If you’ve been on a casual snorkeling trip, you probably didn’t think much about what was on your feet beside the fins themselves. Perhaps you used a simple pair of rental fins that you just slipped over your bare feet. However, perhaps you also found that your fins felt loose and slippery, even if they were the right size. Or maybe the fin pocket chafed around your ankles, leaving uncomfortable blisters. To take your snorkeling to the next level, you can optimize these imperfections by wearing socks with your fins! Even if you’re SCUBA diving or freediving, a pair of dive socks can do a lot to make your fins feel more comfortable.
What are dive socks?
Dive socks (also called water socks or fin socks) are exactly what they sound like: Slip-on coverings for your feet made with lycra or neoprene. The main purpose of dive socks is to provide comfort and a snugger fit while wearing full-foot fins.
Even with a well-fit fin, you can get excessive chafing and rubbing around your toes and ankles that can cause blisters. This is especially true if you wear fins for long periods of time. For hiking boots, that’s why a good pair of hiking socks (and maybe some Moleskin!) is essential. The same is true for fins!
Advantages of wearing socks with fins
There are four main benefits that dive socks can give you if you’re a snorkeler or diver:
- Protect your toes and ankles from chafing
- Insulate your feet in cool or cold water
- Help a slightly too large fin to fit perfectly
- Add extra buoyancy to your feet
A properly fitting full-foot fin should feel pretty snug, but toes and ankles are sensitive areas. Even a little bit of rubbing over a prolonged period can cause you some soreness. Plus, your skin will soften up in the water, making it more vulnerable to chafing.
If your feet are prone to getting cold, then a pair of dive socks will give you a bit of extra insulation as well as cushioning. Even on tropical reefs, the water can be chilly, especially if you’re swimming in it for a couple of hours or more!
Finally, dive socks can make the difference between a fin that fits well and a fin that fits perfectly. I’ve used fins that were comfortable enough without socks, but would still sometimes slide off my feet in the water. Fin socks add that extra bit of snugness and traction to keep me from ever having to worry about that! Additionally, full-foot fins don’t always come in half-size increments. That means if you’re between sizes, dive socks can help you make up the difference with fins that are slightly too large for you.
As a bonus, neoprene dive socks will add a bit of extra buoyancy to your feet. This will help you maintain good surface trimming and keep your feet away from coral and sand below you!
Disadvantages of wearing socks with fins
Even though dive socks offer snorkelers and divers several important advantages, they may not always be the best choice. When might you forgo dive socks?
- Fins are already on the tight side
- Add extra buoyancy to your feet
- You need grip and protection for walking to your snorkeling site
- You are using open-heel fins*
If your fins fit you properly then they shouldn’t be too tight for a thin pair of dive socks. But a proper fit isn’t always possible. If you are renting fins, for example, you may have no choice but to use a pair that’s a bit too tight. Bring a pair of socks anyway, though, in case the fins you end up with are a bit too big!
For snorkeling, a bit of extra buoyancy on your feet is a good thing, but not so much for SCUBA diving or freediving. Any neoprene you wear during these activities (e.g. a full wetsuit) must be compensated for with extra weight.
The main reason dive socks might not be a good choice is if dive boots would be a better option instead. Even so, some folks like to wear dive socks with their dive boots too!
*Some open-heel fins are designed to be worn barefoot or with fin socks, but most are made for wearing with dive boots.
Dive sock vs. dive boot: What’s the difference?
The major difference between a dive sock and a dive boot is that a dive boot typically has a rubber sole (often treaded). While many dive socks come with some texturing on the sole area for a bit of grip they don’t have rigid or rubber soles.
Dive boots, often called “booties”, have textured, rubber soles to provide grip and traction while walking over wet rocks and other kinds of rough coastal terrain that socks would be too soft for.
Some booties have softer, more flexible soles ideal for sand and boat decks. Others have very thick, rigid soles, which make them a great choice for any snorkeling or SCUBA activity in rocky areas and cold water. Typically thicker (3+ mm neoprene) booties pair best with open-heel fins where you adjust the fin strap around the rubber sole of the heel.
