The incidence and prevalence of kidney stones have increased over the past four decades. However, the diagnosis of 'kidney stone' can range from an incidental asymptomatic finding of limited clinical significance to multiple painful episodes of ureteral obstruction with eventual kidney failure. Some general strategies may be useful to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. In particular, greater attention to kidney stone classification, approaches to assessing the risk of recurrence and individualized prevention strategies may improve the clinical care of stone formers. Although there have been some advances in approaches to predicting the recurrence of kidney stones, notable challenges remain. Studies of kidney stone prevalence, incidence and recurrence have reported inconsistent findings, in part because of the lack of a standardized stone classification system. A kidney stone classification system based on practical and clinically useful measures of stone disease may help to improve both the study and clinical care of stone formers. Any future kidney stone classification system should be aimed at distinguishing asymptomatic from symptomatic stones, clinically diagnosed symptomatic stone episodes from self-reported symptomatic stone episodes, symptomatic stone episodes that are confirmed from those that are suspected, symptomatic recurrence from radiographic recurrence (that is, with radiographic evidence of a new stone, stone growth or stone disappearance from presumed passage) and determine stone composition based on mutually exclusive categories.