Last time, we discussed the importance of finding a good mask for you. Fins are a pretty important of your scuba diving set-up, too. They are the reason you can move about easily underwater, and without them, you would certainly be much less graceful underwater and on the surface! It's important to have good fins, both for diving comfort and safety, so let's discuss how to pick the right fins for you!
Tip 1. Full foot vs open heel
Ah, the great debate. Full foot fin versus open heel fin - which is better? Well, that really depends on your preferences. We're going to weigh the pros and cons of each fin type, but remember, in the end it all comes down to preference.
Full foot fins tend to be light and flexible, so they're great for travel and don't put much strain on your legs when you kick. Each fin manufacturer has different foot pocket shapes and sizes, so it's easy to find a pair that will fit your foot shape. The downside is that since they're flexible, they don't have the same propulsion as an open heel fin, and it's safer to shore dive with boots on. Until your feet get used to them, full foot fins can also cause rubbing on your feet, but it's pretty easy to deal with it by wearing socks (while neoprene socks are ideal, you can also use gym socks). Full foot fins tend to be more affordable than open heel fins, so if you're just wearing them a few times a year and diving in mostly tropical places, they're perfect.
Open heel fins are great in colder waters because you need to wear boots with them and ideal for shore diving or diving in more difficult climates with strong currents. They're versatile, because you can have one pair of fins and then multiple boots to match each environment (3mm booties for warmer waters, 5mm boots for colder), and tend to be more durable than full foot fins. The downside is that they're not as easy to travel with because they are bulkier, they are generally more expensive than full foot fins and you have to have boots. The nice thing is that their sizing is more broad, so they are incredibly versatile in that sense.
Tip 2. The newest fins on the market are not always the best
Some fins are classics for a reason. The fins that we consider to be the best on the market are the Mares Avanti series. You'll notice a lot of instructors use the Mares Avanti open heel fins, and that's because they are good, strong, and never break. The Avanti series has been around for years and years, and their style hasn't changed (for good reason). Personally, I feel like the more bits and bobbles the fins have, like high-tech hinges, the quicker they are to break. Talk to your experienced diver friends and dive professionals to see what they recommend.
For us, when it came to rental fins, it was always going to be the Mares Avanti full foot fins, regardless of what other brand we were going to use for the rental equipment. The Avantis, whether they're full foot or open heel, are the ideal fins for long term use and rental because they are just.so.durable. We've had our Avanti full foot fins in commission as rental for over two years now, and not single foot pocket has ripped. The fins still look and feel new, and that's saying a lot considering the amount of use they give us.
Tip 3. The perfect fit may not be perfect for you
For some of you, having fins that fit perfectly before your dive are exactly what you need. For others, including myself, fins that fit too perfectly at the beginning will only cause problems as your dive progresses. Your feet might swell a bit when you dive, same as any other form of exercise, and those fins that fit oh-so-perfectly at the start of the dive might start cutting off your circulation 40 minutes in. For those of you whose feet swell, you should aim for fins that are a little loose, but not so loose that your heel pops out when you lift your heel. If you're between sizes, get a pair of socks and size up. Your feet will thank you.
Tip 4. Take your environment into consideration
You need to take your environment into consideration when getting fins. Think past the point of just full foot fins and open heel fins and start thinking about whether you're diving tropical water, cold water, caves, technical, currents or leisure. If you know that you are planning on doing mostly tropical, easy diving, then you don't need to get heavy duty cave diving fins. In the same way, if you plan on doing mostly technical and wreck diving, you shouldn't get long free diving fins because they aren't the best suited for your needs.
Tip 5. Take your travel style into consideration
If you're a light traveler, a backpacker or are a leisure diver, then getting heavy, cumbersome fins are probably not the best option for you. If you're a hard core diver that's going specifically on a dive trip, you're planning on stay in one place for your an extended period of time and you have the appropriate bag for it, then your fin options are greater. Figure out what kind of trips you'll be going on most and plan your fins accordingly.
And there you have it, our Top Five Tips for finding the right fins for you!