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Sonic using a grind-rail in Leaf Forest.

Grinding is an action Sonic can perform in most recent games. Introduced in Sonic Adventure 2, grinding is the act of balancing on a rail to move. Grinding is typically as fast as or faster than running, but requires you to maintain your momentum to keep moving. In the Sonic Riders games characters can jump on a rail and use this a shortcut to try to make it into first place. Grinding is featured in the following games.

This was the first game to feature grinding. It is a feature only Sonic and Shadow can use (also Amy and Metal Sonic) in two player mode. Pressing the B button will cause the character to crouch, resulting in a higher grinding speed. The control stick allows the character to balance on the rail, which is important as not doing so will significantly reduce speed or cause the character to fall off the rail. The player can also jump from rail to rail by pressing the A button and tilting the control stick in the direction of the next rail. There is a special grind race in two player mode in the remake of this game.

Some rails in the game allow you to perform tricks; if you press A at the end of these rails, the character performs a trick that can be worth 200, 500, or 1000 points (Shadow occasionally gets a close-up on his body doing the trick)

Sonic Advance was the first 2D game to feature grinding. Only Sonic and Amy are capable of grinding. Sonic grinds with his feet while Amy grinds on her rear.
Grinding in this game is identical to Sonic Advance. Only now, all characters can grind and Amy no longer grinds on her rear.
Grinding in this game in nearly like that of Sonic Adventure 2. Though this time, the player can gain a extra boost of speed by pressing the B button twice. It is a useful for when you are stuck at the bottom of a sloping rail. All characters are capable of grinding. Though in Fly formation, the character at the bottom of the chain is the one who grinds.
Grinding capabilities are identical to Sonic Advance 2.
Identical to the Sonic Advance series. Though now, 3D segments allow for rail jumping.
Grinding was slightly tweaked in Shadow the Hedgehog. Crouching was completely eliminated. Pressing the B button will make Shadow change position on a rail and give him and extra boost of speed. Shadow can also fire weapons while grinding, but can only fire them forward.
Grinding is an attribute for characters in the Speed class. Though, special gear will allow Fly and Power characters to grind. One may grind a rail that stars with a blue light and ends with a red light. You jump from one rail to another by jumping off at the red point and pressing A again. While grinding, the player will receive extra air. The more links you make, the more air you receive.
Grinding has a widely different behavior in this game. The speed is now predetermined, although it can be slightly sped up by pressing X/Square, also causing the character to flip 360. A useful feature was also added: you can now homing attack and zoom toward a rail and instantly grind on it, which is impossible in all other Sonic games besides Sonic Generations(though that is now the only way to switch rails). Only Sonic and Shadow can grind in this game (but Silver can grind in multiplayer, most likely so that the level designers would not have to accommodate all of the levels to work out alternate ways for Silver to progress through heavy grinding sections.).
Identical to Sonic Rush.
Grinding is very similar to Sonic Riders. Except grinding is dependent on the gear that is used rather than the character. Only boards with the grind Gear Change and skates are allowed to grind. Boards must obtain 50 rings in order to activate the grind function. Skates however can grind by default. Grinding was made slightly easier this time around as the player only has to press the A button once in order to jump rails.
Sonic Unleashed brings back the grinding feature once more. Sonic can only grind while he is not the Werehog. There is no crouching ability but the player can still jump from rail to rail. This version of grinding is also used in Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations.