Achieving Proper Fit: Socks

Understanding your foot

    1. Low Calf Circumference: The circumference of the leg measured 6″ / 15 cm up from the ground.
    2. Ankle Circumference: The circumference around the narrowest part of the ankle.
    3. Heel Diagonal: The diagonal’s circumference, measured from the top of the foot in front of the ankle to the very back of the heel, on the floor.
    4. Gusset Circumference: The circumference around the arch of the foot, just in front of the heel.
    5. Foot Circumference: The circumference around the ball of the foot. This is the widest part, just after the toes. Note: This is the measurement used for all rhyFlower sock patterns.
    6. Toe Length: The length of the longest toe.
    7. Foot Length: The foot’s length, from the top of the longest toe to the back of the heel (this measurement is most accurate when taken while standing on a measuring tape.)

Standard Human Measurements

Human bodies are unique, and our feet are not excluded. “Standard” feet follow some basic rules;

  • The foot circumference and ankle circumference are relatively the same sizes around.
  • The gusset circumference is approximately 10-15% larger than the foot circumference.
  • The lower-calf circumference is no more than 30% larger than your foot circumference.
  • The heel diagonal circumference is about 30-40% larger than the foot circumference.
  • Adult toes are 1 3/4-2 1/4″ (4.5-5.5 cm) long.

The keys to successfully fitting socks

  1. Take proper measurements!
    • Foot Circumference
    • Foot Length
  2. Use appropriate negative ease!

Foot Circumference

  • Foot circumference is the measurement taken around the ball of your foot.
  • Your foot circumference is generally the same as your ankle measurement and determines the number of stitches you’ll have in your leg.
  • The sock will stretch to accommodate your calf, and the negative ease will help keep your socks up (because it’s never fun to have to keep pulling your socks back up!)

Foot Length

  • Foot length is measured from the top of the longest toe to the back of the heel.
  • This measurement is most accurate when taken while standing on a measuring tape.

Other measurements

  • Feet are so incredibly unique; other measurements may become a factor. These measurements are used if you do not have “standard feet”.
  • These measurements accommodate larger gussets, calves (a runner friend of mine always needs extra stitches added for her calves!), arch depth, etc.

Negative Ease

  • Negative ease concerning socks means that the finished sock circumference measures smaller than the intended wearer’s foot circumference.
  • The importance of negative circumference and length is crucial to how well a sock will fit. If you knit your sock to your exact measurements, you’ll have ill-fitting socks that won’t stay on and won’t support all the foot contours, leaving floppy glops of fabric.
  • Socks also loosen up over the day, particularly with natural fibers, to keep them cozy and on your feet, ensuring you add negative ease. Loose socks also face added friction, causing those precious hand-knit socks to wear out sooner than they really should.
  • You should choose a size that is 10% smaller than your foot or ankle circumference.
    • Adult socks – should have 1″ / 2.5 cm negative ease in the foot and calf & 0.5″ / 1.3 cm shorter than the foot length.
    • Children’s sock – When making socks for children, you should have 0.5″ / 1.3 cm negative ease in the foot and calf & 0.25″ / 0.63 cm to 0.5″ / 1.3 cm shorter in length.
    • Socks should be worn with negative ease to keep them on your foot. Socks that contain natural animal fibers tend to loosen up through the course of the day. You should choose a size that is 10% smaller than your foot or ankle circumference.
  • If you follow these guidelines for negative ease, you’ll find you’ll have a much better fit and wear for your hand-knit socks, regardless of the pattern. Most sock patterns base their finished size on the foot’s circumference as your working rows can easily adjust the leg and foot length.
  • When you stumble across patterns that say “small, medium, large” or fits a ladies size 8, tread with caution if the actual size isn’t listed. You won’t know what the finished measurements are, and getting a proper fit is the end goal. If it doesn’t contain the finished measurements, you’ll be able to calculate a rough estimate by dividing the stitch count by the number of stitches per inch in their gauge (usually listed in stockinette). The total will equal the sock’s circumference for a stockinette sock. This rough estimate doesn’t take into account any cables or lace stitches that may be in the sock pattern, which causes it to be smaller (cables cinch in) or larger (lace opens up) – things to keep in mind!


  • To obtain socks that fit, you will need to knit a gauge swatch to ensure you’re achieving the same sized gauge as the designer.
  • Generally, socks patterns are knit in the round. Therefore, ensure you’re knitting your gauge swatch in the round. Knitter’s gauge often changes between working flat and working in the round due to the purl or wrong side rows.
  • As always, you want to treat your gauge swatch in the same washing manner as your finished object. Knitting your swatch and measuring without soaking/washing won’t give you an accurate gauge. Stitches tend to change like a gremlin when water is applied.

You may also find this post about yarn selection helpful in your sock knitting journey. Join the Facebook Group to get your socks entered into a knit-along (KAL). ♥

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