Tips on Selecting the Best Fins
Ask 10 divers which fins are best and you'll likely get 10 different answers. Here are a few unbiased, straightforward tips to help you choose the best fins for your diving style.
Full Foot or Open Heel
Full Foot fins are the cheapest, but they're a little harder to fit and are really only ideal for warm waters. Incorrect fitting can result in blisters or even lost fins, so be sure to buy these in person where you can try them on. Stand up in them, flex your feet, and stand on your toes to make sure they're snug but not uncomfortable. Open Heel fins generally require booties since the foot cups are larger in order to accommodate them. These are adjustable and more versatile, but also a little more expensive. When trying them on, be sure to wear the bootie you're planning to dive with. Your foot shouldn't wiggle in the bootie or fin, and the bootie shouldn't wiggle in the fin.
Paddle fins are the least expensive fin and have a solid, simple design that's been around forever. With these you get equal propulsion on both the power and recovery stroke of the kick, which means that while they can be powerful, they can also cause leg fatigue. Some fins are stiffer than others and stiffer generally equates to more power (and also increases the risk of fatigue). These are also fine for frog kicks and helicopter turns most often used in wreck or cave diving.
A type of paddle fin, channel fins allow for a flex along the blade that transforms the blade into a U shape during a kick. The shape focuses the water into a jet or channel and translates into increased propulsion with less effort. They can also be used for frog kicks and helicopter turns and come in varying degrees of stiffness and length.
These fins allow water to pass through the vents during the recovery part of the kick, thus reducing the risk of leg fatigue and offering the most propulsion on the power phase of the kick. They're often heavier and a pricier but have a strong following. They're shorter and great for frog kicking and helicopter turns making them ideal for wreck, cavern, or cave diving.
As the name suggests, these fins have a split down the middle of the blade. Kicks require little effort with these and fans speak to less leg fatigue, no knee strain, and less energy used. These are especially recommended for divers prone to leg cramps or fatigue, or those with joint issues. On the downside, split fins are much more difficult to use in tight areas like wrecks or caves and can't be used for frog kicks or helicopter turns.
These are newer to the market and higher in price. Different manufacturers create the namesake hinge in different ways. The hinge creates a snap that increases the efficiency of each kick. While these can be used in tight areas, some users claim they're a little more difficult to get used to for frog kicks or helicopter turns.
Get What Works For You
There are other, less mainstream fins on the market as well, such as the Force Fin, that have their own following. In the In the end, what matters is that your fins are comfortable and do what you need them to do. Not every fin is ideal for every diver since different divers kick in different ways, dive in different environments, and have different strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully understanding the differences between the types of fins will aid you in matching one to your specific needs. In some cases, that might mean more than one pair!