I'm about to get a pair of shoe inserts (orthotics) for a foot condition that bothers me when I run. Since I'm on the cross country team at my high school, I'm hoping these inserts will help with my dropped arches. Is there some way to do a before and after test to see if they are working?
There are a few ways to assess the effectiveness of orthotics. The first is just a simple before and after diary of your symptoms. For example, before you get the orthotics, you can keep track of what hurts and when it hurts. How long does it last?

Record practice and competitive times for your three mile run before and after the orthotics. Compare both the symptoms and the results after you receive the inserts.

A more sophisticated study can be done at a motion analysis lab. If you live in a university town, you might find such a gait laboratory at a physical therapy school or physiology department. Sometimes the physical therapy department at large hospitals is set up with this type of motion analysis equipment, too.

If none of that is available, there is a simple test your podiatrist or physical therapist can conduct. It's called the Foot Posture Index (FPI-8). The original FPI had eight test items to measure foot posture.

Position of the bones, arch, and toes are assessed using this tool. A revised version of the FPI-8 with only six items (FPI-6) is now being studied. If you find someone who is familiar with this tool, it may give you a more objective set of before and after measures.