DCS or Fin Foot?

What you need to know

Fin foot is the common name for a hyperemic condition in which feet become sore and swollen after a dive. Commonly reported by new divers, especially those who dive in cold water, reactive hyperemia, or “fin foot,” is caused by reduced blood flow to the feet. After circulation is restored, the blood vessels dilate and may become engorged with blood. This can lead to swelling, discoloration and pain.

Causes of fin foot include:

  • Improper finning techniques
  • Tight or improperly fitted booties
  • A constrictive wetsuit or drysuit cuff
  • Overly tight fin straps
  • Cold water or rough conditions

DCS or Fin Foot?

Swelling (edema) in the feet is not generally associated with decompression sickness (DCS). If the swelling occurs along with other symptoms such as pain, numbness or unusual skin sensations, see a physician or contact Divers Alert Network® (DAN®).

Signs and symptoms of fin foot may include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Bruising around toes
  • Tender feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain when walking

Symptoms of fin foot typically manifest within a few hours of diving. However, it can take up to 24-48 hours for the fluid to accumulate.

How to Treat

Divers with fin foot should discontinue diving and stay off their feet. Applying a warm compress and keeping the feet elevated may provide some pain relief. If swelling persists for more than 48 hours, contact a physician.


Work with a local dive professional to ensure your fins and booties are fitted properly. Larger dive booties, different fins or spring straps may solve the problem.

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