Thanks David. Concerning the gap on the uppers MWS gave a great answer here, and totally correct IMO. IIRC you and your wife both have the Long Branch coming and plan on using them for light hiking use. And given your location likely in the mountains with an occasional steep decent. The gap in the laces of my boots for that use is not even a consideration nor is it for anyone that I know. What I look for in a boot like that and even a load bearing boot (backpacking or packing out elk\mulie quarters) is: 1) Make sure they are comfortable with mid weight socks, you do not want them too tight. Wicking liner socks are great and I wear them all year under wool socks. 2) Heel slip, when new and soles are stiff you may have some heel slip but you don't want too much. After break in there should be none. It can be a fine line between loose enough for midweight socks and heel slip especially if you have narrow heels like I do. 3) Toe slam. During decent with steep inclines your foot can slide forward and your toes smack the front of the boot. Which becomes very painful in a short period of time. If you have any toe slam in the beginning it will only get worse IME. Hope that helps.