What Causes Pain When Walking?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
A man with leg pain.
A man with leg pain.

Countless injuries and conditions can cause pain when walking, depending on where that pain is occurring. Pain may occur in the feet, legs, hips, and even in the back, so in order to isolate the cause of pain when walking, it is important to determine exactly where that pain is occurring. Muscle injuries in the legs can lead to leg pain, as well as pain in the lower back as the body moves differently to compensate for the injury. Joints can begin to ache due to arthritis, tendinitis, or cartilage damage, leading to pain when walking as well.

Injury is the most common cause of back pain when walking.
Injury is the most common cause of back pain when walking.

Injuries to muscles are perhaps the most common causes of pain when walking. These injuries may be the result of a direct trauma, overuse, or even a lack of conditioning. When muscles become tired, they tend to tighten, which can in itself lead to pain throughout the legs and lower back. If those muscles become tight enough, they can tear, causing a muscle strain. Depending on the severity of the strain, the pain may be mild to moderate, or quite severe. If the muscle tears completely from itself or the tendons that secure it to bone, a rupture has occurred; this is extremely painful and will incapacitate the injured person.

Damage to the cartilage in the hip joint may cause pain when walking.
Damage to the cartilage in the hip joint may cause pain when walking.

Other common causes of pain when walking are arthritis, poor posture, and an improper gait. Arthritis occurs when the ligaments and cartilage in a joint begin to break down, leading to inflammation and excess movement of the joint. It is often treated with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and other pain management techniques, since there is no cure for this condition. Poor posture can lead to an improper walking gait, which can put strain on muscles, ligaments in the joints, tendons, and cartilage. Posture correction devices can sometimes help alleviate pain when walking due to an improper gait, and specially designed shoes can be purchased to help correct the gait.

Shin splints commonly occur in runners as well as obese people. This condition can be the result of several conditions, including tendinitis, muscle strains, and even small fractures in the bones in the legs. Shin splints commonly occur when the legs must endure strain it cannot handle; obese people are more at risk for shin splints because the legs must endure more weight being placed on them. Shin splint braces and sleeves are available to help alleviate such pain and promote blood flow to the affected area.

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Discussion Comments


@Tomislav - Although heel pain is not as serious as chest pain, I would still go see a doctor about it (and I used that metaphor of chest pain because I would surely hope you would go to the doctor if you had chest pain while walking)!

I just found out from my orthopedist that the pain in my heel I felt when walking was due to plantar fascitis. And just like the pain you described it would often be at its worse after I sat!

Just as the article described it was due to an inflamed tissue, in this case the tissue is actually called the plantar fascia and it is right in the middle of the fleshy heel pad.

My orthopedist thinks part of the reason my heel is unhappy with me is because of my soccer cleats. He said they were notorious for not providing your foot enough support.


I do not have hip pain like my mom has (but since my mom has it I wonder if I am next to get that), but I have heel pain when I walk.

What is interesting about the pain is it gets worse initially after an intense work out, but in the days following that work out the pain is worse after sitting!

Any ideas?


@Sunny27 - I know what you mean. I find that I usually get pain in the legs when I walk too much. Whenever I take my kids to the amusement park, I always feel leg pain when walking towards the end of the day.

I think that it is the sheer amount of miles that I must have walked when I go on these trips that really makes me feel this way. If you think about it, I get to the park when it opens at around 9:00 AM and then don’t leave until about 5:00 PM. Most of that time, I am on my feet with the exception of a lunch meal. I also get knee pain when walking too, but I know that this goes away when I lose a little weight.


I think that foot pain when walking can also be due to the types of shoes that you are wearing. If the shoes are brand new or do not fit properly you can develop foot or even heel pain when walking. Sometimes if I wear sneakers that are a little too small, I develop toe pain when walking.

It feels like a little pressure is being place on my toes almost like a slight pinch. I usually develop bruising on my toe nails as a result. It is really uncomfortable.

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    • A man with leg pain.
      By: Shakzu
      A man with leg pain.
    • Injury is the most common cause of back pain when walking.
      By: mangostock
      Injury is the most common cause of back pain when walking.
    • Damage to the cartilage in the hip joint may cause pain when walking.
      By: videodoctor
      Damage to the cartilage in the hip joint may cause pain when walking.