Hip pain can ruin your day. And it’s tough to get rid of if you spend a lot of time on your feet. It can also be difficult to pinpoint what’s causing your hip pain unless you can point to a specific injury.
But can you get hip pain from shoes? If you aren’t sure what’s causing your pain, you may be surprised to discover that the footwear on your feet can contribute.
The good news is that it’s easy to fix if you can trace your hip pain back to your shoes!
Here’s how your hip pain and shoes may be related and what to look for in shoes to help ease your aches.
Can Shoes Cause Hip Pain?
Yes, your shoes can contribute to or cause hip pain. While many factors could lead to hip pain, your shoes make a big difference.
You probably already know your shoes can affect your foot and leg muscles. But the truth is, when your shoes aren’t supporting and protecting your feet, it can lead to knee, hip, and lower back issues.
It might not be your first thought to assume your shoes could be a problem when you have hip pain. But if nothing else has worked, changing your shoes or investing in inserts could be the key!
Here are some ways your everyday shoes could contribute to your hip pain.
If your arch isn’t properly supported, problems can develop further up your leg than just your foot!
When the arch flattens too much when you walk, it causes the whole leg to “over-rotate,” placing stress on every joint from the foot to the hip.
Inadequate arch support can lead to excessive pronation, aggravating the ankle, knee, and hip joints. In most cases, those who overpronate don’t realize that they do it until they become injured, and even then, it sometimes goes unnoticed.
This consistent over-rotation of the leg places a lot of unnecessary strain on the joints, including the hip joints. If your arch support continues to be inefficient, the hip joint will become aggravated over time, leading to pain.
Not Enough Or Worn Out Cushioning
The longer you wear your shoes, the more the shock-absorbing cushioning inside them becomes flattened.
Over time, this flattening of the padding means the shoes can no longer absorb the vibration that hits your feet on every step.
When the cushioning is worn out—or if you’re wearing shoes that don’t have enough cushioning, those vibrations travel up your leg. They can have a negative effect on all the joints along the way, including the hip joints.
The heel-to-toe drop of the shoe is the difference between the height of the foam in the forefoot, and the height of the foam in the heel.
For example, if there’s 10 mm of foam in the forefoot and 22 mm in the heel, then the heel-to-toe drop is 12 mm.
A drop of 10 to 12 mm is most common. This higher heel drop encourages a heel strike, which means you’re landing more on your heel. This drives more force through the kinetic chain. This can cause pain in the hip, but there’s no direct evidence of it.
A lower heel drop activates the calf and Achilles more, but it’s also unclear what the effect on the hip is.
However, one thing is clear—if you make a sudden and significant change to the heel drop you’re used to wearing, it can cause pain in the hip as you suddenly strain different parts of your foot and leg.
Common Causes of Hip Pain (and how your shoes contribute)
It’s useful to understand hip pain and how your shoes may contribute. If you can pinpoint what’s causing your pain, you can make the necessary footwear changes to reduce—perhaps even eliminate—the pain.
Iliotibial Band (IT Band) Syndrome
Iliotibial band—IT band—syndrome causes pain in the outer hip. Although the hip aches, the problem is in the lower lateral femur, which becomes inflamed as the IT band rubs across the bone.
You may also find pain outside the knee as the pain is transferred up the band. Runners often experience it, but it can happen to those who don’t run.
Research suggests that those who suffer from ITBS have increased rearfoot inversion, which may lead to overpronation, increased internal knee rotation, and increased hip adduction.
All these can be helped—or possibly even fixed—by wearing the right shoes. Overpronation can be fixed by wearing shoes with the right arch support, and once the arch is correctly positioned, knee and hip rotation decrease.
Make sure your shoes offer the right arch support for your feet. The shoes you choose should also have a strong heel counter, which can stop rearfoot inversion.
The piriformis muscle is located in the buttocks, right next to the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis becomes tight or inflamed, it can press against the sciatic nerve, causing pain in the hip.
Often, this is caused by poor foot mechanics, which comes down to wearing shoes that don’t support your feet properly. Repetitive motion can aggravate the muscle and nerves, prolonging the pain.
You may feel piriformis or sciatic pain when sitting, squatting, or climbing stairs, but not usually when walking or running. Once again, you can ease the pain by wearing shoes with the correct arch support for your foot, which will keep your feet properly aligned.
