Best Diving Fins

Updated April 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
141 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best diving fins

There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of diving and the discoveries you make below the water’s surface. A good pair of diving fins is like adding turbochargers to your feet. You can cover a longer distance with less effort and greater control. For very little money you can pick up a pair of general-purpose diving fins that are great for occasional users, but if you’re enthusiastic about the sport, these fins soon become a bit limiting. You need something better that’s adapted to your physiology and the kind of diving you do.

The good news is that when it comes to diving fins, you have tremendous choice: there are fins suited to every diver and every dive situation. Of course, if you’re fairly new to the sport, that can make picking the right ones a bit more challenging.

We’ve put together this comprehensive buying guide to help you find the best diving fins for your abilities. Our recommendations cover a variety of price and performance options, and you can probably find what you need there. If you’d like more information, please read our guide below.

diving fin1
Brightly colored fin blades make it easier for other people to see you in busy areas. Some believe particular colors attract fish, but there’s no scientific proof of this.

Key considerations

Open-heel vs. full-foot fins

A quick look at the range of diving fins available reveals a variety of different lengths, widths, and shapes, as well as different ways to fit them to your feet: open-heel (also called strap) fins or full-foot fins.

Open-heel: While these fins can be used on their own, they’re normally worn with dive boots. The flexibility they offer means you can wear dive socks as well, increasing the layers of insulation. That makes these fins better for cold water diving. They’re most often used as scuba diving fins, but they can also be worn for snorkeling.

Full-foot: These diving fins slip on and off easily and can be worn over bare feet or dive socks. They don’t accommodate dive boots, so they’re generally used for snorkeling or scuba diving in reasonably warm waters. They aren’t as adjustable as open-heel models, so getting the right size is more important.

Blade type

The blade is the flat portion of the fin. In a nutshell, the larger the blade area, the more power you can generate. Freediving fins are particularly long. Equally, a stiffer blade provides more resistance, which also aids propulsion. That said, a large, stiff blade requires more energy to kick, so it isn’t ideal for beginners or those with limited mobility or strength. The right balance is key.

Paddle: Standard paddle blades used for snorkeling are reasonably short with good flex. You’re seldom covering much distance during this activity, and there’s no real need for speed. The limited size of these fins makes them highly maneuverable. They’re also easy to pack!

Channel and pivotal: These blades are based on the classic paddle design but mix hard plastic and soft rubber in lengthwise strips. The blade reshapes itself as you kick, moving more water with the same effort. However, these fins do require more skill to use, so they aren’t recommended for beginners.

Split: The same is true of split fins, which are divided in two through the center. Some people love them, but others find them awkward. They can be used for either snorkeling or scuba diving and work best with a rapid kick action.

Hinged: These blades incorporate a spring, effectively multiplying the driving force with minimal extra effort by the diver. They’re very efficient, but they take a while to get used to. They tend to be quite large and among the most expensive fins.

Force: These fins look a bit odd when you first see them: they’re shaped like a fish tail with a pronounced V at the end. The design is very efficient, producing excellent propulsion, though there is a learning curve, so they’re not a good choice for beginners. They’re among the more expensive fins, and some divers find them uncomfortable.

High-tech fins can be very tempting, but if you’re a beginner, you might not have the necessary skills to benefit from the technology. Traditional paddle fins give you the opportunity to learn without spending a lot of money. You can always upgrade later if necessary.

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Features

Materials

Polypropylene, polyurethane, and natural rubber are all used to make diving fins because they offer a combination of flexibility and durability. For most divers, material isn’t a particularly important aspect, and manufacturers don’t emphasize it, focusing instead on performance.

Monoplane resin is an interesting material because it behaves a lot like rubber yet is very tough. It’s also quite buoyant, making these fins popular with marine photographers. The fins make it easier to keep their feet up when they’re close to the bottom so they don’t disturb sand or sediment and spoil the shot.

Consideration has to be made if you want to explore wrecks or caves. You need a short, stiff blade both for durability and control in tight situations. You’ll likely encounter materials that would tear soft rubber and rapidly abrade your fins.

Extras

Vents on fins allow a small amount of water to flow through the fins, a bit like a pressure relief valve. It lets divers who aren’t quite so strong use larger fins than they could if the fins were solid.

