Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this post is not intended to replace medical advice. If you require medical advice seek the advice of a medical professional.
One of the benefits of hand knit socks is the ability to customize them to accommodate the wearer's taste, size and sensitivities. Nothing feels better than a pair of socks made especially for your unique feet. Once you've knit a few pairs of socks and you're comfortable with sock knitting, you'll be ready to modify patterns to get just the right socks for the feet you're knitting for. Here are the most common modifications I find myself recommending to knitters who are knitting for sensitive feet:
The Cuff and Leg
- Use a ribbing pattern on the cuff as well as the front and back of the leg. Ribbing is stretchy and will accommodate swelling in the calf and upper ankle area. My personal preference is 2x2 or 3x2 ribbing but any ribbing that fits your stitch count will work.
- If socks on the leg are uncomfortable, skip the leg and make ankle socks; start the heel immediately after the cuff.
- A heel flap and gussets is the most accommodating heel construction for a high instep (in fact it accommodates most foot anatomies well).
- A short row heel is comfortable for flatter feet.
- If swelling in the heel and ankle area is an issue, a roomy heel like the fleegle/strong heel is slightly less structured than a traditional heel flap and gussets and will allow for some swelling without becoming too snug.
- Short rows can be added to the sides of a short row heel to make the heel a bit roomier and allow for swelling.
- If the bottom of the heel (the part that touches the floor) is sensitive, consider working the heel turn in reverse stockinette so that the purl bumps are on the outside of the sock and the smooth knit side is against the skin.
- Continue the ribbing pattern from the leg onto the top of the foot to allow for swelling throughout the day.
Some people are sensitive to purl bumps on the bottom of their feet. The easiest way to solve this is to work the sole of the foot in reverse stockinette (purl every round) so that the purl bumps are on the outside of the sock and the smooth knit side is against the skin.
For feet that are sensitive to purl bumps and/or require more cushion, work the sole of the foot in slip stitch stockinette (see chart below) this will eliminate the purl bumps and create a double knit, squishy fabric. The row gauge on the sole of the foot will be shorter than the row gauge on the top of the foot, but this can be overcome by using a few carefully placed short rows. My talented friend, Jo Torr has a great post about using short rows on the sole of the foot. You can find it here.
- For wide toes, a rounded toe is best
- For narrow toes, a wedge toe is best
- For toes that are sensitive to seams, ending with Kitchener stitch eliminates the seam and so does working toe up.
- For toes that are sensitive to the lines of increases/decreases along either edge of the toe, a star toe eliminates these lines and spreads the increases/decreases throughout the toe.
- Anatomical toes (working the increases/decreases all on one side) are comfortable for toes that have a very prominent angle from the big toe to the little toe.
I hope this gives you some ideas of ways to modify socks when you're knitting for sensitive feet. Are there any modifications that you find helpful that I've missed? Let us know in the comments.