Why you NEED swim fins
By Phil Gerrard, Updated 4th August 2020
If you are swim training, fins are a must. We look at why they are required, and review differing fin designs and their purpose.
First off, have you ever wondered why many squad training sessions begin with sets with fins? This is purely about injury reduction. Using fins for the first sets has results in less strain on your upper body - in particular your shoulders. While many swimmers start off easy, there are always those that go hard from the start (can’t waste that training time!) Fins ensure a relaxed warm-up for your upper body.
But that’s just the start when it comes to fins and training. It’s not hard to see that training with fins increases leg strength and endurance. More power equals more speed. They are also useful for you to feel and develop you kick up, as opposed to the kick down. Most swimmers are very aware of the kick down, but the adding force to the kick up gives that speed boost.
Need more reasons to get a pair of fins? A few more not so obvious benefits are fins help teach a horizontal body positioning. Fin flotation can help you correct a poor body position (that you may not even realize is a problem until you wear fins). Popping on fins naturally raises your feet. This horizontal position is what you aim for – with or without fins. But fins are sure to highlight if your body position changes with the additional flotation. Many swimmers find that they go so much faster with fins. But guess what – it’s not just the additional power you can achieve with fins. It’s the reduced resistance from your body positioning.
Finally it’s worth considering ankle flexibility. Great swimmers have exceptional angle flexibility – giving a large surface to transmit force. But this can often be a challenge for triathletes, as running has the opposite affect if adequate stretching isn’t performed. Fins encourages flexibility. Swimming with fins, you soon know with fins if you are pointing your toes or not! And if not, fins will guide you in the right direction.
So what fins are appropriate for swim training? Assuming pool training, hard plastics are out. This makes many snorkel style fins inappropriate. A flip turn against concrete with a hard fin is not pleasant… Hard plastics will also not hold up well over time, with the material being prone to scratches and gouges. We are looking in general for 100% rubber fins. Next up, the fin length is important. The longer the fin, the more it will modify your stroke and kick mechanics. A final factor is comfort. A fin should fit snugly, and have a flexible foot pocket to reduce any potential rubbing that can lead to discomfort or blistering.
So what is a good fin? Check out these fins from Finis. In case you haven’t heard of Finis, they are a premium swim brand that produces quality swim training products.
These fins are great for general purpose swim training. In fact – go to any swim squad, and I’d guess that around 95% of swimmers will be wearing something very similar to this. The fin is standard length, and being 100% rubber, it’s a soft and a snug fit is possible without discomfort.
While the fin above is what would be used for most swim training, a short fin can also be useful for working on your flutter kick – something you can’t do with a long fin. TYR (one of my favourite swim brands) make a very nice short fin called the TYR Striker. The striker may be what you are looking for if you are working on your sprint power and kick speed.
Given the TYR Strikers short length, it’s been made from 100% silicone. No complaints here about the amazing comfort these fins offer.