Skip to main content

Table 3 Simple and detailed descriptors. The simple descriptor was utilised in the pilot studies. The detailed descriptor was designed for inexperienced students

From: Clinical photographic observation of plantar corns and callus associated with a nominal scale classification and inter- observer reliability study in a student population


Simplified Descriptor

Detailed descriptor

Reference only

No callus lesion. Normal

No lesion. Even colour, thickness & consistency remain within normal limits for each part of the foot. Heel, sole and pulp of toes may be thicker. There would be insufficient epidermal tissue to debride without affording damage. There are no ridges, fissures or deep tissue changes or lesions within the skin. Keratin lesions associated with other forms of hyperkeratosis do not form part of plantar callus classification.


No border definition but retained uniform keratin depth. Ridged or pinch callosity can be considered within the Grade 1 definition

The epidermis is thickened and may have some irregular deeper density changes so as to alter the colour. Callosity shows no border symmetry and maybe diffusely spread without any concentrated area of keratinisation. Petechiae (blood vessels) may be seen or extravasated content. Pinch callosity, also known as ridging, is callus on the edge of the forefoot, occasionally sulcus, heel or apex of a toe. The border may appear isolated as streaky (striated) callus. While this grade of callus may have a defined border it is considered Grade 1 because it conforms to physiological build up or deformity, and the deeper tissue changes are not involved as in Grade 2 or Grade 4.


Border definition was present or partially present with variable keratin depth. No discrete distribution of concentrated keratin is evident in the Grade lesion but asymmetric density changes might be observed

A thickness of epidermis forms usually over one or more metatarsals or phalangeal surface of a toe. The border is discrete and may be raised forming a button or disc of thickening. If a partial border is observed, then this is classified as a Grade 2 callus. Debridement may be necessary to determine any true nucleation. The underlying callus may be spongy and can only be determined by examination. Areas of flaky skin, complicated with sub epidermal hemorrhage do not constitute a nucleus of tissue and should be disregarded.

If debrided the tissue is shown to have broken down, eroded or ulcerated it no longer follows the callus classification but that of a wound.


Concentrations of discrete keratin plugs isolated, or in groups of lesions, generally with a diameter of less than 4 mm without background callus.

Usually a discrete circumscribed area, but may be elongated. This lesion has no surrounding callus except at the extreme border where a thickened ring or rim may exist. The lesion is mostly associated with the metatarsal plantar skin where weight bearing is reduced and fat tissue is less pronounced, often with a less tightly bound epidermis. However, the lesion may not be associated with mechanical origins and can occur due to other causes including foreign body infiltration or HPV infection. If this is a suspected HPV then it no longer follows callus classification.


Border definition present or partially present with variable keratin depth but demonstrating discrete distributions of concentrated keratin greater than 4 mm diameter within the callus

The callus will have a circumscribed symmetrical or asymmetrical area of greater depth, ridge or greater concentration anywhere within the callus. The size can vary from lesion to lesion-occupying crater like areas after debridement. The nucleus does not have to be limited to the centre and can in some cases manifest within a larger percentage of the lesion. On debridement the base (DEJ) may be damaged as well as uneven in depth.

As Grade 4 calluses are considered typical of intractable lesions, these are often complicated within the dermo-epidermo junction. Extravasated material, without debridement confirmation cannot be assumed consistent with Grade 4 lesions, but there may be density changes within the callus complicated by blood vessel disturbance. The same rule applies if the dermis is breached leading to a wound.