The Second Half: Shapely shortcuts

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

In my Second Half of life, I admit—I take shortcuts. Well, why not? If I can get results with less time or effort and without losing quality, you can bet I’ll grab it. So here’s my latest new shortcut…

Recently, I’ve been focusing on improving my health and physical fitness. When my walking shoes needed replacing, I wandered into Kohl’s with a 20-percent-off card. I got waylaid at a display of odd-looking walking shoes made by Skechers, a brand my second-grade granddaughter favors and I generally ignore. The shoes were called Shape-Ups.

Two sales clerks, both in their Second Half, were helpful and friendly. I asked them, “What’s so special about these things?”

They raved about the comfort—they are easier on your ankle, knee and hip joints—and insisted I try them on. As we located my size, one of the gals cautioned me: “Just make sure you follow the directions on the DVD. One customer took them home, didn’t read the information or watch the DVD, and she could hardly walk the next day!”

OK, instructions with my shoes?!? You gotta be kidding me! By the time I had processed this, it was too late: she was handing me my size and taking my coat.

“How different can they be?” I asked, lacing them up. Before she could answer, I was standing up.

When I looked at her face, she grinned and said, “Right?”

Right! Comfy is not the word—these shoes are like walking on springy pillows. The rounded rocker base makes you stand up straight and pay attention, like one of those balance-y things at the gym. I wasn’t exactly graceful, but pleased not to have fallen down in front of anyone.

A man in his Second Half approached me and asked, quite seriously, “How do they feel?”

I gushed a little—“They are so comfortable!”—and he shared that his wife is a nurse and wondered if she would like them. The clerks jumped in, “We are selling these things like crazy to nurses and waitresses… anybody who works on their feet.”

“So, do you carry them for men?” he wondered. Not yet, guys—sorry.

What’s different about Shape-Ups? They are in a class of footwear called “negative heel shoes.” Remember Earth Shoes: ugly, clunky, flower child gear? Yep, that’s the stuff, only redesigned and marketed as workout equipment.

I went to the Web site for some history:

“Developed by Danish yoga instructor Ann Kalso in the 1950s, the shoes mimic the traditional Tadasana, or mountain pose, taking the stress off one’s back, hips and knees and putting it on the leg muscles where it belongs. Walking in negative heel shoes gives the whole body a workout, similar to walking up a slight incline.” (Read the whole article at

“OMG!” I thought to myself, “Yoga Master Rachel (of Lazy Dog Yoga Studio in Roscoe) will be so proud of me!” I thought that sounded a bit like wanting to be teacher’s pet, so I went to another professional for feedback.

Dr. J (Jarrod Kerkhoff of Loves Park Chiropractic) says: “There has been a lot of research regarding the use of negative heel shoes. Essentially, they help you to stand and walk with better posture, relieving pressure to joints. Start slow,” he cautioned, “don’t overdo it.” Having lost my drive to look like Madonna in favor of comfort, I agreed to follow his advice.

(NOTE TO READERS: Last column, I mentioned that Chiropractor Dr. Andrea wondered if I was trying to “look like Madonna.” I mistakenly assumed everyone knows this Second Half celebrity is uber-serious about yoga, so I mention it here for clarification. Now is it funny? For a photo of Madonna in a ridiculously difficult yoga pose, follow this link:

With all the crap that came with, these shoes should have a jetpack and require a license! In the box: basic owner’s manual/instruction book; 2-inch-by-3-inch “cheater” manual, I guess to carry in your pocket for reference (roll eyes sarcastically here); a Shape-Ups DVD; two different colored sets of shoelaces and…oh yeah, the SHOES!

Yes, I read the owner’s manual cover to cover before I did anything, including the testimonials…seriously! No, I didn’t watch the DVD—not at first. I figured I could test-drive ’em and see how they handled on the treadmill before I committed to anything as advanced as the DVD. A preview: it offers a 5-minute intro with a few warm-up exercises, and both 15-minute and 30-minute workouts I might try later.

After 20 minutes on the treadmill, Hubby inquired, “How’s it going?”

“The tops of my thighs and my butt are starting to feel it,” I panted, “and I’m sweating!”

Since I am so very ladylike, it usually takes me longer than 20 minutes to work up a good sweat. Hubby raised his eyebrows in wonder: “That must mean they are really working. Keep it up!”

In my Second Half, I thought my days of having a great rear end were…well, behind me. But now, I have a renewed sense of confidence. “Firms calf and buttock muscles,” the manual says. “Tones thighs and reduces cellulite.” Wait…reduces cellulite, too?! I’m hooked!

And Hubby keeps reminding me in his most helpful voice, “Have you walked yet today?” If this pays off, we both win, right?

Confession of another shortcut: I went back and bought a pair of Skechers Tone-Ups sandals with similar technology. Hey, in your Second Half, every bit helps!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the March 24-30, 2010 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!