The search for core pieces of equipment that best serve a diver is guided by a single question: Is this essential? As far as dive gear is concerned, there are few things that are more important than a great pair of dive fins. It’s difficult to disregard fins during a dive given the abundance of benefits that they give to divers of every stripe.
The main benefits of using a pair of fins involve acceleration and protection. When divers don dive fins, the rate of speed and efficiency during a swim is drastically increased. This aspect becomes especially apparent when you’re swimming in strong currents. Treading water becomes an easier task when you have dive fins on. When you use them during a dive, you’re afforded an extra layer of protection that reduces incidents of injury as you navigate waters that are strewn with rocks, sharp debris, and coral formations.
While it is possible to dive without using a pair of fins, you’ll tire out much more rapidly. You also increase your chances of sustaining injuries when your feet are exposed underwater. Fins are a relatively inexpensive piece of diving equipment. It’s not unusual to find a lot of options that are priced within the $60 – $130 range.
Still, why purchase one when you can rent a pair? One reason: hygiene. Renting a pair of fins increases your chances of being exposed to dirt and bacteria that may have accumulated inside the fin’s foot pocket. The pair that you rent may not have been maintained rigorously. Fit becomes an issue as well. The only way that to guarantee the perfect fit is to purchase a pair on your own. Also, renting fins regularly becomes prohibitive when you start adding up the cost of regular rentals. If you’re a regular diver, purchasing your own pair is the most practical option. Ultimately, fins allow a diver to maximize the rate of energy consumption during a dive and decreases the occurrence of injuries.
What You Need to Look At:
There are several things that divers have to be mindful of before they purchase a pair of fins. Apart from cost, the specific details that each pair of fins sports play critical roles during a dive. At the end of it all, the ultimate goal of a diver is to use fins that are comfortable. Ideally, you should be able to swim using snorkeling fins for hours without blisters forming on your feet. Here are a few details that everyone needs to home in on before they make a purchase.
Look for a pair of fins that fit you well. You’ll lose your fins during a dive if they don’t fit. If the fins feel too cramped when you wear them, look for another option. You’re going to be spending hours with the pair that you purchase so you don’t want them to be uncomfortable. Ergonomics is important. Both fins have to be ergonomically designed. Find a fin that’s fashioned out of a combination of hard plastic and soft materials. It’s wearisome to use a pair that feels too hard and synthetic.
There are two types of foot pockets for divers to choose from:
Open Foot – This foot pocket is also called an open heel fin. The biggest difference between this and a closed foot pocket is that allows you to use a boot. When combined with a boot, open foot fins are perfect for cold water diving. Boots Provide the insulation that you need when you intend to dive down deep, cold depths for extended periods of time. Boots also increase the amount of protection that you have as you wade through rocky areas during a dive. Some schools of opinion consider this to be the most popular option for scuba divers.
The disadvantage of this kind of fin is that they’re heavier than their closed foot counterparts. This increases the level of surface drag during a dive.
- Closed Foot
This foot pocket is also called a full foot fin. While they do weigh less than open foot fins, they cannot be used with a boot. Closed foot fins were designed to be worn barefoot. This option is great for snorkelers and divers who spend most of their time in warm waters. The closed foot pocket grips the foot completely making for a more comfortable fit that translates into a more tactile and efficient transfer of energy from the diver’s foot to the fin. Adherents of the closed foot fin claim that they feel more hydrodynamic than the heavier open foot fin.
Divers who require the extra layer of protection that a boot provides might be better off using an open foot fin. If you insist on using a closed foot fin, bring an extra pair of water shoes when you wade your way through rocky areas. Also, the foot pocket of a closed foot fin cannot be adjusted so finding the perfect fit becomes especially critical.
- Fin Blades
Another critical detail is the kind of blade that each fin sports. Like foot pockets, blade styles come in two iterations.
Paddle style fins are more traditional. This fin sports a single blade design that’s best used for shorter dives. With this on, you get great accelerating speed and excellent maneuverability when you’re trying to move around objects carefully at close range. While you can use a variety of kicking strokes with this fin, most of the thrust and acceleration comes from long and powerful kicking strokes. If that’s the kind of stroke that you employ during a dive, then this type of fin might be right for you. Divers who want to feel a lot of feedback while they kick often favor the use of paddle fin blades.
Split fin blades sport a slit down the middle of the fin. In order to use this fin efficiently, you have to use a different kicking stroke than you would when you’re using a paddle fin. Use small rapid kicks when you’re using this fin (flutter kicks). This way, there’s less resistance while you’re using split fin blades.
The design of the split fin is better at directing the water force behind the fin. Split fins aim to replicate the same propulsion that you get from paddle fins for minimal effort. The power of a split fin comes from the diver’s rate of kicking over power. With the right kicking maneuver, you end up saving more energy while using a split fin. Essentially, split fins help you manage your rate of air consumption more effectively and, consequently, the duration of each dive.
Some divers dislike the lack of feedback that they receive when they use a split fin. This makes them feel as if they don’t have as much control or maneuverability as when they’re using a paddle fin. Some maneuvers like back paddling, turning, frog kicking, etc, tend to feel much more difficult when you’re unaccustomed to using split fins. Split fins also tend to be more expensive than paddle fins.
