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THE REVIEW

Top Swim Products Tested and Reviewed by Gold Medalist Mark Gangloff

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  • Jun

    Top Training Fins Compared - The Gangloff Review

    TRAINING FINS REVIEWED:
    FINIS Zoomers Gold Swim Fins
    Speedo Biofuse Training Fin
    TYR CrossBlade Training Fin
    Sporti Training Swim Fins
    HEAD Swimming Energy Swim Fin
    Arena Tech Fin

    Hi guys, Mark Gangloff here! Welcome to my first product comparison post! I thought hard about which review I would like to do first, and decided to start with fins for several reasons. My primary reason is that fins are probably my favorite piece of equipment. It is very difficult to create high speeds during training and putting on fins instantly gives you that speed you are looking for. Also, during longer swims, I believe it helps you maintain better form throughout the course of a set or workout. 

    In this review, I have decided to focus on the “Training Fin” or what can be considered a “short fin.” I train with these fins not only because of the additional speed that I mentioned earlier, but also because using the training fin allows for a very natural kicking motion. Often times with a longer fin, you cannot maintain the same kicking frequency that you can with a training fin. The training fin gives me the additional speed I am looking for without getting too far away from what my kick will be when the fins are taken off.

    Below are the fins I ordered, with my favorite fins at the top of the list. Please understand that everyone wants to get different qualities out of their fins, so read each review to pick the best training fin for you. Let’s get started!


    Fit 
    FINIS has been making Zoomers for a long time and there is a good reason for that. You know what you are going to get out of these fins: it is a very high performing, comfortable fin. The first question almost everyone asks when trying on a fin is, “Will this fin fit correctly?” My answer is “Yes.” The fit of the fin is snug, but not too tight. FINIS has done a great job at making the “rubber” firm enough to kick fast with, but not too hard as to hurt your feet. As you will see in other reviews, this is not an easy task.

    Performance 
    These fins are probably the shortest fins in the group. Still, when you start kicking with them, they are going to give you some nice propulsion. Probably the best part about these fins is that when you start putting some torque on them, they stay on your heels. The other major reason I like these fins is because you can move your feet fast with them. The reason these fins are on top of my list is they best fit my goals of giving you speed, while staying true to what the kick will be when you take the fins off.

    The only other thing to be mindful of is that these fins are not going to be the best for longer more endurance sets when your kicking frequency is slightly lower. You may want to look for a longer blade if that is the case.

    Pros
    Comfortable, true to size, great foot speed

    Cons
    Not the best for longer sets

    Speedo Biofuse Training Fin


    Fit 
    I was pleasantly surprised when I put these fins on for the first time. The fit was very good. While I know this is not a review for the Speedo Optimus Training Fin, I do have to mention it. In the past I have tried to use the Optimus and while others I swam with did get the fit right, I could not. The XL was too tight and the XXL would slip off my heels when going fast. I say all of that to applaud Speedo for adjusting the sizing with the Biofuse Training Fin.

    Performance 
    As a whole, these fins fit great. Like the Zoomers, the fit is snug but not too tight. When you want to go fast, the fin is firm enough to give you a quick response yet small enough to keep kick frequency high. I like these fins because the blade is slightly longer than the Zoomers, so they are better for sets that are a little longer.

    I went back and forth on which fin to put first. But ultimately, I chose the Zoomers because the rubber on the toe portion (see picture below) of the Biofuse is very hard. 

    My first three toes hung over the edge of that hard rubber and it began to hurt my feet when I pushed off the walls. Now this was easily taken care of. It took me about 5 minutes with a nail file, but I took down the sharp edge and it was no problem after that. All-in-all, a very good fin.

    Pros:
    Longer blade, true to size

    Cons
    Plastic is hard/sharp, may need to be filed down

    TYR CrossBlade Training Fin


    Fit
    When I first put this fin on, it was pretty tight. Now I will say, I wear a size 13 shoe and the largest size on SwimOutlet’s website is size 11-13 so I am at the top of this range. I would agree with many of the SwimOutlet customers’ reviews that you may have to go up a size, especially if you are at the top end of the size range. 

