Better-fitting* Toe-up Heel Flap Tutorial

I have a narrow heel and a relatively high instep. This means that a short row heel made with half the total stitches doesn’t fit me. It wobbles around and feels strange. Plus I don’t like the extra straining bits around the front of my ankle. I love the comfort and fit of the cute little cup that a traditional heel flap and turn gives me. So the little * there in the title means that it fits ME better… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit YOU better. But give it a try and tell me what you think.

Step 1: Basics & Calculations

Here you can see the basic parts of the toe-up heel flap. The gussets are worked in the round, then the short rows are worked flat, then the heel is worked back and forth and attached to the remaining gusset stitches, then you go back to working in the round.
We will assume for this example that you are knitting a 64 stitch sock. That means that were you doing a traditional heel flap and turn, you would use 32 stitches for the instep (the front of the sock) and 32 sts for the heel. Generally you would start with these 32 sts and end up with about 22 sts after you turned the heel, then pick up stitches along the heel flap and knit the gusset. But let’s stick with the relevant numbers, 32 sts for instep and heel each and 22 sts for bottom of cup created after heel turn (this part sits RIGHT under your heel).If you want to get REALLY technical, you can figure out how many stitches you normally pick up from the heel flap (n) and calculate thus:

n/(Rows per inch/2)=distance BEFORE heel you want to start gusset increases

For example, for a 64 stitch sock, I would have picked up 13 sts, and my RPI gauge is 12. So 13/6 (which is 12/2)= 2.16″ so I would want to start my gusset increases roughly 2″ before where I want my heel to sit. The dividing row gauge by 2 is because I’m increasing the gusset only every other row, therefore there are half as many increase rows as total rows in an inch of knitting.

Step 2: The Gusset (partially covered in step 1)

In the picture above, you’ll see my roughly 2″ of gusset increases. I’m picky and I use a m1f and m1b so that they mirror each other… but any m1 will do if you’re not so obsessive as I.Step 3: The Short Rows

Remember that number 22? Yes. We will be working the short rows over 22 sts total. Since I’m working the heel on 2 needles with a third for the working needle (I find there’s less stress on the sts if I split them in half), I will work to the bottom of the foot and then k10 and wrap & turn (w&t) (11 total sts on this side) and then work back purling those 10 sts and then p10 from the other side and w&t. Then continue on wrapping the stitch just before the previously wrapped stitch so that you end up with a shape like this

I wrap stitches until I have 6 sts left unwrapped (3 on each side) in the middle. Then on the next row (right side row) you will pick up and knit all wraps on that side together with the stitches they were wrapping. On a right side row, I prefer to knit them together through the back loop. Then turn, slip the first stitch and purl across until the other side’s wrapped stitches which you will now purl together with the sts they were wrapping.Step 4: The Flap

Now that you’re done with the cup at the bottom, your rows will all begin with a slipped stitch and end with a joining of the heel flap sts (those 22 sts we calculated before) with the remaining gusset stitches. The beginnings of this can be seen in the picture above. For this sock it means that I would knit until I had decreased those sts back to 32… but I’ll tell you about a little trick later. So we have 22 heel flap sts, but we need to end up with 32 sts total on the back of the sock, right? So you will work the heel flap, attaching it as you go (and decreasing gusset sts in that way) until you have 5 sts on each side of the heel flap unworked (these sts were previously from the gusset).

So here’s the trick to not having holes in the sock where the heel flap ends and the round knitting begins. Leave the last set of those heel flap decreases until you’re working in the round again, so that the first round after the heel flap would have you work the heel flap stitches, then decrease (ssk) knit the 5 sts left from the gusset, knit the instep sts, then knit the 5 sts left from the gusset on the OTHER side, then decrease (k2tog). Voila! A hole-less toe-up heel flap that is snugger and more comfortable (at least for me).

As for me, I am at an impasse on this celtic sock until I can get some serious charting and swatching done, but I’ve started Icarus again, and I’m loving it just as much as the first time I knit it! I’m still amazed that this shawl came off of my needles and out of my brain! I also finally blocked the cashmere scarf and wrap, but I can’t bring myself to send it off until I’ve shown the SnB grrls.

You MUST go see Lucinda‘s finished Hidcote Garden shawl! It’s just beautiful!

And don’t miss Donna‘s finished Icarus! She knit it in Misti Alpaca, which is what I originally proposed it to be knit with. It’s wonderful Donna!

Comments 14

  1. Ginny wrote:

    I’m going to read this through properly (ie: use it to knit with) when I do my second Wyvern sock from the lovely Katydid yarn I won from – the first has one tight row across my instep, while fitting perfectly elsewher, and i think I have a similar shaped foot to you.

    So thanks.

    Hope you’ve received the email about shawl patterns?

    Posted 07 Nov 2006 at 5:10 AM
  2. sarah wrote:

    Aha! I think you’ve sorted my stupidity (at least as regards socks) with one simple sentence: knit ALL the wrapped stitches on one row. I’d unwrapped as for the standard short-row heel. And your timing is absolutely perfect: I’m within striking distance of the gusset increases on my current socks (I didn’t know it was possible to calculate the right distance for the increases…) and I posted a parcel to you this morning. Thank you!

