Last year, I ran an email survey: I asked knitters to measure the feet of their friends and family, asking for the following data:

The key data points

I got nearly 400 replies, providing meaningful data for foot lengths 8.5-11 inches, foot circumferences 8 to 11 inches.

Disclaimer: although I received replies from all over the world, most of the data I received was from North American knitters. I received more data for women’s feet than men’s. There is inherent risk in getting respondents to take their own measurements: I have to trust that they measured in the right place. I don’t claim that this represents every foot in the world, and I don’t believe it should be taken as the final answer on foot size. What this represents is simple: 400 of your best knitter friends offering up measurements of their own feet to help you better understand how to choose a sock size and how to better design sock patterns.

SUMMARY

Note: when I mention foot circumference, I mean around the ball of the foot.

I found some interesting results – some confirming what we felt we knew, as sock knitters, others rather surprising.

• In the vast majority of cases, ankle circumference is the same as the foot circumference. The foot circumference is either the same or larger (never smaller), and if larger only by about 5%.

• And there is a remarkable correlation between foot length & foot circumference – foot circumference on average is about 95% of foot length.

• Gusset circumference on average is larger than foot circumference by 10%. (It turns out that I have a high arch!)

• Heel diagonal about 35% larger than foot circumference, 25% larger than gusset circumference.

• The calf circumference question was an interesting one… lots of respondents questioned why I was asking this. In many cases, 6 inches up from the floor isn’t that far up the sock leg – certainly nowhere near full sock leg length. And this was the point of the question! A standard leg (if such a thing exists) does indeed get wider about 6 to 8 inches up from the top of the heel, where the calf muscles start to curve out – which is also the usual length of a sock leg. But the majority of calf-length sock patterns keep the sock circumference the same – that is, they are assuming that the sock leg doesn’t need any increases to fit comfortably below that calf curve. However, what I learned was that in nearly 50% of cases, there’s a significant increases in leg circumference just up from the ankle.
• Calf circumference 6 inches up from the ground 12% larger on average but there was a huge variance in this – for some, up to twice to size. For 15% of respondents, it’s the same or smaller; 40% it’s 1-10% larger than ankle; for 30% it’s 10-20% larger; for 18% it’s even larger.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR SOCK PATTERNS
This particular data point was known to me before I started the survey: in fact, it was why I started the survey. Looking at men’s and women’s shoe sizes individually, the difference between the largest and smallest common sizes (e.g. women’s size 5 to 11 and men’s size 6 to 12), there’s a 25% difference in both length and foot circumference. That is, a women’s size 11 shoe is over 20% larger in both width and length than a women’s size 5 shoe; and the same difference exists for men’s size 12 compared against men’s size 6.

Although knit fabric does stretch, you can’t expect one size sock to fit that range of sizes with equal comfort, and to look equally good.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR SOCK KNITTERS
Rather remarkably, you can guess the rest of the foot measurements based on one: as long as you have foot length, ankle circumference or foot circumference you’re good.

If you have foot length:

Foot circumference, ankle circumference = foot length * 1.05.

Gusset circumference = foot length * 1.16

If you have foot or ankle circumference:

Foot length = foot/ankle circumference * .95

Gusset circumference = foot/ankle circumference * 1.10

I do recommend you look for sock patterns that come in multiple sizes, and choose the size carefully. Remember that a sock is best worn with about 10% negative ease. Your feet will be happier for it.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR SOCK DESIGNERS
• Socks should be sized!

• It’s safe to assume that foot circumference = ankle circumference. You can also use foot circumference as rough guide for foot length, as in the formulas above.

• Design with a gusset or expanded heel for better fit: If you’re adding a gusset, make it at least 10% larger; if you’re working without a gusset, ensure the heel provides 25%-35% extra circumference.

• Allow for larger calves; consider providing suggestions on how to size for larger legs.

THE DATA
I’ve sliced it two ways: by foot length, reflecting how shoes are sized and how non-knitters tend to think of their feet, and by foot circumference, reflecting how knitters usually think of feet. The numbers are the average of the reported results.

Note: I’m not making any statement here about shoe size, as it’s not an absolute or reliable measurement: I found that for any given shoe size, the reported foot length varied by on average 13%. There several reasons for this: shoe size varies depending on manufacturer (I wear a size 6 in some brands, a 6.5 in others, and a 7 in some others); those with wider feet will more often choose a larger shoe size due to its added width (since relatively few shoe brands provide wide sizes), and shoe size will vary wildly from style to style, and whether a shoe is worn with socks (and handknit vs. storebought socks at that). Just because you buy a size 8 shoe doesn’t mean that you have a size 8 foot!

By foot length.

By foot circumference.

I hope this is useful to you! If you have thoughts, comments or additional questions, least let us know.


Bet you wanna knit these….

As a reward for reading this far, we have a contest! We’re giving away a pack of 2 skeins of Zauberball to make the excellent and innovative Longitudinal Socks. (That’s enough yarn to make 1 pair of the largest size, or a couple of pairs of the smaller sizes!) Value of the prize is $42. Our usual contest rules apply: leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Wednesday July 18th to be eligible to win. If you’ve won a giveaway in the last year, please give other knitters a chance. Thanks to the Skacel Collection for the prize.

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751 Responses to Foot Sizing Survey Results; Contest!

  1. annski says:

    Pick me, please!

  2. Amber G says:

    Very interesting!
    I would love to win the yarn and make the Longitudinal socks, they are beautiful!

