This shoe is nice and stiff, providing excellent edging power, but less so with smearing--at least not till the shoe is broken in. The toe rand makes hooking easy and adds some stability and control for the steeps. I wear a size 8-9 shoe regularly, depending on the brand and type, as well as an older model Evolv Bandit in an 8.5 (with the XT-5 rubber). I got the lace-ups in the same size and it fits comfortably, not too snug. It comes with the newer eco-trax rubber which works just as well, however, there's varying reports about eco-trax soled shoes fitting just a bit looser than XT-5 soled shoes. Can't comment on this. One thing I do notice between the Pontas and Bandit is that the Pontas fits my foot better, no dead space like I got with the Bandits. Look into this shoe if you have a narrower, smaller heel or if your heel angle is not so sharp. One last thing...to all those complaining about the smell due to the synthetic leather: air out your shoes, wipe down the insides with a towel if you must to keep the sweat from lingering, and store with some old bounce dryer sheets or a bag of odor absorbing charcoal (can be bought at Home Depot, or similar stores) in it. Believe me, I've done this for over 3 years without any problems.