How To Knit Socks: Soles and Instep Sock Shaping

Are you a sock knitter dying to learn how to design your own knitted socks? If your answer is “Yes!”, these sock design tutorials are the one-stop resource for you. Today, we’re going to talk about sock shaping: What’s the trick to make socks fit larger feet and higher insteps?

Sock Knitting for Everybody: Table of Contents

Sock Soles: Knit Them Plain!

Soles and heel are the parts of knitted socks that get the most wear. Your feet stand on when you wear them, after all! It’s a good idea to chose stitch patterns that are as durable as smooth – no cables, no lace patterns, nothing that could create discomfort.

For the sole, the best and simplest pattern is stockinette stitch, or reverse stockinette stitch.

Sock Shaping: Sizing and Stitch Patterns For The Upper Foot (Instep)

Any stitch pattern is usable for the instep as long as it fits into your stitch count. For people with high insteps wearing socks with texture on the upper foot might feel uncomfortable when worn in closed shoes. Better use a stitch pattern with only little texture in this case: if in doubt, stockinette stitch is always an option.

The size of your instep determines the sock shaping and how well a sock fits the various needs of different feet.

Short row shaped sock heels do not have any instep shaping and are suited well for smaller feet with low instep.

Classic top-down flap heels allow for various instep sizes from small to big heels. Flap heels can also be worked from toe up, though!

Dutch heels fall somewhere between short row and flap heels.

Fitting 101: Choosing the Right Sock Heel

There’s quite a lot of different methods for knitting sock heels available. But is choosing the perfect heel for your socks only a matter of personal preference?

The answer is no: certain foot shapes require specific shaping. So which sock heel should be used for which foot shape for achieving a better overall fit?

Heel Shaping On The Big Side

Flap heels are shaped using gusset inserts and most suitable for feet having a bigger than usual circumference, chubby feet and feet with high insteps.

How to Knit Sock Heels

Instructions for flap heels can be found here: Knitting Flap Heels, or use the article Knitting Flap Heels Toe-Up if you prefer to work in this direction.

Shaping Socks: Slim and Small Feet (But Not For Kids’ Socks)

Small and slim feet can be made happy with socks using short row heels, but using the Dutch Heel is even better and shows off best when worn by people with slim feet. The Dutch Heel is a flap heel variant shaped with decreases on the sole, creating a slim fit and elegant looking heel shape.

Sock Shaping: Heels and Instep

Instructions for working the Dutch Heel can be found here.

Fitting: Sock Heels and Adjustments For Kids

To make a long story short: when knitting socks for kids, use either flap heels or short row heels, and make sure your cuffs are as stretchy as possible.

Kids, especially smaller ones, tend to have chubby legs and feet. They need space to feel comfortable and heel variants that can be worked over a broad range of different stitch counts – flap and short row heels do the job best.


Soles are best worked in stockinette stitch, without any stitch patterns. Can you imagine having air conditioned (e.g. lace) or textured (for instance, cables) sock soles? I can’t imagine this would feel very comfortable at all.

The instep can be shaped by using an appropriate heel knitting method: Choosing the right one can be tricky, and if in doubt knit a flap heel.

What’s your preferred sock shaping method? Make sure to let me know by leaving a comment below!

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