to consider when buying scuba diving fins – where you will be diving, how you prefer to kick and whether you plan on technical diving are just a few.
Read on to find out more about the types of scuba fins available, which are most effective for each type of dive and how to choose the correct fins for you.
Diving Fins Types
Open heel fins are designed to be used with boots. As most scuba divers use dive boots, these are the most common type of fin. This is because scuba divers tend to dive down to depths over 20m and it can get cold if you’re down there for a lengthy period of time so boots are necessary for staying warm.
With this type you get the option for different strap types too. As you slot your foot, which is inside the boot, into the fin you need something to close off the back to prevent your foot from coming out. The options here are the bungee strap or the clipped strap.
The bungee strap is a thick strap of rubber that you pull back away from the fin as you slot your foot inside and then release to close it tight around your boot. The strap shouldn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable but it needs to be tight enough so that you don’t lose your fin while kicking.
The second option is the clipped strap, these are much easier to use. Often the clips are larger and therefore you can use them even with gloves on. You simply unclip the back strap, slot your foot inside and then clip the back strap shut. This reduces the amount of pushing and pulling that’s needed to get your foot securely inside.
The full-foot or closed heel fins are often used for warmer waters as you slot them straight onto your feet, without using boots. This means that you need less equipment for diving and therefore makes it cheaper.
The downfall with these is that you can’t use them for deeper diving as your feet will become cold quite quickly. They can however be used in shallow waters when diving in and around coral reefs in the Caribbean or warmer waters around the world.
They are also much lighter as they have less material so put less strain on your legs while diving, this can be useful for children or someone who doesn’t have a lot of leg power.
Closed heel fins can often be uncomfortable as you have no material between your skin and the rubber or plastic foot pocket, which can sometimes cause blisters if you use them regualy. To prevent this you can purchase diving socks which will make using this type of fin much more comfortable.
Diving Fins Styles
Blade Fins (Paddle)
These fins are specially designed with one piece of rubber or plastic that consists of blades that run down the top of the fin, which channels the water and in turn helps the diver swim more efficiently. Flutter and frog kicks go best with these fins.
Blade or paddle fins often come in several varieties of flexibility. If you are a beginner diver that just wants to slowly float through the water, admiring all of its beauty, then these are the perfect fins for you.
Designed to mimic a fish tail, the split fins style is very effective if you are a flutter kicker, but not if you are a frog kicker. The split means that you need to use less effort while kicking and that’s best done in a flutter motion so the water pushes back at you and propels you through the water much faster.
It depends on where you dive if these will be suitable for you, they are great for shallow and calm waters, but if your legs tire easily or you need fins for strong currents, then these won’t be the best choice for you.
These are the heaviest style of fin, but can have some advantages too. They are shorter than any other style of fins and much stiffer too. Professional technical divers use these as they are the best for a frog finning motion, but not so helpful if you prefer flutter technique.
If you plan to go tech diving, cave or wreck diving then these are the best choice. You can move easily through the water and because the fin is shorter it tends not to get in the way if you are diving in cramped or smaller spaces, such as a shipwreck.
The longest and most unique style of fin is the freediving fin. They are easily recognisable because they are extremely long, very thin and always quite stiff.
These are the one with the least effort needed. As they have a large surface area, with a few kicks you can get through much more water than you can with other fins. They also are much smoother and you have an effortless feeling when using these.
Parts of a Scuba Fin
The blade is the large surface of the fin, this is the part that pushes you through the water. As I have stated above, the blade is the most changeable part as they come in several styles. Each style works best for a different type of diving so before you purchase a pair of fins, always check if they will suit the style of diving that you want to do.
The part of the fin where your foot or boot slots into. For full-foot fins, the foot pocket is much larger as you need to wear booties to be able to use them. You can put your foot in without needing boots, so the foot hold tends to be thinner and more snug against your foot.
For open heeled fins you have a variety of straps. The strap is the part of the fin that goes across the back of your foot and prevents your foot from sliding out during diving. You can choose from a bungee strap or a clipped strap.
Which Type of Fin is Most Efficient?
This depends on what type of diving you do and where you want to dive. If you are diving in warm waters and want to reduce the amount of equipment you need, then full foot split fins would be the best option. You can easily glide through shallow water with these fins and you don’t need booties with them so it’s much less equipment to carry around and take on and off while in a warmer country.
If you want to try technical diving then open heel, turtle fins would work best. They are short and stiff and allow you to do short powerful kicks to move through the water. They also mean that you have less chance of hitting something while in smaller spaces as they are much shorter than other styles of fins.
If you want to do some deep water diving then you must have open heel fins. This is because using booties are necessary, if you don’t use them your feet will become cold in a matter of minutes, which wouldn’t make an enjoyable diving experience. If you plan to dive deeper than 10m, open heel fins are essential.
How to Choose the Right Scuba Fins
Where will you be diving?
The first thing to consider is where will you be diving. If you plan to dive in warm waters then it’s not necessary to have open heel fins, full-foot with closed heel would be sufficient. The only disadvantage is that if for some reason you change your mind and want to do a deep dive, these would leave your feet feeling the cold.
Shallow or reef diving, anything above 10 metres, means you could use full foot or open heel fins. Open heel, split fins would be comfortable and practical for this type of diving as you won’t experience any strong currents in shallow water.
How strong are your legs?
This might not sound so important as you must use your leg power with all fins, and for swimming in general. However it’s certainly something to consider as some types of fins need more power than others.
Paddle fins require a lot of effort if you are diving in strong currents and this will tire your legs out very easily. Having said that, if you have strong and powerful legs or are a professional diver, it doesn’t really matter which style of fins you use.
Do you plan on tech diving?
Technical diving requires different equipment than normal diving, that’s everything from the BCD to the fins and this is certainly something to consider. Tech divers tend to use the turtle fins because they are short and firm, which means when diving in enclosed spaces, they are less likely to be hitting off things.
They are also useful because you just need small powerful kicks to be able to push yourself from one place to another, much less exhausting then longer fins, especially when carrying two tanks to achieve longer dive time.
How do you prefer to kick?
The more experienced you get the more you will realise that the way you kick with fins and what type you use have a direct correlation.
If you are a frog kicker then your best choice will be blade fins or freediving fins.
If you prefer flutter finning style then you can use blade, split, turtle and freediving fins. These suit best to upright kicks and will help you propel through the water with little effort.
If you swap and change your swimming style, then freediving and paddle fins will allow you to use both types of kick interchangeably.
Choose the Right Size – Diving Fin Size Chart
As a general rule for open heel fins is to always go one size up, this allows you room to wear water shoes or your booties. Of course, this depends on the thickness of your boots so bear this in mind too.
Closed heel fins are sized according to your shoe size. As you put them straight onto your foot, with or without a sock, they are sized as if you were buying a pair of shoes. When you try on closed heel full-foot fins ensure that you use socks, if you plan to use them, or straight onto your foot if not.
They should be tight enough that they won’t slide off, especially when your foot is wet, but also not too tight as to cause rubbing and blisters.
It’s obvious that not all fins are created equal. As simple as they look, a lot goes in to designing each pair. What manufactures are essentially trying to achieve, is that the optimal amount of energy is transfered from legs to the fins with each kick.
Choosing the best dive fins basically comes down to these factors: your style of diving, the environment that you will be diving in and your personal preferences.
Scuba divers usually prefer the open heeled ones due to versatility and adjustability, while the full foot type is usually worn by some divers in tropical destinations, swimmers and snorkelers.
It would be ideal to try different types and styles to find the one that works best for you, before settling on the right pair.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.