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|Top Pick: Zenda Naturals Earth Lava Pumice Stone|
|Best Value: Phogary Natural Pumice Stone|
|Budget Pick: Diane Rectangular Pumice Stone|
|Best with Handle: Tweezerman Sole Smoother Antibacterial Callus Stone|
|Dirtbag Climber Pick: Sandpaper|
We climbers can have a love-hate relationship with our calluses.
At times they take care of us. At others they rip off in a bloody mess. Lovely, no?
I bet you’ve had a few too many flappers ruin a few too many climbing sessions and are looking for a solution to the problem. Lucky for you, using a pumice stone to file down your calluses can help minimize your chances of developing a flapper.
There are plenty of pumice stones on the market, though, and it can be confusing to know which one to buy. You’re probably asking yourself right now:
“Should I get the volcanic lava pumice stone or the natural earth magma pumice stone?”
To answer this and many other all-important life questions, I’ve put together this guide to the best pumice stones for calluses. While this guide is geared towards climbers, it holds true for anyone else — such as weightlifters or gymnasts — who are looking to file down their calluses with a pumice stone.
Let’s jump right in.
Top Pick: Zenda Naturals Earth Lava Pumice Stone
Let me say something before I get into the reviews:
It can be hard to notice the differences in quality between different pumice stones. We split hairs — and then we split them again — to be able to say that one pumice stone is better than another.
Unless you’re super picky about the pumice stone you use, just buy something that’s cheap and strikes your fancy. You’ll probably pick fine.
While this pumice stone is drenched in corny marketing language with words such as “natural” and “earth-formed” and “lava” (pumice is by definition natural and formed by volcanic eruptions), it actually is high-quality.
The product is simple and no frills: just a stone with a tie so you can hang it up in the shower. It’s slightly rougher than some other pumice stones out there, but not overly so. It is also a decent size and will last you a long while.
One minor downside to the Zenda Naturals Earth Lava Pumice Stone is that its pores are larger than those on some other pumice stones. This means that it isn’t super precise and it can take a little practice to get good at removing as much or as little of your calluses as you’d like.
This pumice stone is a little more expensive than other options, too, so read on for some cheaper options if you’re on a budget.
Best Value: Phogary Natural Pumice Stone
A good deal is always exciting, am I right?
Well, the Phogary Natural Pumice Stone is just that. It’s a decently cheap pumice stone that will help you do what you need to do — manage those dang calluses.
It’s hard to talk much about features when there aren’t any other than a simple tie, so I won’t. I’ll just reiterate that the pumice stone is decent quality and it’s decently rough which will be good for taking off calluses on your hands or, if you so desire, on your feet.
Pumice stones like this take a little getting used to. Some of you might think after one or two unsuccessful attempts, like I originally did, that pumice stones don’t work well for hand calluses.
While it is true that some people just don’t prefer them for this purpose (I discuss alternatives below), my advice is to commit to a few practice sessions before giving up on the little guy. In my experience, pumice stones do work well for filing down calluses once you get the hang of it.
Also, you might see some people complain about a particular pumice stone being too rough while others complain about it being too smooth. I think it’s just the luck of the draw, in a way. It’s impossible to control the roughness of something that forms naturally, so each stone is slightly different.
Budget Pick: Diane Rectangular Pumice Stone
Not worried too much about quality and just trying to save some dough?
If so, I advocate you go for the simplest and cheapest pumice stone you can find. After some poking around the interwebs with that very intention, I stumbled across the Diane Rectangular Pumice Stone.
It’s simple, it’s cheap, and oh my gosh it even has a little tie which you can use to hang it from your shower caddy. How fancy.
The one downside to this pumice stone is that it is rather long and thin and has a chance of breaking and becoming difficult to use. You know how pumice be, after all. Pumice be brittle.
But, alas, there are always some trade-offs when you go for the budget options. If you’re flexible as to what you file your calluses with and don’t like the sound of this option, check out our pick for hardcore dirtbag climbers which is also ultra-affordable.
Best with Handle: Tweezerman Sole Smoother Antibacterial Callus Stone
A pumice stones can come with or without a handle which is usually made of wood or plastic.
I’ll say it from the beginning:
There is no inherent advantage to a pumice with or without a handle. A handle doesn’t make it objectively better or worse. It’s just sheer personal preference as to whether or not you want one with a handle or not.
(I personally prefer a pumice stone with a handle because I feel like I can be more precise with one than I can with just a rock. The handle also allows me better leverage when I need to scrub hard.)
The Sole Smoother Antibacterial Callus Stone is a 2-sided handled pumice stone. One side is for removing your dead skin, the other for smoothing the surrounding area once the dead skin is removed. The handle makes it great for removing calluses from your feet without having to bend down too far.
The Sole Smoother is a little pricier than some of the other options on this list, but I’ve read reports of it lasting years even with heavy use. If you’re searching for a buy-it-for-life option this is the one worth your consideration.
