Knee & Ankle By Sophie Xie / July 10, 2016 Heel pain? Do this test before you buy any orthotics or inserts Heel pain and foot pain is NOT fun. These nagging pains suck the daylight out of you with every step you take. You may be finally considering looking for a shoe orthotics or inserts because they are supposed to help rid of the pain, right?Or you already own numerous pair of orthotics and inserts. You started with the affordable ones found in most major drug stores. They didn't work or even made your symptoms worse. Then you decided that you might need one of those more premium and specialized orthotics or inserts to stop the pain once for all. Your fingers were crossed and the result of less than exciting. Quick Navigation Deep squat testAlternative Calf flexibility testWhat to do now? Here is what most people don't realize: in order for the orthotic and inserts to work properly, your body should not work against them.Most ankle and foot pains are associated with stiffness and weakness in calf muscles. Ongoing muscle stiffness will exert constant stress on the heel and limit proper ankle movement. People who have tight calf muscles cannot relax their ankle and feet, cannot stabilize their ankles and cannot activate intrinsic foot muscles while walking.In order to truly benefit from any orthotics or inserts, you need to have a pair of health lengthened calf muscles.So, are your calf muscles flexible enough? Will your new orthotics or inserts worth the investment? Should you focus on stretching and strengthening your calf and foot muscles first? Here is how to test yourself:Deep squat testThe deep squat test is part of functional movement screen used by physical therapists to accurately observe for muscle imbalance. This test is also frequently referred to as "Asian squats". Since we are mostly interested in the calf muscles in this article, I will simplify this test here: Stand on flat firm surface with feet shoulder width apartSlowly squat down by lowering your hip towards your heels, while focusing on keeping your heel planted on the floorIf you lose your balance before squatting all the way down, or that you have to raise your heels mid squad to maintain balance, you probably have tight calves. Alternative Calf flexibility testThere are many reasons that squatting may not agree with someone's body. If you can not perform the deep squat test, you may also try a different test. Stand to face a wall with your testing feet placed 10 cm (about 3 inches) away from the wallBend your knee forward so that your knee cap can tough the wall, while keep your testing heel pressed on the floorIf you can not keep your heel in the floor, your calf muscles are likely to be tight and limiting your ankles and feet functions.What to do now?If you have tight calves, your best bet is to actively stretch your calf muscles to achieve better muscle balance. [Recommended reading: 7 advanced ways to stretch calf muscles to relieve foot and heel pain]You should still consider purchasing a pair of well-fitted orthotics or inserts in a long run if you have conditions such as overpronated ankles, high arches, or recent injuries. However, you must keep your calf muscles healthy in order to truly benefit from the supports provided by the orthotics and inserts.Recommended reading: Why heel pain? Do you have overpronated feet?6 worst shoes you can walk in for plantar fasciitis7 ways to stretch calf muscles more effectively than the way you are doing itThank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.Like what you just read? Share this post via our social media buttons! They are everywhere on this page!Want to know more about treating your own pain with techniques from a physical therapist? Please subscribe to our newsletter!