Natural loading of the calcanei of deer, elk, sheep and horses produces marked regional differences in prevalent/predominant strain modes: compression in the dorsal cortex, shear in medial–lateral cortices, and tension/shear in the plantar cortex. This consistent non-uniform strain distribution is useful for investigating mechanisms that mediate the development of the remarkable regional material variations of these bones (e.g. collagen orientation, mineralization, remodeling rates and secondary osteon morphotypes, size and population density). Regional differences in strain-mode-specific microdamage prevalence and/or morphology might evoke and sustain the remodeling that produces this material heterogeneity in accordance with local strain characteristics. Adult calcanei from 11 animals of each species (deer, elk, sheep and horses) were transversely sectioned and examined using light and confocal microscopy. With light microscopy, 20 linear microcracks were identified (deer: 10; elk: six; horse: four; sheep: none), and with confocal microscopy substantially more microdamage with typically non-linear morphology was identified (deer: 45; elk: 24; horse: 15; sheep: none). No clear regional patterns of strain-mode-specific microdamage were found in the three species with microdamage. In these species, the highest overall concentrations occurred in the plantar cortex. This might reflect increased susceptibility of microdamage in habitual tension/shear. Absence of detectable microdamage in sheep calcanei may represent the (presumably) relatively greater physical activity of deer, elk and horses. Absence of differences in microdamage prevalence/morphology between dorsal, medial and lateral cortices of these bones, and the general absence of spatial patterns of strain-mode-specific microdamage, might reflect the prior emergence of non-uniform osteon-mediated adaptations that reduce deleterious concentrations of microdamage by the adult stage of bone development.