I have the Vans Cirro and they fit true to size so if you measure your feet and it says a size 9.. it's usually a size 9. Also the double boa system allows you to adjust the lower half and the upper half of the boot with 2 little knob that twist. The lower portion of the boot does create a little pressure (could be because I didn't break them in yet) if you just simply twist them in so you'll have to play with the setting a little and it'll be fine. I would only recommend this boot to someone with a narrow feet because the lining of the boot is pretty cushy so if you have a wide feet please avoid this boot. Other wise I would say the boot would pack out by half a size at most.
i can afford any of 'em but i'm still very much a beginner. will they last me for quite a while? and is it worth it to "go big" right off the bat? this is my first season. i plan to go up at least 15-20 times.
before this i was looking at DC scouts but cirro was recommended to me, same with the ones by DC (alliance?) later on (years... later) i'd like to work my way up to park-stuff. the DC ones were stiff (which i like a lot) but i'm not sure if i'm making an informed decision here.
would it be more worthwhile to get a cheaper boot to kick around or get the good stuff?
If I were you I would go for the good stuff...why cheap out on something you are going to use a lot. As far as stiffness it really depends on what you want to do on the mountain. If you want a freestyle park boot you need it soft and if you are looking to freeride you need it stiff. If you want both then maybe a boot that is somewhere in the middle is best. I know the DC website has a stiffness indicator for each boot you click on, also dogfunk.com has info on what the boot is recommended for. I'm thinking about getting the focus boas because even though as far as I can tell most are on the stiff side, they can easily be loosened and tightened to adjust the stiffness based on that. I have burton hails from 07 now and I hate them they put my feet to sleep and hurt. They came with heel inserts which i tried but just made all the problems worse...without them however my heel moves a lot.
I would suggest you buy the best boots you can and if you have to scrimp do it on something else. I just bought the Fargos and wouldn't take for them. I wish I had invested more on boots a long time ago.