It’s a common concern that if you have flat feet, you might not be able to join the military. Young kids are worried that they’ll never fly a fighter jet or feel the brotherhood of the armed services, all because of their silly flat feet.
Well, the good news is, you can join the military with flat feet. Hooray! But, only if you don’t show any negative symptoms because of it. Similar to being diagnosed with ADHD or asthma, if you can perform properly despite your condition, the military will be happy to have you.
What does it mean to have flat feet?
Having flat feet is a condition that affects around 25% of the American population. It is characterized by a collapsed arch in the foot and sometimes produces painful symptoms.
Flat feet normally develops in infancy when, in fact, most young babies don’t start to develop an arch until they’re around four or five years old. Flat feet can be caused by genetics, weak arches, or sometimes arches can fall due to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or past surgeries involving the posterior tibial tendon.
The majority of people who have flat feet don’t show any symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they can include:
- Painful and aching feet
- Back and leg pain
- Pain in feet after walking and running
- Decreased movement in the feet
Flat feet should be diagnosed by a podiatrist which will typically include a simple visual exam, and there are a few things that can be done to treat and possibly cure flat feet, like heel cord stretching, golf ball rolling, well-fitted shoes, insoles, ankle braces, and losing weight.
History of Flat Feet in the Military
It’s one of those well-known myths that if you have flat feet your dreams of joining the military are over before they even started. That’s because the myth used to be true. Back in the early days, flat feet were a quick disqualifier for military hopefuls. It used to be thought that flat feet were a sign of poverty and poor health while high arches were seen as belonging to high class, vigorous people.
Although the exact dates are unclear, flat feet is no longer an automatic disqualification in any branch of the military. It’s still a cause of concern, but there are definitely exceptions to the rule.
Apparently, it was during the Vietnam War that the rule against flat feet really began to shift. The Vietnam War was widely protested and people would do anything to avoid the draft. During this time, people with flat feet often rejoiced at their “good” fortune. But with such a lack of enlistees, the rules were changed and the military started accepting flat feet.
Can You Join the Military with Flat Feet?
The short answer is yes. But there are a few caveats. In general, people with flat feet have been known to enlist, but only if your condition is asymptomatic.
If you have flat feet, you’ll need a medical waiver in order to join your chosen branch of the military, and as long as you haven’t been diagnosed with any pain or corrective footwear, your waiver should be accepted without a hassle.
Really, it’s the symptoms that the military worries about, not simply that fact that your arch is collapsed. If you have trouble with the pain while walking or running, or if you need arch support in your shoes to perform properly, the military will think twice about your ability to complete the tasks necessary.
In general, the Army and the Marines might not be your best option when it comes to joining the military with flat feet. While you may be asymptomatic at the time you enlist, the sheer amount of running and groundwork has been known to cause pain and discomfort down the track. If you can, enlisting in the Air Force is probably the best choice if you have flat feet.