We have studied the magnetic anisotropy of nanometric CoFe 2O4 (CFO) thin films grown on (100) SrTiO3 (STO) substrates. It has been found that epitaxial substrate-induced compressive strain makes the normal-to-film axis harder than the in-plane directions. In agreement with some previous reports, the magnetization loops are found to display a characteristic shrinking at low fields. Detailed structural and microstructural analyses, together with a modeling of the magnetization loops, revealed that the microstructure of the films, namely, the coexistence of a continuous CFO and a distribution of pyramidal CFO huts emerging from the surface, are responsible for this peculiar feature. We argue that this behavior, which significantly impacts the magnetic properties, could be a general trend of spinel films grow on (001)STO substrates. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.