Finis’ Agility paddles are hands down my favourite paddles, so when I spotted that their ISO paddles were on sale I snapped up a pair. It has taken a while to write this review (well over a year), because when I got them I was in the middle of training for the European Masters and didn’t have time to use them as much as I would need to for a review. I also struggled to figure these paddles out, I want to do them justice and it’s not easy to describe how they feel when swimming.
What are they?
The ISO paddles are similar to the Agility paddles in that they don’t have any straps relying instead on correct technique to keep them steady on your hands, and both paddles are aimed at intermediate and advanced swimmers. This is where the similarities end. The ISO paddles are specifically for technique, not speed or power. It is very hard to generate any when wearing them (yes I tried a sprint wearing them), and to be honest it’s best to just take your time and really focus on technique when wearing them. Despite this you do feel them working different parts of your arms depending on their orientation, or isolation as Finis calls it.
What do they mean by isolation? The paddles are made so that they can fit either hand and come in two colours yellow and black. When the black paddle is on the left hand and the yellow on the right they are in an outside isolation (the edge is on the outside). When the black paddle is on the right hand and the yellow one on the left then they are in an inside isolation (the edge is on the inside).
I’ve tried these paddles with each for the four strokes in both isolations. Each stroke has a recommended isolation, but FINIS and other reviews have said they are not limited to those.
Inside isolation: Despite not being the recommended isolation I found this one easier to control, especially on entry. I think this may be because they feel a little like the agility paddles in this isolation and I can use the thumb to help keep them stable. I found this isolation works my biceps and to a lesser extent, my chest.
Outside isolation: This is the recommended isolation for frontcrawl, but they did feel less stable. I really had to focus on my stroke on these to make sure the path my hands took through the water were correct. This isolation seemed to work my triceps and forearms more.
Inside isolation: The entry was a bit tricky with this orientation and made the initial catch feel different. It felt a little like I was slipping water and I had to really focus on my hand entry and catch to make sure it was correct. During the pull phase I was aware of the pressure on the paddle and it felt as if it was catching less water than it does on the outside isolation. I could also feel it working my biceps.
Outside isolation: This is the recommended isolation for backcrawl and it certainly makes the entry feel easier and the initial catch better than with the other isolation. During the pull phase they felt a little more controlled with the paddles feeling very solid. This orientation works my forearms a lot and to a lesser extent my triceps.
Inside Isolation: It took a bit of practice to get these to work for me in Breaststroke, even with this isolation being the recommended one. Everytime I put them on in this isolation it takes about 25-50m to get used to them and to change my stroke. I have found that they encourage a certain pathway through the water, which is the point of them I guess. As with other strokes this isolation works my biceps more. The real highlight though is the recovery phase of the stroke. They encourage a very fast recovery because going slow won’t work, the edge catches the water and the paddle moves. This also affects the pull-outs off the walls.
This isolation really put a strain on my middle finger for some reason, I think if the stroke is any bit off it is going to cause movement and therefore said strain.
Outside isolation: This isolation works the catch and middle part of the pull and as with the inside isolation it encourages you to use your arms along a certain pathway. You really have to make sure the pull is not going too wide or deep. As with other strokes, this isolation felt like it worked the forearms and triceps more.
Inside isolation: This is the recommended way to use these paddles and this is really where these paddles shone for me. Unlike the other paddles I was able to use them without needing to change my recovery. They didn’t clip the water on recovery like the agility paddles and they allowed for a smooth clean entry unlike the other paddles I’ve reviewed. I’ll even go so far as to say that out of all the types of paddles I’ve used in the past, these are the best for a butterfly hand entry. I could really feel the catch phase and it allowed me to follow through into the pull.
Outside isolation: I found it very hard to use the paddles with this orientation and it just didn’t feel as effective. I had to really focus on the path my hands took and it felt very different to what I’m used to.
As with the agility paddles they are very tricky on open turns, finishes, and basically anytime you need to touch the wall. Similarly they take a little getting used to when streamlining, but this is true of all paddles to some extent.
They can be uncomfortable on the middle finger if they start to wobble or move a bit. At one point something went a bit funny on an open turn which ended up moving the paddle and it really hurt.
These are an interesting product that do fill a niche. They are more sensitive than the agility paddles and require swimmers to focus on their technique.