  3. Sam says:

    Love the pattern and the Zauberball!

  4. This was fascinating – especially since I’ve recently discovered how much I love to make socks. I found a two at a time toe up book and I’m hooked. I’ve only made 4 pairs thus far, but I see many more in my future, so needless to say, I’d love to win this give-away!! :-)

    Good luck all!!

  5. Nikiana says:

    Very interesting info…

    (Pick me! :D)

  6. Mairi says:

    Thanks so much for the foot size survey – very interesting data. And yes, I love Zauberball sock yarn, too!

  7. Tricia W H says:

    Thank you for compiling all of the foot measurement information. Very interesting and informative.

    Nice socks too!

  8. Kate says:

    Love the color of yarn in the pic and also I have fun wowing my knitting buddies.

  9. Liz says:

    Interesting…my ankles are 10″, my feet are 9″ long, my arches are 9″, and the ball of my foot is 9″. Guess I’m the statistical outlier! No wonder I have such a hard time getting socks and shoes to fit!

    Do I get yarn as compensation?

  10. LaDonna says:

    Making it in under the wire, but with 700 other respondents, I suspect someone else is going to win this wonderful prize. Congrats to the lucky winner!

  11. Stephanie V says:

    I’m printing these charts off right now! Good info…thanks! And, please…pick me!

  12. Kikki says:

    Really interesting data!

    And that yarn looks awesome.

  13. Tanya Carter says:

    I love the yarn. Thanks as well for posting the survey results, as an avid sock knitter they are fascinating!

  14. Anne says:

    cool!!

  15. Sue G. says:

    Love it!

  16. karen says:

    How cool is that!!! Will be very helpful!

  17. Mary L says:

    Gotta love useful information!
    I know that sock pattern is in my favs – so different – just have to knit them up!

  18. Ruth says:

    fantastic post on sock sizing! Thanks

  19. melch says:

    I would love to knit a pair (or two) of rainbow socks!

  20. Marsha says:

    This helps me understand why the heel was way too big on the last pair of socks I made. Would like to try with the Zauberball!

  21. Mel Miller says:

    I am just learning to knit socks. This seems like helpful information to have. Thanks!

  22. Poodleyarn says:

    I would love this yarn, and these socks. And I think the yarn would make an awesome hat and mittens set too!

  23. Marsha says:

    Oh, I’d love to try this yarn—and that fun sock pattern, too!

  24. Claire says:

    Now that I learned how to knit socks, this article was very helpful. I always wondered how socks are knitted and sized to fit!!
    Finding Knitty Magazine was like a winning a lottery.

  25. Rosemary says:

    I love data crunching stuff like this, I’m resisting the urge to whip off my shoe and measure my foot in the middle of the office to check if my feet fit the data trends.

  26. Christine says:

    Very interesting! As someone with big ol’ feet, I find the “one size fits most” patterns to be INFURIATING. As I am never “most” :( I hope that this will help to convince some sock designers to offer more options for sizing.

    If that doesn’t, then maybe this: I won’t buy sock patterns with only one size!

    I’m bookmarking this for when I need to make gift socks and only have limited information on sizes!

  27. Valerie Young says:

    Great information! I’d love to win the Zauberball.

  28. leticia says:

    I have to go revisit my measurements now to see if I’m part of “the norm”.

    Hooray for this project and the intended outcome> better fitting socks.

  29. Cindi says:

    Thanks for the info!!!

  30. Rebbie says:

    Interesting information to have. You never know what you’re going to get when you knit those “one size fits all” patterns. I can usually find someone who can fit their foot in them!

  31. Grace says:

    cool beans!

  32. karol says:

    Love the name of the yarn it not only sounds fun but looks very fun.

    kudos for all the hard work on the sizing chart. tyvm

  33. Beth says:

    Love this sock pattern and the colors! It is always good to have another foot measurement chart in the portfolio.

  34. Terri H. says:

    I sent data for my own feet and my husband’s… glad to see it was put to good use!

  35. Renee says:

    Cool survey!

  36. Patsy says:

    fun info and love socks, could not think of a better giveaway

  37. Jennifer says:

    Those are in my favorites, I’d love to win!

  38. Knitnut says:

    Love socks, sizing has always been an issue when making them for others. This will help!

  39. Anna Marie says:

    I definitely need gussets in my socks. And I would love to win the longitudinal kit—I could continue my odd construction sock knitting, since I’m working on skew!

  40. Anne says:

    thanks for the info, it will come in handy.

  41. Christine says:

    Zaurball! Fun WOW

  42. SanaaKwaUzi says:

    I love this article! I’ve been looking for information like this & couldn’t find any, until now. Thank you!!!

  43. I was wondering what had ever come of the survey!! I love the look of zauberball!!

  44. Debbie says:

    Interesting, ring size usually correlates to shoe size.

  45. Mischa says:

    ooh, interesting information… And pretty socks!

  46. Jessica says:

    I’ll be bookmarking this page! And I love these socks; they’re next on my list….

  47. Annamary says:

    What a great incentive to try out this fun project! Pick me! Pick me!

  48. Jen says:

    Enter me please!

  49. Marion says:

    Crumbs! Never realised there were all those correlations. Now I’m going to have to boot the desktop PC, print off the tables (and possibly all the rest…) and measure my own feet.

    And how did you know I was dying to try a pair of those socks? All I need is the yarn…

  50. [...] you're interested in knitting socks, this article on a foot size survey might come in [...]

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