Ask Stew: Finding the Right Fit for SCUBA Fins for SAR School

A sailor dons swim fins during a man overboard drill.
Fire Controlman 3rd Class Jared Meinert dons swim fins during a man overboard drill aboard the Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), Oct. 24, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caledon Rabbipal/U.S. Navy photo)

Putting on your first pair of SCUBA fins is an eye-opening experience as you realize your ankles, feet and legs start hurting within the first few hundred yards. Or the fins do not fit right. Or, even worse, you did not realize you needed to wear scuba booties with your new fins that made your first day with fins even more painful. 

So, there are a lot of lessons learned when it comes to swimming with fins. Here is a good question from a future search-and-rescue (SAR) swimmer:

Good morning, sir,

I have been using your blogs and videos while training for SAR School, and I passed selection this week. Thank you for the help! Now, I am desperate for some real customized insight. ...

I am the only female in my agency who passed selection for our SAR School. Our squad was issued rocket fins. However, they only go down to a size men's 7, which slips right off my foot (I am a men's size 4). I am trying to find a good alternative, since right now I am at a major disadvantage using regular scuba diving fins. (Whether that's smaller fins, fins with a narrow foot slot and a strap that can be jerry-rigged, etc.)

Despite a ton of research, I have not found a good alternative for my size and problem. I found your blog post about special operations fins and thought you may have run across something or know a female who has figured this puzzle out. 

Good question.

You may want to check out the Jet Fins made by Scuba Pro or IST fins. I find they look identical to rocket fins but less stiff.

The foot well may be an issue. We always had them big so we could slide them over our combat boots. So you need a much bigger bootie. Maybe one with a full sole.

These likely will help the best. Plus, they are great for run, swim, runs on the beach while you carry your fins. Give it time to get used to the fins. Your ankles, feet and legs will require 2-3 weeks of swimming before you are capable of going for long distances without pain.


Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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