Thomas Starnes

Thomas Starnes, MD, is a primary care sports medicine physician at Asheville Orthopaedic Associates.

Whether you’re training for your first 5K or already have several under your belt, the proper shoes and training techniques can mean the difference between pain and gain. Thomas Starnes, MD, a runner himself and a primary care sports medicine physician at Asheville Orthopaedic Associates, explains how to kick-start your running habit with the right kicks.

1. Comfort is key

“If a running shoe is uncomfortable at mile one, it will most certainly be uncomfortable at mile seven,” said Dr. Starnes. The second thing to think about after comfort is a shoe’s weight. Starnes compares it to a car’s fuel economy — the heavier the car, the more power it needs to move forward.

2. Brand blinders

While big names can lure you with adrenaline-pumping ads and promises from pro athletes, you have to put on your branding blinders and focus on the features that are best for your needs: a wide vs. narrow toe box or high vs. low heel-to-toe drop. However, you may find yourself drawn to certain brands that have these qualities, and that’s okay.

3. Adding consult to injury

Starnes believes many running injuries have more to do with what you’re doing in your shoes rather than the type of shoes you choose. Landing with high impact forces, over-striding, moving through a training program too quickly, changing shoe types abruptly without a break-in period and not getting enough rest can all result in running injuries.

4. Rest is best

“I think the importance of rest cannot be overemphasized,” said Dr. Starnes, whether it’s resting between transitions in a running program, moving to a new and different shoe type or increasing a training load too rapidly. “I can personally attest to this fact, and it is a lesson that has stayed with me.”

What about running barefoot?

“There has been a renewed focus on making a running shoe as similar to the natural bare foot as possible, which can seem intuitive,” said Dr. Starnes. “However, the most recent evidence does not show that there is any appreciable difference in injury rates between these minimalist shoes and a more traditional running shoe.”

Thomas Starnes, MD, is a primary care sports medicine physician at Asheville Orthopaedic Associates, an Affiliate of Mission Health. Dr. Starnes welcomes patients of all ages, and offers the latest procedures, techniques and treatments for a wide range of orthopedic needs. Walk-ins and appointments are available in Hendersonville (828-782-9393) and Asheville (828-782-9330). To learn more, visit

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