Review: Swimming paddles (Yet another update)

My pool bag now includes the silly total of five four five six five different types of paddles!

Update March 2014: Added another paddle, subsequently removed yet another paddle. See below for comparison of PT Paddle and Complete Fitness Coaching Palm Paddle

Big bag o’ paddles – I really need to update this photo to the current lineup.

Warning: overdoing paddle work is a mistake easily made. I was already doing a lot of metres when I increased my paddle work, and I had shoulders able to take that increase, but overdoing paddle work, especially power paddles, can lead to real shoulder injury. Start very, very, very easy, with no more than 200 metres total, if you are not already using paddles.

Medium tech paddles

1. I started years ago with Speedo Tech Paddles, medium size. Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel. They are to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull. A bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. They are good as first paddles. Useful for getting adding extra metres pulling to build up shoulder strength. Instead of putting the whole hand in the straps, once you adapt to using them, just use the middle finger loop to detect imbalances in stroke and catch. The rubber straps didn’t last well didn’t last and had to be replaced by bits of rubber tubing. I never use these any more and they are long gone.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

Power Paddle

Power Paddle

2. My next and main paddles for a few years were Speedo Power Paddles. In 2009, Eilís has us doing a lot of paddle work in Channel training. Early on I was still using the tech paddles and hating them and paddle work in general. After one session with Rob Bohane, where I was killed, I decided to change my approach. So every day for the next month, I used the Power Paddles for warm-up  After that I had no more problems. These are brutal on your shoulders if you are not used to them, injuries will result if you overdo them. You can also lose your feel for the water with these. Note: All the straps on this are only one piece of surgical tubing. When I use these I only use them with the middle finger loop. However I just left the rest of the tubing attached.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

Speedo StrokeMakers are reported to be excellent and widely used by experienced swimmers in the US but aren’t available in Europe. SwimOutlet link.

Forearm paddle

3. Forearm Paddles. My forearm paddles were a cheap €1.50 generic version and consequently aren’t terribly comfortable but perfectly adequate. These ones on Amazon US are identical in shape and may be the only time in my life I’ve seen something more expensive in the US.  Finis forearm bolsters should be more comfortable, as are all some of their  non-electronic products. The purpose of these is to work EVF and maximise catch and forearm pull. I often do 400m with these, combined with 400m fist drill or anti-paddles, as part of my warm up.

Amazon US link for Finis Paddles. Amazon UK link.

Speedo Finger paddle

4. Speedo Finger Paddles. I got these on the recommendation of Channel swimmers and coaches Jen Schumacher and Nuala Muir-Cochrane. They allow you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm. I have also found they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke. They are also great for backstroke catch and technique. Lower strap removed as these are purely for technique. These are still great paddles that I regularly use and remain my favourites.

Amazon US link. Amazon UK link.

Finis PT Cruisers

5. Finis PT paddles, PT stands for “perfect technique”. These are also known as Anti-Paddles. Unlike all previous paddles which in some way enhance the arm or hand, these remove the hand completely from your stroke. Therefore they operate the same as fist drill .  Your stroke becomes all about felling the water and Early Vertical Forearm, EVF, i.e. the pull from your forearms. They are also very effective in engaging your core and driving your balance. The first couple of lengths swimming with these is like swimming with a live weasel in each hand. I’ve seen a lighter hollow version somewhere, but these are heavy and solid, which is what drives you to  engage your core to counter-balance them. And unlike fist drill, there’s no cheating with these. Your first few lengths after using them will give you a great feeling of power throughout your catch and pull. After about a year of year the external plastic casing on one cracked but they don’t seem to have deteriorated any further for the past two years.

Amazon US link.

Wearing PT Paddle

Wearing PT Paddle seen from above. Almost matches my hand outline

Two years on and I’ve grown to really dislike the PT Paddle. The plastic case split more, and the internal foam structures absorbed far more water than I’d realised until I took them home for this update. Each PT paddle (with water) weighs about 350 grams, 3/4 of a pound.  maybe 25% of that weight is absorbed water. Unlike most other paddles, all three “loops” in the tubing are needed to go on thumb and fingers to hold the paddle on while swimming, partially because of the weight, partially because of the design.

The weight is increasingly uncomfortable due to water absorption and the durability is typical of so many Finis products, who seem incapable of grasping late-20th Century Qualify Manufacturing tools. I would love to know that their DPPMs (defect parts per million) are on their various products. I had a look on Finis’ website (just trying to find things on their utterly crap flash website can give you a headache), and can’t find the PT Paddle anymore. I suspect it’s another product that’s been removed due to, well, being so badly made.

Finis Agility Paddles - Note that my thumb is straight not bent

Finis Agility Paddles – Note that my thumb is straight not bent

6. Finis Agility paddles. After being introduced in 2102, I first got a chance to use these in early 2013 and immediately bought a pair and have been using them very regularly since. These are now my favourite paddle and I regularly use them in conjunction with the finger paddles. Finis Agility paddles have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole. In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke. (Since using these I have also reduced my use of power paddles). Everyone who has tried this has felt the immediate technique feedback. These may be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these. They can also be used for all strokes.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

7. Complete Fitness Coaching Palm Paddle.

Palm Paddle.resized

Coach Martin Hill contacted me a few months ago to ask if I wanted to try out his new Palm Paddle, versus the PT Paddle.

I’ve had the PT Paddles for a couple of years and as I updated above, increasingly came to dislike them. All fist drill type products aren’t particularly fun to swim with, eliminating, as is their purpose, the propulsive effect of the hand to develop catch, EVF and forearm pull.

