Snorkeling Fins vs Diving Fins – What’s The Big Difference?

Snorkeling fins and diving fins look almost identical to the average person wanting to have some fun in the water.

But choose the wrong flippers are your experience will be less enjoyable no matter what sport you’re into.

Snorkeling is more relaxing and you’ll spend your time on or close to the surface of the water. Diving is more extreme and you’ll sink to greater depths hoping to see more unbelievable sights down below.

Snorkeling Fins vs Diving Fins: Key Differences

Before you decide which pair to buy it’s probably a good idea to know the main differences between the best snorkeling fins and diving fins. Once you have a general idea what you’re looking for it will help you find the perfect flippers much quicker.

  1. Length
  2. Stiffness
  3. Foot Pocket
  4. Extra Features

1 – Length – Snorkeling fins tend to be shorter than diving fins. In fact, some snorkel fins are designed with portability in mind above all else. So when you decide to travel to a tropical paradise in the middle of nowhere they won’t take up much space in your suitcase.

Diving fins are a bit longer but it’s not like they’ll be too long to fit inside your suitcase. Those extra few inches will give you additional thrust when you’re deep under the water. Just what you need when you’re carrying a heavy tank on your back and fighting strong currents.

2 – Stiffness – Combining the extra length with added stiffness is really what gives you superb speed and acceleration when you’re under the water. The pressure obviously changes a great deal as you go deeper. Trying to propel yourself along with floppy fins would be horrendous.

Snorkeling flippers don’t need to be too stiff because you won’t always be fully submerged when wearing them. Even if you are under the water it will only take you a few kicks to reach the surface. Snorkeling fins will help you conserve energy so you can stay in the water for hours.

3 – Foot Pocket – Aside from length, the most obvious visual difference between snorkel fins and dive fins is the foot pocket. You should either see a closed foot pocket or an open-heel pocket. Let’s quickly discuss the main differences between each one:

  • Closed foot pocket
  • Open-heel pocket

Closed foot pocket – I’m sure most of the foot pockets you’ve ever seen in your life have been closed. They’re basically like shoes you slip your feet into. Snorkeling fins usually have a closed foot pocket because it’s easy to slip your feet into them as long as they’re the right size.

Open-heel pocket – Open-heel foot pockets have a strap you have to tighten before you can go into the water. The design is sometimes found on diving fins and comes in very handy when you’re wearing diving boots. Better diving flippers obviously equal higher quality straps.

Please Note: The kind of foot pocket on your fins isn’t make or break. You’ll still be able to go snorkeling or diving with either one, so it’s not something to take too seriously.

4 – Extra Features – Diving fins are more complex and will come with extra features depending on how much you pay. For example, you might end up with a split fin design. You’ll still have the length and stiffness you need, but kicking will feel less taxing on your body.

If snorkeling fins come with extra features it’s usually less about performance and more about making your life easier. Float free technology is an excellent example. If your fins can float in the water they won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean and be lost forever.

Snorkeling And Diving With The Same Fins

What if you want to go snorkeling and diving when you’re on holiday? Maybe you won’t be happy squeezing two sets of flippers into your luggage. Luckily you should be able to find quality fins that will be effective whether you’re going snorkeling or diving.

Snorkel and diving fins sit somewhere on a spectrum. On one end, you’ll have tiny fins that won’t be much better than using your bare feet. On the other, you’ll have huge and rock solid fins. Choose a pair that sit somewhere in the middle and you’ll be fine.

Blades are the most important part you should focus on. Sometimes blades have extra features to help with things like extra propulsion and less fatigue. Even if the total fin length is shorter they’ll still be effective when you’re diving. Here are a few examples to keep an eye on:

  • Angled blades
  • Reinforced side rails
  • Power thrust channels
  • Power vents

Err on the side of diving fins if you plan on doing both activities with the same ones. The biggest thing you’ll lose when snorkeling with longer fins is maneuverability when you’re messing around. Snorkel fins tend to be much cheaper so maybe you’ll be able to take both.

Snorkeling And Diving With The Same Mask

Be careful. If you’re getting a mask at the same time as your fins please remember the same rules don’t apply. You can go snorkeling with a diving mask, but it’s absolutely crucial you don’t go diving with a snorkeling mask. Ideally, you’ll want to use two different masks.

  • Snorkeling mask
  • Diving mask

Snorkeling mask – When snorkeling the best full face snorkel mask reigns supreme. You’ll have a magnificent view of everything around you, plus you won’t need to worry about wearing a separate snorkel. Choose one with a fog resistant design that will stop water from leaking inside.

Diving mask – You’ll need to use a traditional style mask when diving because it’s important to equalize your ears. That means having a nose pocket you’ll be able to pinch easily. It’s easier to equalize your ears with a low volume diving mask because less air will accumulate inside it.

Snorkel Fins vs Diving Fins: Average Lengths

Although fins come in all shapes and sizes they don’t usually exceed a certain length. If you know what to expect you won’t be surprised when the fins arrive at your door. Here are the kinds of lengths you’ll see depending on what activity you’ll be doing with your fins:

  • Travel fins
  • Snorkeling fins
  • Diving fins

Travel fins – Up to 20 inches long (usually 15” to 20”)

Snorkeling fins – Up to 26 inches long (usually 24” to 26”)

Diving fins – Up to 30 inches long (usually 25” to 30”)

You’ll find anything longer than 30 inches is specially designed for freediving. Unless you plan on partaking in the sport I wouldn’t really attempt to use anything more than the aforementioned lengths. Spend more time focusing on blade features if you want extra performance.

Common Questions + Answers

Q. Can I use bodyboarding and freediving fins?

A. If you already have bodyboarding fins you’ll be able to use them when snorkeling. Feel free to use freediving fins when diving. But bodyboarding fins are too short for serious diving and freediving fins are far too long for an enjoyable snorkeling experience.

Q. Do I need to wear diving boots with open-heel pockets?

A. Yes, if you’re wearing snorkel and diving fins with open-heel pockets you should wear diving boots or socks. Firstly, it’s going to save you from injury if you accidentally stand on something. Thanks to the friction they will be a lot less likely to slip off your feet too.

Choosing The Right Fins Today

As you get more experienced you’ll know exactly what flippers you want down to the specific features you need. But until you get that experience it can be hard to know exactly what you want. If you follow the guidelines we’ve discussed today you’ll end up happy.