How to Buy Boots for Open Heel Fins?

By Mark (Los Angeles, CA USA)
We think that we want to buy boots or reef shoes for our open-heel fins for our trip to the Cook Islands this winter (thanks to those who wrote about their Cook Island snorkeling experiences!). What is the general rule for buying reef shoes and fitting them with fins (wearing both at the same time)? Do we look for thicker boots or are thinner boots OK? We have a set of snorkel gear from Costco (new, haven’t tried them yet), and the fins are open-heel fins.

We hear that there are stonefish and rockfish, sea cucumbers, and coral, and we don’t want to contact any of these while walking in the water. We will be kayaking around the shorelines and in the lagoons, and we want to be able to step out anywhere and be protected (and protect coral and other things from us). We are novices and have only snorkeled in Hawaii, so please correct me if I misstate any concepts or misuse terms.

Thank you!

Comments Moved From Previous System

Carol – Sep 09, 2013 – Oh What to Do…

I find that in open-heel fins I need a boot to protect my foot from a nasty blister. Look around and see what is available, that will be the biggest challenge. Try them on and then put on the fin. I would go with two pairs, a softer neoprene for the fin and a hard sole for getting out of the kayak, as you have two different needs. I shove the extra pair in my bathing suit or tie them around my waist.

Jana – Sep 10, 2013 – Gearing Up

I love having my boots (Mares) and my open back fins that I clip on and cinch once I’ve waded out to an appropriate point to float. It gives me more flexibility on where I can enter and exit the water.

My boots are neoprene, with good solid zippers that don’t easily slide down. Also the bottoms are solid enough that I am not going to slice my feet on jagged rocks, coral and hopefully no sharp critters. They make it easy to transition out of the water and onto the next adventure land or sea.

Try on many so you can to ensure a good comfy fit. You don’t want them to be too loose or too tight.

Also, your snorkel gear from Costco is okay, but I highly recommend getting quality gear. It makes a world of difference if it fits well.

Laura – Sep 10, 2013 – No Easy Answers

We’ve just dealt with the same issue. In fact, I’m the one who posted the question about how to clean wetsuits and boots. I get your conundrum.

We’re experienced snorkelers and got lucky with our original equipment: fins, masks, and snorkels (Cressi: very comfortable fins, even open-heel). But now we find ourselves needing boots for Bonaire. We live in Iowa, so there are not many dive shop choices.

I’ll say that our first choice was overkill and not good for us. We tried out boots and fins at a dive shop that carried only one brand, with limited choices. Bought them, tried them in the pool. Fins were too heavy and big for us. Same for the boots, and they were just not comfortable. Very helpful owner, but few choices. We should have comparison shopped.

We went to another dive shop with much greater variety later… so they could recommend more options. We settled on Aqua Purge short boots (3mm neoprene, 5mm soles) that fit into Cressi Frog Plus fins. We tried them in the pool the next day and they’re great.

No clear advice here, except to shop around. And find out what return policies are. We still don’t know if we can return the original purchase (guessing not, at least for the boots). And being able to get used to or break in the new gear before you travel is great.

Finally, because we’d not worn boots with fins, we discussed renting gear and finding out what worked and then purchasing for subsequent trips. That’s a viable option, as long as the rental gear is of good quality. It’s certainly not more expensive than buying things that don’t work for you. Comfort, which plays into safety, is important.

Best of luck!

Ray – Sep 25, 2013 – Just Another Thought

Over the years I have tried to find the balance of the flexibility of full foot fins and the use of boots with less flexible open-heel fins.

My current ‘solution’ is to wear Five Finger shoes with a nice Vibram sole with full foot fins. The fins are two sizes up from my barefoot size. The package seems to work reasonably well. Fins are easy to get into in the water, not much different than barefoot. Removing fins requires a bit of practice and technique not to pull off the shoe with the fin but once mastered is a repeatable thing.

Additionally, I like the oversize fin and the added thrust. This is potentially a downside as the larger fin may overtax one’s legs.

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