How to Knit the Toe Part and the Heel of a Sock

When the sock is almost done, it’s time for the most exciting part – we are going to make the toe and the heel of the sock.

Let’s start with making the toe part because it is logical to finish the part that’s already on our needles.

TOE PART OF THE SOCK

When the length from the reserved stitches to your needles equals the measurement suggested in column E of the sock size chart, stop knitting and take a closer look at your work.

If you knit the sock in simple stockinette stitch, the only thing that matters is the length of the foot excluding heel and toe parts. 

If you decided to add a different stitch pattern to the instep of the sock, you should also pay attention to the pattern repeat. 

The thing is that the toe part of a sock is traditionally worked in the stockinette stitch, mostly because it’s easier to work decreases in stockinette than in any other stitch pattern. It means that the stitch pattern you used for the instep should flow nicely into the stockinette stitch. 

If at this point the pattern repeat doesn’t look complete, make one or two more rounds (or undo one or two rounds) to make it look nice before you switch to stockinette stitch. That’s especially true for stitch patterns that have a several rounds repeat.

Now that we considered the length and the patterning of the sock, we’ll work a decreasing round to shape the toe part.

Start at the beginning of the round and [knit 1 stitch, make a “slip slip knit” decrease, then knit all stitches to the last 3 stitches of the first half of the stitches, knit 2 stitches together and knit the last stitch of this group of stitches].

Repeat the brackets to make decreases in the second half of the stitches = 4 stitches decreased in one round.

It is very important to start decreases at the beginning of the round to make sure that the stitches reserved for the heel are in the first group of stitches. This way the sock won’t be twisted.

Work the same decreasing round in every round until you have 1/3 of the stitches left. 

For example, I cast on 36 stitches for the sock I’m making. It is the same number of stitches I have on my needles when I arrive at the toe part. I’ll keep decreasing stitches until I have 36 / 3 = 12 stitches left. As I’m working with 4 double-pointed needles, I’ll knit until I have 12 / 4 = 3 stitches on each needle.

I admit I’ve got quite lucky here and my number can be easily divided by 3. Besides, the result of that division is a multiple of 4 (the number of decreases we make in one round). 

In most cases, you won’t get a result without a remainder. And that’s not really a big issue. Simply round the number of stitches and make an extra round of decreases until the number of stitches is about 1/3 of the total number of stitches you cast on.

Once you finish decreasing, count the stitches and write that number in your sock planner. You will need that number when you get to shaping toes on the second sock. Because both socks should be of the same size, it’s a great idea to make notes in the sock planner as you work on the first sock.

Here’s how my sock looks at this point:

The toe part is shaped, and now it’s time to finish off the tip of the toe.

The easiest way to do it is to bind off all stitches and seam the first half of the stitches to the second half of the stitches with an overhand stitch, as it is shown in the photo below:

This way is quick and easy, but it has one drawback – the seam leaves a ridge. This is not perfect but acceptable. 

If you want to make the seam invisible, join stitches using Kitchener stitch (also called grafting). This way of joining stitches is a bit more tedious than a simple overhand stitch, but not by much. Basically, we are mimicking the look of the knit fabric using a wool needle.

Here’s a photo of the toe part finished by overhand stitch and by grafting:

As you see, they both look nice, but the one finished by grafting (the one on the right) is entirely invisible and looks better.

HEEL

Now that the toe part is finished, we can go back to the stitches that have been reserved for the heel.

The heel is knit in a simple decreasing pattern. We’ll work the same decreasing round as we did when we shaped the toe, but we will alternate it with a plain round of knitting. Quite easy 🙂

Before we start decreasing stitches, we need to first pick them up from the scrap yarn. 

Here’s a video tutorial that shows how to do it

We know that we reserved half of the stitches. In my case, it is 36 / 2 = 18 stitches. That means that I will pick up 18 stitches from the bottom of the scrap yarn and 18 stitches from the top = 36 stitches in total.

