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The Best Scuba Fins: From Cold Water to the Tropics

the best scuba fins are made by reputable dive sport names

I’ve been diving and snorkeling since I was 12 years old. From Hawaii to Indonesia, the Red Sea to the Pacific coast of Canada, I’ve owned many pairs of fins, so when I say best scuba fins, I mean fins intended for diving and not snorkel fins.

Anyone who dives, free dives and snorkels will know that the distinction between the three can be a meaningful one. 

If you are interested in fins that are more appropriate for snorkeling, read my guide on the best snorkel fins for serious snorkelers.

When you dive, and especially if you’re doing a drift dive or diving in strong currents, you need scuba fins that will be able to power you and your dive equipment effectively. The small, stubby snorkel fins you get on day trips or at all-inclusive resorts aren’t going to cut it. 

Deciding on the best scuba fins for you depends on a few factors, which this article will go into in detail, but they are undoubtedly one of the most important investments a diver makes. If you’re serious about diving and you do a lot of it, good scuba diving flippers are worth every penny. 


The Winner of “Best Scuba Fins”: TUSA SF-0104 Hyflex Switch

I think the best scuba fins currently on the market, that combine all of the best dive fin technology, and look the sleekest are TUSA’s SF-0104 Hyflex Switch fins

They generate a lot of power with minimal effort, the blade is interchangeable with other TUSA blades, and it can be disassembled for easier packing.

You can really tell TUSA has some super thoughtful industrial and mechanical engineers working on their products, because everything from the heavy-duty elastic fin strap to the blade angle to the resistance-reducing vortex generator screams attention to detail. 


Main Evaluation Criteria to Choose the Best Scuba Fins

Throughout the following article, I will refer to certain common design terms that are used to describe dive fins.

I thought I would outline them at the outset of the article so that it’s easier to browse and so that you have a better understanding of what’s out there and what you need. The best scuba fins will be those which combine these criteria in ways that make the most sense for the type of diving you plan on doing

Some types of dives and diving are better suited for open-heel, while if you plan on traveling with your fins or would like to use them for snorkeling as well, a full-foot fin can be more practical.

Cold water and warm water dives also usually require a distinct kind of fin, for reasons that I will go into.

Open-Heel Vs. Full-Foot 

Open heel fins refer to those scuba fins which are not closed at the back. They look more like a slipper and are designed to be worn with a dive sock or bootie. They tend to be preferred for shore dives since they allow you to walk out wearing protective footwear. 

Full-foot scuba diving flippers, on the other hand, look more like the opening of a shoe. You slip your entire bare foot into the foot pocket. These tend to be preferred for dive travel because they are usually less bulky than open-heel fins.

Blade Design 

Different scuba fins have different blade designs for different purposes. They generally fall into the below 5 categories: 

  • Paddle dive fins: A flat surface fin with side reinforcement to make sure water stays on the fin. These are in contrast to “split fins,” which separate the fin down the middle.
  • Jet/Channel dive fins: These fins have channels engineered into the blade that literally “channels” the water like a jet. They vary in terms of weight and length, but they are usually the preferred fin of more experienced divers and technical divers. 
  • Force scuba fins: These fins are meant to replicate the look and effectiveness of a whale’s tail. They’re quite expensive but very efficient and powerful. 
  • Split scuba fins: These fins are some of the best scuba fins for speed. Inspired by the design of a lot of fish tails, they have a split up the middle in order to limit drag. You tend to get superior speed with less effort from these, compared to single-blade fins. 
  • Hinged Fins: Usually open-heel design, hinged fins feature a pivot arm where the blade meets the foot pocket, which lets you adjust the angle of the fin based on what you’re doing. 
  • Detachable fins: Some fins (almost always open-heel designs) are detachable. What this means is that you can remove the blade from the foot pocket, which makes them easy to travel with and also easy to combine with other blade types if you want. 

