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Published on May 16th, 2018 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


4 ways to knit a sock heel

Knit a pair of socks, but they don’t fit perfectly? Looking for heel that won’t upset a pattern? Elizabeth Bagwell covers 4 ways to turn a heel.

Socks start out as a tube, and heels are the way they turn the corner, making them foot shaped. Sure, you can knit a tube sock, which relies on the stretch in knitting to deal with the problem, but if you want a better fit, you need a better heel. Here are a few to try:

Short row heel

This style looks most like the commercially made socks you can buy at the mall. It’s created on half the total stitches. Work back and forth in short rows (see below) until about ¼ of the cast on stitches (i.e. half of the half you’re using) are left unworked. Amy’s guide explains the wrap-and-turn method used in most patterns, while this heel walkthrough uses no-wrap short rows which are simple and quicker.

Tweak it: A few extra short rows make a narrower heel back, a few less make a wider one
Pro tip: A short row heel is knit identically whether you’re going top down or toe up.

Heel flap

You’ll see this one a lot on hand knit sock patterns, including in Amy’s recent sock walkthrough. Working over half your cast on stitches, you knit a long flap (typically as many rows as your cast on). Create a bend at the bottom and pick up stitches down the sides of the flap. Go back to working all the stitches (not just half) and decrease back down to your cast on number and you’re done. This heel carefully mimics the shape of the human foot.

Tweak it: use a knit one, slip one pattern for a tighter heel back or rib for more stretch.

After thought heels

These are knit after the main sock. You knit the whole sock and then go back and cut (yes, cut!) a stitch to unravel half a row. This gives you live stitches on both sides of the heel. Pick them all up, and knit the heel in the round, doing a double decrease on each side of the foot until you’ve got about half the stitches left. You then graft or Kitchener these shut, just like for a simple sock toe.

Tweak it: This heel looks quite a lot like a short row heel, and you can tweak it in the same way.

Simulated heel flap

Instead of actually knitting a heel flap, you can fake it. Working in the round over all the stitches you cast on, increase at either side of the sock. Do this every other round for about as many rounds as you have cast on stitches. Then, working over half the stitches, do a heel turn as for any heel flap sock. Continue decreasing at each edge of the heel turn until you’re back to your cast on number.

Click here, for our FREE how-to Guide to Sock Knitting where we’ll take you through knitting your first pair step-by step!

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About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles.

Last updated: May 16th, 2018.

15 Responses to 4 ways to knit a sock heel

  1. Ellen says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Fish Lips Kiss heel. For a measly $1 on Ravelry you get a recipe for perfectly fitting socks EVERY time. Essentially it’s a short row heel. I’m a complete convert.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Another vote for the fish lips kiss heel…

  3. Emily says:

    Awesome little walk through – love it! I usually do a heel flap, although I just did the German boomerang heel (short row style with no wraps) and loved it, too.

  4. Lynne says:

    I like a good heel flap as I have a high instep and shortrow heels are not comfortable.

  5. elizabeth Dunphy says:

    Loved this! Thank you – I often wondered about the different way to finish the heel. Why in the world would anyone do an afterthought heel? I’d have a heart attack just holding the scissor to cut the thread lol! I’ve done both short row and heel flap – both comfy for me!

    • Lisa Powley says:

      Not as scary as it seems! You can knit in some waste yarn of a contrasting color to hold the stitches, which makes the cutting easier. When you do this method you can easily replace the heel if it wears out. Plus it’s easy to do the heel in a different color. Just my two cents!

      • Lisa says:

        I agree! Not as scary as I thought it would be! Actually enjoyed creating a sock with an after thought heel!

  6. harriet says:

    I was curious about the short row heel without the wrap but the link doesn’t work.
    Your explanation is better for me to see picking up the wrap but so far seeing the space and picking up the wrap has eluded me in reality. I guess more practice is in order.
    Socks are interesting to make, I am slow about them but without details to keep track of in the leg they are great to take along for times I have to sit waiting for appointments.
    I have avoided heels before and made tube socks but then I wear them a lot anyway with tennis shoes and clogs.

  7. Lynda McGinley says:

    The no-wrap short row heel link doesn’t work for me.

  8. So sorry about the broken link – I’ve fixed it now. The correct one is:

  9. Myriam says:

    I might be one of the few, but I actually prefer the after-thought heel. It fits my low instep foot really well. A way to avoid cutting the stitch: knit half your stitches with a bit of scrap yarn, and then slip those stitches back onto the needle and knit them again with the working yarn. When the body of the sock is finished, just cut the scrap yarn to get the live stitches.
    It’s great for people who like contrast colour heel and toe.

  10. Shirley says:

    I wish someone would show a forked heel. I have tried it a few different ways and I like it but I would really love to see it in a pattern to confirm my calculations

  11. Roz Walters says:

    I have been using the short row method, without the wraps, since the 1960’s. In those days I used double knitting wool/nylon, and on two needles. Found the pattern in a copy of the much missed monthly magazine called Pins and Needles, here in the UK.

    Having worked many pairs of socks using double pointed needles since the turn of the century, I am now using two circular needles. Just wish I had known about that method years ago. So much easier than the double pointed needles.

    Regarding heel turning, although I still like the short row heel, I think the one with the flap, or Dutch Heel as it is also known as, is my favourite. Slipping stitches makes a more hard wearing heel I found, also best with the lovely variegated sock yarns. I think I have become addicted to knitting socks!

    I bought a book recently with a variety of sock heels and toes, plus several designs for the body. Only cost me £2.50, brand new book too. There are instructions for an origami heel, very similar to the short row heel to begin with. Unfortunately the rest of the instructions made no sense at all.

  12. Norma Rigg says:

    If you knit socks for men, as I have done for years, especially walkers, the slip stitch heel flap has proved to be the most hard-wearing, best fitting and most preferred by my sock wearers. I can easily modify it for the high insteps one of my recipients has. They find the other heels have a tendency to slip down under their heels.

  13. Shirley E. says:

    Please- what is a forked heel? I’ve never heard of it.

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