Choosing diving fins is the same as all scuba diving equipment - get it wrong and you will regret not paying more attention at the time!
If you look through the sites giving information on diving fins, there seems to be a lot of discussion about force fins, split fins, long blade fins, this fin or that fin. At the end of it you still dont know what is best for your scuba dive gear needs.
Really the choice is down to – whether you are diving in cold or warm water - hence the choice between open or closed heel fins respectively.
Then secondly - split fins, traditional single blade fins and possibly the long blade fins which are generally used for free-diving. My assumption is that if you are reading this page, the chances are you are in the early stages of starting your scuba dive gear collection and so apart from just knowing what the long bladed fins are, really only need to discuss the main choices in diving fins.
So lets have a basic look at the options:
Foot/Shoe design -
The first distinction is between the fin 'shoe' designs:
Open heeled fins are worn with booties – I have seen divers wearing them without booties but the make up of the part of the fin enclosing the foot is quite rigid and unless you have the feet of a caveman, you will get chafed and along with that probably blisters.
The fin blade on these tends to be slightly larger as well, and they come in both split and single bladed design.
The fact that these are worn with booties makes them more suitable for colder water environments.
These are quite a comfortable design and generally worn barefoot although a neoprene sock (very thin) is often worn to prevent chafing.
This is usually something which comes about when you are on a liveaboard or similar where you are diving three or four times a day – blisters can then get to be a real bind!
These fins are used when diving in warmer tropical type climates.
Split fins are designed to make the kicking action easier by experiencing less resistance on the upward stroke and the widening effect on the down-stroke increases forward propulsion. I have heard people say that the split fin decreases the exposure to cramps while swimming.
The single bladed fins are the more traditional design.
They are sometimes also referred to as the ‘Paddle’ Blade.
I have both types and do believe the single bladed fin has greater propulsion mainly because the up-stroke is also propelling you at the same rate as the down-stroke – contrary to that of the split fin.
Long or extended Blade
These blades are generally used by free-divers and are almost twice the usual length blade.
There are pros and cons involved, whilst each kicking cycle will propel you further, you tend to need greater strength to kick and could then get tired faster. No beginner should ever consider buying these - there is no point in adding these to your scuba dive gear early on.
Trying the fins on:
When you try fins on it is a good idea to either have your booties with you, or buy a pair at the same time if you still have to get some.
When you are buying closed heel fins be careful to make sure they are comfortable – don’t get them too tight – a firm fit is great – you don’t want your dive ruined by the fact that you got a pair so tight you are in agony by the time your dive is over.
Open heeled fins shouldn’t allow your foot to move inside the
Fin ‘boot’. Your heels should stick out over the back of the fin by about half of your heel.
I have found that the staff in a dive shop are almost always experienced divers and will be able to advise you so be sure to get them to check the fit.
So at the end of it all most important is the choice between open and closed heel - in effect warm and cold water conditions.
Closed heel also look better, I think, when you are wearing a shorty
I think shorty wetsuits with booties look a bit geeky?
Otherwise choosing diving fins is mostly up to individual preferences and cost considerations.
I started out with open heeled and later added a pair of closed heels as I started to travel a bit more to dive in warmer waters.
While I think about it - another issue can be weight - if you are flying this is a consideration - open heeled diving fins need booties (except the cavemen footed among us!) so if you can travel with closed heel diving fins you save the weight of the heavier open heels plus the booties. Believe me when you are travelling with scuba dive gear it gets ridiculous trying to save an ounce here and a gram there....
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