Using fins at Linslade Crusaders
The main benefits of using fins have little to do with working your legs and everything to do with improving your swimming technique. A proper kick technique is narrow and compact. The best kick is short and fast, not big and powerful.
We use fins to increase the swimmer’s speed through the water, reducing the reliance on arms, helping to improve their posture and keeping their hips high in the water. The increased resistance of the fins can help swimmers kick from the hips, not their knees, and improve the strength of the up-kick. The buoyancy of the fins and increased speed can also lift the legs to the surface, reducing drag. This can help the swimmer focus on a particular aspect of the stroke, such as hand position, because the stroke rate is lowered and the body is more stable in the water. Technique is also less likely to deteriorate due to fatigue in the shoulders. It can also help with more advanced drills, which may not be possible without fins, and head position for freestyle and backstroke.
Ankles should flex when you kick. Using fins regularly for a small portion of your workout can help to increase your ankle flexibility.
Fins can also be used to help improve cardiovascular conditioning and fitness, but only in a controlled programme. The more muscles you use in the body, the greater cardiovascular benefits are felt. Adding fins to the equation for a portion of your training means there is an increased load and greater resistance in the water. This leads to a much more challenging workout with even more fitness benefits.
However, overuse of fins can, in some cases, also be detrimental to swim training. They can cause excessive fatigue to the legs, with associated loss of technique, or even injury. We do not use short fins for breaststroke, except for the breaststroke arms/freestyle legs drill, because the added resistance in the whipping action of the kick can place excessive force on the ankle, which can lead to poor technique and/or cause injury.
What are the best fins to buy?
It is about technique, so bigger or longer is not better. You should look for “short” or “training” fins and avoid “long” or “snorkelling” fins. Comfort is also important, so consider the flexibility of the fins and the heels.
The most common materials used in fins are silicone or rubber. Silicone fins are usually more supple and cause less rubbing on the foot.
Stiff fins can make the swimmer go faster but are less comfortable. Soft fins are more comfortable but may bend too much when power is applied. We would suggest softer fins are more suitable for younger swimmers.
Fins come with either open or closed heels. Open heel fins usually have a strap to hold them in place. They can give more flexibility, but can feel less secure than closed heel fins and can tend to squeeze the toes through the hole in the fin. We suggest closed heel fins, but if selecting a stiff fin you may find these would dig into the Achilles heel and an open heel fin is better.
Some fins are available which are specifically designed for breaststroke. These can be expensive and we do not ask our swimmers to buy these as part of their kit.
What if they cause blisters?
In general terms, a good fitting fin should not cause blisters and if they do we suggest you consider changing them. Some swimmers find petroleum jelly is useful to lubricate the area and reduce rubbing. Other swimmers have been known to wear thin socks. Special socks can be bought, at a price.
Can I use them when swimming at other times or pools?
That very much depends on the pool and you should check with them. They definitely cannot be used at galas, even for the warm-up.
Information on Using swim fins for our swimmers from Linslade, Leighton Buzzard and Bedfordshire