The Palm Paddle in the antithesis of the PT Paddle. A hollow single-part blown-plastic paddle, with a single tube loop for the centre finger. It weighs one-tenth of the PT paddle. It is also significantly narrower, only about two-thirds of the width.

I have small to medium-sized hands (no sniggering there) and the PT paddle completely fills the hand, whereas the Palm Paddle sits more in the centre with the hand protruding to either side, and the curve of the paddle is less than the PT. This means it doesn’t slip as easily, i.e. it does catch the water a little more than the PT.

Apart from the weight, I like that it only requires a single finger, as this is how most paddles are better used. Also the light weight provides stroke feedback that the PT paddle doesn’t, which is that it can slip sideways on your hand, particularly at the end of the pull (for me) if the pitch of the hand is wrong. That said, I found a slight uncomfortable tensing of my hand because of the width toward the end of a 400 metre drill because I was cupping my hand.

Palm Paddle vs PT Paddle.resized

I compared my normal stroke without paddles, to wearing Palm Paddles, to wearing PT Paddle in swim speed terms (while maintaining a moderate pace). Palm Paddles added about 10 seconds per 50m, whereas the PT added double that. Since fist drills are not about speed but about learning to maximise the catch, that means the PT paddle is more effective at eliminating any propulsion from the hand. However I also think it adds too much body rotation as because of the weight and they are not pleasant to wear and regularly slip.

While the PT paddles are better at eliminating the hand to focus on EVF, the fact the Palm Paddles are more comfortable to swim with, while still performing the same task, means you will use them more regularly than the PT Paddles. I’ve now removed the PT Paddles from my pool gear bag.

So on the face of it, having five four five six five pairs of paddles seems like overkill. But each performs a specific useful technique and training task.

30 thoughts on “Review: Swimming paddles (Yet another update)

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  3. Thanks to your recommendation, I got the Finis Agility paddles and they’re hands down the best paddles I’ve ever used (not that I have that much experience – I’ve used several of the cheap kinds that swimming clubs tend to have). I was a bit worried because I have very small hands and when I got my size small they looked very big on my hands and I thought I might lose them. I was also a bit worried they might bring to light unwanted truths about my technique that would prompt me to lose them and look ridiculous on top. No problem at all! They’re lovely and the only thing that could possibly improve them is some sort of padding around the thumb hole. Maybe you could even do that with a bit of tape… must experiment. Thanks for the tip and the thorough description of each of the different paddles! You helped me make the right choice 🙂


  4. Have you heard of / tried the Palm Paddle – unique design but similar concept to the PT / anti-paddle but much more ergonomic and natural feeling whilst removing the feel for the water like the fist drill?


    • Hi martin,

      This comment came in while I was away and when I got home & remembered, I couldn’t find where it was. I came across it by accident yesterday. I had become more disenchanted with the PT paddle as I think it has multiple problems. I’d be happy to test the Palm Paddle and update this post with the results if you still want to send me one to try. Regards


      • Hi

        Yes, I’ll put a pair in the post to you – let me have an address and I’ll get it done on Monday.

        I’ll send you a pair of coloured ones (not sure which one yet!) but the only colour that is currently available is the original mottle blue. I’m in the process of looking at a re-design (not changing the function of them) that will also allow the incorporation of an additional feature / benefit. These are still in prototype stage although ‘tested’ by both myself and a number of swimmers I’ve had at swim clinics (several from Ireland).

        kind regards Martin


        • Cheers Martin, (St. Patrick’s Day here so best wishes). Colours don’t bother me, whatever is available is great. My address is:
          Donal Buckley
          3 Willowvale,
          Co. Tipperary


          • Hi Donal

            A pair of green ones (not quite the right colour but thought they’d be near enough) are on their way – coming from Spain so should be with you next week all being well (could you let me know when they do arrive please?)

            Look forward to your thoughts – especially in comparison with the PT paddle (although I appreciate not necessarily for public viewing!)



          • Hi Martin, the paddles just arrived, I wasn’t expecting them this week. Thanks! First impression is positive. Slightly smaller than I expected (don’t know why). I like the weight over the PT paddles and I suspect they’ll be better. I’m finished in the pool for this week so I won’t get to test them until next week. I’ll let you know! Thanks again.


          • No problem – have a good few sessions with them although I expect you will know what they are like after the first swim. If you want any suggestions for what to do, let me know



  5. Hey there LoneSwimmer, could you help me out with size of the Finis Agility paddles? I’m torn between Medium and Large, is there a size guide for these? I have fairly large hands.


    • Hi Simon,

      Here is a sizing chart for the Agility paddles. I hope that helps. I’m average sized and use the mediums. But I could see myself using large since I used power paddles a lot, and combine the two that way.


      • According to the chart, the medium ones would fit me perfectly, thanks.

        For someone trying to improve the technique as well as working on the endurance, do you think its a good idea to get Finis Agility and Speedo Finger Paddles ? Or should I get other paddles?


        • I think I have to openly admit my unusual and disturbing love of both. I think get both of those and you will be fine. PT paddles can be substituted by a simple fist drill once you don’t cheat. I think the Agility paddles will work as dual purpose power paddles once you get used to them.


    • Thanks for letting me know David. WordPress are stripping them out. I’ve contacted their resolution centre in hopes of getting them allowed, it’s not like I’ve embedded lots of pay links over the past 3 1/2 years!


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  7. Would be interesting to compare to the speedo power paddles to strokemakers (for power). I’ve used strokemakers since I was a wee lad and I can’t imagine switching. They come in several sizes depending on how much you want to thrash your shoulders. I might have to try those finger paddles…


  8. Great article , finger paddles for me every time ….. I use then most session with a pull buoy and band not for power any more just for stroke technique and tight core ( band round ankles )


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