When learning to dive, you will have quickly realized that swimming with your arms is no substitute for the combination of fins and leg muscles. All fins feature a pocket for your foot and a blade which provides the means for propulsion, but you do have some choices to make. There are lots of bells and whistles attached, by manufacturers, to fin design but it’s important you bear in mind the fundamental scuba maxims of comfort and fit.
New Scuba Gear © Tim Patterson
- Foot Pocket
There are two main styles of pocket for your foot. Open-heeled fins are what the majority of scuba divers choose. This style does not enclose the heel which means that you can wear differing thickness of booties to account for water temperature. The fin is secured to your foot with an adjustable strap that sits in the ankle area. Most divers find this style of fin more comfortable than closed foot fins. On the whole open heeled fins offer greater power and propulsion than their closed heeled alternative. Remember to try these on with your bootie. The pocket should come to your ankle area but not cut into it.
Closed foot fins have a heel and are not worn with booties which makes them only suitable for warm water. They do tend to be lighter making them appropriate for snorkeling too. Overall closed foot fins offer less propulsion than open heeled fins. A comfortable fit can be difficult to achieve, and without the protection of booties sore feet due to rubbing is common. Thin ‘scuba socks’ can increase comfort. When fitting, the pocket should not squash your foot, but neither should it be loose.
- Adjustable strap
The strap around your heel attaches to buckles on the fin and secures the fin to your foot. If you typically wear gloves when diving, put them on and see how easy the design is to get in and out of. Some straps adjust with a gated mechanism whereas other have an elasticity which easily enables you to slip in. The straps are the perishable part of the fin so do weigh up the durability of the design, the materials used and the cost of replacement. On a lot of models, gated straps can be changed to a stretchable alternative, but these would be a supplemental purchase.
- Blade Design
You will see and hear many innovative features when it comes to blade design and be overwhelmed with propulsion technology. Manufacturers want you to believe that their fin offers the best water flow, efficiency, and movement and you will get some very polarizing opinions regarding split fin design. Don’t get too embroiled.
While split fins do provide less resistance, they are only the most efficient when the divers kicks using a swift and narrow flutter kick. After learning to dive most divers naturally veer towards a frog kick method for propulsion and would find a rapid flutter kick unnecessary most of the time. Further, they can take some getting used to. A more traditional blade, while needing more power, will give you the propulsion based on the kick you make.
- How to choose.
In the end, you need to buy the best fin for you, and this will depend on your size, physical ability and where you want to dive. Remember the larger and more rigid the blade the greater strength you will need to use it. If you can, hold off buying a set of fins until you have had the chance to dive with some different options. You could spend a fortune on fins but consider that Mares have been making the Avanti Quattro for atleast 20 years and its simple design is still one of the most popular choices today.