Snorkeling Fins vs. Scuba Diving Fins – What are the Differences?

Last Updated: March 23, 2023

Fins are an integral part of both scuba diving and snorkeling gear. They help you generate sufficient thrust and add the needed efficiency to your movements allowing you to stay in the water longer.

Fins are also vital because they give you control, an essential attribute for diving and snorkeling. What may not be so obvious is that these two water activities use different kinds of fins.

While fins may look similar at a glance, they are designed to match the specific activity. So, snorkel fins and diving fins have several differences.

What’s the Difference Between Snorkeling and Scuba Fins?

difference between snorkeling and diving fins


The size difference is among the most obvious ones. On average, snorkeling fins measure about 20-25 inches long, while scuba fins are 25-30 inches long. The difference in size is because of the nature of the water activity.

The short snorkel fins will not move as much in the water as the longer fins, and because scuba divers operate in deeper waters, they need to move more water with every kick.

The size difference is also crucial for snorkeling since the smaller fins mean you do not accidentally damage marine life such as coral reefs, when you move around, thanks to the smaller reach.

Thrust Efficiency

Scuba fins have a higher thrust efficiency than snorkeling ones. That’s because they have to compensate for the heavier diving gear and help the diver accelerate faster and get more power with every kick. That is high efficiency, and it is excellent for deep-ocean diving.

On the other hand, they are bulkier and heavier, making them cumbersome for snorkeling.

Stiffer and More Rigid Blades

Diving fins also tend to have stiffer blades since they have to counter the increased pressure in the deeper water levels.

The soft nature of snorkel fins will not overcome the high resistance and pressure levels, which hampers effective movement of the diver.

Type of Heel

There are two main kinds of heel designs for fins, open heel and closed heel (also known as full foot). The diving suit usually comes with dive boots, and to accommodate the boot’s thick rubber sole, scuba fins often use an open heel design (especially in cold water).

The open heel strap also comes in handy with an adjustable feature allowing it to adapt to the changing pressure by compressing or relaxing per the dive boot’s neoprene.

dive fins vs. snorkel fins

Can You Use Snorkeling Fins For Scuba?

Technically, you can use snorkeling fins for scuba diving, but it is not advisable. They will not give you the same performance, so you will likely tire up fast and stay in the water for a shorter period. It may also not offer you the sufficient protection you need while in water.

Related: Do You Need Fins When Snorkeling?

If you want to engage in both activities, hybrid fins are better. They are larger than the snorkeling fins but not as large as the biggest diving fins. They are also rugged but less bulky.

Can I Use Diving Fins For Snorkeling?

Dive fins can work for snorkeling also on a technical level, but it will come at the expense of your comfort. Diving fins are large, while freediving fins are even larger. Both will call for an extra effort to kick, and they are heavy to carry and use. More importantly, they require advanced finning techniques to be used effectively.

As such, they are not necessary and will impede your experience, since they are not made for use in the shallow waters where snorkeling happens.

using diving fins for snorkeling

What Kind of Fins are Best For Snorkeling?

Even if they are styled as snorkel fins, not all will give you the best experience. Cheap options will often let you down, but that’s not to say expensive options guarantee the quality or have any specific superior performance.

When you are looking for the best snorkeling fins, consider the following aspects:

  • Comfort – a paramount concern since it determines how long you can stay in the water.
  • Sizefind the right fitting size; it should be a snug fit without being too tight.
  • Length – short fins will not maximize your kicking effort, while long ones can be bulkier. Look for a medium-sized length.
  • Heel design – you have to choose between the open and closed heel. Open heel design is preferable if you will be in cold waters and need extra insulation or protection from sharp coral or volcanic rocks. Otherwise, they add extra weight and cost, so full-foot are often good option too.
  • Split vs. solid design – the preferred design comes down to your swimming style and personal preference.
  • Price – anything below $50 will lack in quality, comfort, and power, while you will be hard-pressed to find the reason for paying extra for anything above $150.

Now that you know the differences, you can shop for the right fins to match your water hobby.

Sharing is caring!