Finding a Fin

With those design features in mind, it’s time to evaluate some of the best scuba fins on the market. They are: 


Best Open-Heel Dive Fins: Mares Avanti Quattro Plus Open Heel Bungee Strap Fin

Specs

  • Weight: 0.9kg
  • Length: 25 inches
  • Materials: ‎Thermoplastic Rubber/Tecralene

This recently redesigned, world-famous fin, when it comes to open-heel, The Mares Avanti Quattro are the best scuba fins because they combine a lot of other great attributes into the fin as well.

I think one of the most pleasing things about this dive fin is that, despite being very robust and open-heel, they only weigh 0.9kg, so you can easily travel with them without worrying that you’re eating up too much of your checked bag allotment. 

Great for a variety of conditions and dive types–drift, open-water, shore, and coldwater–if you’re looking for open-heel, these are the best scuba fins out there for the money. 

You will appreciate the large thumb loop on the bungee heel strap for taking these bad boys on and off, especially if you’ve been on a long dive and the water has been a little colder than usual

With a variety of colours to choose from, sizing for even the smallest feet, and great speed and control in the water, the Mares Avanti Quattro are fins that will get you from A-B quickly, work well in any dive types or conditions and are well-priced for what you get: professional quality, robust fins that any dive school or live aboard would be happy to provide to its guests

Downsides to Consider

One reviewer mentioned that these scuba fins made surface kicks difficult because they rest too near the top of the water while swimming prone. 

It was the only negative review of its kind, but if you are planning on using these fins for snorkeling as well and are worried that cruising the reef from above could be a bit of a chore, you might want to consider another pair on this list. 

All in all these are a powerful pare of open-hell dive fins from a reputable dive sport brand.


Best Hybrid Scuba Fins: Mares Superchannel Full Foot Scuba Fins

Specs

  • Weight: 1kg
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Materials: Tecralene/Thermoplastic Rubber 

When we mean when we say best “hybrid” fins is those that are well-suited for both diving and snorkeling. I like to do both, and sometimes I even prefer snorkeling to diving, so it’s nice to be able to travel with a fin that you can comfortably enjoy both with. 

Also from Scuba superstar Mares, the Superchanel Full-Foot Scuba Fins are a great option for tropical diving if you don’t want to invest in heavy-duty open-heel fins but still want something that will allow you to generate enough power to enjoy a wide range of dives, these are great. 

Affordable, durable and, thanks to the large central super channel and dual lateral channels, powerful enough to make seasoned divers feel comfortable and confident in the water. 

These dive fins are also highly flexible and easy to pack, and the orthopedic foot pocket makes them soft on feet (provided you get the right size).

Downsides to Consider

While divers will attest to these being the best scuba fins for hybrid use, they aren’t going to give you the same kind of power you get from open-heel fins.

Additionally, these aren’t for cold water dives. If you’re diving deep, especially in temperate seas, something you can wear a bootie with is going to be much more comfortable. 

Still great hybrid fins for someone who wants or needs the best of both worlds.


Specs

  • Weight: 2.8 lbs
  • Length: 30 inches
  • Materials: Silicone

The best scuba fins at any given time are those that serve your purpose. Full-foot dive fins are usually lighter, easier to pack and don’t require dive socks (aka booties) and the Scubapro Seawing Nova Full Foot Fin are no exception. 

These are the best scuba fins if you’re looking for something with a foot pocket because they also incorporate hinge technology that helps maximize the amount of thrust you generate. The articulated joint lets the entire blade pivot and the wing-shaped blade gives you a great mix of flex and stiffness. 

Two other very nice stability touches on this dive fin are the wing tips on the front of the blade and the power rails situated under the extended footplate. Both ensure there is minimal wobble on each kick so that you are transferring power forward, not losing it in a side-to-side motion. 

Everything from this fin’s thoughtful heelpad (to improve grip on boat decks) to the “pivot control tech” that keeps the blade at an optimized 45-degree angle for each and every kick is designed with comfort and efficiency in mind. 