Related Post: Full-Foot Vs. Open-Heel Fins, Which to Choose?
The rubber sole on dive boots also offers some protection against sharp objects you might step on while wading to your site. These might include sharp rocks you can’t see under silt or murky water or even sea urchin spines. However, just because dive boots can protect you from spiny critters, that doesn’t give you license to be careless about where you step!
You can wear socks with dive boots too!
Because dive boots don’t fit on your feet as snugly as dive socks, they (like fins) can cause uncomfortable rubbing and chafing. That means dive socks are great for wearing inside your dive boots too!
Tip: Dive boots will typically match your shoe size. If you’re between sizes, opt for the large size and wear some dive socks inside the boots to make up the difference!
Choosing a dive sock: Things to consider
Before shopping for dive socks, take some time to think about what exactly you’re looking for in advance. This will help you to narrow down your choices! Specifically, think about the cut of your socks (height), what they should be made of, and how thick they should be.
1. Dive sock height
Neoprene dive socks come in roughly two cut heights: below the ankle and above the ankle.
Below-ankle dive socks are best for warm water activity because they offer the least extra insulation. On the other hand, taller dive socks will give your ankles a bit more cushioning. You can also tuck them into the legs of a wetsuit for continuous insulation or over leggings for continuous sun protection.
2. Dive sock materials
Most dive socks are made of neoprene foam, which is a highly insulating synthetic rubber. All the tiny air pockets (cells) in neoprene contribute to its insulative properties and its buoyancy. When water-logged, the water trapped between your skin and the neoprene will be heated by your body, keeping you warm.
Alternatively, some dive socks are made from lycra (also known as spandex), which is a synthetic textile. Relative to neoprene, lycra is far less buoyant or insulating.
3. Dive sock thickness
Neoprene dive socks can be anywhere from 2 – 7 mm thick. Choose 2 or 3 mm for water temperatures below about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).
Even so, if your feet are prone to getting cold, err on the thicker side! For example, I’ve worn my 5 mm dive boots comfortably while SCUBA diving in Cozumel (the rest of my wetsuit was 3 mm). Toasty feet make such a difference for me between feeling comfortable and irritated!
Lycra dive socks are less than 1 mm thick and would be best for a tight fin and tropical snorkeling if worn on their own. They also make great liner socks for wearing inside a dive boot. Not only do they add comfort and prevent chafing, but they also make sliding a neoprene boot on so much easier!
Start shopping for fin socks!
I recommend a variety of top-rated fin socks from Leisure Pro below. Leisure Pro is my favorite online dive shop for shipping to the US and Canada. If you’re in the UK and Europe, most of these socks can also be found at Simply Scuba. For elsewhere in the world, Amazon is your best bet.
Related Post: Where Can You Buy Top Quality Snorkel Gear?
But before getting into the dive socks themselves…
How should dive socks fit?
Like regular socks, dive socks usually come in generic sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and are often unisex. Because they’re stretchy you can err on the smaller side and still be ok. You want the dive socks to fit quite snugly, especially when dry. They’ll loosen up a bit once wet.
If a dive sock is too big you’ll end up with awkward bunching around your toes or heels. That’s a surefire way to get chafes and blisters!
Best dive socks for wearing with full-foot fins (warm water)
For tropical snorkeling, you’ll likely be spending most of your time in warm surface waters between 25 and 27 degrees Celsius (77 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit). You won’t want a dive sock that’s thicker than 3 mm.
Best below-ankle dive sock: Akona 2mm Neoprene Low-Cut Socks
These are the socks I prefer for wearing inside full-foot fins. The cut is low enough to be comfortable in warm water, but the ankle tapers slightly at the back. This makes them great for protecting the Achilles area, which is a notorious blister spot with fins! However, they lack texturing or grip on the sole. That means they’re not ideal for walking around over sand or other terrains. For the same reason, I wouldn’t recommend wearing them with open-heel fins. Treat them like a sock, not a boot, and they won’t wear out on you!
Best above-ankle dive sock: Cressi Anti-Slip 2.5mm Socks
For a bit more warmth, these high-cut socks are also a great option for full-foot fins. They’re still thin enough to be worn inside a hard-soled dive boot as well for an extra insulation boost. The textured sole makes them a good choice for walking around on boat decks without fear of slipping!
