Why Does My Hip Hurt When I Walk? Decoding The Causes & Treatments

hip pain when walking

A sharp twinge with each step, a dull ache that grows worse with every mile, or perhaps an intermittent jab that catches you off guard – hip pain when walking can range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating hurdle. If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’re familiar with that nagging discomfort or even agonizing pain that accompanies each stride, turning simple walks into taxing endeavors. You’re not alone. Millions experience this discomfort, and while the reasons can be as diverse as our individual walks of life, one thing’s for certain: understanding the cause is the first step towards a solution. Dive in with us as we explore the intricacies of hip pain, its common culprits, and the paths to pain-free strolls once again.

Understanding the Hip Joint’s Complexity

The hip joint, often referred to as the body’s “ball and socket,” is a marvel of design that supports our weight and offers a wide range of motion. Walking, a rhythmic and repetitive motion, heavily relies on the hip joint’s harmonious functioning. Each step requires coordination between bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When any part of this complex system is inflamed, injured, or misaligned, it can lead to the pain you might be experiencing. Therefore, understanding the hip’s complexity underscores the importance of pinpointing the exact cause of pain. Because when we know the ‘why,’ we can better address the ‘how’ of finding relief.

Common Culprits Behind Pain In Hip When Walking

Hip pain when walking can be frustrating and limiting, affecting your daily life and activities. To tackle pain effectively, it’s essential to understand its potential causes. Let’s delve into some common culprits:

  • Osteoarthritis: Often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time. In the hip, this degeneration can lead to pain, especially during activities like walking.
  • Tendinitis: Tendons are thick bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. Overuse or strain can lead to inflammation in the tendons, known as tendinitis. In the hip, the most commonly affected tendons are those attached to the muscles surrounding the joint.
  • Bursitis: Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint, reducing friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. When these bursae become inflamed, the condition is termed bursitis. It can cause sharp or achy pain, especially during movement.
  • Hip Labral Tear: The labrum is a ring of cartilage that follows the outside rim of the hip joint socket. It acts like a gasket to hold the ball at the top of your thighbone securely within your hip socket. An injury, structural abnormalities, or wear and tear can cause a tear in the labrum, leading to pain and a catching sensation in the hip.
  • Hip Fractures: Especially prevalent in older adults due to osteoporosis, a hip fracture can cause acute pain and an inability to move or put weight on the leg.
  • Muscle Strains: Overworking or stretching the hip muscles can lead to strains, which can cause pain and discomfort while walking.

Identifying the root cause of hip pain when walking is crucial for targeted treatment. Remember, the hip is a complex joint, and multiple issues might be at play. A thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional can provide a definitive diagnosis.

The Role of Footwear in Hip Health

When experiencing hip pain, many people are quick to explore direct causes related to the hip joint itself. However, one often overlooked but significant factor is the type of footwear one chooses. Surprisingly, the shoes on your feet can play a pivotal role in maintaining, or disrupting, the health of your hips.

A Chain Reaction From the Ground Up:
Every step we take creates a ripple of reactions up our body. Starting from the feet, the impact travels to the ankles, knees, and eventually the hips. Wearing unsupportive or ill-fitting shoes can disrupt this kinetic chain, placing undue stress on the hip joint and surrounding muscles.

Improper Arch Support:
Flat shoes or ones lacking proper arch support can lead to overpronation (where the foot rolls inward excessively). This altered foot movement can cause the knees to turn inwards, putting additional strain on the hip joint.

High Heels and Hip Strain:
While they might be stylish, high heels force the body into an unnatural posture. The forward tilt caused by heels can lead to an increased curve in the lower back, pushing the hips forward and placing added stress on them.

The Shock Absorption Factor:
Good footwear acts as a shock absorber. Shoes with adequate cushioning help in reducing this impact. In contrast, hard-soled shoes or worn-out sneakers fail to cushion the foot effectively, leading to increased jarring of the hip joint.

Tips for Choosing Hip-Friendly Footwear:

  • Prioritize Support: Always seek shoes with good arch support to maintain proper foot alignment.
  • Cushioning is Key: Opt for footwear with adequate cushioning to lessen the impact on joints.
  • Limit Heel Height: If you wear heels, try to limit their height and frequency of wear. Consider platform or wedge heels as they distribute weight more evenly.
  • Proper Fit: Ensure your shoes aren’t too tight or too loose. There should be enough room to wiggle your toes, but your heel shouldn’t slip out.
  • Replace Worn-Out Shoes: As shoes age, they lose cushioning and support. Make it a habit to replace them when they start showing significant wear.

