Short Row Heels, also known as Boomerang Heels, are fantastic for knitters who cringe at the thought of picking up stitches for a gusset for a cuff-down sock or increasing stitches in the gusset for toe-up socks. They’re also ideal for those who find traditional heel flap and gusset constructions too roomy for their low insteps or narrow feet as it has a very snug fit.
Short rows are a method of creating shaping. With a sock heel, short rows consume half of your stitch count where you’ll turn your work and purl across the wrong side (inside of your sock) rather than working across the entire round consuming all your stitches. You work flat, towards the center of the heel, which causes the center to work more rows than the edges. This gives you a wedge shape that matches the natural shape of your heel. You then work from the center outwards, which reverses the way the wedge is constructed, giving you a shape that hugs your heel perfectly.
Typically, the heel stitches for a Short Row Heel construction are separated into three equal parts. You’d divide your heel stitches by 3, then work short rows until your center stitches equal a third of your heel stitch count. If you’re working with a number of stitches in your heel that is not divisible by 3, you’ll typically round the center stitches down and work more short rows. Example; if your heel stitch count is 30 stitches and working with a wrap & turn, you’d have 10/10/10 stitches. 10 wrapped stitches, 10 center stitches (unwrapped), then 10 more wrapped stitches. If your heel stitch count is 32 sts and you’re working with a wrap & turn, you’d have 11/10/11 stitches. 11 wrapped stitches, 10 center stitches (unwrapped), then 11 more wrapped stitches.
Sock patterns can use a multitude of ways to create a short row; shadow wraps, wrap & turns, double stitch, etc. There are no hard rules as to which is optimal to use, so play around with different methods to see which one works best for you!
RS: Right side.
W&T: Wrap and turn.
WS: Wrong side.
The directions for this Short Row Heel will use a traditional wrap and turn method, magic loop, and based on 48 [52, 56, 60, 64, 68, 72, 76, 80, 84, 88] stitches, having the stitches divided evenly between the two needles. They can be worked using DPN’s or mini-circulars, being mindful of where your instep and back stitches begin and end. You’ll find general foot information here should you need it.
The directions assume you’ve already worked the leg (for a cuff-down sock) or foot (for a toe-up sock) approximately 1.5 [1.75, 2, 2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.5, 2.5, 2.75, 2.75, 3]” / 4 [4.5, 5, 5, 5.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 7, 7, 7.5] cm less than your desired length and are working with a gauge of 32 stitches by 40 rounds in the stockinette = 4″ / 10 cm, after blocking. If you’re working with a different gauge, check out the modifications at the end of the directions to adjust to your personal gauge. Gauge is crucial in obtaining the correct fit. Changes in gauge will result in a size difference for your finished socks.
Work across the instep stitches as established. You will be working inward toward the center of your heel, working the stitches on your second needle flat using short rows.
Row 1 (RS): K23 [25, 27, 29, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 43], w&t.
Row 2 (WS): P22 [24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42], w&t.
Row 3: Knit to last st before the previous w&t, w&t.
Row 4: Purl to last st before the previous w&t, w&t.
Repeat Rows 3-4 until you have a total of 8 [9, 10, 10, 11, 12, 12, 13, 14, 14, 15] wrapped stitches on each side of your heel, you’ll have 8 [8, 8, 10, 10, 10, 12, 12, 12, 14, 14] unwrapped stitches in the center. You’ll now begin working back towards the outside stitches of the heel. You will be wrapping the stitch after the one you work together with its wrap, so now this stitch has two wraps on it.
Setup Row 1 (RS): Knit to wrapped st, knit both wrap and the st together, w&t.
Setup Row 2 (WS): Purl to wrapped st, purl both wrap and the st together, w&t.
Row 1: Knit to wrapped st, knit both wraps and the st together, w&t.
Row 2: Purl to wrapped st, purl both wraps and the st together, w&t.
Repeat Rows 1-2 until you have 1 wrapped stitch on each end. Facing the RS, work to the wrapped stitch, and knit both wraps and the stitch together. Continue across the instep as established, which will now situate you at the final wrapped stitch. Knit both wraps and the stitch together, then continue working in stockinette to the end of the round. You’ve now resolved all the wrapped stitches and are ready to continue with your sock.
If you’re working with the same stitch counts, but with a different gauge, we can do a little math to help calculate how much length you need to reserve for your heel from your desired length. The directions for the first half of the heel are worked across 16 [18, 20, 20, 22, 24, 24, 26, 28, 28, 30] rows which is what gives you your heel depth (when you’re working in towards the center of the heel).
Step 1: Determine your round/row ratio. You’ll divide the swatch by the number of rows you worked.
Imperial Example; 4″ swatch divided by 40 rounds = 0.1
Metric Example; 10 cm swatch divided by 40 rounds = 0.25
Step 2: Multiply the heel rows for your size by your ratio.
Imperial Example; If I was working a 64-stitch sock, I’d have 20 rows in my heel. 20 multiplied by 0.1 = 2″ heel depth. I’d need to work my sock until it’s 2″ less than my desired length.
Metric Example; If I was working a 64-stitch sock, I’d have 20 rows in my heel. 20 multiplied by 0.25 = 5 cm heel depth. I’d need to work my sock until it’s 5 cm less than my desired length.