Fins are an absolutely essential part of any diver or snorkeler’s kit. Whether you’re doing deep exploration of reefs and shipwrecks, or snorkeling casually with exotic fish, your fins help you move through water smoothly and efficiently. They help translate all your strength and effort into movement through water.
The right ones help you swim powerfully and smoothly , with minimal effort and soreness. But with the wrong ones, you’ll tire quickly, waste effort, or end up with a broken flipper in a dangerous situation. That’s why it’s so important to find your perfect pair!
While a lot of models might look similar from the outside, there are actually myriad differences across the market in terms of style, construction, and materials. You’ll need to sort through all your options to find the pair that best suit your activities. And that doesn’t even begin to cover figuring out which models are durable, reliable, and sized properly.
We’re here to help with a full, in-depth guide specially designed to get your feet suited up in no time!
We’ve compiled a list of all our favorite pairs, and written our own comprehensive reviews for each one. We’ll talk you through all the reasons we think these are the best out there right now. We’ll also help you figure out which ones best suit your budget and your specific activities! Plus, we’ve included an extra guide section to explain all the important things to consider while you’re shopping.
Let’s get started with a glance at our Top Three:
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.6
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.5
- Popularity: Medium
- Our Rating: 4.9
- Popularity: Low
Scuba & Swim Fin Reviews
1. Cressi Clio
Our most budget-friendly recommendations might be cheap in terms of price, but they’re the real deal. These Cressis come from one of the biggest scuba makers on the market.
They’re made in Italy, so they’ve got superior design and build quality to the other entry-level options. With a simple design and a very affordable price tag, they make a great beginner set, or a cost-effective solution for budget buyers.
Cressis are all made in Italy. That’s a plus on several levels. You get the ethical factor of well-paid labor and manufacturing conditions, plus the insurance of safe, environmentally friendly materials. Italian factories also have a much higher standard with quality control. That’s why even the cheapest Cressis are better engineered and manufactured than the Chinese competition.
The blade is reinforced with small spines, just like a fish’s fin. That gives it greater strength and resilience without adding much weight at all. The ridges and flat plane of the blade extend above the foot pocket to give the front of it some extra surface area. That allows for greater force without as much effort.
It has a full foot pocket. We like the small pull-tab, which makes these super easy to put on and take off. We also like the open-toe design. It feels less confined than a covered pocket, and helps newer divers feel less constricted and awkward while kicking.
The kick is smooth and flexible. It’s doesn’t require lots of strength, so it’s a good choice for newer divers, or for kids. The shorter length also helps eliminate some of the stiffness of a longer pair.
Quite a few buyers advised ordering a size down, as these run a bit big. However, we read a couple reviews from buyers who followed that advice and found them cramped. Based on the majority of buyer reviews, we’d lean towards ordering slightly down. However, if you’re between sizes or have wider feet, it might be best to stay with your usual size.
These are a pretty casual pair, in terms of power and propulsion. They’re an excellent choice for snorkeling trips and casual water activities, but they won’t help much with diving or in choppy waters where there’s a tide or eddy to fight.
2. Cressi Palau
These short little fins are a favorite travel option. They’re super compact and packable, without sacrificing performance. We like them for shallow snorkels, or for short trips to calm waters. If you fly frequently, and want something that will fit in your carry-on, these are for you!
They’re compact, but effective. Lots of travel models are short, but not all of them pack performance into their small size. These are highly packable, and they’re specifically sized to fit in a carry-on bag. They’re also super lightweight. But as previous buyers noted, they produce lots of power with each kick. In fact, when you’re snorkeling or making casual dives, you probably won’t notice a difference between the Palau’s and the full-size alternatives.
The short design is intended to suit users who participate in lots of different water sports, like surfing, windsurfing, rafting, and canoeing.
The shorter length also makes the Palau’s ideal for shallow snorkels, especially along reefs or coves. They’re ideal for situations where a longer pair would hit bottom.
