Last night struggling to fall asleep I decided to put my mind at ease with some old-fashioned retail therapy. Except for me, retail therapy means adding to my wishlist of diving gear! As I was browsing for SCUBA fins, I noticed that there’s a new feature that seems to be getting more popular. This feature is the spring strap. That got me wondering, what exactly are spring straps and why do so many fins have them these days?
Spring straps are a relatively new design that has taken the SCUBA world by storm. Rather than the standard rubber or silicone strap most open-heel fins have, these fin straps are much more tensile. Lighter weight options use bungee cords, while heavy-duty options use marine-grade stainless steel springs.
Like many trends in recreational SCUBA (such as the low-volume mask), the spring strap started out serving a niche market. Originally, the spring strap seems to have been most popular with commercial and technical divers. But as it turns out, every diver can benefit from this design. As I learned more about spring straps and read glowing testimony after testimony, I’ve decided unequivocally that the next time I purchase a new pair of SCUBA fins, I want them to have spring straps!
If you’re also in the market for a new pair of SCUBA fins, here’s five reasons why you should seriously consider upgrading to spring straps:
1. You only need to adjust spring straps once
In fact, for most spring straps you don’t need to “adjust” them at all! With regular straps you need to adjust them at the buckles to the correct tightness, much like you would with a mask strap. However, most divers find they need to re-adjust their straps as they loosen over time or as the dive boot compresses and re-expands over the course of a dive. Some divers even re-adjust their fin straps every time they take the fins on and off.
With spring straps, however, once you install them you don’t need to mess with them again. Most spring straps come in multiple sizes, so you just need to make sure to select the right size for your foot plus dive boot.
Ideally, you should measure your strap size before buying.
Put on your dive boots and fins, then get them into some water if you can (even your bathtub). Make sure your feet are fully inside the fin pockets (the water will help with this!) Use a measuring tape to determine the length from one buckle pin/post over the back of your heel to the other buckle pin/post. Do this on both your feet so you have some idea of the variation in your measurement. As a rough guide, you’ll want a spring strap that is 0.5 – 1.5 inches shorter than what you measure. These are the specifications recommended for the EZ Spring Fin Strap (Leisure Pro link), which can be swapped onto most modern open-heel fins.
Alternatively, some spring straps are adjustable. For example, the Aqualung Adjustable Spring Strap (Leisure Pro link) has six strap attachment positions on either side of the pull tab to accommodate any foot and fin size. Once you adjust the strap to the correct position for your fins, feet, and boots, then you won’t need to re-adjust them ever again!
Tip: Most spring straps are designed to work with specific brands and/or models of fins. Some buckles may work across multiple brands but you’ll need to try them to be sure. Visit a dive shop rather than buying online if you can!
2. Spring straps make fins easier to put on and take off
The proper way to don and doff open-heel fins is to simply slide the strap over your heel, rather than buckling and unbuckling each time. However, many divers find this action difficult while in the water, particularly on awkward boat entries and exits. If you’re wearing gloves, undoing the buckle is often the only practical option. Not only does repeated use of the snap buckles wear them out faster, but doing so often requires repeated tightening and loosening of the straps as well.
With spring straps, all of this annoying fiddling is eliminated. The best spring straps include a fairly large D-ring pull tab on the heel that’s easy to slide your finger(s) into, even if you’re wearing gloves. To put on and take off the fin, you simply pull the strap over your heel. The spring ensures it’s always at the correct tightness.
The ease of taking fins on and off is the biggest advantage of spring straps for many divers!
3. Spring straps compensate for depth compression
Even on dives of only ten or so meters, your dive boot will experience some compression as the water pressure increases. Not only will this effect slightly decrease the thickness of the boot’s neoprene itself, but it will also encourage your feet to slide deeper into the foot pockets of your fins. With standard rubber or silicone straps, a snug fit at the surface can sometimes become overly loose at depth. Many divers tend to over-tighten their fin straps due to this phenomenon, which can lead to uncomfortable pressure points, chafing, and blocked circulation in the Achilles region.
Because spring straps are more tensile than standard straps, they will naturally compensate for the compression and re-expansion of your dive boot over the course of a deep dive.
4. Spring straps are more durable than standard straps
Because standard rubber straps often require repeated re-adjustment over time, they are prone to wear and tear. Plastic snap buckles, in particular, are a necessary component of every dive repair kit.
Spring straps, on the other hand, can outlive multiple pairs of fins because they don’t need repeated re-adjustment. The stainless steel springs on a high-quality pair of straps can withstand hundreds and hundreds of dives in saltwater without weakening or corrosion. The same is true for a well-designed pair of rubber bungee straps. For example, Mares Bungee Fin Straps (Leisure Pro link) use the same materials engineering as the bungee in their spearguns. These straps can work with any of Mares’ open-heel fins.
Examples of a stainless steel spring strap vs. a bungee spring strap:
5. Spring straps can adapt to any open-heel SCUBA fin
What if you have a pair of fins that’s an older model or not the same brand as most of the fin straps out there?
Well, there are now a few reliable universal fin strap kits that include parts for adapting them to almost any open-heel SCUBA fin! For example, XS Scuba’s Universal Spring Fin Straps (Leisure Pro link) comes with three different buckle attachments that can work with multiple post sizes. Check out their product description through the link for a full list of compatible models, as well as many reviews from divers that have tried them out on all kinds of fins. The only downside to these straps is that they don’t have a large D-ring pull tab.
Alternatively, EZ Spring Straps will also fit most modern open-heel fins. The Recreational Diver version comes with snap buckles, while the regular version uses a simple stainless steel cable wire, which works with more traditional models such as the Scubapro Jet Fins. Check out this tutorial to see how to install the EZ Spring Straps onto an old pair of Scubapro Jets.
Are there any disadvantages to spring straps?
With all the great benefits that spring straps offer, you might be wondering, are there any downsides?
To me, the biggest disadvantage of spring straps is their expense. Often, a pair of these will cost as much as a cheaper pair of fins or a good mask. That being said, many folks will say that the benefits they offer are worth the expense.
Based on what I’ve seen on various scuba forums, other downsides have more to do with comfort. Some people may find the pressure of the spring strap on the Achilles tendon is painful after prolonged wearing. To avoid this problem, be sure to get the correct size strap for your feet, boots, and fins.
Additionally, opt for a strap that has a wide rubber cushion on the heel area. Usually, a large D-ring pull tab will be attached to this cushion. At the least, the spring should be covered with a durable nylon sleeve. For stainless steel springs, a nylon sleeve and pull tab will also keep your fingers and nails from accidentally getting caught inside the coils.
Have any of you used spring straps with your fins? How did you find sizing and installing them? Do you think they’re worth the expense? Let me know in the comments!
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Disclaimer: Some of the links used in this article are affiliate links. That means I may get a small commission if you buy a product after following the link. If this guide helped you make a decision, consider it like giving me a little thank you!