Socks: Measurements and Fitting

Now that you have taken the self-assessment to see if you are ready to knit socks, it’s time to measure and learn how to fit socks.

There are several measurements you want to take when making socks because ensuring a good fit is critical to socks wearing well and being comfortable. Here are the tools you will need:

  • Flexible measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • A journal, speadsheet, table, or some other format for recording all of the data and keeping it for your records.

I usually create a Word document with the person’s name, the date of the measurement, the various measurements below, and any notes about color, style, and fiber preferences, and any special considerations. I keep all of these in a folder on my computer and include the person’s name in the file name.

Measuring for socks

1. Foot circumference. Using a flexible measuring tape, measure around the widest part of the foot pulling the tape snug but not tight.

2. Ankle circumference. Using the flexible measuring tape, measure around the ankle pulling the tape snug but not tight.

3. Foot length. Put the ruler on the floor perpendicular to the wall with the “0” mark end of the ruler flush with the wall. Have the person stand on the ruler with their heel touching the wall and their big toe on the ruler. Measure to within 1/8 of an inch.

4. Back of leg. Put the ruler against the wall again. This time, put the “0” mark of the ruler against the floor. Note the height of the ankle (where you made your previous measurement). Determine the appropriate height for the top of the sock cuff. You might want to make several notations here, one for calf-high socks (widest part of the calf) and one for knee high socks (just below the knee). If you are making socks that go over the knee or the socks will go into boots, note those height measurements as well.

5. Leg circumference. Many socks are calf-high. Using the flexible tape, measure around the widest part of the calf. If you are making knee high socks, measure around the leg  just below the knee. If you are making knee socks, it will be helpful for fitting if you make notes on the (1) length between the bottom of the heel for the bottom of the calf, (2) the length of the calf and where the widest part occurs, and (3) the length from the top of the calf to the bottom of the knee. Note whether there is a significant difference between the widest part of the calf and the bottom of the knee. This is where you have an opportunity to make a sock that really fits well as opposed to one that you purchase in a store that is basically “one size fits all.”

6. Heel-arch circumference. This measurement is probably not where you think it is. Using the flexible measuring tape, measure the area from the very back of the heel around the top of the foot where it joins the leg. While many knitting patterns and books don’t include this measurement, in Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One she uses this measurement in relation to the foot circumference measurement to determine if a foot has a high, average, or low arch. You can then adjust your pattern to accommodate and she gives you the formula to be able to do that. I promise, it’s not scary or confusing math. If you can punch numbers into a calculator, you can do this.

This article from Knitty includes a drawing to explain where the measurements happen on the foot and also has a helpful charts at to help you see what average measurements are for a number of different foot sizes.

Now, some of you are thinking, well that’s great if you have access to the person you are making socks for and you aren’t trying to surprise them. How do I get a sock to fit then? Find out what size shoe they wear. This may require some covert activities but it’s usually pretty simple. Once you have that information, you simply need to use a shoe size chart to figure out which size pattern to use. Here’s a chart from the Craft Yarn Council with children’s, women’s, and men’s shoe sizes with average numbers.

Fitting Socks

This is really, really important. Don’t make the socks to match the measurements you have taken. The socks won’t fit and they will be uncomfortable in a shoe.

To fit well, socks need to have what is called negative ease. Socks should be snug, not tight. That means that the socks need to be slightly smaller than your measurements. For a good fit, take your measurements and multiply by 0.9. That will give you a number that is 10 percent smaller than the actual foot size and will be an excellent fit.

Before you go on to the next lesson:

  • If you are able to measure the person you are making socks for, write down all those measurements and have them handy when you are going to start your pattern.
  • If you are having to go by shoe size, determine the person’s shoe size and write down or print out the information from the Craft Yarn Council like above.
  • Multiply your measurements by 0.9 to reduce them by 10% to ensure a snug, comfortable fit.
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