1. An improved understanding of the regulation of kidney oxygenation has the potential to advance preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for kidney disease. Here, we review the strengths and limitations of available and emerging methods for studying kidney oxygen status. 2. To fully characterize kidney oxygen handling, we must quantify multiple parameters, including renal oxygen delivery (DO2) and consumption (VO2), as well as oxygen tension (Po2). Ideally, these parameters should be quantified both at the whole-organ level and within specific vascular, tubular and interstitial compartments. 3. Much of our current knowledge of kidney oxygen physiology comes from established techniques that allow measurement of global kidney DO2 and VO2, or local tissue Po2. When used in tandem, these techniques can help us understand oxygen mass balance in the kidney. Po2 can be resolved to specific tissue compartments in the superficial cortex, but not deep below the kidney surface. We have limited ability to measure local kidney tissue DO2 and VO2. 4. Mathematical modelling has the potential to provide new insights into the physiology of kidney oxygenation, but is limited by the quality of the information such models are based on. 5. Various imaging techniques and other emerging technologies have the potential to allow Po2 mapping throughout the kidney and/or spatial resolution of Po2 in specific renal tissues, even in humans. All currently available methods have serious limitations, but with further refinement should provide a pathway through which data obtained from experimental animal models can be related to humans in the clinical setting.