Pros and Cons of Swimming With Fins

Swimming with fins is an activity you can do whether you’re a recreational swimmer or a competitive one. The long and short of it is that they can be used for recreation, fun, or even serious training, however the caveat is that they must be used properly.

If one uses swim fins as a crutch, especially if they are a new swimmer, then they are cheating themselves out of an early and crucial part of their learning process. It is beneficial to first get a sense of the feel of the water with your own limbs and know how to propel yourself before putting on fins.

Swimming fins can be used as a training aid and is a core part of any competitive swimmer’s training regimen. They can help swimmers improve ankle flexibility, increase their leg strength and endurance, and improve kicking technique and body positioning. Plus, they are just fun to wear. Unfortunately, they can also cause blisters, lead to joint pain, or reinforce bad swimming technique if you use them wrong.

As you can see, swimming fins can be a double-edged sword if you don’t know what you’re doing. The goal with swimming fins is to reap all the benefits and avoid the potential downsides. Read on to find out exactly what the pros and cons are of swimming fins so you can decide if they are worth it to you.

Benefits of wearing swimming fins

Decrease wear and tear on your shoulders

Since swimming fins give your kicks more thrust, you can propel yourself forward much further and faster. Most swimmers will still use their arms when swimming, but with fins on, it’s much easier to practice swimming with your arms at your side so that your shoulders can get some much needed R&R.

Wearing swimming fins for warming up is also a low-impact way to get yourself ready for an intense session. If you happen to have an injured shoulder, you can still get some training done with fins on; it’s much better than sitting out for however many weeks it takes to recover.

Increase leg strength and endurance

While it’s true that swimming fins can make you faster, it comes as the cost of requiring more leg strength and endurance. For those unaware, in order to generate the thrust needed to propel yourself further and faster, you must first have the leg strength to displace water backwards with your kicks.

Depending on how long the fin blade is and how thick it is, it will require more effort than usual. If you don’t have strong legs, you may find fins too unwieldy to kick with. Also, the first few times you wear fins, you may not have the stamina to swim with them for long.

Over time, your legs will develop stronger muscles and endurance to be able to handle the extra resistance that swim fins introduce. These gains will help you even after you take your fins off and kick with your bare feet again.

Increase ankle flexibility

The more you train with fins, the more you’ll find your ankles are getting more flexible. You need good ankle flexibility to do better kicks, making this benefit extremely desirable.

Make sure you’re kicking down with the top of your foot and up with your sole. Make sure your ankles are extended to gain forward momentum with your kicks.

Practice good kicking technique

It’s important that you know how to properly do a kick before you wear fins, otherwise you will find the fins to be an impediment rather than a benefit.

A good freestyle kick starts at the hip, then bends at the knee, then finally down to your feet. This kick is known as a “whip kick”. You can also do an “up kick” by keeping your legs straight. Both types of kicks can be done in conjunction with swim fins, which can help you train this motion.

Improve body positioning

Fins are slightly buoyant, and the extra thrust they help you generate can help you swim higher in the water. Optimal body positioning requires your hips to be higher in the water, which fins can help you achieve.

With fins on, you can get a better feel for what it’s like to be in this correct body position. You can try to achieve the same position even after you take the fins off. A higher body line will allow you to swim faster and more efficiently.

Swim faster than ever before

It feels nice to go fast. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a competitive swimmer or a recreational swimmer. If you feel like you want to go fast, put those fins on and have the time of your life.

Not everything needs to be about training. What about fun and enjoyment? Swimming with fins lets you swim a greater distance with less effort so it’s perfect for covering large distances while snorkeling.

In a swimming pool, you can swim as fast as you can and hope that one day you can achieve that speed even without fins. The first time you swim with fins, it will feel like you’re flying, and that is an experience that is hard to forget.

Downsides of wearing swimming fins

Can cause blisters

Unless your fins are open heel and you’re wearing fin socks, there is a good chance that swim fins can rub against your skin until it chafes. This can eventually cause painful blisters that make you not want to swim with fins ever again.

Blisters can be avoided if you wear fin socks or wear a pair of fins that is just the right size for your feet so that they don’t shift around.

Can increase wear and tear on lower body joints

Even though you can give your shoulders a break, wearing swim fins will add more resistance and put more strain on your ankles, knees, and hip joints.

There is a possibility that you can develop lower body joint pain over a long period of time, especially if you have poor kicking technique.

If you already have joint pain in your lower body, be extra mindful of wearing swim fins and monitor your joint health by seeing a doctor.

Can reinforce poor technique

There is something to be said about a beginner learning how to swim with fins. Flippers are not something you should wear while you’re still learning the basics.

You need to already have good kicking technique before you use fins. If you don’t, then you may be kicking improperly and reinforcing this bad technique. It can also lead to the next problem, which is becoming too dependent on fins to swim.

Can become reliant on fins

When competitive swimmers train with fins, they do it in moderation. They still need to practice swimming without fins, because that’s how they will be swimming in a meet.

If you are a beginner who has only ever swam with fins, then you may build a dependency on them which is not ideal. Are you able to swim without fins? What happens if you forget to bring your fins, or if one of your fins falls off while swimming? Hopefully you don’t end up flailing in the water.

Swim fins should not be used as a crutch; learn how to swim properly before wearing fins. Do not let the fins trick you into thinking you’re a better swimmer than you are.