With so many styles on the market, choosing a pair of fins can seem a daunting task. How do you know which fins are right for you?
With so many models, styles and features, choosing the best dive fins — especially your first ones — can seem like a never-ending process. First, examine your needs, which can include snorkeling, freediving and scuba diving; this will help inform your choice of fin.
Which fins are right for you?
Most snorkelers enjoy tropical (Caribbean/Indo-Pacific) or temperate (Mediterranean/Pacific) waters. For snorkeling in warmer waters, a full-foot fin is light for travel and ideal as long as currents are not too strong. These are worn with a bare foot. For snorkeling in cooler, temperate climates, booties will help keep your feet warmer, and are worn with an open-heel fin. This type of fin also offers a stronger kick in currents or waves, but this option does cost a bit more and means more baggage weight.
Freediving-specific fins offer longer blades, and options include traditional dual fins or a monofin. Freediving fins are usually full-foot with stiffer blades, so they’re not necessarily travel friendly, although they are often made of lighter composite materials. Cressi, Beuchat and Mares offer freediving fins, and there are also custom/bespoke options available. While you can also use freediving fins in snorkeling and scuba, we do not advise using scuba or snorkeling fins for freediving.
There are a few considerations to weigh when looking for scuba-diving fins, and if the diver has multiple uses in mind, such as freediving, tec diving and cold-water diving, then they may actually end up with several pairs of fins.
Open-heel vs. full-foot fins
This is the first choice when it comes to choosing the best dive fins for you. Full-foot fins are lighter to travel with and cost less, but unless they’re a perfect fit, you may need to use some type of thick thermal socks, which can also be handy when it comes to preventing abrasions and blisters.
The better option for most divers is a pair of open-heel fins, which are both more durable and stronger, so they perform far better in currents and offer better propulsion, which saves energy and exertion. Used with booties, this kind of fin also provides better insulation from colder waters. They will cost and weigh slightly more, but open-heel fins also offer far more versatility for traveling divers. Open-heel fins are also best for those who will be doing a fair bit of shore diving, as the booties will provide protection when entering and exiting the water.
Splits vs. blades
There’s a never-ending debate going on in many internet forums, arguing the merits of split fins versus blades. Certain split fins increase propulsion through the water, which makes them ideal in currents. They can save exertion and extend air consumption, and are easier on the leg muscles, which may reduce the chance of leg cramps. However, some divers feel that split fins offer less stability and control, so for dive pros who spend time at the surface with students and change positions in-water quite frequently, these may not be ideal. Technical divers also tend to prefer blades, as they allow better control and movement when carrying multiple tanks.
Technical or rebreather diving
Because a technical diver will have extra weight from more tanks and a rebreather diver will have a bigger unit on their back, technical divers tend to favor stiffer fins that offer more propulsion, which allows them better control and ability to change position in the water. Most technical divers will not use full-foot or split fins. A number of manufacturers make fins that are specific to technical/rebreather divers, which tend to have shorter, stiffer blades, vents for water to stream through, deeper foot pockets for booties in colder water, and — of course — they all come in black.
Most airlines have strict baggage allowances, so it’s nice to save weight where you can. If weight is a consideration for you, full-foot fins may be the way to go. Many of us dive in both warm and temperate waters, and so two sets of fins may be the way to go: open-heel fins with booties for colder water or shore diving, and full-foot fins for tropical vacations.
Divers who are prone to leg cramps or have smaller leg muscles may prefer a more flexible blade, or even split fins.
While fins are probably the least-demanding piece of equipment as far as maintenance and service goes, the straps on open-heel fins do tend to need replacing from time to time. If the strap unit is uniquely constructed or made of multiple parts, it may be difficult to replace in remote locations. Strap assemblies with a plastic housing are also more susceptible to breakage during transport or travel. Many divers, myself included, favor bungee or spring-style straps, as they are more durable, offer a simplified design, and tend to need replacing less often.
Article taken from Scuba Diver Life