Getting your own set of scuba diving gear is the first step in getting into the water more frequently. Your gear will fit you better, you’ll be more comfortable with it, and every time you pass it in your house you’ll be thinking about getting into the water.
One of the best pieces of gear to invest in for your kit is a pair of scuba diving fins. Having a pair of fins that fits poorly can lead to foot cramps, leg pain, or blisters – none of which you want while you’re underwater. Plus, compared to many other items in your scuba kit, fins are relatively inexpensive relative to the benefits that having the right pair provides.
Of course, there are a ton of fins to choose from out there, with a lot of different options. To help you choose the pair that’s right for you, we’re covering the 10 best scuba diving fins on the market.
How to Choose Best Fins for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?
There are a lot of features to consider in fins, and we’ll help you get started by reviewing the most important ones here.
- Heel Cover – Not all fins have a rear heal cup like you might expect. The reason is that in cold water, you’ll likely want to wear booties under your fins to keep your feet warm. Fins with a heel cup are designed to be worn barefoot and should fit snugly – but not so snug they cause rubbing – while fins without a heel cup allow room to strap in your bootie using a rubber pull strap.
- Fin Blade – There are two main types of fin blade: split, in which the fin is cut down the middle, or paddle. Paddle blades are the traditional style and provide a ton of power in the kick, but tend to be relatively stiff and can take a lot of leg effort to get moving. Split fins, on the other hand, allow you to pick up speed quickly and so can help to reduce your air consumption, but lack the propulsion power of paddle fins once you get going.
- Fit and comfort – At the end of the day, fit and comfort are paramount in a pair of fins. If your fins don’t fit right, they’ll cause blisters and you won’t want to wear them. Be sure to try on fins before you buy, and look at companies’ sizing charts to see if they run narrow or wide. For open heeled fins, be sure to take a close look at the strap system used. Many fins use either a bungee-style strap or a stainless steel spring-loaded strap – the latter may be preferred since it is able to adapt the pressure against your heel as the water pressure changes with depth during your dive.
- Color – While color isn’t a primary consideration in choosing fins, it can be important. Visibility is often restricted underwater, so choosing a brightly colored set of fins can be the difference in being able to see others in your group or having them see you.
- Weight – The materials that are used in crafting the fin blade – whether heavy rubber, or more commonly light to moderate weight plastic polymers – are the largest determinant in how heavy a pair of fins is. In the water, heavier fins require more leg effort to move up and down and so can result in leg fatigue or increase your oxygen consumption. Heavier fins can also be more difficult to travel with, although they may be more durable than their lightweight conterparts.
Types of Scuba Diving Fins – Which is the right choice for you?
As we mentioned above, scuba diving fins can largely be broken down according to whether they are full foot – they have a heel cup and are designed to be worn barefoot – or open heel. The main consideration here is the water where you expect to spend most of your time diving. If you plan to mostly dive in warmer waters, look for a full foot fin. If you know you’ll be diving in cold water where booties are required, or spend time in a variety of water temperatures, opt for open heel fins. It may be easier to buy a thin pair of water socks to wear with an open heel fin than to buy a second pair of fins.
However, one additional consideration in this decision is how frequently you plan to travel for diving. Full foot fins tend to be smaller and lighter than their open heel counterparts, which can make them a better choice for travel. However, remember that cold feet can quickly end a dive, so be conservative in estimating whether or not you’ll need to wear booties.
The 10 Best Scuba Diving Fins to Buy in 2020 – Reviews and Comparison
1. Mares Avanti Quattro Plus – Best for transitioning from split fins
These fins from Mares mix the best of both worlds of split and paddle fins. The design incorporates four veins with channels between them made from high-flexibility plastic. That makes for easy acceleration similar to a traditional split fin design, but the lack of a true split in the center of the fin blade provides the stiffness and power that many divers appreciate when kicking. However, some divers found that they were too stiff after transitioning from split fins despite the welcome gain in kicking power. The fins are open-heel and intended to be worn with booties, but come with a set of comfortable bungee straps. These straps are easy to get on and off, making the fins easier to handle if you’re wearing dive gloves and allows for quick transitions between dives. Plus, the firm tug the straps provide against your heel helps to stabilize against lateral movements in your ankle. The Avanti Quattro Plus fins are made from extremely durable materials and will last a lifetime of diving. Another benefit – these fins are available in a variety of high visibility colors.
