Swim Fins: How I’ve Changed My View


Posted by Coach Mark Sortino

There was a time that I thought swimming fins - those rubberized fins that you put on your feet in the pool for a variety of reasons - were mostly a waste of time. However, over the past several years, I’ve come to believe that they are actually an indispensable tool for the triathlete. Here are a few of the benefits of using fins while swimming:

They promote ankle plantar flex. The anterior muscles of the lower leg (the Tibialis anterior, Peroneus longus and the Extensor digitorum longus) all tend to be tight/short for triathletes. In fact, some athletes can barely point their toes down. This creates tremendous drag in the water and nullifies any propulsion from your kick. Wearing simple fins helps increase your ability to plantar flex your ankles.

They aid in the execution of drills. It’s quite difficult for a beginner or intermediate swimmer to focus on drill work when they’re also trying not to drown! With fins the swimmer can propel themselves forward easily and focus solely on the drill.

They can aid in proper swim posture. Once way of learning and memorizing good posture in the water (which then creates good balance) is to use fins for kicking while on your back with arms extended in a streamlined manner (palm over opposite hand). Incorporating this in almost every swim session will drastically improve your posture.

They can improve your aerobic fitness. Contrary to popular belief, wearing fins during a high effort set will actually tax your aerobic system. In other words, they will increase your oxygen uptake requirements. This is a great way to improve your cardiovascular and aerobic systems.

With fins you can “motor pace” during a set. Using fins either by themselves or with paddles and/or a snorkel is a great way to learn how it feels to swim faster. It requires appropriate adjustments of your swim that increase your awareness of your stroke, stroke rate and breathing.

The type of fins we recommend are simple swim fins like the Finis Floating Swim Fins (available at our Team MPI store at SwimOutlet.com) What we want to avoid is triathletes using any of the swim team short fins such as Zoomers or Blades for example - these will not help you in almost all of the above areas. 

At our Masters Swim, we wear fins almost every session and for all the different reasons I've given. So if you haven’t used fins in a while or maybe haven’t used them in all the ways possible, why not give them a try? You will reap the benefits!


Coach Mark Sortino is a USA Triathlon Level III Coach, USA Cycling Level II Coach, F.I.S.T. certified bike fitter and certified USAT Race Director who is also the co-founder and CEO of Team MPI. Mark has been the Head Coach of Team USA Paratriathlon since 2012 and has coached Paralympic Triathletes and Cyclist, Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championship qualifiers along with National and World Champion ITU Paratriathletes. Mark is also a US Veteran having served 20 years in the US Navy as a Naval Flight Officer and is graduate of the US Naval Academy. Contact him at Mark@TeamMPI.com.

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