Open-Heel vs Full-Foot Scuba Diving Fins
We already had a look at the differences in fins with regards to the paddles. You can get split fins or regular (paddle) fins based on your preferences and where you intend to dive.
Another distinguishing factor for dive fins is whether they are open-heel or full-foot fins. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and depending on your dive needs you will usually prefer one over the other.
The style of fins and how they fit your foot are one of the most important things when it comes to your level of joy you experience during a dive. If the fins don’t fit as well as they could then they could ruin your dive in an instant.
It is therefore important that you find the perfect fins for you and then make sure to keep them around. It’s hard to achieve that if you need to use rental gear. Different dive shops around the world will not always have the type of fin you want for rent. Test out a few different kinds and then purchase the fins that you like best.
Scuba diving fins are an essential part of your scuba gear as they transfer the power of your kicks to propel you forward. Fins have a huge impact on your dive experience and you should make sure to have the best possible pair. They also help you to maneuver under water and as such they do have to fit perfectly and comfortably.
Many recreational divers opt initially for full-footed fins. They are somewhat simpler to use as you step your foot into a foot pocket that acts like a shoe. It sits tight around your foot and connects it with the fins.
These types of fins don’t require you to wear dive boots or similar. Your feet are barefoot and the foot pocket wraps around your foot. This usually is very comfortable to wear and provides an excellent feel for your kicks and maneuvering.
There is a downside to those barefoot fins though. They work very well in warm waters but your feet will be quite cold if you wear such fins in colder waters. Usually if the water around you gets below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, your feet will let you know pretty quickly that they don’t appreciate the coldness very much.
Another disadvantage is that some full-foot fins put a lot of pressure on the top of your foot and your toes. This can and will get uncomfortable after a while and can lead to blisters or even cramps. Many divers to switch to open-heel fins when they gain more experience and/or dive in more diverse environments that range from warm to colder waters.
Open-Heel fins are also called strap fins. Modern open-heel fins offer easy-to-adjust straps or bungee cords. In both cases the adjustment is no hassle at all anymore.
Many divers, when they gain more experience and want to dive deeper and in colder water switch to open-heel fins. You can keep your feet warm in nearly any temperature by simply wearing thicker or thinner dive boots.
When buying open-heel fins you need to take into consideration that you might wear thicker dive boots which will require more space in the foot pocket. The foot with the boots should fit tight yet comfortable into the foot pocket.
New designs of open-heel fins offer bungee straps or spring straps. These are basically automatically adjusting the fit without the need to adjust them.
Another advantage of open-heel fins is that you will often have a better feel in them compared to full-footed fins. Many divers report that their propulsion improved from using these fins and that they maneuver more easily due to a tighter bond between your food and the fin.
A last advantage is that the straps on most quality open-heel fins can be replaced. This sounds like something you could simply ignore but if you ever rip the foot pocket of a full-foot fin or the strap on a ‘cheap’ open-heel fin breaks and you have to replace the fins instead of just the strap, it becomes quite an advantage.
Open-heel fins are overall the better choice. Get high-quality fins where you can exchange the straps if needed and you’ll be set for years to come.
If you just start out then rent a few different kinds of fins until you find the type that you have the best feel in. That way you know exactly what is best for you and you can buy the best fins for yourself that match that type.