Manufacturers usually offer fins in a variety of colors. While color choice may be mainly driven by personal preference, there is a functional aspect when it comes to this design detail. Bright colors tend to increase your level of visibility underwater. If you’re diving beneath waters populated by sharks, you’ll want to wear a black fin to minimize your chances of attracting unwanted attention.
- Travel Fins
Some manufacturers have started to come up with travel sized fins. While these do save space, there’s a tradeoff in power and swimming speed. You end up sacrificing your rate of propulsion when you use these smaller sized fins.
Energy consumption also becomes a glaring issue with travel fins. You end up consuming more energy for less results while you’re using this option. They also only come solely in open foot variations. In the long run, sacrificing speed and energy consumption for the sake of size becomes too impractical.
Maintaining your scuba fins
There’s a sequence to properly maintaining your fins after you come out of the water:
- Rinse with freshwater immediately after you come out of a dive.
- Use warm water to completely remove any traces of salt on your fins.
- Don’t expose your fins to direct sunlight if they haven’t been completely dried indoors.
- Lay your fins flat on the floor when you store them. Storing your fins tip first could result in permanent bending.
Now that you’ve boned up on all of the details that make for a good fin, it’s time to sort through some of the best options currently available. Regardless of your preference when it comes to foot pocket and blade styles, you’re bound to find your ideal pair in our review roundup.
Mares Avanti Quatro Plus
- Open heel
- Paddle fin
This is one of the most popular dive fins out in the market. The bungee strap that these fins feature make them easy to put on and take off. The strap doesn’t require a diver to deal with adjustment options. Putting these on merely requires you to slip your foot
Putting these on merely requires you to slip your foot inside the foot pocket and the strap stretches to hold your feet in place. These fins are priced reasonably. A large and wide fin blade allows each user to enjoy a fantastic rate of propulsion during each dive.
While these fins are comfortable, a negative worth noting is that the blend of hard plastic and softer materials may make them feel stiffer for some divers.
Aqua Lung Stratos 3 Full Foot fins
- Full Foot
- Paddle fin
Three things make the Stratos 3 a covetable option. These fins are light, durable, and affordable. This is an excellent choice for warm water divers who are looking for a pair of fins that perform well. The Stratos’ foot pocket contains a special design finish that grips the bottom of a diver’s foot.
This practically guarantees the perfect fit. Design-wise, the Stratos 3 puts its flex point closer to a diver’s foot. This translates to better performance for less effort, a more efficient rate of air consumption, and, in the end, longer dives.
Divers who frequent cold water environments will be better off purchasing a different option. You cannot use a boot with the Stratos 3, a detail that drastically affects the level of insulation that’s afforded to a diver.
Atomic Aquatics Split Fins
- Open Heel
- Split FIns
With this offering, Atomic Aquatics boasts of having created the perfect balance between the lightweight short split fin and the longer, stiff fins. The innovative design of Atomic’s split fins causes its blades to deflect as the diver kicks.
This forms a pair of wings that propels a diver forward with reduced drag. This fin allows divers to navigate the water with reduced effort and greater speed and comfort. Independent test findings on the Atomic Aquatics split fin report that its design can drastically reduce a diver’s rate of air consumption. This is a great choice for split fin users.
Mares X Stream
- Open Heel
- Paddle Fins
Another lightweight and comfortable option, the Mares X Stream feature diving blades that include a roomy and flexible central superchannel. This detail allows the fins to direct water more directly down the fin blade instead of spilling over to its sides. As a result, divers end up enjoying better performance for minimal effort.
With or without a boot, the X Stream sports a comfortable fit. Still, this is a pricier option that may be best suited for intermediate to advanced divers who have a discerning eye for construction and design.
ScubaPro Seawing Nova
- Open Heel
- Split Fins
These fins sport a design that are unlike any other fin out in the market. ScubapPro claims that its unusual profile was deliberately constructed to mimic the tail movement of a cretacean. An articulated joint allows the fin blades to pivot.
This reduces drag and maximizes the thrust of each kicking stroke that a diver makes. A bungee heel makes these fins easy to slip on and take off.
The biggest negative about the Seawing is that they’re extremely expensive. If you’re looking for premium diving equipment this may be, arguably, the best pair of fins that money can buy.
Cressi Reaction Pro
- Full Foot
- Paddle Fins
The Cressi Reaction Pro is a lightweight option that’s ideal for warm, tropical waters. The fin’s design sports a variable thickness blade that is thicker near the foot pocket and thinner towards its tip. This improves a diver’s rate of responsiveness per kick and overall stability.
Cost is another area where the Reaction Pro excels in. This is the cheapest option on our list. Be warned that this option won’t be a dream to use in colder water. Stick to warm water environments and the Reaction Pro works like a dream.
Choosing the right pair of fins requires more than just a casual approach. It’s important for you to develop a strong knowledge of your needs as a diver and the swimming technique that you’re accustomed to. Once you have that figured out, familiarize yourself with the elements that fin options feature. Knowing the difference between open and closed foot pockets and split and paddle fin blades will affect purchasing decisions drastically.
Beyond what the fin looks like, it’s necessary for you to pay attention to other invisible elements that impact the way fins are used. What kind of water temperatures do you frequent? Is the fin comfortable enough to accommodate long diving hours? Does it fit you well? Answering these questions takes you closer to identifying and purchasing the best pair of dive fins.