How to Reserve Stitches for the Heel and Make the Foot Part of a Sock

We’ve done a great job getting the sock started and making the cuff and the leg part, and now we arrived at the point where the heel will be.

We won’t make the heel right away. The heel-making process is a bit different than simple stitching. I won’t say it’s difficult because it’s not. Once you know what you are doing, it’s quite easy to knit a heel. But it does require a certain amount of focus.

Now, that we are in the zone of working in the round and making the sock, I don’t want to ruin that for you.

So we will postpone working on the heel until the time when our sock is almost done and we are ready for a slightly more challenging type of knitting.

But right now we do need to reserve stitches to set the stage for our future heel.

How do we do it?


For this part, we’ll need a piece of yarn that is about 20-30cm (8-12″) long. The yarn should be about as thick as your working yarn and in a colour that is different from the colour of the working yarn. For best results choose yarn in a bright contrasting colour.

I made a video tutorial that shows how to reserve stitches for the heel (you can also use this same technique for reserving stitching for pockets or other openings in your knitting that you plan to make).

Click here to watch the video

In case you can’t watch the video for some reason, here’s a brief explanation of the “stitch-reserving” process.

We’ll make the heel over the first half of the stitches. In the course, I ask you to divide stitches into two equal groups regardless of the type of needles you use for working in the round? Now is the time to benefit from that little bit of planning.

At the beginning of the round, place the scrap yarn at the front of the work and knit the first half of the stitches using the scrap yarn as your working yarn.

If you use five double-pointed needles, those stitches will be sitting on your first and second needle. If you use two circular needles, the first half of the stitches will be on the first needle. If you use one long circular needle and the magic loop technique, the stitches of this group will be on the first part of the cable.

Once you knit all stitches with the yarn in contrasting colour, bring the second tail of the scrap yarn to the front of the work. Having both tails at the front of the work will make our life easier later on when we start working on the heel part.

Now slip all stitches worked in contrasting colour back to the left needle (or needles if you use double-pointed needles) as if nothing has happened, and we are back at the beginning of the same round. Here’s how it looks.

That’s it. Now the stitches that will be used of the heel are sitting on the scrap yarn, and we can simply continue to knit our sock. Pick up your working yarn and keep working in the round.


If you decided to work your sock in a stitch pattern different from stockinette stitch, there’s one more thing to keep in mind – the first half of the stitches (the one that is now marked with scrap yarn) will be the sole of the sock. Work these stitches in plain stockinette stitch even though the instep part of the sock (the other half of the stitches) is worked in a different stitch pattern.

Why? Because any additional texture on the sole will feel uncomfortable when you start wearing these socks, especially if you have sensitive soles (if you are not sure, ask someone to tickle you :-).

To sum it up, here’s what you need to remember:

If you use patterning on the sock, it should only be done on the second half of the stitches. The first part of the stitches (sole of the sock) should be knit.

Now relax and enjoy working in the round making the foot part of the sock.

For how long? Until the foot part of the sock is long enough to reach the top of your little toe.

How do you know when it happens?

In the Sock Size Chart, you’ll find a table that gives you that measurement for 12 different sizes ranging from “baby” to “large adult”.

I based this table on the foot sizes provided by the Craft Yarn Council of America. Columns A, B and C have the measurements shown on their website.

The next three columns have average numbers based on ten different yarn gauges. I calculated those numbers for each gauge using a pretty accurate formula. The results I’ve got for each gauge were similar within one size, so I averaged them to give you just one number instead of ten.

All you need to do now is to look at column E of the table and find the number that belongs to the size of the socks you are making. Write that number down in your sock planner.

Keep in mind, that the numbers in the table do not include ease. If you want the socks to be slightly shorter than the foot, subtract about 5% from the number in column E.

Work on the sock until the part from the reserved stitches to your needles has the measurement suggested in column E of the table (or the number you adjusted for negative ease).

Count the number of rounds that you worked in the foot part, and write that number down in the sock planner.

For the size I’m making, the foot length excluding heel and toe should be 9.7cm. I’ll make the sock a little bit snug, so I’ll work on the foot part until it measures 9cm.

If by that time you get bored with mindless working in the round, don’t worry – the next part of this tutorial will be anything but boring 🙂 Sign up for the course and learn to knit socks in any size with any yarn you have on hand.

If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:

“Matching Cast Ons and Bind Offs” Book

Discover six pairs of cast on and bind off methods that form identical edges on projects worked flat and in the round.

“Neat Side Edges” Book

Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.

Happy knitting!

Maryna Shevchenko -

How to knit top-down socks in any size | 10 rows a day
How to reserve stitches for heels and pockets | 10 rows a day
Sock Size Chart | 10 rows a day