Update 1: As of a recent update to the Pokèmon Go app made on July 31, 2015, the nearby paw prints feature has been removed. This guide is no longer useful. We will update this post if Niantic adds the option back.
Update 2: An update to Pokèmon Go made on August 9, 2016 has made the refresh rate of the nearby bar. It can be used to track Pokèmon nearby. You can check out the method here.
Pokemon Go has been an instant hit and people are enthusiastically trying to catch them all. The game revolves around finding and catching Pokemon. It requires walking around the city and always being alert when a Pokemon is nearby. The game tells you when one or several Pokemon are nearby and it even provides you helpful little hints to whether or not you’re getting closer or walking further away from a Pokemon. These little hints come in the form of paw prints that appear under a Pokemon that is nearby, or next to one you’ve selected. Here’s how you can use them to find the Pokemon you want to catch.
Take out your phone and walk around until you see the little bar at the bottom right populate with nearby Pokemon. Tap the bar and a menu will slide up featuring all the Pokemon that are nearby. Tap the one you want to catch.
When you return to the main map, the Pokemon you selected will appear in the bar at the bottom right and next to it will be 1-3 paw prints. The paw prints represent distance and it is now up to you to interpret the direction and find your Pokemon. The trick is figuring out which direction to walk in.
The solution comes from Reddit users thecolorlesspill and DJToaster. Start walking East and keep a close eye on the number of paw prints. If the number goes up, you are walking away from the Pokemon. Return to your original starting point and walk West. Again, note the number of paw prints. If the paw prints start going down you are getting closer to the Pokemon. Keep walking until they start to go up again.
This lets you find the range the Pokemon is in for a given direction e.g. East to West. The Pokemon lies somewhere between where the paw prints went down to where they started increasing again. According to the diagram below, you need to find the area between points A and B which is what you’ve just done by walking East – West. Once you’ve found this range, you now need to figure out whether to go South or North. You can view a larger version of the diagram here.
To do so, start walking North and check if the paw prints go up or start to decrease. If they start to decrease, keep walking and you will find the Pokemon. If they start to increase, return to your starting point and walk South. This should lead you to your Pokemon. The method basically turns you into a homing device and the paw prints tell you whether you’re getting closer or walking away from the Pokemon.
You can also take a hint from the map which shows rustling grass (pictured below) to indicate a Pokemon. It’s not always going to lead you to a Pokemon but it’s a good direction to walk into if you aren’t particular about which Pokemon you want to catch.