Also, ensure the cushioning is good enough to absorb shock properly and protect your joints on every step.
Bursitis of the Hip
Trochanteric bursitis is inflammation in the bursa outside the hip, which are small sacs filled with fluid that act as shock absorbers and protection from friction between bones and other tissues.
If your shoes are worn out and don’t support your feet properly, your feet may fall inwards as you step, leading to excess strain up the kinetic chain into the hip.
The solution is to make sure your shoes offer enough shock-absorbing padding and the right support for your arch.
Arthritis of the Hip
Pain in the hip may also be caused by arthritis, especially in those who have led an active lifestyle that may have placed pressure on the hip over time. It often presents with pain in the inner hip near the groin.
In most cases, arthritis is a genetic condition and isn’t caused by wearing the wrong type of shoes. However, wearing shoes that don’t support your feet can increase the pain, while supportive shoes can help relieve the pain a little.
Once again, this comes down to wearing the right arch support for your type of foot pronation. In some cases, you may be able to get a custom orthotic made by your doctor, which can significantly reduce your pain. In this case, you need a removable shoe with a removable insole to add your own.
Good cushioning will also help to reduce vibrations up your legs, which could aggravate your hip arthritis. The right shoes won’t completely remove the pain, but they can make a significant difference.
Shoes to Avoid If You Have Hip Pain
If you’ve got hip pain, these shoes can make it worse. We highly recommend changing your shoes completely if you wear these types of shoes regularly.
You can get away with high heels under three inches tall, but they still don’t offer the right support for your arches. So you may need to wear something to support your arch, but we advise limiting your time in high heels if possible.
Any heels over three inches in height force your center of gravity forward. This keeps you more on your toes, forcing your legs to use different muscles to support you, including the hips.
Both flip-flops and flats lack arch support. This means your chances of overpronating are high, leading to pain in the feet, knees, and hips.
If you want to wear either flip-flops or flats, we advise looking for ones that offer arch support. You can also add a special insole if you need more support.
Tips to Reduce Hip Pain from Shoes
Here’s how to reduce your hip pain from shoes and stay comfortable! Follow these tips consistently, and you should find that your hip pain starts to feel better.
Find Your Arch Type and Choose Shoes Accordingly
If you don’t know your arch type, it’s a good idea to find it out. Do the wet test to determine if you have high, medium, or low arches. This is easy—just wet the bottom of your feet and stand on a plain piece of paper.
Then analyze your footprint. You have a high arch if you see a very thin line on the side of your foot and most of it is open space. If your footprint looks very flat, then your arch is low. And if you see about half-half of wet and open space in the “palm” of your foot, your foot is most likely neutral.
Once you know this, you can choose the right shoes. Those who overpronate should choose a stability shoe, which will offer the best support for your low arches and keep them in the right position.
Those with medium or high arches can wear almost any shoe. Most shoes are neutral, and you may also be able to wear some light-stability shoes.
Wear an Insole
If you don’t want to buy new shoes, you can change the insole of your current shoes instead.
Most shoes have removable insoles, so just find one that offers you the right arch support and switch it out with the current insole.
You’ll still need to replace insoles after a few months to a year, but they’re more affordable than buying new shoes.
Of course, when the cushioning wears down in your shoes, you’ll need to replace them too! But insoles can be a quick and easy way to provide better support for your feet.
Find the Right Shoe Fit
Wearing shoes that are either too big for you or too small for you can alter your gait.
If your shoes are too tight, your feet won’t be able to move through their normal range of motion, which can affect how you walk and cause you to inadvertently place pressure on the wrong muscles, leading to pain.
On the other hand, shoes that are too big can cause you to grip the footbed with your toes or change the way you walk in an effort to try and keep your shoes in place. This also puts unnecessary strain on your hips.
We highly advise getting your feet professionally measured. Knowing your size and width will help you to choose the right shoes by measurement—inches or centimeters—rather than size, which means slight changes in brand sizes won’t affect you getting the right-sized shoes.
Wear More Cushioned Shoes
Wear shoes with a decent amount of cushioning in them. Max-cushioned shoes might not be comfortable for everyone, but you don’t need to go overboard. Make sure there’s a decent amount of cushion under your foot to absorb shock on each step.
It’s also a good idea to check your shoes often for wear and replace them when worn out. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation when they need to be replaced—most have either a mileage or a time recommendation.