With fins, there is a lot to consider before you buy and take them out of the box. Should you buy Full- Foot or Open-Heel fins or maybe a Paddle fin is better for you than a set of split fins?Here are some things to keep in mind:
Full-Foots vs. Open-Heels
Full-foot fins are much lighter than comparable open-heel fins. They also create less drag because there aren’t any dangling straps. They tend to have shorter, more-flexible blades too, making them easier to kick underwater. Because full-foots are designed to slip over a bare foot, you don’t have to wear a spongy neoprene bootie. This enables the foot pocket to grip the foot firmly and completely, allowing for the more-efficient transfer of energy from foot to fin blade.
Getting a perfect fit in a full-foot fin is critical to comfort and efficiency because the foot pocket can’t be adjusted. If it’s too small, the foot pocket will crush your toes; too large, and it will fly off your foot when you kick.
Finally, because you aren’t wearing booties, your feet have no protection with a full-foot fin. This can cause problems when you remove the fin to climb a boat ladder or trek across a rocky beach.
While exceptions are numerous, in warm-water destinations where divers wear less gear, full-foot fins tend to be popular; in cold-water locales, open-heel fins are preferred.
Splits vs. Paddles
Split fins slice through the water with minimal resistance, because rather than pushing against the water with brute force, their flexible blades, when engaged in an up-tempo flutter kick, actually generate lift along with a jet-propulsion effect, similar to a boat’s propeller. The faster the propeller turns, the more propulsion is generated. In other words, with split fins, power comes from the speed of a diver’s kick rather than the force of the kick.
However, due to the principles of the design, the best kick for a split fin is a narrow, rapid flutter kick. Not all divers like to employ this kind of kicking action. For them, a paddle fin is probably the better choice.
Traditional paddle fins tend to have stiff blades that require more leg muscle to get them moving. These are designed for divers who want lots of feedback in their kick. Modified paddle fins offer innovative approaches to connecting blade to foot pocket, cutaways in the upper portions of their blades, and soft center panels. They tend to be more flexible than traditional paddles, making them easier on the legs and ankles. These days, the best modified paddles can compete head-to-head in comfort and performance with the best splits.