Best lycra fin sock: XS Scuba Lycra Sock
These inexpensive water socks are ideal for when you want the least amount of extra insulation. They’ll make slipping on your full-foot fins and dive boots easier without overheating your feet!
Best dive boots for wearing with open-heel fins (warm water)
If you prefer to wear open-heel fins, then there are plenty of thin dive boots with sturdy soles for you to choose from. Some folks think of dive boots as only being for cold water activity, but you can have good grip and sole protection without overheating your feet!
Tip: Try on dive boots with the fins you’ll be wearing them with so you know they’ll fit together!
Best below-ankle dive boot: Cressi 3mm Minorca Dive Slipper
These low-cut dive boots are best for a warm water diver who prefers open-heel fins or has a lot of shore trekking to do! The reinforced toe offers extra protection against rocks and bumpy terrain.
Best soft sole dive boot: Akona Standard 3mm Boots
Akona has manufactured these sturdy boots for well over a decade, and some divers have used them on hundreds of dives. The zipper and grip tab make getting these on easy, and the thick, deeply treaded sole will keep you from slipping on most surfaces. Best of all, these quality boots won’t break your bank!
Best hard sole dive boot: Pinnacle 3mm Splash Boot
If you want a hard sole, then this is one of the few dive boots that will let you enjoy this feature in warm water. The thick sole offers excellent grip and protection for rocky shore entrances. As a bonus, there’s a rubber knob at the back of the heel to help keep your fin straps in place! However, this boot only comes in full-size increments so if you’re between sizes I’d recommend wearing them with a dive sock.
Dive Socks and dive boots for cold water
For snorkeling in colder, non-tropical water, you may need a thicker dive sock. If you’re SCUBA diving with full-foot fins, a thicker sock will give you extra insulation in deeper water. Even in tropical areas, the water temperature can drop quickly even just a few meters below the surface. Freedivers may prefer to wear thicker dive socks with their freediving fins for the same reason.
Best cold water dive sock: NeoSport 5mm XSpan Sock
These thick dive socks feature 4-way stretch neoprene so they’ll feel soft and flexible despite their thickness. These can be worn for cool water activity inside full-foot fins (though you may need to size the fins up a bit!) or used for layering inside a dive boot for cold water dives.
Best cold water dive boot: Mares Trilastic 5mm Dive Boots
For open-heel fins, you’ll want a thick dive boot to protect your feet from the cold. These beefy hard-soled boots with reinforced toes and heels offer maximum grip and protection on rocky shore entries. A rubber ridge on the heel also helps to keep your fin straps in place! Though the zipper makes getting these on fairly easy, I’d still recommend dive socks for smoother donning and doffing as well as for protection against rubbing and chafing.
Summary: Wearing socks with fins
As you can see, wearing socks with fins can add a lot of comfort and flexibility to your underwater adventures. If you’re interested in getting yourself a pair, I hope this guide will get you started on the right foot (ha!) with shopping! To summarize:
- Fin socks can make full-foot fins and dive boots more comfortable by reducing chafing and giving you a more precise fit
- Choose lycra if you want the thinnest fin socks and neoprene for thicknesses from 1 – 5 mm
- For water temperatures above 24 C (75 F) choose socks that are 3 mm thick or less
- Fin socks should feel snug and comfortably stretched over your foot with no loose or bunched fabric anywhere
- Choose dive boots if you need a rubber sole (for shore walks, grip on boat decks, and wearing with open-heel fins)
- Ideally, try on socks, boots, and fins at the same time so you know they will all fit together
Remember to clean and store your fin socks properly!
Always rinse your dive socks and boots in freshwater each time after using them. If they start to smell bad, soak them in freshwater and some wetsuit detergent for an hour. Rinse and gently squeeze the neoprene to expel the detergent and accompanying odorants (neoprene is very absorbent). Leave your socks and boots to dry in a well-ventilated place out of the sun (UV exposure will damage neoprene over time). When not in use, store your socks and boots in a dark, dry place.
More fins reading:
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