Explaining the differences in fins
In our previous article we touched on wetsuits and explained the differences between the different thickness of wetsuits. In this article we will touch on the different types of fins, some of the different features and how to select the right fins to fit you.
Types of fins
The first thing to consider is the style of fins that suits you. Fins can almost always be classified into two different styles: full-foot fins or open-heel fins. As you can tell from their names, the two different styles of fins are quite self-explanatory.
Full-foot fins have soft, flexible foot pockets which completely warp around your feet including your heels. Full-foot fins are worn without dive booties and are usually worn barefoot although some divers may prefer to wear neoprene socks with these fins for a little bit of extra protection. Pros of full-foot fins include: cheaper to buy, less bulky which means they are travel friendly and they allow the energy from a divers feet to transfer directly onto the fins. Cons include: no flexibility in size, either they fit or they don’t, not being able to wear booties with them, and they are harder to put on and take off.
Open-heel fins have foot pockets that cover most of your feet but leave the heels exposed. In place of a foot pocket there are straps that secure your foot in place to the fins. Open-heel fins have rigid foot pockets and are designed to be worn with dive booties. These fins are also bigger than full-foot fins in order to accommodate the extra bulk of the booties. Pros of open-heel fins include: flexibility, ease of wearing and taking off, the added benefit of wearing dive booties which provide additional thermal protection and protection against other hazards. Cons of open-heel fins include: they usually cost more plus the cost of buying dive booties to wear with them, they are large and bulky.
Styles of the blades
Scuba diving fins work by propelling you through the water using blades. There are many different styles of blades available for scuba diving fins and they all have their pros and cons. There five main blade styles that we will talk about today: paddle, vented, channel, split and hinged.
Paddle fins are standard fins with a flat blade and are the simplest in design. They work like an oar and propel you forward with every kick.
Vented fins are a step up from paddle fins with vents at the base of the foot pocket which allow water to pass through on the recovery stroke of the kick cycle and prevent water from passing during the power stroke. The vents make vented fins more efficient than your standard paddle fins.
Channel fins utilize different materials throughout the blade to allow it to flex when used in the water. When the blade flexes it forms a “U” shape channel that captures and contains the water, creating a jet of water that increases propulsion.
Split fins have a split down the middle of the blade and work similar to the wings of a plane. Instead of moving you forward by pushing water backwards, split fins propel you through the water using “lift” created by water moving through the splits. This makes it extremely easy to kick with split fins. However, divers might find that these fins don’t provide much manoeuvrability when changing directions or when trying to stop abruptly.
Hinged fins have a pivoting blade that will angle itself when you kick to optimise the efficiency of your kick cycle. The hinged design is achieved using bungee bands or flexing bars along narrow sections of the blade.
Fitting your fins
After all that, how do you know what fins suit you? If you are buying your first pair of fins you should go for a paddle fin or vented fin. These fins have a standard design and are very affordable. Using a standard fin will also allow you to determine your kick-style. If you have strong legs and a powerful kick then paddle and channel fins will offer you more control underwater. If you don’t have a powerful kick then opting for the split fins will allow you to move better underwater whilst expending less energy.
It is important that you make sure your fins fit just right because an ill-fitting fin may cause blisters or cramps during use. The best way to make sure your fins fit is to try them on. If you are buying open-heel fins, bring along your dive booties to try on with your fins. There is no standardisation in sizes between the different manufacturers, so you cannot assume that a size of one brand of fins is the same as another brand’s. Some manufacturers may even have different sizes across different models.