Swimming With Fin-esse: How to Swim Well in Fins (And Avoid Injury in the Process)

Posted on: 5 July 2016

If you've recently become a fan of scuba diving or snorkelling whilst on holiday and wish to start swimming in fins, it's good to know how to use them properly. Swimming well in fins isn't simply a case of kicking your legs as you would in a basic front or back crawl. It requires precision and patience to get the most out of them.

With practice, swimming in fins will not only increase your speed in the water, it can also provide an incredible full-body workout and improve your flexibility to help prevent injury. Ace your fin technique in time for your next vacation or scuba session by following these top tips!

Practice, practice, practice!

As obvious as it sounds, new finners rarely heed this advice and are too eager to try out a new novelty without a thought for how their ankles will take it. When ankles are untrained and unprepared for the added weight of fins, they tend to roll from side to side as you swim and this can affect your posture and alignment of your knees and back.

To get off to a gentle start in your fins, it's best to gradually build up your fin wear during swim sessions. You don't master a symphony in your first week of playing the violin, so be patient with yourself as you learn to develop your strength and distance. In your initial practice period, you should begin by swimming 500 metres in fins. If you feel discomfort or tenderness (which is normal), swim another 500 metres without them and repeat this process until your discomfort is less and less noticeable.

Do your stretches

Never underestimate the importance of daily foot and ankle stretches if you plan on using fins. Runners rarely jump head first into training without a warm-up and similarly, you shouldn't be diving in the deep end before you can paddle.

A fin swimmer's core strength is in the flexibility of their ankles, so make sure you get yours toned. By doing just 10-15 minutes a day of ankle rotations and flexes, you help to build ankle strength as well as helping to prevent foot cramp that can slow all swimmers down.

Certain yoga stretches and poses are also hugely beneficial for loosening stiff ankles, as are doing ankle rotations and forward flexes using a rubber fitness band to act as your foot stirrups.

Train with a mono fin

A mono fin can be an amazing training tool when learning to swim in fins -- mostly because you can make believe you're a dolphin while using them! As its name suggests, the mono fin is a single bladed fin that trains you to kick in one synchronised motion. (As with regular fins, be sure to get the right fin type for your feet to avoid injury).

Using a dolphin kick to swim and propel yourself farther in the water is more taxing on the body, since this type of movement engages your back, abdomen, glutes and quads all at once. This major body workout helps to increase your awareness of kicking from the hip as opposed to the knee -- promoting greater ankle flexibility whilst teaching you extreme kick power! Training with a mono fin may feel a tad strange and out of your control at first, but in employing the same practice technique as above, you can really make waves in your fin training and have a blast while doing it!

Hopefully these tips will help you to swim safely and more effectively in fins. If you are recovering from a foot or ankle injury or encounter any pain during the abovementioned practices, be sure to seek out a sports podiatrist in your area. Don't hesitate in getting the treatment you need to get back on your feet and back in the water!