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Why Are Flat Feet Not Allowed in the Military? (Detailed Explanation)

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

why are flat feet not allowed in the military

There are many reasons why military candidates get rejected, such as Anemia and Hemorrhagic disorders. But did you know that having flat feet and showing symptoms of it can also keep you from enlisting? It sounds absurd but is entirely true.

If you feel pain around the heel and arch area or have swollen ankles because of flat feet, then you cannot become a service member. And about 25 percent of the population suffers from this!

So why are flat feet not allowed in the military? We will explain the details in the rest of this article. Continue to read to find out!


Can Flat Footed Join the Military?

Flat feet used to be a disqualifying condition for the military. However, it no longer is unless you have symptomatic flat feet, which means you display detrimental symptoms like those noted in the section above. If you can perform daily physical activities without experiencing any pain or discomfort, then you have asymptomatic flat feet and can still join the military.

In general, whether or not you can join the military with flat feet depends on the severity of your condition. If you are currently concerned about this, visit a doctor and speak to a recruiter. They will have the exact answer you are looking for.

However, do note that even if you do not enter the military with flat foot, you may develop it in the time that you are there. It can be difficult to bear if you are in the Army and Marine, both of which are very physically demanding and MOS that can take a toll on the feet like as pararescue.

If you do have flat feet and suspect they can eventually turn to symptomatic flat feet, it is best to reconsider enlisting.

Why Can’t You Join the Military With Flat Feet?

Previously, flat feet were considered a disqualifying condition because it was a sign of low class and poor health, while high arches were deemed high class and full of vigor. Plus, many doctors believed it would hinder the individual from hiking and partaking in long marches.

Flat feet were “ruled out” from being a disqualifying condition during the Vietnam War, when the military was short on men. Nowadays, many studies have even found that there are no big differences in the risks between low, medium, and high arch feet.

Flat Feet Military – What Are Flat Feet?


Flat feet, also commonly referred to as flatfooted, is a condition where one or both of your feet have little to no arch. As a result, when standing, the pads of your feet are pressed against the ground. You cannot see the arch unless you lift your foot/feet.

Everyone is born with flat feet. Usually, by the age of 6, we form arches. Some of us have high arches, while some have low or almost absent arches. However, roughly 2 out 10 children remain with flat feet as adults.

1. Causes

Flat feet may run in families and be a part of your genes. Otherwise, if you have any of the following conditions, you may have a higher chance of developing flat feet later in life.

  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

2. Types

There are a few different types of flat feet, as follows:

  • Flexible

This type of flat feet is the most common. It is when you can see the arches in your feet when you are not standing but they disappear when you put weight on your feet.

Flexible flat feet typically occur during childhood or the adolescent years. It affects both feet and gets worse as you age.

The tendons and ligaments in the arches can stretch, tear, and swell, all of which cause pain.

  • Rigid

This is when your feet have no arches when you are standing, putting weight on your feet, or sitting with no weight on your feet.

It usually develops when you are in your teen years and like flexible flat feet, aggravates with age.

You may feel a lot of pain and find it difficult to flex your feet up and down or move them side-to-side.

However, unlike flexible flat feet, this type of flat feet does not always affect both feet.

  • Adult-acquired

This is also known as fallen arches. It is when the arch of your foot unexpectedly collapses or drops. It can cause the foot to turn outward and inflict intense pain, but it may affect only one foot.

The most common culprit for this type of flat feet is an inflammation or a tear in the leg tendon that supports the arch.

  • Vertical talus

Some babies are born with a congenital disability, which is easier to understand as a birth defect. This prevents arches from forming as they normally would in the feet.

The talus bone in the ankle is positioned incorrectly, so the bottom of the foot is like the bottom of a rocking chair. As a result, it is also referred to as rocker-bottom foot.

Generally, people with flat feet do not feel pain or encounter other problems. Therefore, most of the time, flat feet are not a big deal. However, in some situations, they can cause pain and other problems. In that case, treatments are necessary.

3. Symptoms

Symptoms for flat feet may include leg cramps, muscle pain like fatigue or aching in the leg or foot/feet, pain in the ankle, heel, arch, or outside of the foot/feet, pain when changing how you walk or when walking in general, and toe drift—wherein the front part of the foot and the toes point outward.

4. Diagnosis

If you want to test if you have flat feet on your own, here are two ways to go about it:

  • Footprint Test

This is what you need to do:

Step 1: Fill a cookie sheet or a baking dish with about 1.5 inches of water.

Step 2: Remove your shoes and socks, and submerge your feet in the water.

Step 3: Put your feet on a white piece of paper. Then, step off.

If the print of your foot is completely laid on the piece of paper, then you have a very low arch — a potential indication for flat feet.

  • Tiptoes Test

Step 1: Take off your shoes (boots) and socks, and stand on a firm floor.

Step 2: Place both of your hands against the wall to remain stable.

Step 3: Slowly rise and stand on your tiptoes on both feet.

If you do not see any noticeable arch, then there is a good chance you have flat feet. If it is difficult to stand on your tiptoes for a long period of time, you may have a very low arch.

However, neither of these tests count as an official diagnosis.

The best option is to visit a professional healthcare provider. In this case, you will be diagnosed by a healthcare provider after he or she has assessed your symptoms and evaluated your arches.

Note: Sometimes, your bone structure may be examined through X-rays and MRAs.

If you are already in the middle of your military enlistment application process and do not have a doctor’s diagnosis, you will be officially tested for flat feet at the MEPS — Military Entrance Processing Station.

5. Treatment

If your flat feet condition poses significant problems, such as stiffness and foot pain, your healthcare provider may recommend nonsurgical treatments.

Common methods for treatments include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) along with ice to relieve inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapies stretch and strengthen the tendons and muscles, which at the same time, improves flexibility and mobility.
  • Supportive devices include foot or leg braces, foot orthotics, and customized shoes.

However, flat feet may increase your risk of other problems, including:


As you have read, you cannot join the military with symptomatic flat feet but can if your flat feet are asymptomatic. To know for sure if you are disqualified from enlisting, speak to a healthcare provider and a military recruiter.

Hope you like this article on why are flat feet not allowed in the military. Thanks for reading!

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