If I do that, there is a chance that there will be small holes at the spots between the top and the bottom stitches. It is not difficult to close those holes with a few overhand stitches once the heel is finished, but it’s easier to prevent those holes from appearing in the first place. 

To ensure that the heel is shaped without any holes, pick an extra stitch at each side of the bottom group of stitches and one extra stitch at each side of the top group of stitches = 4 extra stitches.

1. First, take a knitting needle in your right hand and pick up the right leg of a stitch that is to the right of the first reserved stitch at the bottom of the scrap yarn. 

2. Then insert this needle from back to front into the first reserved stitch at the bottom, and remove the scrap yarn from this stitch. Here’s how it looks in the video.

3. Take another knitting needle in your right hand and pick up the left leg of a stitch that is to the right of the first reserved stitch at the top of the scrap yarn. 

4. Then insert this needle from front to back into the first reserved stitch at the top. Remove the scrap yarn from this stitch. Click here to watch how to do it.

Repeat steps 2 and 4 picking up stitches from the bottom and the top of the scrap yarn and removing the scrap yarn as you go until you pick up all stitches from the scrap yarn.

Then use the needle at the bottom to pick up the right leg of an extra stitch at the bottom, and use the needle at the top to pick up the left leg of an extra stitch at the top. 

It’s ok to pick up more stitches than you planned. As long as you don’t miss any of the reserved stitches and pick up two extra stitches at each corner, it doesn’t really matter how many stitches you have on your needles. If it’s one or two stitches more, it’s fine. We’ll be decreasing those stitches anyway.

If you are knitting with double-pointed needles, pick up half of the bottom stitches with one needle, and the other half of the stitches with another one. Do the same for the stitches at the top of the scrap yarn. This way you will be ready to start knitting as soon as you pick up stitches. 

The first round of the heel will be about attaching working yarn and knitting the last stitch at the bottom and the last stitch at the top as twisted stitches (to leave those holes no chance at all :-). Here’s how it works:

Round 1 of the heel: 

Start working at the beginning of the group of stitches that used to be at the bottom of the scrap yarn.

There is no need to attach the working yarn in any special way, just leave a tail that is big enough to be woven in later on, and start knitting. Keep the tail inside the sock.

Knit all stitches to the last stitch of the first half of the stitches, then knit the last stitch of this group through the back loop. Repeat to work the other half of the stitches.

Round 2 of the heel (decreasing round):

This round is the same as the decreasing round we worked to shape the toe part of the sock: 
[knit 1, make a “slip slip knit” decrease, knit all stitches to the last 3 stitches of the first half of the stitches, knit 2 stitches together and knit the last stitch of this group of stitches]. Repeat the brackets to work the stitches of the second group = 4 stitches decreased in one round.

Round 3 of the heel (plain round): This round is easy – simply knit all stitches.

Work rounds 2 and 3 until you have the same number of stitches left as you had when you shaped the toe. In my sock, this number is 12, so I’ll stop decreasing as soon as I have 12 stitches on my needles.

If you picked up a few extra stitches for the heel (not the 4 extra stitches we planned to pick up, but one or two “unplanned” stitches), your number of stitches will be a bit different than the number of stitches you had at the toes. That’s not a big deal. Stop decreasing when you get close to that number of stitches and finish off the heel. No one will notice a one or two stitch difference on the heel.

Finish off the heel the same way you finished off the toe part of the sock.

The last thing we have to do is to weave in the ends

Now repeat all steps from casting on stitches to weaving in ends to make a mate for the beautiful sock you’ve just finished. This time you won’t need to make any calculations because you already have all the required numbers in your sock planner.


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

“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 - www.10rowsaday.com

Let’s be friends on GoodReads 🙂

How to knit a sock heel | 10 rows a day
How to pick up stitches for a heel | 10 rows a day
How to knit the toe part of a sock | 10 rows a day