Join Date: Feb 2005
Bikes: Wife: Trek 5200, C'dale Rush Feminine, Vitus 979 Me: Felt S25, Cervelo Soloist, C'dale Killer V500, Miyata Pro (fixie)
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I think the benefit of using Zip fins is that it teaches the swimmer how to keep their body level rather than letting their legs sink down. An additional benefit is that it allows the swimmer to feel how a faster arm turnover feels, as the legs are providing more propulsion than finless feet would.
The downside is that they can be a crutch - an artificial enhancement that makes the swimmer feel he is swimming much faster than he is really capable of.
Paddles build arm strength and may allow the swimmer to develop a better "feel" for the water.
The downside of paddles is that if overused, they may cause injury to the shoulder. Also, if not used correctly, they may actually train a swimmer to swim less efficiently without paddles. This happens when the swimmer is fatigued - they may drop their elbow and change the direction of their hand in order to slide their arm through the water easier.