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I need to buy a new pair of fins. There are many choices, so I would like some technical guidance. I am savvy in the water, but not as strong as I was, so I would like fins that give me the most help for their inertia.

Thus, a very long fin does not seem good for me. I've looked at a split-fin, but don't understand the benefit -- the person showing it to me said it would increase maneuverability. I don't think this is my main concern. My main concern is conserving energy.

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    A note if you're looking at bent fins: they sell bent fins because, in theory, it reduces stress on the ankle because your foot can kick at a more neutral angle. If you have competitive swimming experience (as I did), this can actually feel incredibly awkward because you've trained yourself to kick with your toes extended behind you, and you cannot kick that way with bent fins. – Cort Ammon Dec 4 '15 at 0:10
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The prime benefit with a more flexible fin is you get greater efficiency vs a bare foot for a minimal cost in increased resistance when kicking. I've found that to be generally true with split-fins as well because the split makes the "scoop" of the fin more flexible. I've never swam with the really long free-diving and/or monofins but their length/size means they can't be very stiff.

Stiff fins really shine when you care more about power/speed than reduced resistance. The fins that I typically use are stiffer fins, and I like them because I can kick softly to go slow, and I can kick hard/quickly to go fast. With more flexible fins I almost always reach a point where kicking harder doesn't actually make me go faster.

Really short fins are nice when you just want a boost when kicking, but don't want to deal with the pain of walking with duck feet. A good use case for this is boogie/body boarding because you spend a decent amount of time in shallower water where it is more comfortable to walk.


In practice (my experience so YMMV) this means that my split-fins/flexible fins let me go slow to medium speed with less energy, and my stiff fins let me go slow to fast speeds albeit with a bit more effort on the low end. Personally I like having the ability to push hard/fast if I need to so I always end up using my stiff fins and keep my split/long fins for loaners/backups. The design that I prefer is similar to the one below:

whale fins

IMO you should probably go with a split-fin since your main concern is saving energy. They offer the least amount of resistance and let you go slow to medium speeds pretty easily. They are also more pleasant to kick IMO than a more traditional long rectangle flexible fin. The split-fins I have look similar to these:

split fins

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    I tried a split fin in Palau several years ago, and felt uneasy with them, because I felt that I had nothing to fall back on if I needed extra power. You seem to be saying the same thing. But Palau was mostly open ocean snorkeling, which is not what I am thinking about next. – ab2 Dec 5 '15 at 0:48
  • @ab2 yes that is exactly my experience and why I don't use those fins much. Personally I'd rather spend more energy and know that my speed is limited by my ability not by my gear. – Erik Dec 5 '15 at 0:53
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I'm sure someone will give you a nice answer to the general pros and cons to different fins/recommendations, but I just wanted to make a few comments: (1) what are you snorkeling around primarily? You may want a short stubby fin if you are going around corals (to avoid damage) or if you are moving around/through tight rocks crevices (to be more maneuverable. (2) a fin that looks good on paper may not be a good fit for you personally (comfort, fit, and even your 'kick' style...though this can be adapted). If you have the option to try a few types definitely take up the opportunity!

I don't know much about the different fin types so I can't really give a thorough answer. I tried split fin on one dive and I got cramp (probably down to my kick technique more than the fin).... I generally use a more rigid fin. The ones I ended up buying are the Cressi Reaction. I typically scuba in waters with strong currents, surprise eddies underwater, etc. I use these fins for snorkeling as well.

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