Downsides to Consider 

You get a lot of power out of these very well-made scuba diving flippers, but they are not the best scuba fins for people with weak legs. In order to maximize your thrust, you need decent quad and hamstring strength. 

That’s not to say you won’t get used to them, but if you’re looking for a pair of fins after a long hiatus from the sport, especially if you’re coming off an injury, it’s something to consider. 


Best Split Fins: Atomic Aquatics Open Heel Scuba Diving Split Fins

Specs

  • Weight: 3lbs
  • Length: 23.5-25.5 inches (depending on size)
  • Materials: Rubber and plastic

Split fins are undoubtedly one of the best scuba fins for efficiency because they are designed to give you a lot of propulsion with less effort. The idea with the split is to minimize drag in the water while creating both lift and propulsion–functioning similar to a boat’s propeller.

These scuba diving flippers are a very nice balance between weight, length and power, and Atomic Aquatics trademarked “propeller fin” tech is designed to be used with small range of rapid flutter kicks. 

Small flutter kicks are great for maintaining your legs within your body’s slipstream in the water, which also helps to reduce drag. 

These are definitely some of the best scuba fins for older (and younger) divers because they require less effort to push you forward. Traditional paddle fins will generate more thrust, but obviously with more effort required. 

Flexible hinge points, a high surface ratio blade for great control, power rails that effectively transfer power and provide stability, and an internal sole plate all combine to make this one of the best scuba fins with a split-fin design. 

Downsides to Consider

These are definitely not cheap dive fins. You get what you pay for, and Atomic Aquatics is certainly one of the most respected names in professional diving, but these fins are an investment.

The foot pocket is also quite rigid, so booties are a must if you don’t want to rub your feet raw. They are open-heel, so dive socks are recommended (if not necessary) in the first place, but these do not feel good on bare feet. 

If you’re willing to invest in dive socks, these are awesome split fins.


Best Travel Scuba Diving Flippers: TUSA SF-0104 Hyflex Switch Scuba Diving Fins

Specs

  • Weight: 4lbs
  • Length: 22 inches
  • Materials: Polyurethane 

If you’re wondering why the TUSA Hyflex have made it onto this list twice–both as the best scuba fins overall and as the best travel scuba diving flippers–it’s because of two things. 

The first is that to reiterate, the industrial engineering, propulsion physics and fluid dynamics expertise that have gone into these dive fins is self-evident. They look and feel amazing, and everything in and on them–from the angled blade design to the highly responsive proprietary blade system, to the ultra-comfortable foot pocket–is engineered for maximum efficiency. 

The second is that these are, without a doubt, the best scuba fins to travel with on this list. The fact that you can remove the blade and travel with the foot pocket and blade separately is a game changer.

Anyone who has traveled extensively with scuba diving flippers knows that they become a focal point of your packing and arranging and you are kind of forced to pack around them. 

Downsides to Consider

From the comments, it appears that some people have a hard time finding the right size. Some allege these dive fins fit too large, others too small. When buying scuba fins online, confidence in the sizing chart and recommendations is certainly something to factor into whether or not you want to buy. 


Best Cold Water Fins: IST Rubber Rocket Scuba Diver Fins


Specs

  • Weight: 
  • Length: 
  • Materials: 

There are a few things that set cold water dive fins apart from their warm water counterparts. Typically, cold water fins are open-heel in order to accommodate a neoprene dive sock because your feet will be uncomfortable if exposed to cold water for too long. 

Second, cold water scuba diving flippers generally have bigger and thicker blades to provide more power to divers wearing bigger wetsuits (or drysuits), more weight and other pieces of exposure protection. 

Third, cold water dive fins are usually made to be negatively buoyant, because drysuit diving tends to make a diver’s feet float. Negative buoyancy means better trim and control in cold water conditions. 

The IST Rubber Rockets are the best scuba fins for cold water environments because they combine all three of the above criteria into a fin that is trusted by people whose life depends on their gear–deep sea divers, open sea rescuers, coldwater spearfisherman, and military special forces

These dive fins are made to stand up to harsh environmental conditions, are engineered with vented and curved high-power blades to jet-propel water, and are long enough to ensure efficient movement while short enough to provide excellent manoeuvrability in tight spaces. 

If you are planning on doing any open sea or deep sea diving or diving in northern latitudes (in fresh or salt water), you are going to want something like the IST Rubber Rockets on your feet. 

Downsides to Consider

These fins are heavy. Over 7 pounds, as a matter of fact, which is certainly something to consider if you are a traveling diver like me. I would definitely want something like this if I was doing some serious cold water diving, but as an item in my checked bag, I think I would want something lighter. 

That’s not to say you can’t compromise on space and other items or even travel with a designated dive bag (depending on what you’re doing and how long you’re traveling for). But be aware that you are getting something with some heft to it that will probably result in some preliminary leg fatigue as you get used to them. 

Pretty unbeatable for cold water, though.


Best Budget Fins: SEAC F100 Pro Diving Fins

Specs

  • Weight: 2.1lbs
  • Length: 28 inches
  • Materials: technopolymer, rubber 

Try to look past the word “budget” here if you can because these dive fins, while considerably cheaper than the other options on this list, are still made by SEAC at the end of the day. 

The F100 Pros are the best scuba fins for people on a budget, or looking for a cheaper pair of backup fins (either to keep in the car, at home or perhaps even to travel with). These are an ideal backup travel fin for tropical waters and they are also suitable for snorkeling and spearfishing. 

These recreational scuba diving flippers are light, surprisingly strong and very comfortable. You get something that is priced like a piece of recreational gear, but which utilizes pro design and technology like anatomical shoes, a 25-degree curved blade, and quite a long blade, which provides a lot of thrust.

They are also great for people who have sore or injured ankles and want power without the ankle strain that you typically experience with more powerful fins.

A straightforward, paddle-blade, channelled fin that is easy on the wallet but one that serious divers and snorkelers are happy to have as either their primary or their backup fin. 

Downsides to Consider

The blade is quite long, which is where much of the power comes from in this relatively inexpensive fin, but that means you need to be extra careful about touching coral while diving. This is even more apparent while snorkeling. 

You’re also sacrificing some power. It’s a full-foot fin, and it doens’t have the same propulsion engineering–hinges, vents, winged tips, power rails, etc.–that some of the heftier, more expensive open-heel dive fins have.

They are still some of the best scuba fins out there, especially when you consider the price, the manufacturer’s reputation and the weight.


What Went Into My Selection Process for the “Best Scuba Fins” List

  1. First and foremost my own diving, free diving and snorkeling experience around the world in a variety of conditions using a wide range of fins. 
  2. What do my dive friends, old and young, have to say about their favourite fins and what they like about them?
  3. A lot of reviews and video evidence attesting to the pros and cons of each of the dive fins I shortlisted and eventually settled on. 
  4. Extensive reading of the negative reviews so that I could give you a balanced take on a fin. There is no such thing as the perfect dive fin and, as trite as it is to say, everyone is different and values different qualities and features differently.

My Main Criteria When Choosing Fins For Myself

As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this review, the best scuba fins are those that are right for a given dive scenario. These are the criteria I use, however, when looking for fins for myself, and I tend to apply them regardless of where or how I’m diving:

  • Durability and material: I’m hard on gear (especially because I travel so much) and I have sensitive skin, so I need scuba diving flippers that are made from quality material that won’t destroy my feet. 
  • Not too hard not too soft: I want to be able to fight currents and do drift dives, which means I don’t want something that flexes too much, but I also don’t want something that is going to exhaust my legs. 
  • Medium-length blade: Longer blades, as a general rule, are more powerful, but because I travel so often and because I also like to use my fins for snorkeling, I tend to opt for something medium length (25inches or so). 
  • Full foot fins: I like full foot fins because they’re easier to travel with, most of my diving and snorkeling (though not all) is in warm water, and you don’t need neoprene booties to use them comfortably. Open-heel is more appropriate for shore dives and tend to be the style you find on more powerful fins, however. 
  • Price: I’m pretty frugal when it comes to almost everything in my life, but scuba fins is one of the exceptions. A good pair of dive fins shouldn’t cost you more than 250 bucks, but anything under 50 is likely not going to be something that stands the test of time (certainly not based on how rough I am on things). 