The backstrap has a buckle adjustment system, like you’d get on a ski boot or binding. It can fit 3-4 consecutive sizes, so it’s easy to get your perfect fit-as well as to share them between swimmers. The extra adjustment room is also great if you need to accommodate dive boots or other clothing.
We love the buckle because it uses crank-ridges instead of buttons, so you can get lots of adjustment points. It’s super easy to tighten, but won’t let go unintentionally. Previous buyers loved the flexibility of the heel straps, and especially liked being able to share them with friends.
The other benefit of the backstrap system is that they’re extremely quick to take on and off. You can even put them on easily in the water.
The backstrap also includes a security ring, so you can attach it to your legging or to other dive equipment for extra security.
They’re very inexpensive. These are some of the cheapest options on the market, but they’re still made and designed in Italy, unlike the competition. Plus, you get a bag thrown in.
They’re not meant for serious scuba diving, or for swimming against a strong current. They’re surprisingly effective, but they’re intended for more casual use in watersports, and for recreational dives and snorkels. In strong currents, some buyers had issues with them coming loose.
Some swimmers didn’t like the stiffness of them. We wouldn’t say these are rigid, but they’re certainly not as flexible as some longer options. After all, that bit of rigidity is what gives you your power while kicking. However, if you have problems with stiff fins, these might not be your best bet.
3. Cressi Pluma
These Plumas are an excellent compromise between light comfort and power. They’re comfortable and smooth, but they produce a bit more snap with each kick. They’re a good choice for snorkeling in rougher patches or against currents, as well as making dives. We recommend them for people who like a softer option, but need more power from their kicks.
As with the Clio, the Plumas have the blade extended over the foot socket, which gives you about 20% more surface area. That’s extra power without taking up extra space! We love Cressi’s for that design feature, which gives you more power per inch than many other brands.
The Pluma is a lightweight model, but Cressi have engineered it to use the same moulding technology they developed for their technical and deep dive models. This multiple-injection process process combines three different materials in the casting, which creates a superior combination of power, light kicking, and comfortable fit. The result is a fin which feels like a casual snorkeling fin, but performs like a full scuba model.
The blade is made from polypropylene. It has a snappy rebound which gives some power to each flex. Cressi have also computer engineered a system of grooves and ridges along the length of the blade to keep the flex bending progressively, and in a tuned manner.
The resulting kick is fluid and untiring, since you’re not dealing with a completely rigid surface. Instead, you’re kicking into a long blade that curves all along the length, and rebounds in the same way. We like it because you get the power of a rigid piece with the easy flexibility of a softer model.
The innovative blade construction gives this pair the power to navigate through and against currents. Since the construction is something of a hybrid between a flexible and a rigid material, it takes some getting used to. However, previous buyers said it wears in very well, and becomes even more comfortable to use once you adjust.
The foot housing extends all along the pocket, providing a soft rubber barrier between your foot and the blade. Under your foot, there’s a hard sole with a non-slip insert to give you traction on wet boat decks, docks, and rock surfaces along the coast. It also provides a barrier against sharp pieces of gravel or glass.
Even though they’re a bit larger and more powerful than the Clios or Palaus, they’re about the same price.
Some previous buyers reported issues with cracks developing on them. It seems to be quite an isolated issue, but still something to be aware of. The Plumas aren’t quite as durable overall as other Cressis.
As with other Cressi models, the Plumas run big. You’ll probably want to order a size down. These ones are also a bit less flexible in terms of size than the Palaus. Since they have a full foot pocket as opposed to a backstrap, they’re harder to modify once you’ve chosen a size.
Because they’re longer than the Palaus, they won’t be able to fit in a carry-on bag. You’ll have to check them in for air travel.
4. Mares Superchannel
These Mares models are an excellent choice for people who want a bit more power, without the effort required from a full-bore scuba model. They use smartly engineered channels to maximize the thrust from all displaced water. We recommend them for people who do a lot of distance swimming, long snorkel trips, or recreational dives.
