Soap Shoes are shoes made for grinding. They were introduced by Chris Morris of Artemis Innovations Inc. with the brand name "Soap" in 1997 and simultaneously invented a new extreme sport based on Aggressive Inline Skating. They have a plastic Concavity in the sole, which allows the wearer to grind on objects such as pipes, handrails, and stone ledges. The company and their product rapidly gained popularity through numerous fansites, a video game, and live demonstrations across North America and Europe soon after, but fell to legal vulnerabilities and was readministrated twice, eventually bringing the brand to Heeling Sports Limited. The act of grinding on rails and ledges specifically using soap shoes has been dubbed "soaping," with the "soaper" being the one performing said act.
In-Stride, a company whose target market was primarily wrestling gear, purchased Soap. The company's industrial focus made some believe In-Stride wouldn't be able to properly manage Soap, and keep the brand's focus in its original place. It is still debated whether In-Stride ever designed or released any Soap shoes, although evidence does suggest that they were responsible for a couple models that did not have grindplates. In-Stride went bankrupt in late 2002, and Soap was once again available for purchase.
Heeling Sports Limited, the company behind the shoes with a wheel in the sole known as Heelys, realized that the grindplate could be very profitable when paired with their wheel, and acquired Soap later that year. In early 2003, six new Soap shoes were released, each in multiple color schemes; simultaneously, HSL was designing hybrid shoes to sell under the Heelys brand. HSL has been criticized for releasing too many new models at a single time, and not supplying requested stock to retailers frequently enough. Since HSL's debut play on Soap, desire for a more distinguishable variety of shoes has been expressed by the fans; five of the six models included the same fixed grindplate and had the same sole design. Two of the six were actually the same shoe, but sold in different color schemes and with different names. There is one model still in production from the first generation released by HSL, the Soap Express.
The sport never caught on to the mass market in comparison to, for instance, skateboarding, but the brand "Soap" does have a professional team mostly consisting of pro inline skaters. Soap's heyday was in the late 90's and early 2000's, when competing crews from across America and Europe were releasing internet videos on a regular basis, spurring a dedicated, albeit small, online community of "Soapers". However since then most of the crews have disbanded along with the website forums, and now there are only pockets of proponents of this marginal extreme discipline around the globe. A revival of sorts was noticed in early 2006 as more people were attracted to Soaping, and HSL responded by re-releasing their Express model in limited quantities. Soap shoes continue to sluggishly regain popularity, although not without difficulty due to Heelys using grindplates in addition to their wheels.
Soap shoes can go hand-in-hand with freestyle walking to form lines or multiple tricks strung together. An example would be landing into a royale and grinding, finishing the trick with a 360 Method out. It is one of the few land-based extreme sports that can be easily practiced in both dry and wet conditions.
There are two schools of thought for basic frontside/backside grinding with Soap Shoes; the first using the leading leg (your right foot if you are goofy and vice versa for regular) as the leg you leap off, landing with your back foot on the rail/ledge/etc. first and subsequently placing your leading foot on moments later. The second technique is to leap off your trailing leg and place your leading foot on the rail/ledge/etc. first following it with your trailing foot moments later. You can also endeavour to land both feet simultaneously on the rail.
There is little advantage from one technique to the other; leading leg first often yields more speed but this is at the expense of control, and abandoning a trick if your trail leg fails to lock onto the obstacle proves difficult without risking injury, as your leading leg will be sliding away from you. On the other hand, the trail leg first technique is much more controlled and safer in the event of poor execution, but speed is sacrificed.
The technique used is mostly based on preference due to your natural bias. e.g. a right footed person who is of regular stance (the most common combination) will find it far easier to leap off their left foot and land with their right foot on the rail first using the trailing leg technique outlined above.