Reasons To Bring Your Own Gear When Traveling

If you’re a recreational diver that travels a lot to dive, you are probably going to want to invest in your own scuba diving flippers are some point. Different dive schools and boats have different philosophies on fins depending on where you go.

What’s more, some shops cheap out on fins or don’t have a wide enough range of sizes in stock. There is nothing worse than being stuck with scuba fins that aren’t right for your feet, body, the amount of weight required for a dive, dive type, water temperature and dive length.

You can work around this by traveling with your own fins and diving equipment wherever you go.


Looking After Your Dive Fins

There are basically four best practices when it comes to looking after your dive fins:

  • Keep them out of the sun: Ultraviolet light deteriorates fin material and shortens the life of your equipment.
  • Clean your fins: You should thoroughly cleanse your fins with fresh water every time you come out of the ocean. This is doubly important if you’ve been in a swimming pool, as chlorine is very bad for fins.
  • Store fins flat: Good quality scuba fins are robust, but if you store them bent or on their sides for long enough, you can end up with a permanent crease in the blade and make them more susceptible to tears and cracks.
  • Keep your foot pocket inserts: When you buy new fins, they come with plastic inserts. A lot of people just toss these, but you should hold on to them and place them inside your fins after each dive. This helps maintain the structural integrity of the foot pocket.

Scuba Fins vs Snorkeling Fins: Why the Distinction?

I love both snorkeling and diving. A lot of pure divers wonder why I even bother with snorkeling when you can spend 45 minutes at 60 feet and experience full immersion in the underwater world, but I’m also a big fan of patrolling from above. 

When snorkeling, I love the feeling of being able to descend and ascend freely while being unencumbered by tanks, BCDs, regulators and the like. 

If you search for “snorkeling fins” online, however, you are very likely going to be shown, at least to a large degree, the tiny little stubby fins that you might find at a big box retailer or be shown at the top of the list on big online retailers. 

These are also the kinds of fins that you are likely to be given or are available to you if you go on a leisurely snorkeling day trip in any mass tourism destination. They are also what a lot of resorts and hotels will have for guests. 

These, in short, are not scuba diving flippers. They are not even, in my opinion, great fins for snorkeling because the blade is too small to propel you efficiently through the water. My snorkeling fins tend to be ones that can also be used for diving, just with a closed heel. 

These stubby fins require a lot of kicking, which generates far too much whitewash (which can scare marine life and stir up the water), and it makes ascending and descending way more difficult. 

Dive fins are made for efficiency both under the water and on top of it. Longer blades, better flex dynamics, better draft reduction and power transfer, better materials, but more expensive. 


Why Investing in Good Quality Scuba Fins Makes Sense 

If you are a serious diver, you should want to get the most out of each and every underwater experience. The world’s reefs and marine ecosystems are in serious trouble, with many very dire projections. 

My goal when I’m underwater is to be as immersed and in the moment as possible, which means being able to navigate the underwater world as efficiently as possible. I want to conserve energy, I don’t want to startle or damage marine life, I want to feel confident that I can battle changing ocean currents when necessary and I want to be able to pack my fins when I travel. 

While I might opt for the pint that’s on sale at the pub, I’m willing to spend money on good quality dive gear because I know it will last and, more importantly, I know the experience is invaluable. In short, it makes sense to buy the best scuba fins available (that you can afford) because the alternative is a less optimized experience. 

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