2. Dive Rite XT Scuba Fins – Best for strong currents
The Dive Rite fins are a traditional paddle fin design, and they come with a serious amount of kicking power. Their secret is to go back to the injection-molded monoprene material originally used in the 1990’s, which is heavier than most modern fin plastics but provides unmatched stiffness and propulsion for those willing to trade leg fatigue for speed underwater. While most divers aren’t speeding around underwater, having extra power in the kick can make a significant different when swimming against a strong current. Plus, the extra stiff design is suitable for not only flutter kicks, but also frog kick and power kick styles. The fins are open heel and include a stainless steel, spring-loaded strap that is easy to adjust to your chosen thickness of bootie and won’t compress your heel when you dive deep. The steel buckle on the straps is easy to use and extremely durable, although it is important to thoroughly wash down the straps after saltwater use to avoid corrosion. The only downside to these fins is that the weight can make them difficult to travel with.
3. Atomic Aquatics Split Fin – Best lightweight fin
The Atomic is a speedy and light split fin that provides fast acceleration in the water. The fins are made of an extremely lightweight plastic polymer that makes them less than half the weight of some competing paddle fins like the Dive Rite XT. That means you’re less likely to experience leg fatigue on back-to-back days of diving and the fins are easy to travel with. The lightweight design and reduced muscle expenditure with every kick also reduces your oxygen consumption, so you can stay underwater longer. The trade-off is that while these fins accelerate quickly, they lack the stiffness and resulting power that traditional paddle fins provide. The blade is also relatively narrow, even compared to other split fins, so they do not displace much water with each kick. The Atomic fins are designed with a closed heel, which can make it difficult to wear them with booties – so plan on being restricted to warm-water dives with these fins. However, the foot pocket is very comfortable and will not leave your foot aching with cramps halfway through the dive.
4. Aqua Lung Stratos 3 – Best for warm water
Aqua Lung set out to make the best fin for warm water diving, and they succeeded. The restriction to warm waters is because the Stratos 3 uses a closed heel foot pocket, so that they are not suitable to wear with booties. However, the blade design is one of the best and a great choice for anyone who plans to dive primarily in warm water, or who can afford a warm water-specific pair of fins. The blade uses a 4-vein ribbed design and an elongated blade in the traditional paddle style – suggesting an extremely stiff and leg-fatiguing experience at first glance. But look closer, and you’ll find a hinge point just in front of the toe pocket. This hinge enables high efficiency kicking by providing more bend in the fin blade as your leg moves up and down. The result is more water displacement with each kick, providing greater power through the water at a greater muscle efficiency. Because there are no back straps to lose or break and the blade is constructed of stress-tested plastic polymers, these fins are extremely durable and can survive being packed tightly into a dive bag for travel.
5. Cressi Reaction Pro Fins – Best for beginner divers
The Reaction Pro fins are a solid all-around fin that are particularly well-suited for beginner divers for several reasons. First, they use a closed heel design that limits their use to warm water – where many beginner divers will spend their time to avoid the complications and additional gear of diving in cold water. Second, they use a traditional paddle design for the blade, but offer the flexibility of a split fin blade. The blade itself is relatively short and not nearly as stiff as many competing paddle fins, reducing the leg power needed to accelerate and keep moving smoothly through the water. For beginners, that means that their legs won’t be drawing as much oxygen – which is critical since beginner divers often run through oxygen much faster than their more experienced counterparts. The rail design, consisting of molded plastic on the edges of the fin blades, is also excellent at providing stabilization that can keep inexperienced divers moving in a straight line rather than zig-zagging through the water. Best of all, these fins are relatively cheap for new divers looking to buy their first set of fins.
6. Sherwood Triton Fins – Best for body position
One of the unique aspects of the Triton fins is that they are positively buoyant, meaning that they will float in the water if you were to take them off. This doesn’t necessarily help your power in the water, but it does have the effect of keeping your legs and hips level with the rest of your body rather than drooping down. The result is less drag from your body through the water and more efficient swimming. Plus, while the Triton fins may not be the most stylish fins available – unfortunately they are not available in high visibility colors, only black – they are well-designed. Beneath the blade are three vents, which act as conduits for water around the fins that serve to increase your downward thrust and reduce drag when kicking. That, combined with the stiff paddle blade design, make these fins extremely powerful at moving through the water. The fins are open heeled, making them suitable for cold water dives, and the straps are easy to use thanks to two large buckles on either strap and an easily grabbed pull tab.
