Tickling Feet: Health Concerns, Types, & Causes of Ticklish Soles

What makes my Feet more Ticklish? How to Reduce Feet Sensitivity?

by Saima
Tickling Feet

People having tickling feet may feel either an unbearable sensitivity upon touching the sole or little discomfort or irritation. Have you ever wondered why some people are so more ticklish while others are somewhat less? It is a fairly mysterious matter, and multiple suppositions have been assumed for too long. The sensitivity level to tickling is your ‘tickle response’ that varies from person to person.

Recently, a team of technologists have developed a battery-operated stress-relieving machine that causes uncontrolled laughter by inducing stimuli to tickle. This little instrument can be fitted into any shoe. Research indicates that women are usually more likely to feel an itchy response than men. Also, women’s feet are more sensitive at the centre of the arch, while men’s feet tickles near the toes.

Let’s have a look at how and why tickling occurs and what the options can be to minimize its sensitivity!

Tickling Meaning

“A slight touch or pressure on specific parts of a person’s body that induces slight discomfort, irritation, or laughter is known as tickling.”

It can be annoying, laughter stimulating, or entertaining depending upon your tickle response.

What are the most Ticklish Parts of the Body?

Every person behaves differently to sensitivity as well as some areas of the body are more tickling than others. Commonly, following parts feel more discomfort upon touching:

  • Tummy
  • Feet especially the soles
  • Neck
  • Armpits
  • The palm of your hands

Types of Ticklish Responses

In 1897, psychologists G. S. Hall and A. Allin illustrated two types of tickling responses i.e Knismesis and gargalesis. Their description is given below for your deeper understanding:


Knismesis sometimes referred to as ‘Disquieting Tickles’ which induces tingly sensation just like a little parasite crawls on your feet and triggers the abrupt scratching of that area. It may also be known as a feather touch-like tickling and itching that generally does not induce laughter. Usually, knismesis is triggered by a slight touch with little pressure on the sensitive areas of the body.


This type of tickling is generally linked to laughter stimulation caused by intense tickling sensation and is a little harder than knismesis. It often occurs when someone repeatedly touches any specific area of your body with little more pressure. The state of intense sensitivity to tickling is also known as Hypergargalesthesia. A person can induce knismesis in the body on his own but can’t induce gargelesis.

What Causes Tickling in the Feet?

Feet contain more dense nerve receptors (respond to pain and touch) than any other part of the body with over 8000 nerve endings. Some people’s feet have nerve endings very near to the skin surface that causes them more ticklish; that’s why their feet are more sensitive or ticklish than other body parts.

When anyone tickles you, the minute nerve endings of that specific skin area send signals to the cerebellum (keeps the balance of the body). You may experience an imbalance in your body along with laughing or irritating during tickling response.

Besides that, tickling may stimulate an involuntary response generated by hypothalamus (part of the brain that controls emotions and pain stimuli). This involuntary or autonomic reaction may result in constant laughing and imbalance in body posture.

Injury to nerve strain and anxiety as well as certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies may also trigger tickling feet sensation. So a proper and balanced vitamin intake is necessary to live a healthy fit life.

Why we Laugh when Someone Tickles Our Feet?

A research study indicates that the hypothalamus is involved in sudden giggling or laughing responses due to tickling sensation. The hypothalamus region induces involuntary responses to a certain stimulus and propels projections to the periaqueductal grey matter (PGM). This in turn keeps the balance in coordinating the autonomic responses to stress and injury. Thus, one can conclude that laughter in response to tickling is an involuntary response.

Another research of 2013, revealed that the brain behaves differently whether the laughter is caused by tickling or chatting with friends. This provides credence to the theory that tickling sensation is a reflex action.

Are There any Health Benefits of Tickling?

If you laugh and enjoy while tickling, then you may experience its possible health benefits such as:

  • Tickling-induced laughter reduces the anxiety and stress as well as strengthens your heart muscles.
  • It helps to keep you calm and revitalizing thus, improving your cardiovascular fitness.
  • It decreases the risk of developing stress-related diseases such as high blood pressure.Tickling makes you calm
  • Tickling may also develop a good emotional bond between parents and child as well as a romantic relationship among couples.
  • Some researches demonstrate that tickling may also help burn calories by laughing for few minutes. However, the calorie loss and laughing connection may change depending upon the person’s health, age, and intensity of laughing.

What if You Don’t Have Ticklish Feet?

Sometimes it’s normal to feel less tickling sensation in your feet. But, not sensing it at all may be a warning sign of some associated health hazards such as Peripheral Neuropathy, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.

Peripheral Neuropathy is a dengenrative nerve disorder that damages the nerve endings in the feet due to an infection, unexpectedly high pressure on specific nerves, autoimmune diseases, or an accident. If this problem persists for long time, it may lead to constant numbness or tingling in that area.

Moreover, the diabetes patients may also have non-ticklish soles due to damage in nerve receptors in feet. These damaged receptors become unable to send sensory information to the brain. In this case, your different body parts specifically legs and feet may face tingling disorder.

Why Can’t you Self- Tickle your Feet?

Have you ever tried to induce tickling by rubbing the bottom of your feet? Could you ever get succeded in inducing irritation by self-tickling? You can try it now! Infact, stimulating self- tickling is hard to achieve.

The phenomenon behind this aspect is how your brain perceive touching. Your brain identifies the external or internal stimuli that are intending to induce tickling based on its recognition, it already plans how to respond. Moreover, our brain has a sense of body ownership that leads to less intense response to self-tickling than if a foreign object touches our body.

How to Get Rid of Tickling Feet?

Physical intimacy may be hard for those individuals who are exceedingly ticklish or loathe the tickling touch. Even the tiniest stimulation can make them panic.

You can control this issue to some extent by modifying your thoughts according to the situation such as:

  • The ‘mind over matter’ strategy is good to handle and reduces the tickling toe response to some extent.
  • Try to keep a control over your laughing.
  • Diverging your attention  or thinking something very important may also help you to reduce the feeling.

However, it is still uncertain that whether you can suppress your tickle reflex permanently or not.

Concluding Remarks

Feet are a delicate part of the body that can be more sensitive to touch in different individuals.  The tickling feet sensation is an involuntary response controlled by the hypothalamus. It can be due to genetics, or your intense sensitivity. However, researchers are still unable to find the exact cause of sensitive feet or any other body part.


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