    Performance
    Though the fin was tight it did perform well when I started using it. This fin has the longest blade of all the fins I am reviewing, so it does hold a lot of water when kicking. The rubber is very firm from the toe to mid-foot (see picture below). 

    From mid-foot to the heel, the rubber is much softer. This is the best -- and the worst -- thing about this fin. Because the rubber changes so drastically, the fin lags behind when you kick down by bending at the interchange of the two rubber densities. Simply put, the fin bends in the middle when you kick down.

    If you are a swimmer that does a lot of lower speed and longer sets, then this may be a great choice for you. If you are doing a lot of high intensity and shorter bursts of speed, then this may not be the fin for you. Because of the training I do, I like my fin to be a little bit more responsive and not have as much lag / bend when kicking down. Take into account the type of training you will be doing and remember you may have to size up. 

    Pros
    Long blade, good for longer set

    Cons
    Too small, not great at very high speeds

    Sporti Training Swim Fins

    Overall, I would say this fin is very similar in size to the TYR CrossBlade

    Fit
    But there are a few differences that I would like to point out. First, the sizing (11-13) on the Sporti fin was much better for me, being that I am at the top of the size range. The other main difference is that the rubber density does not have the same break or change in the mid-foot area like the TYR Crossblade.

    Performance
    Again, this is the best and worst thing about the Sporti Training Fin. If you want a fin that is responsive for shorter and faster bursts of speed, then I would choose this fin. There is no lag when you start kicking very fast. But if you want something for longer and slightly slower efforts, then the TYR Crossblade may be for you.

    Even though the Sporti Training Fin fits my training style well, the hard rubber on the Sporti does come up too high (see picture to right) on the sides of your feet. Over time, this did give me a little bit of discomfort on the sides of my feet. This is probably the fastest fin in this entire group, but its overall comfort has knocked it down the list.

    Pros
    Great at high speed, true to size 

    Cons
    Not the most comfortable

    HEAD Swimming Energy Swim Fin


    Fit

    A couple of the customer reviews on SwimOutlet's website mentioned that the Head Swimming Energy Fin fit a little large. So even though I wear a size 13 shoe, I decided to order size 11-12. I am glad I choose the size that I did, because these fins fit very well for me. It is probably a good idea to size down.

    If I were to compare these fins to any of the others that have come before this one, I would say they are closest to the FINIS Zoomers. Head has done some interesting things with these fins that I have not seen before. When you slide the fins on you are putting your foot into the rubber portion of the fin, which is very comparable to the Speedo Biofuse. But the actual blade and bottom of the fin is made of a plastic material. When looking at the pictures, the orange portion is plastic and the black portion is rubber (see pictures below).


     

    Performance
    I am not sure if it is because of this plastic, but these fins seem to slip in the water when kicking at a slower pace. When I started kicking very fast, they seem to grip the water a little bit better and that may be the idea behind why they made them that way. For me, I prefer a fin that has a little more hold on the water, especially on the bottom of the fin.

    During the up-kick (bottom of your feet), the Head Swimming Energy Fin didn’t hold much water -- excuse the pun. When I look at these fins, I do see a lot of potential. The hard plastic mixed with the rubber makes sense to me. I will be interested to see if Head can make some adjustments upcoming versions. 

    Pros
    Innovative design, good for foot speed

    Cons
    Too large, does not hold much water

    Arena Tech Fin

    Are you someone that needs the latest and greatest technology? The Arena Tech Fin may be for you. To me, Arena is a brand that is always trying be ahead of the curve. This fin could be in a category all by itself. The design is different, the material is different, and the fit is different than any other fin I’ve tried.             

    Fit
    The first impression that you get from these fins comes when you hold them. When you hold them in your hand, they are as light as a feather. Needless to say, I was very intrigued to try them out.  Like with the Head Swimming Energy fins, the customer reviews on SwimOutlet’s site said the Arena Tech Fin would run a little large. I ordered the size 10-12 and they fit pretty well, so consider sizing down. Unlike the other fins in this review, the Arena Tech Fin does not have a heel. Instead, there is a strap that goes around the back of the ankle. I would not consider this much of a positive or a negative -- just a difference.