    Posted 07 Nov 2006 at 5:49 AM
  3. sarah wrote:

    One quick question on joining the heel flap to the gusset: my understanding is that I would slip the first stitch on the flap, knit to end of flap, knit 2tog (last stitch on heelflap plus a gusset stitch), turn, slip one stitch, purl to end, purl 2tog, etc. Is that right-ish?

    Posted 07 Nov 2006 at 6:12 AM
  4. KaKi wrote:

    May I ask what may be a silly question? (I’ll continue and if I don’t have your persmission, well delete) LOL I am new to the blog world. The more I read the more I hear about swaps KAL. I participated in Sockterberfest, but I found it accidentally through another blog. Is there a place to look for these things to join? I am really interested in meeting more people and participating in a swap or kal. Thanks for your patience with the newbie!

    Posted 07 Nov 2006 at 7:32 AM
  5. Angeluna wrote:

    Mim, Thank you soooo much for this tutorial. I tripped over it while checking your blog and it is just the information I needed at this very moment. I have the high arch/narrow heel foot, and as much as I love to look at short-row heels, they don’t love my foot. Best I did was to use EZs advice to use much more than 1/2 the stitches, but still not as good as the flap for my foot. You have now prodded me into doing some toe ups. I keep running out of yarn in my top-downs, not funny.

    Posted 31 Jan 2007 at 11:59 PM
  6. TracyKM wrote:

    I have “Sensational Socks” and it details a toe up heel flap, but it looks strange in the book (could be the colours). Is your’s the same? I have a hard time reading instructions without doing it at the same time 🙂

    Posted 02 Feb 2007 at 12:45 PM
  7. teresa wrote:

    I just tried your heel technique, and though I’ve only been able to try it on with needles poking out around my ankle, I think I really like it! I especially like that it doesn’t involving picking up stitches like other toe-up heel flaps I’ve tried. Thanks for sharing this!

    Posted 22 Feb 2007 at 5:25 PM
  8. TracyKM wrote:

    Sorry to be a bother, but I’m just not getting the math. How do you know you usually end up with 22st after the short rows? It’s been awhile since I’ve done one top down.
    Here’s what I do know. Row gauge is 11.75rows/inch, I like a heel flap 2 1/4″ deep=26 rows=13 sts to pick up. I have 60sts=30sts for flap. Should I just follow your example, even though I have 4 fewer sts? The rest is close enough…

    Posted 22 Mar 2007 at 2:54 PM
  9. TracyKM wrote:

    I feel like the dumbest knitter right now. I’ve muddled through, and have done the short rows over 22 sts, and now am making the flap and joining it to the gusset sts. I knit across the 21sts, knit the last st with the first one from the gusset. After a few rows, I realize that my heel flap is only 22 sts wide, not 32 sts wide, like normal. I know you say to decrease down to 32sts, but I’m just not getting this all together. I had increased 13st (each side, as I calculated that my heel flap would be 26 rows) when making the gussets. I now have 41 st on the bottom of the sock total. Help? I’m going to look at that sock pattern on knitty I see further down in your tutorials.

    Posted 18 Apr 2007 at 12:13 PM
  10. Mrs.Sharpe wrote:

    I love the look of your heel, and I love to make toe up socks for my husband (who adores them!) However, his arch is so high, that Im always ‘budging-it’ and making changes for fit as-I-go. I am trying to figure the number of gusset stitches for his high arch. I know that the circumference measure where my gussets should end is 11.5″ (inches), wich leaves about 2/3″ or 3/4″ for the actual heel turn. Next, I usually like the flap to be 30 sts wide, so that I end with the correct 60st total (from his 8″ circumference foot with a 10% reduction for snugness, as 9st/inch, 12RPI) So how does this math sound to you: 11.5*0.9=inches with 10% reduction=10.35″[round up], 10.5*9=stitch count circumference=94.5 [round down], (94st-60st)/2=total numberof gusset sts to creat on either side of heel= 17st gusset=n
    Therefore, then using your aforementioned formulea:
    17/(12/2)= 2.83″ before heel turn, which if rounded is about 3.25″ out of the total foot length. If I have 17 gusset stitches, then I will have 34 rows to the heel flap (wich has always been a little short for him anyway, at 30 rws)
    Does this sound correct to you? I am working on another pair, and I can’t seem to find anywhere with a ‘sock calculator’ that works for me/him, just hope to contribute something useful to the community. Cheers! Mrs. S.

    Posted 22 Jul 2008 at 7:26 AM
  11. Joan wrote:

    I wanted to print the heel instructions but I didn’t know how to do it without getting all of the comments. Is there a solution?

    Posted 14 Jul 2010 at 2:59 PM
  12. Mim wrote:

    Joan, perhaps copy and paste the bits you want? The images should come along.


    Posted 14 Jul 2010 at 7:07 PM
  13. Rebecca wrote:

    This heel looks fantastic and I thought I might try it on a pair of socks I’m trying to convert to toe-up, but how do I decide how many stitches I would normally use for the heel-flap?

    Posted 07 Oct 2010 at 6:50 PM
  14. Mim wrote:

    The heel is usually based on half of the stitches in the sock. For people with a higher instep, they usually do like… 60% of the total stitches to give a deeper heel and make the sock larger across the top of the foot. If you have a super narrow heel, some like to use 40% of the total stitches. It’s a matter of fit and preference.

    Posted 31 Jan 2011 at 2:20 PM

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