These stand out from the competition with their special-designed channels along the length of the blade. These channels keep the displaced water that you displace with each kick flowing behind you, rather than spilling over the sides.
That creates more thrust, and minimizes wasted power. As a result, these have a bit more oomph than the Plumas or our other cheaper picks.
They’re a better choice for diving, or for snorkeling in rough, choppy areas with a strong current or eddy. They’re not quite a full size pair, but they have some of that full size power without as much effort required.
These are some of the only ones on the market to feature orthopedic foot pockets. The variable thickness material provides support and cushioning to your feet much like the sole of a shoe.
The blend of Tecralene and rubber used in the construction process gives you excellent resilience and durability.
They’re quite flexible. Reviewers said that while they produce enough power to fight current, they kick very smoothly and feel comfortable. They’re definitely a more traditional feel than the Plumas, but with a bit more power to each kick.
Previous buyers said that while they initially thought that extra flexibility would mean less force, it simply meant they weren’t getting as tired as they would be with a stiffer one. That makes these an excellent choice for longer expeditions, and for distance swims.
They fit a bit irregularly. Most buyers found these ran a bit wide, so we’d recommend sizing down slightly (unless you’re wearing socks or boots).
Unlike the Cressi models we’ve reviewed, this Mares pair don’t have the the foot pocket located below the blade. That means you don’t get quite as much surface area to work with.
Since they’re a full-foot design, they aren’t very flexible in terms of sizing. You’ll want to be careful to get exactly the right size. Make sure you think about whether you’ll be wearing boots or socks!
Even though they’re more powerful than the Plumas or Palau’s, they’re not quite a full dive flipper. If you’re planning on doing lots of deep or technical dives, these probably aren’t for you.
5. Cressi Reaction
These Cressis are powerful enough to satisfy an advanced recreational scuba diver, without sacrificing the comfort that makes them a wearable snorkeling option for longer day trips.
They’re stiffer than our other recommendations, with a more defined snap that gives them plenty of thrust in currents and more difficult conditions. If you’re a strong swimmer who wants something more powerful and responsive than our other recommendations, these are a great all-around choice!
Just like the Cressi Palaus we looked at earlier, these are built using a tri-material molding technology. It allows for a range of important factors in one solid pair. These are bendy but resilient, snappy but responsive, and provide a very efficient energy translation which certainly deserves the name Reaction.
Because the materials which lend those attributes are all molded together, the whole of the pair works together. There are also fewer seams, which means much greater durability.
It’s a tapered design, with variable thickness along the length of the blade. That allows for a longer blade without as much bulk as traditional designs. Plus, it means that the top half of the blade is a bit stiffer, which gives you more propulsion, while the bottom half gives you some added flexibility to keep each kick smooth. And, like the other Cressi options, the foot pocket is below the plane of the blade, which gives you more surface area to work with.
They’re designed specifically to provide the extra power you need for for scuba performance without compromising comfort. The longer, snappier blade gives you the power you need to navigate deep underwater, while the extra comfortable foot pocket and flexible tips keep you from getting tired or sore while snorkeling.
Previous buyers said they have the soft feeling of a snorkel pair, but the power and definition of a more traditional performance model. This is a good choice for people who want to be able to tackle fairly advanced recreational diving, while maintaining some snorkeling compatibility.
The bottom of it is covered in thermo-rubber. It gives you plenty of traction on wet or slippery boat decks, as well as rock surfaces underwater. Plus, it adds some protection against any sharp objects you might encounter.
If you’re not a strong swimmer, you might find these a bit unwieldy. They’re more comfortable than your average performance model, but they do require a strong kick.
These aren’t the stiffest ones on the market, but they’re firmer than a snorkel or casual diving pair. If you’re after something super flexible, they probably won’t be for you. Overall, previous buyers said they were ideal for people who like something on the stiffer side.
