Top Training Fins Compared - The Gangloff Review
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!
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.
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.
Comfortable, true to size, great foot speed
Not the best for longer sets
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.
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.
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.
Longer blade, true to size
Plastic is hard/sharp, may need to be filed down
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.
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.
Long blade, good for longer set
Too small, not great at very high speeds
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.
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.
Great at high speed, true to size
Not the most comfortable
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).
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.
Innovative design, good for foot speed
Too large, does not hold much water
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.
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.
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.
Too small, does not hold much waterFinal 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 GangloffAbout 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.Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: firstname.lastname@example.orgWendy 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.Shawn
2 years ago.Thanks for taking the time to do this. As a new swimming mom my kids look to me to help pick out equipment. I only went by color choice. Now I can guide my swimmer to the right equipment for the right reason.Mark Gangloff
2 years ago.Shawn,
Glad this helps.
2 years ago.Thanks for the review!! I've always just used the fins in my size at the pool =) I'll be taking a closer look!Jess T.
2 years ago.Great blog post and reviews! I've always just used the gear they have at the pool =)Alex Welker
2 years ago.I liked the details of your post. I was surprised that your post did not talk much about the width of the fin. To me it seems that the narrower fins like the Zoomers also helps keep your kicking motion more true to actual.motion when swimming w\o fins.Kari
2 years ago.Tip - use a sharpie marker to write your child's name on the fins when they go to team practice!Carol Feltch
2 years ago.Great swim fin tips. I recommend wearing the swim socks with swim fins available on swimoutlet.com. My kids wear them while doing laps with their swim fins and they protect their tender skin from chafing.Matthew Sleezer
2 years ago.FINIS Foil Monofin is also a great way to get in shape while using a fin! This fin is used to help the swimmer with their dolphin kick (especially in butterfly)! They keep your feet together and help your undulation while working on your butterfly or your breaststroke if you add in a dolphin kick while training! I have used this monofin several times and it had helped my kick so much! Take a look into getting a pair!Joe
2 years ago.Fins have been great for helping me learn how to swim faster, and to focus on kicking with my hips rather than my knees. My favorite drill -- the "oldie but goodie" with the kickboard and go down on my stomach and back on my back ... over and over. For a triathlete, it's a great supplement to the running and biking, without the wear and tear of the pounding.
Thanks for the review Mark. I am looking for a new pair of fins so the timing is perfect!Erik
2 years ago.I would love to see a review of the Aqua Sphere Alpha Fins. Do you have any thoughts on them?Mark Gangloff
2 years ago.Erik,
I have not tried them. Sorry. If I get a pair I will try to update the blog.
2 years ago.I have found with the Finis if I use a watersock the fit is better and the fin stays in place instead of falling off.Jim
2 years ago.Mark -- Thanks for the tips. I had trouble with Biofuse heel ripping after just a couple months of use. On the other hand, Zoomers are going strong after several years of use.
Let me add a tip, rubber fins appear to age faster if left in the hot car - probably due to chemical changes in the rubber from heat. Keep them in the locker (if possible)Sydney
2 years ago.This is a wonderful review!Krun
2 years ago.Work hard. Don't ever give up! Believe in yourself!!BobS
2 years ago.I like swimming with fins too but I find sometimes that as soon as I take them off I get a cramp in my foot or toes. Is that common? Are some fins more prone to cramping than others? I use Zoomers.Mark Gangloff
2 years ago.Bob,
I frequently get foot cramps when wearing fins for an extended period of time. Make sure you stretch you ankles and calves before your workout. This will prolong the time before you get a cramp but what you are experiencing is common. Make sure to stay hydrated as well. Good luck!
2 years ago.I use 2 of the fins reviewed here and found the reviews accurate and insightful. I am interested to try a couple of the other ones as well.Dan
2 years ago.I am new to swimming and I use fins for drills. Helps me to focus on my form.Linda
2 years ago.Thanks for this blog. It is so hard to choose fins, especially for women with small . It is fun to have a competitive swimmer compare products in such detail. Hope to see more products compared.madswan
2 years ago.the swim suits are very nice but they need to tell you to order a size larger. also i can find cheaper aqua shoes at walmart.Kyle
2 years ago.I am a big fan of the Zoomers by Finis. I swim for exercise, not for racing or training, but after a recommendation from a friend, I bought the Zoomers and I love them. Can't comment on the others, but since Zoomers are at the top of Mark's list, I guess there's no reason to look elsewhere.Gadi B.
2 years ago.Hiya all,
I want to share with you a fin training tip in regards to leg muscle.
Developing leg strength kicking with fins is like lifting weights: the added resistance of the water on the blade of the fin increases the workload on your leg muscles. Your body adapts by increasing the strength and endurance of the muscles involved. Stronger muscles move more water making you swim faster, all other things being equal.
A word about specificity: It's important to realize that muscular strength for swimming needs to be "specific." Good runners, cyclists, roller bladers, etc. can have very strong leg muscles, but the muscles have developed for running, cycling or roller blading, not for swimming. Fins develop leg strength specifically for swimming, and in a way that few other activities can.
I hope you found my tip helpful ;-)Jamie
2 years ago.Love to use my fins for drills so that I can focus on my form and I don't have to worry about my legs dragging.David C.
2 years ago.Wow - thanks for this. I have been debating which fins to get for my pool and ocean workouts and this will make the decision easy. Thanks Markshayne
2 years ago.really appreciated the blog. product info always a plus!Add a Comment
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