Background: The Motoric Cognitive Risk Syndrome (MCR) is a pre-dementia syndrome characterized by subjective cognitive complaints and slow gait in the absence of dementia and mobility disability. Worse cognitive and motoric function is associated with chronic pain in older adults. Our aim was to study the association between pain and prevalent and incident MCR in adults aged 65 years and older. Methods: We analyzed the cross-sectional association between severity of pain and prevalent MCR in 3244 older adults participating in the Health and Retirement Study (2008 wave) using logistic regression analysis adjusting for demographic, peripheral, central or biological risk factors. Additionally, we analyzed the longitudinal association between severity of pain and incident MCR in 362 participants in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging Study, using Cox regression analysis. Results: The 155 Health and Retirement Study participants with severe pain had an increased risk of prevalent MCR (n = 249), compared to 2245 individuals without pain (adjusted for demographics OR: 2.78, 95 % CI:1.74–4.45). Over a mean follow-up of 3.01 years (SD 1.38), 29 individuals in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging Study developed incident MCR. Older adults with severe pain had over a five times increased risk of developing incident MCR, compared to those without pain even after adjusting for demographic variables (HR: 5.44, 95 % CI: 1.81–16.40). Conclusion: Older adults with severe pain have a higher prevalence and incidence of MCR. These findings should be further explored to establish if pain is a potentially modifiable risk factor to prevent cognitive decline.