Its a very common question.
The simply answer is yes. I spent the whole of my career with horrendously flat feet and didn’t know for 5 years! The only caveat on that is you will have to develop the ability to look after them as you will undoubtedly suffer more than others do.
Having flat feet will mean a few things to you.
First of all your’re going to be more susceptible to injury and ailments that result from reduced bounce, poor posture and poor running technique. To understand this we must understand what the arches in the feet actually do.
The arch act as a spring. Because of their elastic properties arches absorb impact and thus reduce the risk of injury. They help generate and return energy during walking and running in particularly, where vertical forces are higher.
If you don’t have the spring you obviously then run less efficiently and have a great chance of getting impact related injuries such as shin splints and other fractures in the feet and alteration to natural knee and hip alignment can cause knee and lower back problems. The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Listed below are my top tips developed through a decade of service in the Royal Marines that will help you survive the yomps, speed marches and arduous Commando Training with flat feet.
1. Don’t play the victim
Ok, everyone is going to tell you that having flat feet is a bad thing that’s going to mess up your chance of joining the Marines and having the greatest career in the world. The truth is you do not have to believe that. During my time I decided I was going to be the judge of whether or not I suffered with the problems associated with flat feet or not, not Wikipedia or webMD.
2. Value your feet
Though I said previously that you should not play the victim, you will need to be smart. If you leave things to chance and do not take a proactive role in looking after your feet and lower limbs you significantly increase the chance of injury. During training you will be taught how to look after your feet which is a routine you must get into immediately. Other lads that are less susceptible to foot problems will no doubt pay it lip service and learn the hard way. You do not have that luxury.
3. Prepare for blisters
No doubt if you have flat feet you have had to shop around for the right trainers that fit well, you cannot do this with issue boots. There will be a choice of fitting so you will be able to get a Narrow, Medium or Wide fit, but that’s about all the lea way you will have. With ill-fitting boots and an increase in activity you are very likely to pick up more blisters than the average nod. You can easily learn the simple techniques for taping your feet (see the posts on this blog and videos on the YouTube channel). Make ‘preventing blisters’ a priority and make it a habit.
4. Elevate whenever possible
Basic first aid and treatment of injuries teaches us to elevate bleeding or injured limbs to help the blood return to the rest of the body and prevent it from pooling in the injured areas causing swelling and pain. I used to elevate my feet every opportunity I got. I would prop my bed up at the bottom with a chair or place a pillow under the mattress (so I didn’t kick it off in the night) to elevate my feet at night and in the field I would sleep with my feet on my bergan. It’s a really simple trick, but it really helps elevate pain and reduce swelling and bruising caused by having little to no spring in your step.
5. Stretch, stretch, stretch
As a young Marine you’re not likely to pay much attention to stretching, but as a flat footer it is pretty much essential for you. After yomps and hard training sessions I would manipulate my feet to get the blog flowing and loosen them off. It doesn’t have to be anything specific, but just getting your fingers into the soles, moving the bones and soft tissue around can help ease aches and pains and will also give you the opportunity to check your feet for blisters, cracks and abnormal swelling and bruising. I suggest you also spend a little time massaging and stretching the calves, Achilles and muscles on the front of the lower leg. This routine should only take a few minutes, but could be vital in keeping your soldiering on in pursuit of your green beret.
Another great tip is rolling your foot on a hockey ball which acts like a deep tissue massage. You can pick them up from a sports shop for a few pounds.
So with a little knowledge and plenty of awareness that your ‘plates of meat’ are a little more susceptible than others you can succeed as a Royal Marines Commando. It’s going to take a consistent effort to keep yourself on the road, but it’s worth it. Remember you really must take all the tips on when you finish training and get to a unit. Learn the skills to look after your feet and develop habits to prevent and treat ailments, having flat feet is just another obstacle that you have to overcome to be a Bootneck of which there will be many… So let’s get this done.
Other useful tips: Treatment of flat feet