Exercises to Enhance Hip Strength and Flexibility

Keeping the hip joint strong and flexible can be crucial in both preventing and managing hip pain when walking. Incorporating a few tailored exercises into your routine can make a noticeable difference in hip health. Here are some recommended exercises to get you started:


How to do it:

  • Lie on one side with your legs stacked and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keeping feet together, lift your top knee as high as possible without moving the pelvis. Your legs will resemble a clam opening.
  • Slowly lower the knee back down.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps on each side.

Benefits: This exercise targets the gluteus medius, a crucial stabilizer for the hip.

Hip Bridges

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Pressing through your heels, lift your hips towards the ceiling while squeezing your glutes.
  • Hold the top position for a few seconds, then lower back down.
  • Perform 10-15 reps.

Benefits: Hip bridges engage the core and glutes, enhancing hip stability.

Fire Hydrants

How to do it:

  • Start on all fours in a tabletop position.
  • Keeping the knee bent, lift one leg out to the side, resembling a dog at a fire hydrant.
  • Lower the leg back down.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps on each side.

Benefits: This exercise is excellent for hip mobility and targets the hip abductors.

Pigeon Stretch

How to do it:

  • Begin in a plank position.
  • Bring one knee forward, placing it behind the corresponding wrist. Extend the other leg straight behind.
  • Lower the hips towards the floor as much as comfort allows. You should feel a stretch in the hip of the bent leg.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Benefits: Pigeon stretch is a deep hip opener, increasing flexibility in the hip flexors and external rotators.

Standing Hip Extensions

How to do it:

  • Stand tall holding onto a chair or wall for support.
  • Keeping the knee straight, extend one leg behind you without arching the back.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Perform 10-15 reps on each side.

Benefits: This exercise strengthens the glutes and hamstrings, supporting the back of the hip joint.

Incorporating these exercises into your routine can significantly enhance hip strength and flexibility, potentially leading to reduced pain and improved function. Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physical therapist or fitness professional to ensure you’re performing exercises correctly and safely.

Professional Interventions: Physical Therapy & Beyond

Navigating through hip pain can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, especially if you’re unsure about the root cause. This is where professional guidance can play a transformative role.

Physical therapy stands out as a vital first step. Therapists not only pinpoint the exact causes of your pain but also design tailored exercise regimes to address them. Their hands-on approach means they can adjust techniques, ensuring optimal alignment and movement, reducing pain, and preventing further complications.

Beyond physical therapy, other interventions such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, or even surgical consultations might be suggested based on the severity and nature of the issue. Remember, hip pain isn’t just a discomfort—it’s a signal from your body. And with the right professional intervention, you can decode that signal and march toward pain-free walks again.

Recognizing Warning Signs

While occasional hip discomfort can be a common grievance, especially as we age or after intensive physical activity, it’s crucial to discern between a passing ache and a more severe symptom. Recognizing and acting upon these warning signs can prevent further complications and ensure your overall well-being.

  • Consistent and Intense Pain: If the pain in your hip is consistent and unbearable, preventing you from performing daily activities or interrupting your sleep.
  • Swelling or Heat: Noticeable swelling around the hip or a warm feeling can be indicative of inflammation or an infection that needs immediate attention.
  • Inability to Bear Weight: If you find it challenging to put weight on your leg or feel unstable when standing or walking.
  • Sudden and Sharp Pain: An acute, sharp pain, especially following an injury or a fall, can indicate a fracture or a severe sprain.
  • Limited Range of Motion: If your hip becomes stiff, making it difficult to move or lift your leg, it’s a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.

Should you notice any of these warning signs, don’t hesitate or self-diagnose. Seek immediate medical attention. Your body communicates its distress signals for a reason. Addressing these signs promptly ensures quicker recovery and better health outcomes.


Navigating the world of hip pain can be a complex journey, especially when it interrupts the simple pleasure of walking. Yet, with understanding, care, and the right interventions, this journey can lead to solutions and relief. Remember, you’re not alone in this, and there’s expert help available. If you’re experiencing Hip pain, physical therapy for hip pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.