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Knit Socks that Fit

Over the years, I’ve had a few questions about how the sizing on my sock patterns work. I thought it might be a good idea to formalize those answers in a single blog post that I can link in all the helpful places. If you are confused about how to pick the size that will fit you best, read on! I’ve got some helpful tips for you.

A woman points to the ball of her foot, just below where the toes end.
This is where the ball of your foot is located.

Step One: Measure Your Foot

My sock patterns are all sized by finished sock circumference, but the only way to know which of those will work for you is to know how big around your foot is, first.

But where on the foot do you measure? Feet have different circumferences at different points, right?

Right. And that’s why you measure at the largest part of your foot. For most of us, this will be the ball of the foot, that is, the cushioned part below where our toes end. Grab a tape measure, wrap it around that part of your foot, and see just how big it is.

A tip: centimeters are a little easier than inches for precise measurements because of their smaller increments. If you’re worried about getting an exact measurement, give the metric system a try. All of my sock circumferences are listed in both imperial and metric units.

A woman measures the ball of her foot with a tape measure.
Here’s how you measure the ball of your foot.

Step Two: Make a Gauge Swatch

Sorry, dear reader, but if you’ve been here a while, you probably knew this was coming.

Every knitter’s gauge is unique, and if your gauge is significantly different from mine, your 56-stitch sock might be the exact same circumference as the sock I’ve designed with 68 stitches even though we’re using the same yarn and same size needles. You need to check your gauge.

To do this, use the needles and yarn you plan to use for your actual sock. Cast on about 70 stitches, and knit in the round until your swatch is at least a couple inches long. Bind off, and soak your swatch in cool water. After about 15 minutes, gently squeeze out the excess water and lay your swatch flat to dry.

Once the swatch is totally dry, use a measuring tape or gauge finder to figure out how many stitches per inch are in your swatch. This is the most important gauge point. If your row gauge is a little different from mine, you can easily make adjustments, but stitch gauge is harder to work with if it’s off.

I write my sock patterns for a gauge of 8 stitches per inch. If you have more or less than that, you may want to change your needle size or try a different yarn until you get close to that gauge.

The foreground focuses on a little tape measure spooled out across the toes of three pairs of handknit socks. The rest of the socks blur away into the background. To the left is a teacup full of milky tea.
A good tape measure is important for measuring parts of the body that curve. Rulers can’t do that as easily.

Step Three: Check the Dimensions of the Sock Sizes and Do a Little Bit of Math

This is probably the easiest step in the whole process. Once you know how big your foot is and have figured out what size needles/yarn you need to use to match my gauge, it’s time to find a sock size that’s close to it.

To do that, look for the sock size that is closest to your foot measurement. If that sock size is larger than your foot measurement, choose the next size down.

Socks need to have negative ease so that they stretch across your foot and stay put instead of flopping around inside your shoe. For most of us, that means we want a sock with a circumference that’s about 10% smaller than our actual foot measurement.

You may find you prefer more or less negative ease, and it’s okay to experiment until you find the ease that’s most comfortable for you.

Three pairs of pastel handknit socks are laid across the back of an antique sofa with faded floral upholstery. The socks and the upholstery are color coordinated.
Before you long, you’ll end up with an entire collection of socks that fit you perfectly.

But Wait! What About Foot Length?

Up until now, this blog post has only focused on the circumference of your foot, but that’s not the only thing you need to think about when knitting a sock.

Luckily, this is very easily managed with all of my sock patterns. I write them with 100% adjustable leg and foot lengths.

This means whether your foot is 7.5″ around and you wear a US women’s size 6 shoe or 7.5″ around and you wear a US men’s size 12 shoe, you’ll be able to knit the sock until it’s the right length for you. The instructions tell you when it’s time to start working the toe decreases.

A pair of feet wearing light blue knit socks rest on a dark wood coffee table. The feet are crossed at the ankles.
Now it’s time to put your feet up and relax. Happy stitching!

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Kate

Wednesday 3rd of July 2024

Excellent post Lauren! It was very helpful!

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 10th of July 2024

Thank you! I'm glad to hear you found it useful.

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