How to determine the proper sock size

I’m drawn to the lure of sock knitting in the fall and find myself on a quest to purchase the best sock yarn for the patterns I find that have tempted me to knit them.  I’ve learned to knit my socks using two circular needles but still have to struggle on measuring the length so my socks aren’t too short or too long.  It has taken practice and many sock knitters might find this a bit humorous, but how does one determine the proper sock size?

When knitting socks, remember that the length of the sock should not correspond with a shoe size.   For socks to fit comfortably,  make sure to measure your foot to know exactly when to start decreasing for the toe.  Socks should not be sloppy or loose, but should fit snug on the foot.

To determine the length of the foot, simply place a ruler on the floor with your foot next to it and measure from the heel to the tip of the longest toe.  By doing so, you will determine the exactly length of your foot and know how long your finished sock should be.  For example, if you typically wear an US size 7 shoe, your foot length should be between 9 and 9 1/2 inches.  When you are knitting your sock and ready to start on the toe, measure the sock from the point of the heel turn.  You want to start the toe decrease about 2 or 2 1/2 inches short of the actual foot length.  Remember you want to be a little short so the sock can stretch to fit properly without being too loose.

Catherine Goodwin of Knitting Anyway has created the following chart for knitters to have an idea on foot length.  This chart is fairly accurate and would be a handy tool to keep in your knitting bag.

Socks are very addictive and so is the yarn used for knitting them.   You can find gorgeous sock yarns in a variety of colors and companies, along with a terrific selection of books,  online at the Yarn Market.  For those of you who prefer Indy Dyers for your sock yarn, be sure to visit the Zen Yarn Garden, UrbanGypz, NH Knitting Mama, Liberty’s Yarn and Woolen Mill St Yarns.

30 thoughts on “How to determine the proper sock size

  1. Gail

    Excellent article and very helpful!! You’ve written this at a great time for me, as I’m about to order some leather slipper soles for some knitted slippers I’m making for a Christmas present and had no idea how to convert the recipient’s shoe size to the proper length of the sole to purchase (as they are sold in lengths and not size). AND, I’ve also been approached to knit some 17th century, period correct men’s hose for an historical company in Colonial Williamsburg. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!!

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    1. Tina Post author

      Thank you oodles Gail and you’re most welcome too! Wow! I’m anxious to see your 17th century socks/hose ~ be sure to keep me posted :)

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  2. Linda Cyr

    I have been looking everywhere for a chart to help with sock sizing.I knit for a charitable organization, the “RSVP”, and donate the socks I knit but I do not have the opportunity to measure anyones feet so I just guess and fear I may be way off. Sometimes I just knitted the sizes of my family members and donated those. This chart will be very helpful. Thank You. it means so much to me to have the things I donate to come out as nice as the things I make for my family. Thanks again for taking the guess work out of the measuring for me.

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  3. Genevieve

    Thanks for this chart–so helpful! But I was also wondering about the circumference for different sizes, and how many stitches need to be cast on. 64 is the standard, but I’m a size 8 and 64 stitches fits snugly on me. So if I wanted to knit a size 9 or 10 for a friend, should I consider casting on more stitches? And if so, how many?

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    1. Tina Post author

      You’re most welcome Genevieve :) I would suggest casting on extra stitches. For a standard vanilla sock, an additional 8 stitches usually works and if you’re working with a pattern, you would want to cast on the amount to give you an additional stitch pattern repeat. I hope that helps.

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  4. Francesca Tronetti

    Thanks for this. My first pair was about an inch too long, the pattern said to subtract 1.5 inches from the length of my foot. Just got into sock knitting and finding it addictive.

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  5. Radley Claessen

    What does the first digit in men’s sock sizes represent? I use diabetic friendly socks (size 6-11) but find that the top end of the socks grip too tightly above the ankle.

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  6. Tina Post author

    I’m sorry Radley, but I’m not quite sure of your question as this post pertains to knitting hand knit socks. Could you give me an example ?

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  7. kim

    as a new sock knitter, I have a question about decreasing the toe. I’m following a ” Regia Design Line Pattern” which is very confusing, however I’ve managed my way to the shaping of the toe and they refer to the chart for decreasing, and this is where I need some help in translating the chart.
    After decreasing 1 round it says (the following)
    on 4th round 1x
    on every 3rd round 2x
    on every 2nd round 3x
    on every round 7x
    What the heck are they talking about? Please help.

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    1. Tina Post author

      Hi Kim, since I don’t have the pattern it is really hard for me to truly help you out. Do you know if this pattern is available online?

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      1. kim

        In doing research in knitting books it seems a lot of sock patterns have a chart for decreasing for toe shaping. but what I don’t understand in these charts is they tell after the 1st decrease round rep these decs. as often as is given in table below until 8 sts. remain,
        “on the 4th round decrease 1x
        on every 3rd round decrease 2x
        on every 2nd round decrease 3x
        on every round decrease 7x
        I hope this makes since for you as knitter and thank you for answering.

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      2. Tina Post author

        Hi Kim, so it appears you’re repeating the decrease stitches one time, 2 times, 3 times, and then 7 times. That does seem extreme and give me a bit and I’ll ask a few fellow sock knitters if they have tried your pattern :)

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      3. Tina Post author

        Hi Kim, I’ve asked other sock knitters and we are all perplexed at the decrease method on this sock. Without the pattern to look at it’s very hard to decipher. If you haven’t finished your sock, I, along with the few others, suggest doing just a standard toe decrease. Here’s a couple of sources to take a look at … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4bEhqXgOIU and http://www.knittersreview.com/article_how_to.asp?article=/review/profile/070719_a.asp

        I hope that helps a bit and sorry I can’t help on the pattern you’re working on.

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  8. Nikki

    hello all, this is my first time knitting socks. i found a site that says to measure around the the ball of your foot then x it by 7 then that number x .85, for example the ball of my husbands foot is 11 x 7= 77 then 7 x.85= 65.45 if the number is odd add 1 to make it even. so the number of pegs i need is 66 if the sock loom only has 54 pegs does this mean i have to use a long loom? also should i take away some pegs so that the socks will fit without being loose.

    Thanks Nikki

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