They’re more expensive than the other Cressi models.
These ScubaPros are our all-time favorite technical model. They’re smartly-designed powerhouses which have a modified, twin-tip arrangement that gives you all the power and control you want from a technical model without the tiring feedback and unwieldiness of many traditional models.
We love the angled tips, which work together to create a propeller-like effect. With their drag-reducing design, efficient translation of effort, and super-durable construction, we’re confident these are the best option on the market for the advanced or technical diver. They’re a favorite among dive instructors and technical divers, and it’s easy to see why!
The plate under the foot socket stays nearly rigid. That helps you translate maximum effort from your leg muscles to the fin, since the angle of the blade goes as wide as you can kick it. By maintaining firmness under the foot, you’re sending all the energy of your kick down to the tips of the fins, so it’s not wasted in the middle.
The twin-tip/split-blade design minimizes drag, and helps maximize the surface of the blade to provide maximum propulsion. Split fins reduce cramping and strain on your ankle and leg muscles, since they translate your effort into propulsion rather than wasting it fighting drag.
Unlike some lesser twin-tip models, these Jets have angled blades which work together to create positive thrust, rather than simply reducing drag. The angled blades create a propeller effect as you kick, which keeps your thrust balanced, propelling you with both the upward and downward stroke.
Overall, they’re simply a more efficient design than solid fins, and even most split models. They save you effort and strain, which is key to making those advanced dives achievable.
In addition to the gaps between the tips, there are also extra vent gaps between the foot pocket and the blade. They do a lot to reduce drag, which is normally a problem with these larger technical models.
The Jets are designed to fit well with technical diving apparel. The foot pocket is designed to be slightly wider than normal, which allows for dive boots, dive socks, and wetsuits.
Previous buyers said they fit easily, and were simple to adjust using the backstrap. Unlike other makers, ScubaPro sizing is fairly standard, which means you can order your normal size and trust that it’ll work with your diving suit.
The open-heel ends are fastened by swivel buckle straps, which are simple but secure. You can also opt for spring-straps if you prefer.
There are lots of color options. Many technical pairs only come in black or one other color, but there are 6 options to choose from with this model.
The material used in the construction of these is extremely durable. Previous buyers reported owning these for 10+ years with no issues whatsoever.
They’re the most expensive model here, by quite a bit. The price point may make them inaccessible to some buyers, but the cost is comparable to other technical options.
They’re smartly designed to cut down on wasted effort and tiring feedback, but it’s important to remember that these are still technical fins. They require a strong swimmer with the strength and dexterity to make them work. If you aren’t an advanced swimmer, these might give you trouble.
Which are the Best Dive Fins for You?
The Cressi Clio is the clear choice for people on a tight budget, as well as new snorkelers. They’re the cheapest option here, but their Italian build quality is much better than other options at this price point.
These are smooth, comfortable kickers that are perfect for swimmers who are still learning. The price point also makes them ideal for people who haven’t snorkeled before and want an inexpensive starter set. However, they’re too bendy for diving, and they aren’t meant for swimming against currents.
The Cressi Palau is one of our favorite travel options, and it’s the only model here that you can pack in a carry-on bag. The short design is packed with smart features which really maximize the thrust that the Palaus can produce.
They’re ideal for shallower areas like coral reefs, and the adjustable sizing makes them easy to share with family and friends. If you’re going on a trip where you’ll be doing lots of water activities, from snorkeling to watersports, these are a perfect packable pair. However, like the Clios, the Palaus aren’t intended for strong, intense swimming or rough conditions.
If you like the comfort and smoothness of the Clios or Palaus, but need a bit more power and thrust, the Cressi Plumas are perfect for you. They have some of the length and strength of a dive fin, but with a comfortable design and fluid kicking dynamic that allows them to be comfortable for snorkeling.
