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How to Choose a Swim Training Fin


Swim training fins have many useful benefits, including use in physical rehabilitation, aqua aerobics, fitness swimming and competitive training. Using a smaller training fin provides added resistance without overloading the muscles joints, ligaments and tendons used in water exercise. Many fitness and competitive swimmers use long scuba/snorkel fins as a training aid. Because the center of effort in a long fin is forward of the foot, the excessive blade area and displaced center of effort may cause early fatigue or cramping, and encourage a "pedaling" motion different than that used in a flutter kick. The concept of the short training fin was conceived to bring the center of effort back to the foot, increase leg strength, and allow a swimmer to train with a kicking motion that is the same as the flutter kick without a fin.

Why top coaches, aqua aerobics instructors, and world champion swimmers use training fins:

  1. Increase leg strength - especially the underdeveloped muscles at the back of the leg.
  2. Develop "muscle memory". Training with fins increases awareness of an erratic or weak kick.
  3. Achieve the elevated race position to improve stroke technique without race effort. On a more basic level, for those who have not experienced the "high in the water" feeling, swimming fast with fins gives them a tangible goal.
  4. Continue training and maintain fitness while recovering from upper body injuries.
  5. Rest arms and shoulders between hard swim sets while maintaining an elevated heart rate with kick sets.
  6. Increase aerobic capacity. The muscles of the legs are the body's largest, and working them hard at an elevated heart increases aerobic capacity.
  7. Using training fins may increase ankle flexibility, providing a more powerful and efficient kick.
  8. Practice wall approach timing at race pace without race effort.

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Choosing a Fin

Heel Strap vs. Full Foot Pocket

  • A full foot pocket fin may give the feeling that the fin is a natural extension of the foot with more power being transferred from the leg to the thrust of the fin.
  • Heel straps allow adjustment of the fore and aft position of the foot in the foot pocket.


  • Comfort is always the first requirement of a training fin. If they are too stiff or inflexible, chafe or irritate your feet, or cramp your foot or ankle, then obviously, that fin is not for you.
  • Look for a fin that is soft and flexible in the foot pocket.


  • Performance is why we use training fins. Does the fin provide enough resistance (surface area) to give the desired workout without overloading the leg muscles and connective tissue?
  • When training for competitive swimming, your fins should allow you to maintain race pace with only a moderate amount of your normal race effort.
  • Look for a fin that provides equal thrust in both directions.Freestyle and backstroke require similar effort in the forward and backward part of the kick.
  • In most swimmers the back of the leg muscles are less developed than those in the front of the leg. It follows that we should be devoting just as much, if not more, training time and effort to the muscles that power the backward component of our kick.
  • Many swimmers prefer to don their fins on deck and enter the pool from a ladder or steps. Look for a fin with a substantial non-skid pattern on the bottom of the fin.


  • Durability is related to the quality of the material and design. Fins usually break down by splitting at the heel and tearing at the toe pocket, or in some cases growing enough mold to resemble a science project gone bad.
  • If the foot extends too far through the toe pocket, it can act as a powerful lever and eventually split the rubber at the edge of the pocket.
  • Likewise, a thin wall around the heel and at the instep will not long survive the normal stress of use, as well as the tugging and stretching when putting them on.


  • Value is the sum of comfort, performance, and durability. A good barometer of quality and durability is how long the fins are lasting team swimmers.
  • With daily use, and frequently, no personal investment, the wear and tear in the team environment is undeniably the toughest test any gear can endure. It makes sense to pay a little more for a comfortable, good performing fin with a long expected life, than it does to buy the cheapest available and have it tear out in the toe pocket or heel before you've used it a year.

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