Do Camels Wear Shoes? [No! Here’s Why]

Horses and camels seem to have a lot in common at first glance. They can both carry riders and heavy loads, and they’re both domesticated.

One area where they differ quite a bit, though, is their feet.

Camels do not wear shoes like horses do because they have feet with toes, rather than hooves. Camels’ feet are well-suited to their desert environment and have adapted to travel efficiently over the sand. They’re shaped like snowshoes, have pads of fat that prevent burns and reduce pressure on the ground, and have a digitigrade stance and pacing gait.

Continue reading to discover why horses wear shoes and camels do not.

We’ll also talk about the potential impacts of putting shoes on camels, as well as the adaptive characteristics of camels’ feet that cause them not to need shoes.

Why Camels Don’t Wear Shoes (But Horses Do) 

The main reasons that horses wear shoes are to protect and strengthen their hooves and to keep them from wearing down too quickly.

Horses’ hooves are primarily made of keratin, which is the same material as our fingernails and toenails.

Wild horses gradually wear down their hooves over time because they’re constantly walking. But domesticated working horses carry riders and pull heavy loads, and this causes their hooves to wear down much more quickly. 

Therefore, horseshoes are an effective method of strengthening their hooves and making them more durable.

Horseshoes also provide extra cushioning and protection from injury. They add traction, improve horses’ balance, and can help with medical issues like arthritis, ringbone, and laminitis.

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So, why don’t camels wear shoes, considering the many benefits they have?

First of all, camels don’t have hooves. They have feet with squishy pads of fat on the bottom and two toes each. Because of this, shoes cannot be nailed onto their feet.

Technically, camels do have hooves on their feet, but they are only partially developed and look more like toenails. Each camel’s toe has one of these partially-formed hooves on the front of it.

In addition, camels’ feet have adapted in multiple ways to become highly suited for desert transportation.

It’s likely that putting shoes on camels, if it were possible in the first place, would only be detrimental to them due to the environment they live in.

Potential Impacts Of Putting Shoes On Camels

If camels were forced to wear shoes, they would likely prevent the camels from walking normally across the sandy desert.

Not only that, but walking with shoes would probably require more energy from a camel than simply walking on its feet due to the added weight, which can be as much as five pounds per leg.

It’s also possible that shoes would put additional stress on a camel’s muscles and joints, especially the leg muscles, knees, and ankles.

Adaptive Characteristics Of Camel Feet

Camels’ feet have adapted in multiple ways. Even domesticated working camels do not require any type of shoes because their feet are so well-suited to their habitat.

Learn about some of the camels’ amazing adaptations in the video below.

Snowshoe-Like Shape

One adaptation of camels’ feet is their wide and round shape.

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Similar to snowshoes, camels’ feet are large enough to evenly distribute their weight so that they don’t sink down into the sand as they walk, even though they can weigh 1,300 pounds or more!

Thick Pads Of Fat

Camels’ feet have thick, leathery pads of skin and fat on the bottom that serve multiple purposes.

Sand in the desert can be as hot as 160°F, but thick pads of skin on the bottom of camels’ feet prevent them from getting burned.

There are similar pads of skin on camels’ sternums, knees, and elbows that allow them to lie down in the sand without getting injured.

The pads of fat on the bottom of camels’ feet also reduce the pressure put on the sand. It’s thought that these fat pads developed as an adaptation to living in the desert. 

The pads spread out as camels place their feet on the ground, preventing camels from making much noise as they walk and gallop.

Two Toes Per Foot

Each of camels’ four feet has two toes, and they’re connected with the aforementioned fat pad. 

In total, camels have eight toes, and these toes are what come into contact with the ground when a camel walks. 

This means that camels have a digitigrade stance. They walk similarly to a woman wearing high heels, with their toes touching the ground and their heels and ankles elevated. 

Pacing Gait

Camels have also developed a special and nearly unique way of walking that is suited to their well-adapted feet and their environment. Their gait is especially well-suited for the flat surfaces of the desert.

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These animals have what is referred to as a pacing gait, and aside from llamas, there are no other wild mammals that walk this way.

A pacing gait consists of moving both left legs forward at the same time, then both right legs forward at the same time. The two sides alternate as the camel moves forward. A camel’s stride is long and slow.

Moving in this manner creates a rocking motion as the camel moves from side to side.


Camels have soft feet rather than hooves made of keratin, so it’s not possible for them to wear shoes as horses do; there’s nothing to nail the shoes to without injuring the animal.

Even if camels could wear shoes, they’d likely be much better off without them, thanks to the many adaptations their feet have. Camels’ feet are perfectly suited for travel in the desert just as they are.

Camels’ feet are round and wide like snowshoes so that camels can evenly distribute their weight rather than sinking into the sand.

They have pads of leathery fat on the bottom that prevent burns, reduce pressure on the ground, and decrease the amount of noise camels make as they walk.

Camels also have a digitigrade stance, meaning that they stand on their toes, and they walk with a pacing gait that’s ideal for moving over flat surfaces.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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