Knitter, Heel Thyself!

See what I did there? I made a heel pun! 

There are a lot of heel construction options for sock knitters.  I'm often asked 'which heel is best?' or 'which heel has the best fit?' or 'What heel do you recommend?'  Truth is, feet are like snowflakes and everyone's are different.  The heel construction that fits my feet won't necessarily work well for your feet.  Or your spouse's feet.  Or your kids' feet.  Or your neighbour's feet.  Or whoever the lucky, knitworthy recipient of your hand knit socks will be.  

I urge all sock knitters to try as many different heel constructions as possible to determine what works best for them fit-wise and knit-wise (not only does a heel need to fit you properly, you should enjoy knitting it).  

Here's a summary of some of the most popular heel constructions and their advantages and disadvantages:

Afterthought Heel

 Rainbow Dash is an example of a sock with an afterthought heel

Rainbow Dash is an example of a sock with an afterthought heel

Advantages

  • Great on-the-go knitting because you don't have to stop to turn the heel

  • Doesn’t interrupt self striping or self patterning yarn

  • Tends to fit feet that are flatter (low instep)

  • Can easily be worked in a contrasting or complementary colour

  • Construction is the same whether worked toe up or cuff down

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t tend to fit higher insteps or wider heels (tends to slip off)

  • Can result in holes in the corners where the heel stitches are picked up

  • Requires picking up stitches

Short Row Heel

 Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey is an example of a sock with a short row heel 

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey is an example of a sock with a short row heel 

Advantages

  • Most popular heel construction

  • Found on commercially made socks

  • Fits flat feet better than feet with a high instep

  • Many variations to choose from (FLK, german short row, wrap and turn, japanese short row, etc.)

  • Less disruptive to self patterning yarn than a heel flap

  • Easy to use a contrasting or complementary yarn

  • Construction is the same whether worked toe up or cuff down

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t tend to fit high insteps or narrow/wide heels very well (although modifications can be made to accommodate differing foot anatomies)

  • Can be hole-y depending on the short row method used

  • Can result in holes at the corners of the heel

Heel Flap

 Sassenach is an example of a sock that uses heel flap construction

Sassenach is an example of a sock that uses heel flap construction

Advantages

  • Fits most foot anatomies (especially higher insteps)

  • Sturdiest construction

  • Easy to reinforce using double knitting or eye of partridge stitch patterns

  • Is the classic hand knit sock heel

Disadvantages

  • Disrupts the flow of self-patterning yarn

  • Requires picking up stitches for the gussets

  • Uses the most yarn when compared to short row and afterthought heels

  • More difficult to use a contrasting or complementary yarn

  • Construction differs between toe up and cuff down

Strong Heel or Fleegle Heel

 Caffeine is an example of a sock that uses Strong/Fleegle heel construction

Caffeine is an example of a sock that uses Strong/Fleegle heel construction

Advantages

  • No gusset stitches to pick up

  • Less disruptive to self patterning yarn than a traditional heel flap

  • Accommodates wide heels and high insteps

  • Sturdier construction than afterthought or short row heels

  • Construction is very similar for toe up and cuff down

Disadvantages

  • It’s not very intuitive for a new sock knitter as the gussets, heel flap, and instep are worked simultaneously which can be confusing

  • Results in a triangular shaped heel flap (this could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your preference)

Do you have a favourite heel construction?  What is it and why?