They’re ideal for people who do lots of snorkeling and some recreational diving, but nothing too technical. They’re much better in rough patches and currents than the Clios or Palaus, and they’re about the same price. On the downside, they’re not as packable as the Palaus, and they don’t have quite as good a reputation for reliability as other Cressi models.
The Mares Superchannels are a great choice for people who do a mix of snorkeling and diving. The orthopedic foot pocket gives them the comfort you need for hours of snorkeling, while the extra length and snappiness of the blades give these more power than the Plumas.
We particularly like the smart channels cut into them, which help balance and maximize your thrust. The Superchannels are an excellent choice for recreational divers who want an all-around strong model, but one that’s still comfortable enough for the occasional snorkel. Just be sure you’re looking for a stiffer fin, as these are quite a bit more rigid than the Plumas.
The Cressi Reactions are the first real dive model we’re looking at in this guide. Their extra length and stiffness is perfect for the more adventurous diver, while Cressi’s innovative foot pocket means these are actually more comfortable than the Superchannel’s for snorkeling trips.
Don’t plan on using these anywhere shallow, though. They’re next to the longest of our recommendations, and they might catch on coral reefs. They’re more suited to the recreational diver who also likes to spend some time looking around. You’ll also want to be sure you have the swimming strength to handle these. They don’t require a technical diver by any means, but they’re not a casual fin, either.
The ScubaPro Jets are our recommendation to the most advanced divers out there. They’re probably not a good choice for snorkeling, given the stiffness and length of the fins (as well as the design of the backstrap), but they’re perfect for advanced and technical dives.
We love the smart, efficient design, which takes every step imaginable to get the most results out of your effort. These are perfect for strong swimmers who want to be able to make deep dives without getting unnecessarily tired or sore. While they’ll make you reach the deepest in your wallet, they’ll also take you the deepest underwater.
Overall, we’ve decided that the best scuba fins for most divers are the Mares Superchannels for their comfort, power and versatility.
How to Choose the Best Diving Fins
Think about what you’ll be using them for:
Start your search by considering the sort of aquatic adventures you’ll be taking part in. Whether you’re snorkeling, diving, or playing watersports, you’ll want to think about the requirements of each activity while you shop.
Snorkeling doesn’t require a very strong fin. In fact, the best snorkeling fins are soft and flexible, allowing you to swim for hours at a relaxed clip without getting sore or achy. They have a smooth kicking motion which doesn’t produce much feedback to your leg muscles.
You’ll especially want to pay attention to the foot pocket on snorkeling fins, to make sure they fit comfortably for longer trips in the water. However, if you’re going to be snorkeling in choppier places, or in spots where there’s a current to deal with, you’ll need a stiffer fin. Think snappy, not rigid. After all, a bulky and solid diving fin will be tiring and cumbersome on a day of snorkeling.
For diving, you’ll want something longer and more rigid. As a general rule, the longer and stiffer the fin, the more power it’ll wield underwater. Just bear in mind that the bigger and stronger the fin, the more power you’ll need to produce in order to kick.
For recreational diving, we recommend a mid-way fin with more stiffness than a snorkeling model, but less rigidity than a technical fin. For advanced divers, we recommend a technical model. While style is largely a matter of personal preference, we like split fins for technical dives, since they really maximize your power as a swimmer.
If you’re going to be taking your fins abroad or on a plane to another part of the country, make sure you find packable options. If you’re doing technical or in any way advanced dives, you’ll need a long fin. That means you’ll simply have to check it at the terminal.
If you’re snorkeling and doing casual dives, you should look for a travel-sized fin. These models are specifically sized to fit in carry-on bags, and as you’ll see from our recommendations, the small size doesn’t have to mean compromised performance!
If you’re looking for a fin that will cover multiple activities, make sure your selection ticks all the important boxes. For instance, if you’ll be doing both recreational diving and snorkeling, you’ll want a fin with extra length and rigidity for diving, but with a comfortable foot pocket which will keep you from getting sore as you snorkel.
