Freediving fins are amazing and unusual. A lot of new divers can get a little lost when trying to find their first pair of fins and its understandable. Most manufacturers have fins of different stiffness and different overall design. When you add the two together you can easily see why it can be hard to take the plunge and buy a pair. Their is also the question of different materials, which is best and for what purpose? All fins are designed to move water in the opposite direction of travel, they do this by scooping up the water and pushing it backwards. The fins that do this process in the most efficient manner are inherently the best fins you can buy. Freediving fins are also designed to have an automatic multi phase kick cycle, where as you kick the flex and snap of the fin produces a 2nd burst of power at the end of the kick without you putting any effort in. The snappier the fin… the more efficiently this will happen.
Lets have a look at the basic options which you will face.
The design of freediving fins has remained fairly restrained for some time now. Occasionally a manufacturer will bring out a new style or new feature but in essence very little really changes. Im sure that something amazing is just around the corner, a totally new concept which could change the way we look at fin design, but perhaps not quite yet. All freediving fins will be long, they should all have a closed heel pocket for better power transfer and they will all be flexible. Dont worry yourself too much about the shape of the fin, or what the tips look like (fish tail etc etc).
The main material groups used in freediving fin design are… in order of desirability….
Plastic : Durable, affordable, not very snappy with relatively poor power transfer. Good for recreational freediving, learning and for spearfishing (as they are so tough and cheap)
Plastic composite: Still durable, more of a reactive snap throughout the length so better power transfer will occur.
Fibre glass: Quite fragile, but the most affordable way to get a pair of very snappy fins. Often used as spearfishing fins as they are easy to laminate with camo detailing.
Carbon fibre: Still fragile (although slightly less so than fibre glass in my experience) but with the most reactive snap of any material. All the top divers will use carbon fins for deep dives. Also the lightest of any fin available.
Foot pockets are basically the bit which your foot goes in to.
Some fins come with interchangeable blades, therefore have ‘interchangeable foot pockets’. Its a good way to go if you can get a pair with this feature as you can change the performance aspect of your fins more cheaply than getting a whole new pair of fins.
Whatever you get make sure that they are snug… in some respects the tighter the better. Any movement in the heel is lost power.
Lets keep this simple.
If you are quite small and light and are not a proffesional runner (with massive legs), get fins with a soft flex.
If you are average build and have a normal muscle structure in your legs then get medium stiffness.
If you have strong legs, a high level athlete or you are very big then you should get hard stiffness.
That really is a very simplistic way of looking at it of course. Just remember that stiffer fins will move you further but with more effort, softer fins will move you less far but they will use less energy to do so and will not tire your legs and use up loads of o2.
I would say that most beginners should use either soft or medium stiffness, depending on their overall build.
Brands to look out for:
All the big names do great freediving fins.
Cressi make great entry-intermediate fins, all in plastic or composite materials.
Mares do much the same as Cressi
Omer make a full range from begginer to expert.
I get my fins from Fins4U, a UK fins distributor. If you check out their website you will see why as the range and prices of the fins are amazing. You wont find fins from Cressi etc there though. If you want those brands then check out spearfishingstore, they sell all the big names. It should be noted that if you do a course with me here at Freedive UK you will get discounts with these guys (shameless plug).
If you need any advice for your specific circumstances feel free to get in touch or comment on this post.