This last year I've developed gout in my big toe joint, the classic style (I'm nothing if not classic, right?). It's been so bad at points, with my entire foot swollen to twice it's normal size, looking like Fred Flintstone feet, that the only thing I could wear on my feet was old, stretched out flip-flops. That was more or less okay for July and August as I suffered the worst. My foot is almost back to normal and the last two days I've even worn real shoes for the first time since the first week in July. It got me worrying though about the possibility of return flares in the same joint in wintertime. First of all, it's important to keep gouty feet warm at all times to prevent the blood vessel constriction that comes when extremities get cold. Even more so, though, I simply can't remain indoors for months just because it's cold and/or wet out all winter. So I decided that for every problem, there must be a knitting solution.
This is just going to be a simple tutorial on adapting a 72 stitch sock pattern of your choice to accommodate a gouty foot. The idea here is to first of all allow the gouty toe joint plenty of room with no agonizing constriction, while at the same time providing warmth. These socks can be worn with flip-flops if needed, but even if the wearer can comfortably wear more enclosed, better winter weather shoes, the spacious big toe section is still more comfortable than the standard constricting sock.
So to knit the perfect gout sock, I worked in pattern (this sock pattern happens to be Brigit by Monkey Toes, available free on Ravelry, but any sock worked over 72 stitches which is common for most men's socks and many women's cabled socks will work the same) until I got just to the base of where the big toe meets its fellow toe. Not right where the skin begins to meet, but where you've knit to empty space.
I'm beginning rounds in my instructions at the beginning of the sock half representing the bottom of the foot, the sole; the second half of each round is the top of the foot or instep.
For the left sock:
K1, SSK, K22, place the last 11 stitches on waste yarn for the big toe and add the first 11 stitches of the other half so that 22 total are on tied off waste yarn to work the big toe later
K22, K2TOG, K1
Knit the next round joining the two halves again leaving aside the big toe stitches to be worked later
Work 10 more rounds alternating between rounds when you decrease on the top and on the bottom at the far left side, and rounds working plain knitting. This is just like you would normally do in a sock except you're only decreasing on the pinky toe side and not both sides evenly.
Work 3 rounds of decrease rows after that.
Work 3 rounds the way you would normally decrease at the toes: on each half, K1, SSK, knit to the last 3 stitches, K2TOG, K1
You now have 10 stitches (hopefully) on the top and 10 on the bottom. Use Kitchener stitch to join them and weave in the yarn end.
Now put the 22 toe stitches on a needle; a much wider diameter needle! I worked the majority of the sock on size 1 needles and then used size 4 for the big toe.
Join yarn. Don't weave in the end; it will be useful to have it right where the big toe section meets the rest of the toes' section to close up any gaps or holes. Knit around the 22 and pick up two stitches at the gap (you can pick up more or less as comfortable, but make it an even number).
Work 10 rounds even (try them on at this point if possible and make sure that they come all the way to or past the end of the big toe--if the knitting doesn't yet, work a few more rounds in stockinette until you're sure it does).
Work 3 rounds decreasing at both ends in each half of the toe, top and bottom: K1, SSK, knit to the last 3 stitches, K2TOG, K1
Use Kitchener stitch to join the remaining stitches. Weave in all ends.
This is a lot of words to say very little. If you sort of do it, you'll see what I did. The right sock is obviously worked exactly the same, but reversed, with the big toe situated on the far left of the top side of the sock. Once you do the left sock, you'll know exactly how to work the right one.
Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll have a similar set of instructions for 64-stitch sock patterns. I also want to work out the best way to accommodate swelling extending down the inside of the foot from the toe join; when I was at my worst the whole area was purple and swollen for several inches so it would be beneficial to be able to loosen that area up as well without compromising the structural integrity of the sock.
Please let me know if you have refinements, better ideas, or other suggestions!