How To Lose Respect From People

I wrote about our need to find authority figures in my last post.

I still struggle with it and am always let down when someone I really respect says something ludicrous.

Rick Merriam is a well known massage therapist who teaches anatomy/kinesiology at a university and was a biomechanics consultant for ESPN.

I follow him on Twitter and have enjoyed some of his well written blog posts on pain, stretching and Kinesio Tape.

He dropped this bombshell recently.


Now, I have zero investment in custom Orthotics but thanks to Run Research Junkie I am up to speed on the literature surrounding them.  I wrote about them the other day as well.

The evidence is solid.  Really solid.

Anyway, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to talk about ways to spot someone who’s lying.

#1 – They make bold, outlandish claims.  Have you ever noticed that anyone who isn’t trying to sell you something never talks like this?

#2 – They trick themselves.  The late great physicist Richard Feynman famously said, “the first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

I actually don’t blame Rick for his position.  He’s a massage therapist by trade.  His lens for treating injury is focused on the muscle.  It’s what he knows best and it’s where he’s seen results over his career.  (This is Confirmation Bias)

Rick just doesn’t believe a foot deformity ever needs to be corrected through an orthotic.  He believes motion in an orthotic is “abnormal” and muscles just need to be “strengthened.”  (This is the Appeal to Nature Fallacy)

#3 – They ignore data.  I spent thirty minutes speaking with Runner’s World columnist and science writer Alex Hutchinson recently about interpreting scientific studies.  I’ll release it as a podcast down the road.

Alex helped me realize that I don’t have to change my mind with every study that comes out.  Each study should add something to my stance on an issue.  Maybe it pulls me a few percentage points from my previous position but any one article should never drastically change my views.  Basically, we have to take the entire landscape of information into account.

And we have to give weight to studies because they are controlled to minimize biases.  We can’t just ignore science when it doesn’t confirm our worldview.  (Feynman)

4 – They dodge questions.  Rick continues to argue that orthotics weaken feet while *every* scientific study shows this is not true.  Many show they strengthen feet!  When probed about why the literature shows conclusively that they reduce pain he responds with:



Notice the dodge of the pain question.  By the way, what does “performance” or “efficiency” mean?  Are either of these terms important to a grandmother who just wants to walk pain free?

(No matter, though, the literature shows they help with efficiency too)

I guess I’ve learned a bigger, more important lesson here.

No one has all the answers.  I need to stop putting people on a pedestal.

Maybe the best film line of all time (if you’re a complete sap like me):




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