    Performance
    The material itself is similar to a pair of Crocs, which makes taking these fins on and off very comfortable. Unfortunately, in terms of performance this fin left me wanting more. I did not feel like I was kicking much water on the down-kick (top of your feet) and almost none on the up-kick (bottom of your feet). The bottoms of the fins have a lot of contours (see picture to right), which probably leads to a decrease in overall surface area. This means less water to kick. 

    The other thing about these fins is they float – and boy, do they float. When I placed the fin on the water, it looked like it wasn’t even touching the surface. I was pretty amazed. This floating leads you too feel your feet really coming out of the water as you swim.

    I think this fin will appeal to the technology guru and the distance swimmer that likes to let their legs drag behind them (sorry distance guys, you know its true). Like with the Head Swimming Energy fin, I am excited to see where Arena takes this because they could be up to something great.

    Pros
    Innovative, comfortable

    Cons
    Too small, does not hold much water

    Final Thoughts

    This has been an interesting process for me to review several products side-by-side. I really figured out what I am looking for in a product. Please make sure to read all of the reviews, as each fin is a little different. I hope that I have helped you make the best decision for you and your training needs. Keep swimming fast. Good Luck!

    - Mark Gangloff

    About Mark Gangloff

    Mark Gangloff is a two-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 meter medley relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He is the U.S. Open national record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke set in July 2009 in Indianapolis and attended Auburn University. He now works as an Assistant Swimming Coach at the University of Missouri. His large hand size is 8.5 inches from wrist to the top of his middle finger and 10.5 inches spread across from his thumb to pinkie.

     

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    Ellee
    2 years ago.
    Try swimming a 25 yards underwater kicking butterfly kick. With out breathing
    Abby H.
    2 years ago.
    Training Fin Tip: Alternate using your fins with Freestyle and Backstroke to build uniform leg mucsle strength!
    Michael Feldman
    2 years ago.
    great post. fins are probably one of the hardest training accessories to buy online, and this analysis helps a lot
    Mark Gangloff
    2 years ago.
    Michael,

    My pleasure. Keep checking for more updates. All the best.

    Mark
    Vernwill
    2 years ago.
    I just wanted to say I am very pleased with my Quicksilver slides! I got them on sale Too! I will continue to buy from Swim Outlet.
    sunny
    2 years ago.
    My tip is also to wear socks if needed. Even thin, snug athletic socks work to keep the fins from slipping and creating blisters.

    Thanks for the review!
    Deb Sarhan
    2 years ago.
    This is a great post. My daughter swims nearly every single day. When they use fins - I can see the difference in her stroke - since she's going faster, she concentrates more on perfecting her stroke - love it. Another thing they do is actually swim without the fins - but with old sneakers on. They do a set with sneakers, then switch back to fins - and wow - those kids fly. Most of the kids use regular Speedo Trialon Fins, we also have a few pairs of Sporti Floating Swim fins - and I find they both last about the same amount of time. The both end up ripping eventually across the arch of the foot area - duct tape will hold for awhile, but Swim Outlet has great prices so it's easy to order another pair. The ONLY downfall I can find - is the color choices - as your foot size gets bigger, the colors get more drab - and as a mom of kids with very, very big feet - I know my daughter would much rather have brighter fins then very obvious man colored fins
    Shawn
    2 years ago.
    Training fin tip: size really does matter here. Along with a good fit and being sure they won't slip off, the surface area of the fins should be proportionate to the swimmer. You should have to work to move them but not over do it! Oh and even with neoprene insides, socks still really help to avoid blisters.

    Swim on!
    Steven Kreitzer
    2 years ago.
    Tip: wear aquatic socks to reduce friction so you won't get blisters :)
    Christopher Selleck
    2 years ago.
    great review. i use the finis brands and enjoy incorporating them into my work outs. a great thing for me to focus on while using them is hip placement and power. i really focus on keeping a tight midline and almost squeezing my glutes to get max effort out of my hips.
    Mark Gangloff
    2 years ago.
    Chris,

    Keep it up!

