Finger tip paddles can help you boost your feel for the water and become stronger in the pool. Here are the benefits of these bad boys and our list of the best finger tip paddles for swimmers.
The gear helps us become stronger and faster in the water, but most importantly, it should be helping us become better swimmers. The stuff we haul to the pool in our swim bag should drive us towards becoming more efficient and technically-proficient athletes in the water.
Finger-tip paddles check all the boxes when it comes to getting faster and improving the feel for the water.
Here’s how finger tips can help improve your swimming, the best finger-tip paddles for swimmers, and how to use them more maximum improvement in the water.
The Benefits of Finger Tip Paddles
Swim paddles are a great way to develop strength and improve technique in the water. The added surface are helps you catch the “dead spots” in your swimming, acting like a magnifying glass for your stroke, exaggerating errors so that you can identify them.
Wearing paddles are simply a lot of fun, as well—you get to swim at a faster speed, which everyone can get on board with.
And then you got finger paddles.
Much smaller, providing a significantly smaller surface area compared to your typical swim paddle, they are designed to help you become more attuned to the water.
Your fingers decide where your hand goes.
Paying extra attention to how your fingertips lead the pulling motion can be invaluable, especially if you catch yourself sliding around a lot during the beginning and middle of the pull.
Finger-tip paddles will give you a sense of awareness of how your hand enters the water—Straight? Pitched? Thumb-first?—and how that critical first stage of the pull goes.
For swimmers who are looking at improving the catch of their stroke, finger paddles are clutch.
If your hand enters the water and doesn’t start a vertical dive into a good early vertical catch, the paddle will separate from your fingers, instantly correcting you.
Finger tip paddles give you some power work without slowing your stroke rate too much.
As a precocious youngster I always went for the biggest paddles I could find in the equipment bin. The reasoning was simple: bigger the paddle, faster I will go!
But wearing paddles that are twice the size of your hands have limited benefit. The dinner-plates on your hand will send your stroke rate tumbling through the floor, training you to be slower.
You want some power, but not so much that you are meandering and stumbling slowly through the water like a brontosaurus. Think power and speed, like a T-rex or velociraptor when it comes to paddle size selection.
Fingertip paddles are clutch for all four strokes.
The versatility of finger tip paddles is another big feature—they can be used across the full spectrum of strokes in the pool.
If your hands are sweeping out too wide, the paddles will catch the water and flip. If you are swimming backstroke, and aren’t leading with the pinky, the paddle will dangle lifelessly off your fingers for the beginning of the pulling motion.
Same goes for butterfly and freestyle. Proper hand entry is something we don’t think about very often, instead focusing on pulling with maximal effort. But the hand entry sets up everything that is to come, and finger paddles can help you dial in this aspect of your swimming across the strokes.
They are easier on your shoulders and arms.
Swimmer’s shoulder is a real concern for chlorinated athletes, whether you are an age grouper, Olympian, or master’s swimmer.
The injury is prevalent for a number of reasons, including muscle (and stroke) imbalances, over-use, and because swimming movements are not replicated anywhere else in our dryland life.
With the added surface area comes added strain on your shoulders and arms (another reason to be realistic about how large a paddle you need). Finger tip paddles, because they are so small, present less of a risk of injury than your typical paddle.
Choosing the Best Finger-tip Paddles for You
Finger tip paddles are produced by many of the top swim companies on the planet, with each paddle varying slightly in shape and color.
Whatever finger tip paddles you end up choosing, introduce them mindfully into your training. In other words, start small, focus on nailing your hand entry and early vertical forearm, and steadily increase the resistance, imprinting killer technique and developing power at the same time.
Here are some of the top finger-tip paddles for swimmers:
FINIS Instinct Sculling Fingertip Paddles
⭐ Best overall finger tip paddles
The Instinct paddles are similar to their Agility paddles, which are to be worn without straps—the idea is that without them, you are forced to keep proper hand and finger placement throughout your whole stroke.
If not, the paddles will slip off mid-swim. Talk about instant feedback!
Your thumb goes into the opening on the inside of each paddle, locking the paddle into place and also encouraging a better finger position. One of the common mistakes swimmers make when using swim paddles is spreading out their fingers too wide. The FINIS Instinct paddles help reinforce correct finger placement through the pulling motion.
The FINIS Instinct paddles are definitely for more experienced swimmers who want the added challenge of a strap-less paddle.
Arena Elite Finger Paddles
⭐ Best finger-tip paddles with straps
Available in three different colors (green/black/pink), Arena’s finger paddles have two straps to keep the paddle secure.
As you get more comfortable with them, consider taking off the lower strap to get more feedback on efficient hand placement and finger entry.
Speedo Biofuse Finger Paddle
⭐ Best finger-tip paddles for beginners
For swimmers just getting started with finger-tip paddles, the Speedo Biofuse Finger Paddle is an excellent option as it has extra thick straps on the paddle to keep them in place while you get used to swimming with this type of paddle.
They come in a one-size-fits-most, the lower strap can be removed once you become confident and proficient with swimming with them, and are available for less than $20 via Amazon.
Fingertip Swim Paddles — FAQs
What are the differences between fingertip paddles and regular paddles?
There are several key differences between fingertip paddles and regular swim paddles:
Power vs. Technique
Regular swim paddles are used for developing strength and power in the water. While “power” paddles can help reinforce better technique, they are mainly used for building a stronger pulling motion. (They are also a lot of fun to use as they boost speed in the water.)
Finger-tip paddles are exclusively a technique paddle. They are designed to help you build a better feel for the water, apply pressure evenly throughout the pulling motion, and even help clean up the entry and exit phases of your stroke.
Finger-tip paddles allow you to use them for every stroke and even different drills. Contrast this to a full-size paddle, which can be difficult to use with some swim strokes (ahem butterfly). Finger-tip paddles are way smaller than your traditional dinner-plate swim paddle.
Finger-tip paddles are an excellent paddle for swimmers looking to reduce shoulder strain. Because the paddles catch less water, there is less strain on your shoulders.
Finger paddles are perfect for swimmers who are looking to ease into paddle use but are weary of overloading the shoulders and elbows with too much resistance, too soon.
When is the best time to use finger-tip paddles?
Finger-tip paddles are a great option for doing drill work, sculling, or simply swimming slowly while emphasizing a clean pull.
One of my favorite ways to use this type of swim paddle is doing slow swim 25s, focusing on swimming with total perfection (or as close as I can get 😉).
Finger-tip paddles should not be worn when you are trying to build strength and power in your swim stroke—use your regular power paddles for those sets!
Who should use fingertip swim paddles?
Finger-tip paddles are for more experienced swimmers. Total beginners will not get any use from this type of paddle and are better off focusing on proper swim mechanics without the use of any swim equipment.
The Bottom Line
There is a ton of gear for swimmers for improving performance in the water.
Some, like swim fins or regular sized paddles are designed for building strength and endurance.
Others, like a snorkel or fingertip paddles, are perfectly suited for helping swimmers improve their technique in the water.
For swimmers looking to get a better feel for the water, cleaning up the entry/exit portion of their swim strokes, and who want to sharpen their technique, a fingertip paddle is an excellent addition to their mesh bag.
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