My husband Bill is my favorite person in the world, but his feet are kind of a sock-knitter’s nightmare. They are wide and big (US Men’s 13), change drastically in thickness from the pads of his feet to his instep, and his toes seem as if they were cobbled together from multiple people (or trolls) of varying sizes.
For the feet squeemish among you, I promise, I won’t show you a picture. There are some things the internet just does not need to catalog.
Fortunately for Bill, I am a patient and determined sock knitter. After making him five or six pairs of serviceable – but not dreamy – socks, and asking him hundreds of questions about fit, I’ve created a few modifications that result in happy socks for his feet, and less guessing/stressing during the knitting process.
All the yarns pictured here are the Viso base from Desert Vista Dyeworks. It is a thinner fingering weight yarn, 75% Merino, 25% Nylon, approx 460 yards to 4 oz. These parameters are similar for many Indie dyers who offer sock yarn. I also knit all of Bill’s socks from the toe up.
To start, all Bill’s socks are knit with some sort of ribbing from the cuff to the toe. I typically do a K1 P1 ribbing for the cuff, and switch to K4 P2 for the leg and foot. The K1 P1 cuff keeps the top of the sock from flaring out or rolling.
The ribbing is important because it stretches well over the wider parts of Bill’s dynamic feet, and hugs in tight around the thinner parts. I knit ribbing around the whole leg of the socks, but only on the top part of the foot. The sole of the foot is plain stockinette.
For the very widest parts of Bill’s feet (his insteps, which are 2 inches bigger around than the balls of his feet), I add a few stitches for more room. In the last 1.5 inches before his heel, I increase a total of 12 stitches, (from 72 stitches to 84). Some increases are on the sides of the sock, where a gusset would be, and some are on the top of the foot hidden in the purls of the ribbing. I do a simple lifted increase in pattern, adding two or four stitches every 8 rows. These extra stitches mimic the added room of a gusset, which I am disinclined to knit for such big socks. A short-row or afterthought heel feels like less of a time commitment and, therefore, makes it easier to combat Second Sock Syndrome, but it doesn’t leave enough room for those two extra inches of circumference. The added stitches are a good compromise.
Finally, the biggest and most dramatic modification I make to Bill’s socks is to knit him anatomically matching toes. The difference between the top of Bill’s big toe, and the top of his smallest toe is nearly 2.25 inches. (For comparison, on my feet – which are perfect – the difference is .75 inches.)
Trying to fit a symmetrical rounded or wedge toe on the insane slope from one side of his foot to the other results in a lot of tightness over his big toe, and a lump of loose fabric over his small toe. It’s not very comfortable, and the pressure from his big toe causes increased wear with a greater chance of holes. The only darning I’ve had to do for Bill’s socks is over his big toe.
To create the shape of a sloping toe, you just have to do more increases on one side of the sock than on the other. There are many different options and formulas for doing so, and I’ve included my recipe below. The only problem with having distinct left and right socks, is that if one gets (temporarily) misplaced, it can be more difficult to cobble together a mismatched pair of socks on The Morning Before Laundry Day as you’re running late for work.
I hope this is helpful for any knitters who are struggling to understand a loved one’s problematic feet topography. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please share them in the comments. We brave knitters must band together and cover the world’s oddest feet with colorful and fun socks!
Anatomical Toe Formula for Big Bill’s Bizarro Feet
(note – I knit 72 stitches on Bill’s socks. Modify these numbers to your preferred stitch count. Also, these instructions assume you are familiar with toe-up sock construction.)
using Judy’s Magic Cast On and double-point needles, cast on 24 stitches (6 on each needle).
Increase 4 stitches each round (like a standard rounded toe), until the number of stitches is doubled – 48 stitches, 12 per needle. (In the photo above, this is the red stripe.)
Knit one plain round without increasing.
Start shaping the toe, by increasing on one side only. (In the photo above, this the the area in the purple brackets.)
Increase round: Knit 1, increase 1 (I do “knit front and back”), knit to one stitch before the end of the round, increase 1, knit 1.
Work two increase rounds and then one plain round. Continue until you reach the desired number of stitches. Your toe is complete!
If you are knitting a pattern sock (not just stockinette), make sure your second sock has the opposite orientation of your first, so you have one right foot and one left foot! I work my toes the same for both feet, but knit an extra half of a round for my second sock before I start the ribbing for the top of the foot. I double check the second sock against the first at least three times, because I am paranoid about knitting two left feet!!