Open Heel Fins in Scuba Diving


Open heel fins, also known as adjustable fins, are a type of swim fin commonly used in scuba diving and other underwater activities. Designed to offer divers versatility and convenience, open heel fins do not enclose the entire heel area, as opposed to their full-foot counterparts. The distinguishing feature of open heel fins is the adjustable heel strap, which allows for a customizable fit to accommodate various foot sizes and different types of footwear, such as dive booties or wet suit socks.

History and Development

The concept of swim fins dates back to Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched designs for water propulsion devices resembling fins in the 15th century. However, the modern swim fin was not invented until 1936 when Frenchman Louis de Corlieu, a lieutenant commander in the French Navy, patented his “swimming propeller” design. In the decades since, various types of fins have been developed to cater to different aquatic activities and user preferences, with open heel fins emerging as a popular choice for scuba divers.

Design and Materials

Open heel fins are typically made from a combination of materials to balance flexibility, durability, and performance. Most commonly, the fin blade is constructed from rubber, silicone, or thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), while the foot pocket and heel strap are made from more robust materials such as rubber or durable plastics. This combination of materials ensures that open heel fins provide divers with a powerful and efficient kick while maintaining a comfortable fit.

Adjustable Heel Straps

The defining feature of open heel fins is the adjustable heel strap, which allows divers to customize the fit of their fins. The strap is typically made from a durable, stretchy material like rubber or silicone and is designed to be easily adjustable, often utilizing buckles or quick-release mechanisms. This design allows for a snug and secure fit, reducing the likelihood of the fin slipping off during a dive. Furthermore, the open heel design accommodates various types of footwear, such as dive booties, which can provide additional warmth, protection, and support during dives.

Blade Styles

Open heel fins come in various blade styles to cater to different diving preferences and conditions. Some popular blade designs include:

  1. Paddle Fins: Featuring a flat, wide blade, paddle fins offer a powerful and efficient kick suitable for divers of all skill levels. They provide excellent maneuverability and control, making them a popular choice for recreational diving.
  2. Split Fins: Designed with a split down the center of the blade, split fins reduce resistance on the upstroke and increase propulsion on the downstroke. This design allows for a more relaxed and energy-efficient kick, ideal for divers who prefer a leisurely pace or have limited mobility.
  3. Hinged Fins: Hinged fins feature a joint between the foot pocket and blade, allowing for a more natural kicking motion. This design increases efficiency and reduces strain on the diver’s legs, making them a suitable choice for extended dives or divers prone to leg fatigue.
  4. Channel Fins: Incorporating longitudinal channels or grooves in the blade, channel fins direct water flow more efficiently during the kicking cycle. This design increases thrust and reduces drag, making them an excellent option for strong currents or demanding dives.

Performance Considerations

When selecting open heel fins, divers should consider several factors to ensure optimal performance and comfort. These factors include:

  1. Fit and Comfort: The adjustable heel strap allows for a customizable fit, but divers should also consider the shape and size of the foot pocket to ensure a comfortable diving experience.
  2. Blade Style: The choice of blade style will depend on personal preference, diving conditions, and skill level. Divers should test different blade styles to determine the best option for their unique needs.
  3. Weight and Buoyancy: Fins with heavier materials may provide more power and durability, but they can also affect a diver’s buoyancy and increase fatigue during extended dives. Lightweight fins may be more comfortable and easier to maneuver, but may not offer the same level of propulsion. Divers should consider their preferred diving environments and personal stamina when selecting fins.
  4. Travel Considerations: For divers who frequently travel, compact and lightweight fins are more convenient to pack and transport. Some open heel fins are specifically designed for travel, featuring shorter blades and lightweight materials without compromising on performance.
  5. Compatibility with Accessories: Certain open heel fins are designed to accommodate accessories like spring straps or fin keepers, which can enhance the fit and security of the fins. Divers should ensure their chosen fins are compatible with any additional accessories they plan to use.

Maintenance and Care

Proper care and maintenance of open heel fins can extend their lifespan and ensure optimal performance. Some key maintenance tips include:

  1. Rinse after Use: After each dive, fins should be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water to remove salt, sand, and other debris that may cause damage or wear over time.
  2. Dry Properly: Fins should be allowed to air dry completely before storage. Storing damp fins can lead to the growth of mold or mildew, which can damage the materials and cause unpleasant odors.
  3. Inspect for Damage: Regularly inspect your fins for signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, tears, or loose straps. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage or potential accidents during a dive.
  4. Store Correctly: Store your fins in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can cause the materials to degrade over time. It is also recommended to store the fins flat or hanging by the straps to prevent warping or distortion of the blades.


Open heel fins are a versatile and popular option for scuba divers, offering a customizable fit and a variety of blade styles to suit individual preferences and diving conditions. When selecting open heel fins, divers should consider factors such as fit, blade style, weight, and compatibility with accessories to ensure the best performance and comfort during their dives. Proper care and maintenance of open heel fins will help extend their lifespan and maintain optimal functionality, ensuring a safe and enjoyable diving experience.