Warm water fins vs. cold water fins

What’s the difference between cold water and warm water fins? Can the same fins be used for scuba diving and snorkelling?

There is not much reason for a diver and a snorkeller to seek a different fin. Divers do need the power to push the extra gear that they’re wearing through the water, but there are plenty of other considerations when choosing a fin for either activity. One of the most significant is where you’ll be using the fins.

The biggest difference between fins used in warm water and cold water is that cold water fins must allow for the diver or snorkeller to wear appropriate exposure protection on their feet. This may include various thicknesses of neoprene boots or a drysuit boot.Fins designed exclusively for warm water tend to have quite a small foot pocket. This is usually designed to be worn on a bare foot or with a light neoprene sock (sometimes adding a sock requires going up one fins size) and hugs the foot snugly. A well-fitting fin with a nice, soft rubber foot pocket like the Tusa Solla full foot fin allows the diver or snorkeller to wear the fin with a bare foot without irritation. Because of the smaller foot pocket and because even scuba divers tend to be wearing less gear in warm water these full foot, warm water fins tend to be smaller making them easier to pack and travel with than their cold water counterparts.

Cold water fins generally are larger than warm water fins in order to accommodate the extra space necessary in the foot pocket and in order to provide the power divers wearing additional exposure protection and weight may need to move through the water. These fins are almost always an open foot fin. That is, they have a strap (usually adjustable) across the back of the foot opening rather than being one solid plastic or rubber pocket. This allows them to accommodate a wider range of foot and boot sizes. Some divers opt to add a spring strap for ease of donning and removal. Additionally, for divers in drysuits that often struggle with floaty feet, a somewhat negatively buoyant fin can help them achieve better trim and control in the water. Many manufacturers recognize this and this is wear you see the classic black rubber fin like a Jet fin or Turtle fin.

Unweighted or neutral fins like the Atomic Blade can be used in cold water and warm water. To find a fin versatile enough for both, you’ll want to buy with your cold water exposure protection in mind and then just add a 5mm-7mm neoprene wetsuit boot for your tropical dives to protect your foot from the strap and to take up an appropriate amount of space in the larger foot pocket. This is a popular, functional option for divers and snorkellers looking to use one fin for multiple destinations and purposes.