Definitely go up a half-size; I'm typically an 8.5 in boots and the 9 fits me comfortably, with a little extra room for socks. The description says there's a Memory Foam sole in these, but I'm not sure that's the case (which I am totally OK with since I'm not a huge fan), because they offer a firmer sole and moderate arch support. The color is definitely not black - the leather is very distressed so I would say it's more of a pewter color, but it's actually quite pretty and I like it a lot - it's something different from the other black boots in my closet. The sweater cuff ensures no annoying rubbing on the ankle. Once they're on, they're actually very comfortable. The reason for one less star is the zippers - the left boot zipper is fine; the right boot is sewn a little too close to the sweater material and gets stuck. I think if I wet the material and try to reshape it it should be OK - I'm going to try it, anyway, since I very much like everything else about these boots.