An elephant's feet are 15 to 19 inches in length and width, with a circumference of more than 4 feet. Scientists can determine the height of an elephant by its footprint because the shoulder height of the male elephant is 5.8 times the length of its hind footprint (5.5 times the length of the hind footprint in females).
The footprint of the elephant can also be a strong indicator of the elephant's age. Older elephants have heels that are more worn down, with ridges that are smoother, in comparison to younger elephants whose footprints are more defined.
Elephants are near-ungulates, due to having toenails, rather than hooves on their feet. The African elephant has four nails on the front feet and three nails on the back feet. All elephants walk on the tips of their toes, and sometimes their nails are so worn down that they are not always visible in their footprints.
Although elephants are large animals, they can move nearly silently thanks to the thickly padded layer of tissue on the feet. The fibro-elastic layer on the elephant's foot is spongy and molds over objects on the ground so that any noise as the elephant walks is cancelled out. Grooves and ridges on the bottom of the elephant's feet allow it to walk on different types of terrain with ease.