Nimbl Air road shoe review
Luxury Italian road-racing shoesEUR €399.00 Skip to view deals
Nimbl is a cycling shoe brand that may be new to many. However, with it sponsoring Team Jumbo-Visma (one of the most successful WorldTour teams of recent years) in 2023, it looks set to gain a lot more attention.
The Air is its lightweight, highly-ventilated road cycling shoe.
It uses laces, instead of rotary dials, for a classic look and to save a little weight (if you prefer rotary dials, Nimbl also makes the Exceed and Ultimate models, which use a Boa Li2 closure system).
Handmade in Italy, the Nimbl Airs are constructed beautifully and feel luxurious in the hand.
Combined with a super-stiff carbon sole, these tick many of the boxes associated with high-end racing shoes.
Unfortunately, a few niggling issues are hard to ignore at this price (€399).
The upper lip of the bathtub-style carbon sole also rubbed the inside of my feet, making the Airs hard to recommend unless you’re confident this won’t be an issue for you.
Nimbl Air specification
At 465g for a pair of size EU44.5 shoes, the Nimbl Air is light but not quite featherweight.
That’s 30g lighter than the Specialized S-Works 7 Lace (494g, size EU45), but it’s a decent chunk heavier than Giro’s Empire SLX (374g, size EU43.5).
As I noted in my first look at the Nimbl shoes, though, a few grams here or there doesn’t concern me. The Nibml Airs are plenty light enough.
The Airs use supple microfibre leather uppers, with plentiful perforations for ventilation and only a slither of memory foam padding.
All but one of the eight sets of lace eyelets are reinforced to improve durability, which is great to see. There’s also a replaceable rubber bumper on the heel.
Perhaps in a bid to save weight, the Airs lack a toe bumper. As a result, it’s easy to scuff or damage this area if you’re not careful when walking in them, or when putting a foot down at junctions or traffic lights.
A thin, yet super-stiff carbon sole sits underneath. It wraps up and around your foot in a manner akin to Bont cycling shoes, and gives a similarly low stack height.
Overall, the shoes look and feel fantastic – the profile is also notably sleek and minimalist. The level of craftsmanship on display is wonderful.
Though billed as a climber’s shoe, I think this makes it perfect for time trials, because it’s likely more aerodynamically efficient than bulkier shoes with rotary dials.
Nimbl Air setup
Inside the shoe, you get a basic EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate – a type of lightweight foam) insole.
There are no technical features to this insole, such as the adjustable arch support you get with Shimano’s excellent S-Phyre RC902 shoes, or even ventilation holes. Instead, it simply acts as a bit of cushioning against the carbon sole.
There is arch support built in to the carbon sole and insoles can be replaced if needed (I swapped in some Shimano ones after a few rides), but at this price you shouldn’t need to.
That’s especially true when many of the best road cycling shoes include more technically advanced options as standard.
Likewise, although the stock laces were of excellent quality, I found them just slightly too short to tuck the bows into the integrated lace port, when using every set of eyelets.
Laces are cheap and easy to replace, of course, but you shouldn’t need to if you’ve spent almost €400 on a pair of shoes.
I would have appreciated adjustable cleat bolt holes, as you get on the Specialized S-Works 7 Lace, because these enable a much greater range of cleat positions.
On the Nimbls, the three bolt holes are placed relatively far forward and if, like me, you prefer running fairly rearward cleats, this could be an issue.
In my case, I simply installed my Look Keo cleats back as far as possible, then adjusted those on my other shoes forward to match.
This worked fine, but if you have specific needs from your existing cleat setup, it won’t be a palatable solution.
Nimbl Air performance
In use, the Nimbl Air is something of a Jekyll and Hyde shoe.
On the one hand, it offers some of the best performance I’ve ever had from a set of cycling shoes.
There’s absolutely no flex in the soles, making pedalling feel incredibly efficient (even if it’s debatable whether stiff-soled cycling shoes improve performance).
As the substantial perforations in the uppers suggest, ventilation is excellent, and the fit and hold of the shoe is mostly fantastic. I couldn’t detect any heel slip during efforts.
I say ‘mostly fantastic’, though, because I did have one major issue.
The minimal padding combined with the high carbon sole, which wraps up around the mid-foot area, occasionally led to substantial and painful rubbing on the skin surrounding my navicular bones (the bony lump on the inside on your upper foot).
At its worst, this rubbing was bad enough to cause significant friction blisters.
This was generally an issue on hot days, or when riding indoors, where the slight swelling of my feet made the fit a little tighter.
This was compounded by the fact that the fit can’t be adjusted while riding due to the lace closure system – an inherent disadvantage compared to rotary dials or Velcro straps.
As with saddle sores, sweat tends to exacerbate the issue as well.
I eventually applied some fabric tape on the problem area inside each shoe, which helped. I’ve also been careful not to over-tighten the laces, and remain wary about sock choice (in this case, anything too thin typically doesn’t provide enough protection).
It’s possible I was just unlucky and the shape of my feet simply didn’t suit this particular pair of shoes. Shoe choice is, like saddle choice, highly individual, after all.
However, the lack of padding around the hard edge of the carbon sole means there’s little tolerance for a sub-optimal fit in general.
To get around potential issues such as this, Bont cycling shoes – which, as previously noted, use a similar bathtub-style carbon sole – offer thermo-moulding capabilities.
This enables you to manually adjust any stress points in the carbon sole, and in my experience works very well.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something the Nimbls offer.
Nimbl Air bottom line
Nimbl’s Air cycling shoe looks fantastic and offers brilliant performance in many key areas.
The non-adjustable cleat bolt holes, basic insoles and short stock laces are annoying considering how expensive these shoes are. But I could live with those things if they were the only issues.
The potential rubbing problem will be more terminal for many riders, however.
While I do still wear the Airs for short rides and races, I’m more wary about using them for long days in the saddle – especially hot ones – and will instinctively reach for other shoes instead.
While it’s possible not everyone will suffer the same issue, the lack of padding or heat-moulding capabilities leaves little room for accommodating a less than perfect fit.
|Weight||465g (EU44.5) – per pair (size EU44.5)|
Upper: 1.2mm microfiber
Sole guard: Replaceable heel cap fixed with internally recessed screws
Colours: White; Black
|Cleat fitting||3-bolt look type|