The present review summarizes the pathogenic mechanisms leading to hip fracture based on epidemiological, experimental, and controlled clinical studies. The estimated lifetime risk of hip fracture is about 14% in postmenopausal women and 6% in men. The incidence of hip fractures increases exponentially with aging, but the time trend in increasing age-specific incidence may finally reach a plateau. Postmenopausal women suffering earlier non-hip fractures have an increased risk of later hip fracture. The relative risk is highest within the first years following the fracture. Nursing home residents have a high risk of hip fracture (annual rate of 5-6%), and their incidence of falls is about 1.5 falls/person per year. Most hip fractures are a result of a direct trauma against the hip. The incidence of falls on the hip among nursing home residents is about 0.29 falls/person per year and about 20% of these traumas lead to hip fracture. Women with hip fractures have a lower body weight compared with controls, and they may also have less soft tissue covering the hip, even when adjusted for body mass index, indicating a more android body habitus. Experimental studies show that the passive energy absorption in soft tissue covering the hip may influence the risk of hip fracture and be an important determinant for the development of hip fracture, perhaps even more important than bone strength. External hip protectors were developed and tested in an open randomized nursing home study. The rate of hip fracture was reduced by 50%, corresponding to 9 of 247 residents saved from sustaining a hip fracture. This review points to the essentials in the development of hip fracture: risk of fall; type of fall; type of impact; energy absorption; and last, bone strength, which is the final permissive factor leading to hip fracture. Risk estimation and prevention of hip fracture may prove realistic when these issues are taken into consideration.