Pull tabs are handy on full-foot diving fins, making them easier to put on.

diving fin2
DID YOU KNOW?
If you want to move quickly through the water, stiff fins provide greater resistance and thus more propulsion. They’re not for beginners, though. Without a strong, well-practiced kick, they can be very tiring to use.
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Accessories

Dive socks: XS Scuba Dive Socks
These stretchy spandex dive socks are designed for the warm to moderate waters that most leisure divers encounter. They provide overall comfort for your feet, prevent the fins rubbing on your skin, and make it easier to slide the fins on and off. At around $10 a pair, they’re very affordable, and you have a choice of four colors.

Dive gloves: Dive & Sail Premium Scuba Diving Gloves
These popular low-cost gloves are made from 1.5-millimeter neoprene, so they provide a high level of comfort and warmth but don’t restrict flexibility. They’re designed for water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and windsurfing and come in four sizes with a Velcro wrist band to ensure a snug fit.

Diving fin prices

Inexpensive: You can get cheap diving fins for snorkeling and scuba diving for around $20 to $25. These are mostly open-heel fins. Full-foot models start at around $40. For beginners and occasional divers, these are okay, though they might not last too long.

Mid-range: If you’re diving reasonably regularly and looking for diving fins that are more focused on how and where you dive, you’ll spend between $45 and $90. We think all but the most enthusiastic divers can find what they need in this bracket.

Expensive: Function-specific diving fins like long-distance and freediving models can easily top $100. High-tech sprung fins can exceed $200.

It’s usual to wear boots with open-heel fins, but some divers prefer not to. That’s okay, but you need to be aware of the dive conditions. Your feet won’t be protected from sharp rocks, coral, or venomous marine animals.

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Tips

  • Learn to dive at an approved school. Not only will you get more enjoyment from your diving, but responsible boat operators won’t take you out unless you can show certification.
  • Check all of your equipment carefully. Do this before you get into the water. It isn’t just for your safety; if something goes wrong, you could put others at risk too. Get a buddy check too.
  • Have a dive plan. This is important even if you’re familiar with the location. Define the objective, the time you’re going to spend in the water, how far you’re going to go, and what to do in the event of an emergency. Make sure everyone understands it. Don’t deviate from the plan.
  • Pay attention. Once in the water, be sure you know where the boat is and where your buddy is at all times.
  • Check your air and depth frequently. Diving is exciting, but don’t push your physical limits or that of the equipment.
  • Don’t touch. It’s tempting to want to reach out and touch what you see, but don’t. In some cases, you could damage a fragile environment. In others, you could come into contact with marine species that are highly venomous.
diving fin3
Full-foot fins aren’t as adjustable as open-heel fins and can be an imperfect fit. Dive socks are a popular solution. You can also buy fin straps that can be tightened much like open-heel models.

FAQ

Q. How do I choose the right size diving fins?

A. Open-heel diving fins typically come in sizes small, medium, and large, with an elasticized strap and/or buckle for fastening. While you can wear them barefoot, they’re designed to go over dive boots, which you would size as per your usual shoe size.

With full-foot diving fins, manufacturers usually offer size brackets, such as 8 to 10, which correspond to standard shoe sizes. As with any shoes you buy, the fins can be bigger or smaller than expected. Some retailers warn you about this, and it’s also worth checking user feedback. If your fins are a little loose, wearing dive socks can help.

If you’re buying diving fins online, make sure you try them on as soon as they arrive so you can return them within the allowed time if necessary.

Q. Should I wear dive socks with my fins?

A. It’s very much a personal choice, but there are a few advantages to wearing a good pair of dive socks:

  • They can help the fins fit better so you feel like you have more control.
  • They can insulate your feet in cold water.
  • They can cushion your feet and ankles against chafing.

Dive socks aren’t particularly expensive, so it might be worth trying a pair to see how you like them. Note that they’re only recommended for use with full-foot fins. For open-heel fins, you’d normally wear dive boots (though some divers go barefoot).

Q. Why are freediving fins so long?

A. These fins move more water per kick, so you can travel farther faster. Some scuba divers use them in strong currents because of the extra propulsion, but in general they’re for the specialists. They’re a big advantage when you’re trying to conserve oxygen by minimizing effort, as in freediving. There are a few downsides, though: they aren’t very maneuverable, they’re difficult to walk in when you’re not in the water, and they take up considerably more space on the boat or in your bag.

 

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