Consider your swimming abilities:
After you’ve thought about how you’ll be using your fins, make sure you then think about your strength, dexterity, and stamina as a swimmer. You’ll want to get a fin that suits your abilities as well as your activities!
For example, if you’re a stronger swimmer, longer fins will help you get the most from each kick. On the other hand, if you’re not a stronger swimmer, a big stiff fin will just bog you down and tire you out.
Decide whether you want split or paddle-style fins:
The blade (the long pieces) of any fin is either a split or a paddle design. Paddle-style fins are one solid piece, while split fins divide in the middle.
Paddle fins can produce more power, but they also create more drag and feedback. They’re the best choice for people who make wide, strong kicks.
Split fins are more efficient, and use a propeller design to get the most out of your effort. However, they also require a different kicking movement (a tighter, fluttering pattern).
You’ll want to choose the style that makes sense for your own swimming style. As a general rule, you’ll probably want paddle-style fins for snorkeling, since they’re suited to slow, steady strokes.
We prefer split fins for technical diving, but if you prefer paddle-style fins, we’ve found some smart designs with channels cut into the blades to help lend these models some of the efficiency of a split fin without forcing you to change your kick style.
Choose between open and closed-heel fins:
Every fin has a toe pocket which is either closed or open at the heel. Open heel designs have a strap for securing the fin to your foot, while closed heel designs simply have a cupped end like the heel of a sock or fitted shoe.
Which should you choose? The short answer is that full/closed-foot fins are ideal, but they have drawbacks which make adjustable/open-heel fins the better choice in some scenarios.
Closed heel fins are lighter and create less drag than an open-heel design, since there’s no strap and buckle mechanism hanging out. Plus, since they have a sock-like design, you can wear them over bare feet. They fit like a glove.
Think about fit:
If you’re planning on wearing your fins over dive boots, socks, or a wetsuit, you’ll want to make accommodations in advance. Look for fins with a wider toe pocket or adjustable straps. If you’re looking at fins with a set toe pocket rather than an adjustable backstrap, you can always order a size or half-size up from your normal.
You’ll also want to pay close attention to each manufacturer’s size chart when you’re ordering. Just like shoes, fins have wonky sizing depending on the brand and style you buy. Be sure to double check the chart, and size your feet with and without your dive garb. We’ve also made note of any models that run particularly large or small in our reviews.
Decide on your budget:
The cheapest options are lightweight snorkeling fins and travelling models. Even at the budget range, you can find quite a few well-made options from Europe, so it’s not much of a savings to buy a cheap Chinese pair.
When you’re considering how much to spend on your fins, we suggest looking in the price range that’s appropriate for your activity level before you start narrowing down your options. Think about how often you’re in the water, and consider whether or not you’re planning on buying any other pairs of fins.
Think about durability:
Just as with any purchase, you’ll want to think about how your new fins will last over the long term. Since there’s not a significant difference in price between European-made and Chinese-made options, we’d suggest going with a European brand. They have much better standards for quality control, and put more effort into engineering durable equipment.
To ensure good longevity, look for fins with the fewest possible seams. Multiple-injection molding is a recent technology which allows manufacturers to combine different materials into one uniform piece.
In the past, they would have had to seal seams between each material. That’s asking for trouble over the long term Make sure your new fins are made from combined materials, rather that fastened layers.
It’s also a good idea to take a close look at the bottom of your fins. Whether you’re kicking off from the ocean floor, or climbing down rocks to snorkel a reef, the bottoms of your feet will almost certainly encounter rough, scratchy or sharp terrain.
Look for thick rubber or otherwise reinforced soles. They’ll keep you safe from sharp objects, and protect your fins from developing holes and tears.
If you’re still hunting for your perfect pair, check out all of Amazon’s best-selling fins here!