Do I Need Fins for Snorkeling?

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If you’re planning a snorkeling trip in the near future, you’re probably wondering about whether or not it is worth wearing fins. You’re probably aware that they allow you to swim more efficiently, but are they really worth it just for snorkeling?

Most people will find that it is definitely worth wearing fins unless you will only be doing some very casual snorkeling off the beach. Not only do fins make for a more enjoyable experience, but they are also for your safety if you get caught in a strong current. In this guide I will weigh up the pros and cons, and also talk about the different types of fins and offer some recommendations.

Pros & Cons of Fins for Snorkeling

There are both pros and cons to wearing fins whilst snorkeling. Hopefully, reading through these will give you a better idea of whether or not you would be better off wearing fins.

Pros

  • You can swim faster – The main benefit of wearing fins for snorkeling is that they allow you to swim faster. When using the correct technique, the difference is quite significant and you can cover a lot of ground quickly.
  • It’s easier to dive down – As well as being able to swim faster horizontally, fins also allow you to swim faster vertically. If you like to dive down for a closer look at the marine life when you’re snorkeling, wearing fins will make it much easier.
  • They save energy – Longer snorkeling sessions can be particularly tiring on your legs. Wearing fins reduces the amount of energy needed to move around so you won’t get tired as quickly making for a more pleasant snorkeling experience.
  • They give your legs bouyancy – When you wear fins, they give the lower half of your body buoyancy. This means when you are snorkeling, you can just lie there enjoying the marine life below without having to worry about your legs dangling down and injuring yourself on rock and coral.
  • Safety & protection – If you find yourself caught in a current, you will be much more effective at fighting it if you are wearing fins. Fins will also offer some protection to your feet from stings, cuts, etc.

Cons

  • More expensive – Fins aren’t particularly expensive and there are some budget friendly options available, but obviously it is still more expensive than not wearing them at all.
  • They take up space – Fins are quite bulky and can take up a fair amount of space in your luggage. That’s definitely something to consider if you’re travelling and trying to pack light. You can get travel fins if you want some that are more compact. There is also the option of renting too.
  • Can be uncomfortable – If you aren’t wearing fins that fit correctly they can get quite uncomfortable. You also need to consider the type of fins which will best suit you. Some are stiffer than others which can be quite exhausting for long sessions.

When You Should Wear Fins for Snorkeling

If you plan on doing longer, more frequent sessions, I would definitely recommend wearing fins. You will be able to swim more efficiently, cover more ground, and have an overall better experience. If you don’t wear fins, you will find that you won’t be able to cover much of the reef and you will get tired fairly quickly.

If there are currents where you will be snorkeling, fins are very important not only for a more pleasant experience, but also for safety. It can be very difficult and tiring trying to fight a current without fins. And remember, if you are not a strong swimmer, you should be very careful when going into the sea.

Fins are also a huge benefit if you want to free dive when you are snorkeling. This is particularly true if you are wearing a wetsuit or rash guard which give added buoyancy and makes it difficult to actually get below the surface.

Fins are particularly important if you will be snorkeling from a boat as part of an organised trip. The route that you take might be quite long and fins will allow you to easily catch up to the group if you fall behind. However, do keep in mind that most snorkeling trips will give you the option of renting or borrowing fins from them.

When Fins Aren’t Necessary for Snorkeling

If you’re only going to be doing some very casual snorkeling from the beach then fins aren’t really necessary. Although you will generally have a better experience with them, I can understand not wanting to bother with them if you’re not too serious about it.

It might be worth doing some research on the area where you will be snorkeling. Some places have amazing snorkeling right off the beach which is perfect if you don’t want to wear fins, whereas others require you to swim out a bit to find the best spots.

If you decide against wearing fins, make sure the conditions where you will be snorkeling are calm. Fins are not just to make your snorkeling experience more enjoyable, but also safer when there are currents.

Types of Fins

There are various types of fins on the market. Some are better suited to snorkeling than others. In this section, I will run through the different types and which types are best for snorkeling.

Full Foot vs. Open Heel

This refers to the style of the foot pocket of the fins. Full foot fins have a soft and molded foot socket and don’t require additional socks or boots (however, you can still wear neoprene fins socks for additional comfort or if the fins are slightly too big).

Open heel fins have a strap at the heel which allows you to wear them with dive boots (most open heel fins require you to wear boots although some can be worn barefoot). Open heel fins are primarily designed for deeper dives and colder water.

Overall, full foot fins are usually better suited for snorkeling. It’s unlikely that you will need to wear booties because you won’t be diving down to where the water is very cold, and full foot fins are much more convenient because you don’t need to wear boots with them.

Paddle Fins vs. Split Fins

Paddle fins consist of one solid “paddle”. This means that when using the correct technique and you have enough strength, they are very efficient and can provide a lot of propulsion. For waters with a strong current, paddle fins are effective at cutting through the current. Paddle fins are also much more simple so you won’t need to spend as much to get some that are good quality and effective.

Split fins have a slit down the center, dividing them into two parts. This design makes them much easier on the legs and they are better suited to people who are inexperienced with fins. However, they don’t offer the control that paddle fins do, and they aren’t as effective in strong currents. Split fins also use more advanced technology so you really have to invest in a good pair to get the best use out of them.

Unless you will be snorkeling in strong currents, you will probably be better off with split fins if you’re happy spending a bit more, especially if you’re pretty new to swimming with fins. But if you’re on a tight budget, or if you want more control (making quicker turns etc.) and have strong legs, then I would recommend paddle fins.

Travel Fins

If you’re worried about fins being too bulky to pack, you can get more compact travel fins. The problem with travel fins is that because they are so short, you don’t get a lot of propulsion with them. If you will be snorkeling where there are likely to be strong currents, I would not recommend them at all.

Overall, you will be better off with full-size fins, but if you really can’t justify how much room they take up, travel fins can be a good option.

Best Fins for Snorkeling

For most people, I would recommend full foot, split fins and I would also avoid travel fins. If you have strong legs and would like more control, then you could consider paddle fins instead of split fins, and if you really need to keep them compact, you could also consider travel fins (but I would recommend full-size fins if possible).

Below you can find our recommendations for various types of fins and links to where you can find them on Amazon.

Buying vs. Renting Fins for Snorkeling

As you would expect there are pros and cons to both options. If you plan on doing quite a lot of snorkeling and think it’s something you will be doing a lot more of in the future, I would definitely recommend buying. When you rent you can never be sure what you’re going to get. Will the fins be good quality and in good working order? Will they have the right size?

One potential benefit of renting is that it usually works out cheaper. But the cost of renting will soon add up and if you’re snorkeling regularly, it will eventually work out cheaper to buy some fins outright.

If you’re only going to be snorkeling infrequently, then you might not be able to justify buying due to the cost and the space they take up. This is fine and most areas with good snorkeling spots will have places where you can rent fins. Just remember, you can’t be sure what you’re going to get when you rent.

Wrapping it Up

So, to answer the question “do I need fins for snorkeling?”, well it depends, but you will probably be better off with fins. If you will only be doing some casually snorkeling and won’t be venturing off too far, then you can get away without wearing fins, but most people will have a much better experience with them. And if you will be snorkeling where there are strong currents, fins are necessary for your safety.

There are a few different types of fins which I have covered in this guide, but most people will find full foot split fins to be the best option.

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