Dirtbag Climber Pick: Sandpaper
Talk to any dirtbag climber about using a pumice stone to file down your calluses and they’ll probably give you a look of complete confusion.
In the climbing world, pumice stones (from my totally scientific “anecdata”), don’t actually reign supreme when it comes to filing down calluses.
Instead, many climbers use nail files, drywall sanding sponges, or sandpaper. That’s right, a sheet of sandpaper. Against your skin. The brand doesn’t matter, but make sure it’s a finer grade, such as 200 grit or higher.
Nail files, sanding sponges, and sandpaper are collectively — as far as I can tell — used more often by climbers than pumice stones for managing calluses.
I don’t endorse any one way over the other because everyone is different and what works for some people won’t work well for others. Just pick one item and start practicing, because it can take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it.
Also, your preferred item could depend on when you like to file your calluses. For example, if you prefer to do so in the shower, then a pumice stone might be best since it can get wet. If you prefer to file down your calluses during a climbing session, though, then a nail file might be better since it’s easier to take with you.
But, I’ll reiterate, climbers use many different things to file their calluses. In this reddit thread, responses to the question “What’s your favorite thing to file down your callus?” ranged from a dremel to sandpaper to nail clippers.
You’ll also see that some people in that thread used pumice stones without success. I personally prefer pumice stones but, as I’ve mentioned, they might not work for others.
If you do decide to go with a pumice stone, be prepared to put in a little bit of practice.
How to Choose the Best Pumice Stone for Your Needs
Whether you choose to purchase one of the options on this list or not, next time you venture off into the wide world to do some pumice stone shopping we want you to be equipped with the knowledge to make the right decision.
There are a few things you need to look at to ensure you’re buying a good pumice stone.
Handle or No Handle?
Some pumice stones are just stones and nothing more. Others come with wooden or plastic handles.
There is no inherent advantage to one type or the other, so don’t fret too much about this feature (or lack thereof) and buy based on your personal preference.
Some pumice stones will also have a tie. This is included so you can hang it up in the shower where many people like to file their calluses since the warm water loosens them up.
Some people will prefer pumice stones with larger pores that are a little rougher and remove skin easier. Others, like myself, will prefer stones with smaller pores that aren’t as rough and take longer to remove the skin.
To be frank, you’ll likely have to test out at least one pumice stone in order to have a good idea of your pore size preference. If you’re a pumice stone noobie, I recommend you start out with a stone with larger pores since it will be easier to actually file down your calluses with it.
Don’t Be Fooled by These Marketing Claims
Some of the pumice stones you come across will be marketed as “natural” or contain the always intriguing words “lava” or “volcano”.
Don’t be fooled by these marketing claims. All pumice is natural. And all pumice comes from molten rock shot out of a volcano. That’s what pumice is.
In short, don’t think one pumice stone is better than another just because one happens to include the word “volcanic” in the product title. While pumice quality does vary, you likely won’t be able to gauge it by the marketing claims on the package.
How to Use a Pumice Stone to File Down Calluses: 3 Easy Steps
Once you have your pumice stone in hand, here’s how you put it to use:
- Soak your skin in warm water for five minutes. This softens your skin and makes filing it easier. You can do this by taking a hot shower or by filling a bucket with warm water and dipping your hands into it.*
- Rub your pumice stone in small, circular motions against your calluses. Do this until your calluses are level or mostly level with the rest of your skin. Climbers: don’t overdo it and remove the callus entirely, though.
- Wash and dry your hands. You’re done! For next time, pay attention to whether or not your calluses are filed down enough or filed down too far and adjust accordingly.
And that’s it! Pretty easy, right?
* Some climbers avoid getting hot water on their hands since it softens the entire callus (and you don’t want to get rid of your calluses, but instead nurture them). Climbers can therefore try filing their calluses without soaking their hands.
How Often Should I File My Calluses for Climbing?
There is no perfect amount of time to let pass between each filing session. Rather, you should file your calluses:
- When they are bothering you with their size
- When they look or feel like they could easily turn into flappers
Flappers, beyond being painful and bloody experiences, are undesirable because they remove the callus and all the tough skin that you spent so long building up. The skin that grows in its place is new and soft. You’ll have to toughen it up all over again.
Flappers can happen at virtually any moment, but there are two things to look for in your calluses to get a better sense for whether or not one could happen sooner rather than later:
- Your calluses are noticeably protruding from the surface of your skin. Ideally they are level or close to level with the rest of your skin.
- Your calluses are bunched up. This makes them much easier to snag and tear on a hold.
The more you climb the better sense you’ll get for when your calluses are in danger of becoming flappers.
Sometimes the two above scenarios happen while you’re climbing. For example, you might get off a route and notice your calluses are all bunched up and dangerously close to paying a visit to Flapperville.
For that reason, you might want to carry a pumice stone, nail file, or small piece of sandpaper in your climbing pack so you can manage your calluses in the moment. You might not have warm water nearby to soften the skin, but if you can file them down when they most need it then you’ll reduce your chances of getting flappers and save your hard-earned tough skin.