Snorkelers who experience cramps usually do so in either the calf area of the lower leg, the hamstring which is the area from the back of the knee to the buttocks or in the arch of the foot. Muscle cramps in these areas can usually be narrowed down to the fins that the snorkeler is wearing. Though not always the case here are some possible muscle cramp issues which may be attributed to fins. It is an important thing for the snorkeler is to have fins that are comfortable and that fit. For more on how to select fins read our article entitled Fins, Select the Right Pair.
Wearing fins that are too tight, this could impede blood flow to the foot itself. It is important that the fin selected does fit properly. As is found with shoes, sizes for the foot pockets may vary slightly by manufacturer. If the snorkeler's foot is at the extreme higher or lower end of the size range, simply going to the next higher or lower size may not be the answer.
Wearing full foot fins and has an unusually high arch in their foot, this could also be a factor in muscle cramps occurring in the arch of the foot. The portion of the foot pocket may cause undue stress on the muscles in the arch of the foot by putting excess downward pressure on the top of the foot located over the arch.
Any style of fin may experience cramping in the arch, hamstring or the calf muscles if the blade of the fin being used is too stiff. This would be similar to putting two flat board on the feet. The muscles have to work harder in order to move the blades through the water.
Having a fin blade that is too flexible may also attribute to cramping, the muscles may end up being overworked from the amount of kicking needed to get from one place to another.
Blades that are too long may also cause problems but this is dependent on the stiffness of the blade and whether they use a paddle fin design or split fin technology.
The length of the foot pocket of an adjustable strap fin may also have an affect on muscle cramping in the arch of the foot if it is too short in relationship to the length of the snorkeler's foot. A general rule of thumb is to make sure that when the snorkeler's foot is inserted into the foot pocket that at most of the arch of the foot is inside of the fin, unless it is not designed this way.
While the above mentioned are all related to the fins in relationship to muscle cramps, how a snorkeler kicks can be a contributing factor as well.
A snorkeler who is continually kicking non stop can almost always be guaranteed of getting a muscle cramp somewhere in the leg or foot area.
Excessive forceful kicking.
Bicycle kicking or improper kicking style, this is common for first time fin users.
The third and final possible causes for muscle cramping while snorkeling would be related more toward underlying health issues or simply being out of shape. The snorkeler needs to realize that snorkeling is in fact a form of exercise and many do not realize it because their mind's are probably more occupied by the beauty and wonder of their surroundings.
If a snorkeler experiences a cramp in the calf or the foot area while snorkeling, they can actually use their fin to help relieve the cramp. To do this, they would simply grab the tip of the fin blade and pull it toward the body. This would be done much the same way as bending forward at the waist to touch the toes if one were exercising. As the fin tip is gently but steadily being pulled toward the body the muscle in either the foot or the calf area will be stretching, the opposite way of how it cramped. A snorkeler may have a buddy to assist with this maneuver if necessary.
According to the Mayo Clinic "A muscle cramps is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles." Though the exact cause of a particular muscle cramp really isn't known, there are conditions that may lead to muscle cramps. These can include but are not limited the overuse of a muscle such as through excessive exercise, muscle strain and a cramp can also occur holding a position for a long period of time. Muscle cramps, though painful are for the most part harmless. Mayo Clinic also states that "...some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as inadequate blood supply, nerve compression and mineral depletion. To read more on the medical conditions, click here.
By Roy Jamason
Written Jan. 21, 2014