I was told in pokemon go, the pawprints near the pokemon represent the distance away from me, but as I move around I run into pokemon and all of the distance markers stay at 3 paw prints, never lowering to 2 or 1. What's going on?
This is a glitch currently with the game.
It will likely be fixed soon.
Until the bug is fixed you can use a web service like https://pokevision.com/ which shows you the exact position if Pokémon near your position.