If you think about it, the reason why we are able to kick is because of how our leg bones (in addition to the rest of our skeletal and muscular systems are set up) are designed.

A biped, humanoid digitigrade race on the other hand, might have trouble because of how their skeletal structure is set up.

We happened to be a plantigrade species which means our digits, or toes, are flat on the ground, while a digitigrade species walks on its digits, like a cat or dog does on it back legs.

In my research, I found mention of this: the GURPS Traveller books talking about the Vargr who are a biped, digitigrade species of humanoid wolves. It said that Vargr weren't able to kick because of their digitigrade leg and feet structures.

However, if look at this picture here (PLEASE NOTE: the webcomic creator is known for toon nudity (i.e. Bugs Bunny or Chewie the Wookiee). Just to give you some fair warning): enter image description here

That digitigrade wolf was able to kick that human. While it is possible that the webcomic creator may have used creative licensing (and he has been known to do that from time to time actually) and just wanted the page to look cool, if you look at how the wolf is positioning his leg: it's held up. Now, this is a stretch, but the panel makes it look like he is swinging his body around like a top in order to kick the human, meaning that his leg isn't held straight out in front of him, but straight out to his side. Again, this could be creative licensing on the webcomic creator's part, but there are ways to kick someone, knee kicks being one example actually.

So, this all boils down to the simple question again: is a digitigrade biped humanoid species capable of kicking someone or even kicking at all?

Please note, this question is not looking at whether digitigrade animals can kick, but how a biped, humanoid digitigrade species would be able a kick if they can, or if they can't, why can't they kick? Nor is the question looking at how hard a biped, humanoid digitigrade race can kick, and it doesn't matter if the species is mammalian, avian, insectoid, fungoid, etc. We are looking at whether a digitigrade, biped, humanoid species/race can kick at all, and if it can how? And if it can't kick, why can't it kick?

  • $\begingroup$ It is not only possible, it is common; for example, ungulates (horses, donkeys, mules, cattle) are digitigrades and they can most certainly kick. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ Hm....Good point. Although, would a biped, ungulate humanoid be able to kick as well? While an ungulate animal most certainly can kick, a biped ungulate might have trouble. But then, again, I could be mistaken...depending on how this question is answered of course. $\endgroup$
    – SCPilot
    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Next up: Ostrich $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDvorak: And, if the focus is on bipedal digitigrades, ballerinas. (It was not asked how hard they can kick.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Pigeons, on the other hand, could balance on one foot no issue but they can't stick out the other one far enough to matter - or with enough force. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 1:29

3 Answers 3


All the large ground birds can kick to lethal effect, it is their primary defense and they are all digitigrade. Rhea even have sharps spikes on the back of the legs to do more damage. Creatures with such legs won't be able to do a human sweeping low kick (their knees would have to pass through each other), but they can do a forward kick and side kick, likely with more force in the former. Heck an ostrich can kill a lion with its kick, and only weigh around 200lbs.

True your creatures are not birds but that really will not matter for the ability to kick, the birds are just an example of a living bipedal digitigrade. As long as they don't have a rod and socket hip joint like dinosaurs they will be able to kick just fine, and even then they could kick forward. if they can bend over they can forward kick, if they can splay their legs they can side kick. bipeds in general have to have good balance and they have very strong legs compared to quadrupeds of the same size.

If you want an animal with the same leg proportions dromaeosaurs evolved to kick as their primary form of hunting, they cannot kick to the side but that is due to the strange hip structure dinosaurs have, no dinosaur splay their legs either, even the quadrupedal ones.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that large birds are a good example. Their legs have a very different proportion than that of the anthropomorphic wolf in the question. The first segments of their legs (their "thighs") are extremely short (so short they aren't even apparent at first glance in many species) and the third part (the "middle foot") is usually as long as the second (the "lower leg"). The species in the questions has legs which are almost human in proportion with a just slightly stretched middle-foot. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Jun 17, 2017 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ that really will not matter for the ability to kick, as long as they don't have a rod and socket hip joint like dinosaurs they will be able to kick just fine, and even then they could kick forward. if they can bend over they can forward kick, if they can slay their legs they can side kick. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 17, 2017 at 13:47

It would probably depend on their muscle structure and balancing abilities. Obviously the muscles around the calf and foot are going to be different, but if the muscles of the thigh are the same as a human's, a roundhouse kick like that seemse feasible. They could strike with the knee, shin, or top of the foot region. With most good kicks, the force comes from the hip and thigh, so most human kicks seem anatomically possible.

The problem I see is balance. Having toes and heels on the ground at the same time is a huge advantage when kicking. When humans (and, I presume, ostriches) kick with one foot, the foot that stays on the ground grips the earth with its heel and toes for balance and stability. A horse can kick because it has four legs. That means it still has three very distant contact points with the ground to keep it steady. A digitigrade biped might have some trouble because it only has four toes touching the ground. That's four contact points, but they're all small and very close together. Without a heel to anchor them, human-like kicks will be rather wobbly in a creature like this.

The solution: flying kicks. If a digitigrade biped jumps (which its leg structure should enable it to do quite forcefully), it could kick in midair with one leg like a Tae Kwon Do master, or with both legs like a kangaroo. The force of the jump would add to the kick, and they wouldn't have to worry about balance, just a sturdy landing (which would be easier with two feet, or two feet and a hand). There would be a slight disadvantage to this in that you could see these kicks coming from a mile away and have more space to dodge or block. But hey, Tae Kwon Do wolves.

  • $\begingroup$ all large ground birds are digitigrade(all birds period even), their heel is nowhere near the ground and they can kick just fine. Ostrich only have two toes and they can kill a lion with their kick. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 17, 2017 at 13:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is true, but their feet are larger proportionally, and their toes are a good but more spread out than a canine's or even a human's. $\endgroup$
    – RLoopy
    Jun 18, 2017 at 2:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yes and no, the total coverage of their pads is probably less than the pictured creature, only the padded portion of an ostrich's toes actually contact the ground. keep in mind an ostrich also weighs more than a person. as for spread if you compare the total span of their two toes vs a humans 5 they would likely be pretty close. scienceinschool.org/sites/default/files/articleContentImages/21/… $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 18, 2017 at 4:34

Kangaroos are digitigrade and can kick from a bipedal position, although they "cheat" by bracing themselves with a heavy tail on the ground, making them effectively "tripedal" while kicking. Still, said kicks are capable of breaking bones or rupturing organs, so yes, it's possible.

Youtube has a video of a "boxing" match between kangaroos here.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .