Locomotion is involved in various fitness-related tasks, such as foraging, acquiring mates, and escaping from predators. Despite the importance of locomotor performance in determining fitness, animals often encounter situations in nature during which their locomotor performance is severely compromised. For animals that actively discard appendages as an anti-predator strategy, the loss of appendages can cause a severe reduction in locomotor performance. However, whether animals can compensate for the impact on locomotor performance after autotomy is still unclear. A previous study has shown that tailless green anole lizards suffered from reduced in-air stability during jumping. In this study, we monitored jump kinematics in three groups of Anolis carolinensis for five consecutive weeks to test two hypotheses: first, whether tailless green anoles can recover from reduced in-air stability before their tails can regenerate; and second, whether gaining locomotor experience facilitates locomotor recovery. Our results revealed extensive individual variation in the ability to compensate for reduced in-air stability. Some individuals did improve in-air stability during the study period, whereas others showed no sign of improvement. Moreover, the acquisition of locomotor experience did not facilitate the recovery process. Our findings suggested that tail autotomy in green anoles probably imposes a long-term fitness disadvantage. The utility of other compensatory mechanisms, such as altering behaviour, might play a role in natural populations to minimize the impact of autotomy on individual fitness. Our findings also shed light on the independent evolutionary losses of the ability to autotomize within lizards. Comparative studies which test whether species that autotomize more frequently/easily can better compensate for the effect of autotomy would be a fruitful direction of future research. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 107, 583–592.