A good pair of spring straps makes things simple and reliable
A spring strap is essentially just a length of stainless steel spring that is attached to a dive fin in place of the rubber strap. These have been quite popular in the technical and cave diving communities for years due to the fact that they almost never break, require no adjustment after being installed and make the fin much easier to put on and take off.
Unfortunately all spring straps are not created equal and if you wind up with the wrong pair, you might be in for an uncomfortable and annoying experience. Here’s a few things to look for (and a couple to avoid) when shopping for a pair of spring straps.
1. Avoid plastic buckles
At first, it looks like the quick-disconnect buckles would make things easier. If your straps are the right length for your feet, however, it’s easier to remove them by gently stretching the strap and pulling it over your heel. If it’s too difficult to stretch the strap enough to slide if over your heel….. then the strap is too short for your foot.
Once you have the correct length spring strap for your foot & fin, the buckles become just something else that can break and/or snag line during a dive.
2. Be sure that the spring strap has an over-stretch cord installed
Take a look at the picture. See that bit of nylon line that’s running through the inside of the spring? You want your spring straps to have that.
That piece of line is affixed to the ends of the spring and will prevent the spring from being stretched far enough to cause damage. Most straps have this cord, but it’s a good idea to check before buying if you’re not sure.
If there is no line or cord installed in your spring strap, then be very careful to not permanently damage the spring by over stretching it.
3. Understand how you’ll attach the spring straps to your fins
There are a couple of different ways that straps attach to scuba fins. It’s important to know what method your fin uses before buying some springs.
Above is a picture of a Manta Industries spring strap installed on a fin with the ‘post’ style attachment point. Post style attachments are common on lightweight, recreational dive fins. There are two different sizes for the ‘post’ part, so check your fins before you buy some straps.
An here’s an example of the ‘pin’ type attachment, where a pin actually passes through a hole in the rubber of the fin and is secured to the strap. This attachment type is very common on rubber fins such as the ScubaPro Jet fin or the Hog Tech 2.
4. Determine what size you need
Unlike normal rubber straps, spring straps are not “one size fits all”.
If the spring is too short for you, you can expect cramped feet and/or toes as well as some difficulty in donning and doffing the fin. If your spring is too long, the fins will be loose on your feet. Ideally, your spring straps should not be stretched much more than an inch when you’re wearing your fins. Many manufacturers produce different sizes, with 8″, 10″, and 12″ long springs being very popular.
The right length spring for you can vary based on the size of the fin as well as the design and thickness of the boot. To figure out what size spring strap you need, wrap a tape measure around the back of your heel when wearing your fins. Measure the distance between the strap attachment points. Most spring straps report the length of the spring only, so your size will be a couple of inches shorter than what you measure.
Using this picture as a guide, you can see that the measurement between the attachment points is around 10 ½”. The spring strap in the pic is sold as an 8″ strap, as the length of the spring itself without the buckle is right at eight inches. In this case, the spring is stretched less than half an inch when the fin is donned. This amount of stretch is fine and provides a good, comfortable fit for this diver.
5. Extra features to look for
You’ll find that some brands come with fabric covering the spring, while others may be covered with plastic tubing. This is to help prevent fishing line or line from a navigation reel from getting caught in-between the coils of the spring. It’s a nice feature to have, however if your springs are the right length there really should not be much of a gap between the coils.
Other spring straps may come with a molded rubber heel cup, which may make the strap more comfortable if you’re wearing very thin wetsuit booties. Some might have little pull tabs to make it easier to grab the strap with thick gloves.
Purchasing your spring straps
If you have a local dive shop that carries spring straps, be sure to take both your fins and boots with you so you can check for a good fit before you buy.
If you’re looking to buy online, then I suggest that you measure your heel as outlined above to help determine what size you need.
My wife and I have both had good luck with the XS Scuba straps. These come with hardware that will let them be installed on any style of fin, which is really nice if you’re not sure what sort of attachment your fins use.
These straps, as well as some other good options are available in the Meraki Diving Amazon store.
What works best for you?
I use my fins to do all sorts of cool things underwater: swimming forwards, swimming backwards and spinning around in place. Most of the time, I use them to help me stay perfectly still. None of these things are particularly comfortable (or fun) if my fins are too tight or so loose that they’re sliding around on my feet. A good pair of spring straps made a big difference in comfort and reliability for me, but what do you use?
Let me know in the comment section below!