Like any footwear for sport, buying the best scuba fins for scuba diving can be an overwhelming business. There’s a great variety of scuba fins for sale. If you’ve started looking at products, you’ll have seen terms like split fins, full foot fins, open heel fins, travel fins, and you’ve maybe even come across high heel fins too. Throw in terminologies like channels, side rails, and vents, and you could be left confused and paralyzed by indecision. How do you choose the best fins? We’re here to help. We’ve put together a summary of the best scuba diving fins along with a guide to help you choose the best diving fins for your purpose.
The basic purpose of a pair of fins is to move you through the water much more efficiently than if we were just flapping our arms and legs around which are pretty much useless once you have added bulky equipment and drag into the equation. You might think that one set of fins is the same as another set but there are actually a number of different styles and technologies at work. On top of that different types of diving can favor a certain style of fin because it is better suited for the environment.
If you are in the market for a new pair of fins but are not sure how each type of fin differs then this scuba diving fin guide will help to explain the different blade technologies and look at some of the features available.
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The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you want a pair of fins with an open heel or a full foot pocket. For most diving you’ll need an open heel pocket that can accommodate neoprene and drysuit boots as well as being heavier and stiffer to provide better propulsion for bulky dive kit. Full foot fins are significantly lighter, make great pool fins or if you are diving somewhere nice and hot where you’ll be diving with bare feet or with just a pair of fin socks.
If you go for an open heel fin you’ll come across a variety of fin strap types ranging from a basic adjustable rubber strap to stretchy spring or bungee straps. The basic strap is simply loosened to allow it to fit over the heel and then pulled tight to secure the foot in the pocket.
There are variants including expanding buckles that all the strap tightness to be set and then expanding sections released for donning and doffing before securing back in place to tighten.
The most common type of strap found on high end fins are spring or bungee straps that are very quick and easy to fit by simply pulling the strap over the heel. The spring or elasticity of the strap then provide a comfortable pull to keep your foot in the pocket.
Most fins can be upgraded from a rubber adjustable strap to a spring or bungee strap by either fitting a manufacturer specific kit or a universal strap kit.
From this point onward fin design can vary greatly from a simple paddle style fin to hinging designs that are designed to angle the blade for optimal thrust. There are generally a couple standardized elements of the blade though.
The side bars or rails that run the length of the fin are what gives the blade its strength, preventing the blade from just flopping around and giving it a carefully calculated bending profile.
The other little features that crops up on a lot of fins are winglets. They perform the same function as on airplanes, helping to reduce drag as water is pushed over and along the blade.
OPEN HEEL or FULL FOOT:
Most divers believe that open heel fins are the best fins for diving for a number of reasons. As the terminology suggests the foot pocket doesn’t enclose the heel; your forefoot slips into the foot pocket, and the fin is secured to your foot with a strap that goes around your heel much like a pair of sandals. They are designed to be used with a bootie made out of neoprene which will not only keep your feet warm but also protect them on the boat or shore. Sure, you have the extra task and cost of finding the best dive boots, but it will mean that you can use these fins in either cold or warm water. An open heel fin is on the whole larger, heavier, and bulkier than a closed heel fin; it does require more power to use, but you do get better propulsion.
Full foot or closed heel fins – they’re the same thing – have a foot pocket that encloses the heel as a normal shoe does. These are not worn with a boot and for this reason are only really suitable for warm water. Their design makes them less forgiving when it comes to fit; poorly fitting closed heel fins will cut, blister, and rub your feet. The materials used for the foot pocket itself also dictates their comfort; good quality, soft and pliable materials are the best. All that said, it doesn’t mean that full foot fins should not be considered. They’re mostly lighter than open heel fins which does mean you need less power to use them and, because you don’t use a boot, they’re less buoyant too which makes them a good choice for the best snorkeling fins. If you are buying fins to use on holiday in warm water where you might also spend time snorkeling, they could be the best scuba fins for travel.
There are two types of blade to choose from, and the discussion around whether to use paddle or split fins for diving can be impassioned.
A standard paddle fin has the most resistance in the water which means it does require greater power than a split fin but, in turn, you get greater propulsion. Scuba split fins have less resistance in the water and are a great idea if you have knee or joint problems. A split fin does favor a flutter kick dive style, however, and they can take a little getting used to.
In simple terms, the larger, heavier, and more rigid a fin design is the more power you will need to use to propel yourself. Of course, you get the best propulsion from this, but you need to be able to manage the fin comfortably.
This is where scuba fin reviews can start to get confusing but understand that any design features attributed to a blade are there to increase its efficiency versus effort. Manufacturers have looked at propulsion technology to try and increase the power a fin offers while reducing effort. The most common features you will see are as follows.
Channels are interspersed along the blade most often using a different and more flexible material than the blade. These u-shapes capture the water causing a more efficient kick and improving propulsion due to the focused jet of water they produce.
Side Rails are for stability and control, they bring strength to the blade and make sure the water doesn’t ‘slip off’ the blade and reduce propulsion.
Vents are slits, and these reduce resistance and drag and are designed to be placed where there is little water flow thus reducing the drag in an area that doesn’t deliver against propulsion.
When reading a diving fins review bare in mind you don’t need a fin with all of these features, you need a fin that suits your purpose so don’t get dazzled by all the scientific terminology.
In conclusion, these are some of the top things to consider when choosing the Best Scuba Fins. You will need to consider the thickness of the material & rigidity. While comfort is important. A good fit is everything. While you also need to look at if you need an open heel or full foot. Take time to consider what sort of blade type you will need as well. Follow the above tips, and you won’t get disappointed or feel that your money hasn’t been spent in the wrong way. For our pick on the best scuba fins, well one stood out for us and that was the Cressi Palau. They are comfortable, provide plenty of power and work well in any ocean conditions..
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