    Mark
    Ashley
    2 years ago.
    I have the TYR fins and you're right, I can see the benefit for a longer workout. I haven't spent too much time in them so after this article I may need to utilize my purchase more. :)
    Katie
    2 years ago.
    Thanks for the comparison article, Mark! For swimmers who get blisters from using fins, polysporin works great to help heal them! Also, some suggest wearing thin socks when blisters are bad. My son loves his fins, and the speed he gains from wearing them for training really gives him a mental boost for the times when he knows he won't be wearing them.
    Rosanna
    2 years ago.
    Thanks for the informative review on different fins! I have always had a hard time finding the right fins to fit my feet as I have one foot that is longer than the other. I usually go a size down so it is tighter on one foot (or wear two different size), but at least isn't flopping and causing a lot of drag while kicking a set.
    Tracy K
    2 years ago.
    Make sure you buy the right size...too big or too small means blisters. Also, don't be afraid to wear socks for comfort.
    Karen Klenk
    2 years ago.
    Mark

    Thank you so much for this review. It has been very informative and useful to me as I am just in the process of having to purchase my son a new set of fins.
    Mark Gangloff
    2 years ago.
    Karen,

    I am glad you liked my review. Don't be shy in asking your son's coach what he wants to get out of the fins. Good luck.

    Mark
    Jay
    1 year ago.
    thanks very much for the info. I love my old Zoomers Blue fins but need a new set and I found your article very helpful since there are so many different kinds of fins out there.
    Aaron
    2 years ago.
    As a novice triathlete, I've been focusing on improving my swim technique. I've found that rolling to my right side, when I go to breath on the left side, does not feel as natural as rolling to my left side, when I breath on the right. Fins have provided the extra propulsion I need to maintain focus on improving my body roll to the right side.
    AUdrey MElanson
    2 years ago.
    Very helpful post! Will be sure to consult it before buying another set of fins for my daughter!
    AUdrey MElanson
    2 years ago.
    Very helpful post! WIll be sure to consult before buying another set of fins for my daughter.
    TK
    2 years ago.
    My daughters rookie team likes the Speedo Trialon Swim Fin. It helps their team swim longer and faster in practice.
    Chris Kaplanis
    2 years ago.
    As a full time and USAT certified triathlon coach I often get a lot of questions about the use and value of training with fins. Fins are a great tool especially for beginners when used properly. Since most of one's forward propulsion in swimming (free style) comes from the upper body, the use of fins allows the athlete to focus on good form and technique regarding their actual stroke, without having to worry about their legs staying afloat or helping them move forward. Clearly, there are a lot of different kinds fins available to assist in swimming and each one has it's benefits and drawbacks. Check out the great reviews above and also consider asking your local swim coach for more guidance and insight specifically regarding fins and your goals.
    Mark Gangloff
    2 years ago.
    Chris,

    Thanks for your insight.

    Mark
    Anna
    2 years ago.
    I use TYR Flex Swim Fins. And they are the best fins ever!!!! They give you the speed you look for when you use fins. They are a great buy!!!!
    Aaron
    2 years ago.
    Great blog!
    Chris Kaplanis
    2 years ago.
    As a full time and USAT certified triathlon coach I often get a lot of questions about the use and value of training with fins. Fins are a great tool especially for beginners when used properly. Since most of one's forward propulsion in swimming (free style) comes from the upper body, the use of fins allows the athlete to focus on good form and technique regarding their actual stroke, without having to worry about their legs staying afloat or helping them move forward. Clearly, there are a lot of different kinds fins available to assist in swimming and each one has it's benefits and drawbacks. Check out the great reviews above and also consider asking your local swim coach for more guidance and insight specifically regarding fins and your goals.
    baotey
    2 years ago.
    I have only ever used the TRY CrossBlade training fin, but I thought they really added to my workout. Although they were fairly flexible and long--and thus held a lot of water--they really allowed me to kick fast and focus on the other elements of my stroke. I'm not a very competitive swimmer (I mostly do it for recreation), so I would suggest this blade for people who like to kick for a while or do long sets. It also held nicely to my foot and didn't create a lot of extra drag.
    Wendy McDonald
    2 years ago.
    Never used swim fins... thanks for the overview.
    Taylor Ricks
    2 years ago.
    Thanks for sharing your insight. I haven't used fins much before in my training but will definitely have to get a pair.
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