7. Scuba Pro Seawing Nova – Best for steady propulsion
The Seawing Nova fins look like something out a science fiction movie – they use an ultra-modern design and come in a variety of bright pastel colors rather than the usual high visibility neon palette. The most noticeable thing about these fins is the hinge at the base of the blade, just a few inches in front of the toe. This adds leverage to your kicking motion, exaggerating the up and down motion of the blade and displacing more water with less leg effort. The blade itself is almost featureless, with just a few ridges and a vent to reduce drag and streamline water across the fin for seamless propulsion. The monoprene construction makes these fins extremely stiff and provides excellent power transfer across the hinge. Plus, monoprene is virtually indestructible – so these fins will hold up to a beating, even at the narrow hinge point. Another great aspect of these fins is the heavy-duty bungie strap that finishes off the open heel design. The strap is easy to get on and off, has a large pull tab that is easy to manipulate even with diving gloves on, and adjust snugly but comfortably against the heel.
8. Apeks RK3 – Best for experienced divers
The RK3 is reminiscent of the Sherwood Triton – the design looks decidedly un-modern, there are three large vents in front of the toe, and the fin comes only in hard-to-see underwater black or white versions. These fins are made fully of rubber rather than a plastic polymer, making them virtually indestructible but also heavier than most fins currently on the market. That can make them difficult to travel with, as well as encourage dropping your legs below your body when kicking which introduces drag. However, experienced divers may appreciate the weight and stiffness of an all-rubber blade, which is difficult to match even with molded monoprene. The triple vents reduce drag and increase thrust when kicking, as does the small hole in the tip of the blade. The open heel design is finished with a stainless steel spring-loaded strap, which lacks many of the adjustability features that other open heeled fins feature – the strap is fastened via nut and bolt, making it difficult to adjust in between dives, and there is no pull tab to help with getting the strap on and off. However, the strap cushion and foot bed are comfortable and will not cause cramping.
9. Oceanic Manta Ray – Best for long dives
The Manta Ray fins are designed to maximize kicking efficiency, which makes them an excellent choice for long dives or for divers who are prone to leg fatigue. First, the blade is constructed of lightweight plastic polymer that reduces the stress of each kick on your legs. Second, Oceanic designed the fin using their Power-X System, which increases the efficiency of the blade by enabling it to flex further during the downstroke and release the stored momentum on the upstroke. That increases the amount of water displaced with each kick, while minimizing the distance that your leg needs to travel through the water. The Power-X System also helps to distribute pressure evenly over the fin’s blade and toe box, reducing the likelihood of developing cramps during a long dive. The open heel uses a stainless steel spring-loaded strap that is easily adjusted using the buckle adjustment and that proves comfortable throughout the dive since the springs are able to adjust to changes in pressure against your heel with depth. Plus, the handy pull tab is easily accessed even when underwater and when wearing thick diving gloves if any adjustments need to be made mid-dive.
10. Seac F1S Fins – Best for efficient power
The F1S fins use a combination of two different materials to channel water across the fin blade and provide solid power at high efficiency. The hard plastic polymer towards the base and on the outside edges of the blade provide the stiffness – and power – many divers have come to expect of traditional paddle blades, while the soft thermoplastic elastomer strip in the center of the blade channels water efficiently from the base to the tip of the blade. That gives the fins some of the acceleration and flexibility of split fins, as well as reduces the overall weight of the fins to help reduce leg fatigue. Seac put as much thought into the strap system accompanying the open heel design as they did the blade itself. The thick, yet comfortable and non-slipping bungee strap is spring-loaded at the buckles so that it is able to compensate for changes in pressure with depth similar to a stainless steel strap. In addition, the strap includes a large finger loop for getting the fins on and off easily even when wearing gloves.
Investing in a quality pair of fins can make all the difference in your diving experience since you won’t spend your dives counting down the minutes until you can pull your fins off your feet. While there are a lot of diving fins on the market, this list of the 10 best scuba diving fins can help you identify the best fins to add to your diving kit.