Sandshrew is a bipedal mammalian Pokémon, but runs on all fours in the anime. Its yellow hide is dry, tough, blends in with desert sand, and has a brick pattern, but its underbelly and muzzle are white. Sandshrew has blue, almond-shaped eyes, a pointed snout, and triangular ears with white insides. Its tail is thick and conical. It has two long claws on each foot and three sharp claws on its forepaws, which are used to burrow.
Sandshrew spends much of its time hidden underground in deep burrows. It only emerges to hunt, which it does by waiting within its burrow to instantly lunge out and drag in passing prey. Sandshrew can quickly curl into a tight ball to protect itself from great falls and opponents, but may also throw sand at attackers. While its body can efficiently absorb water to facilitate life in the desert, Sandshrew has been found in caves as well.