Tech Talk: Designing the Paragon Snowshoe Binding’s “Natural Feel”

As adventurers, we know the best gear often goes unnoticed. It supports and enables our adventures without ever distracting us from the mission at hand.

As he designed our Paragon binding—new for our premium Ascent Series snowshoes—engineer Steve Schwennsen kept these thoughts front of mind.

He wanted this new binding to offer maximum foot security for adventurers in challenging terrain. Yet, he wanted it to be so comfortable and natural feeling that the user never noticed she was wearing it.

In addition, to stay true to MSR design, Steve wanted the binding to be simple and elegant—because complex gear is often harder to use, heavier, and more prone to failure. The MSR name is built on reliability.

Achieving all of these demands took careful and creative engineering. But the result became our most advanced Ascent Series snowshoe binding to date.

new msr paragon snowshoe binding in Japan

Simplicity: Easy on-off convenience

Because it was designed to serve mountaineers and adventurers in technical alpine terrain, the Paragon binding had to offer maximum foot security. But, that security means nothing if the binding is a hassle to put on.

So Steve looked at his blank design canvas. He didn’t want the user fussing with a bunch of straps when putting the binding on, only to readjust them again once on the trail. Instead, he wanted your foot guided into the correct spot every time for an easy experience.

To achieve this, he incorporated two intelligent solutions: A single mesh strap, and toe stops.

Mesh strap: 360 degrees of stability

The single mesh strap is at the heart of the Paragon binding’s design. It’s what allows it to achieve so much with so little.

Not only does the mesh strap streamline the system and help guide your foot in, it provides impressive foot control. Designed to flex and conform to the profile of your boot, it spreads the support over the entire surface. This “customized” contoured fit creates a harness with 360 degrees of security and stability.

By spreading out the tension, the Paragon is free of hot spots. Using the natural curve of the foot, Steve designed the strap to grip along those curves, achieving maximum security with a very comfortable, natural feel.

However, the strap’s design is deceptively simple. It took numerous prototypes, field tests and precise engineering to dial in the correct architecture. In fact, the material is thicker is some spots and thinner in others to provide optimal strength and flex where each is needed most.

Toe stops: Holding it all in place

The second crucial element of the binding lies in its toe stops. Like the mesh strap, these toe stops are simple in design, yet provide multiple benefits.

First, they create an obvious stop for your toe, making the binding easy to put on—you always know where your foot goes. This really speeds things up on expeditions when the weather is raging.

Secondly, they prevent your foot from sliding forward when descending. By keeping your foot in place, they ensure your weight stays over the crampon—your main traction point—maximizing your foot control.

Finally, the toe stops and mesh strap work in tandem to create side-to-side stability when traversing and sidehilling. And on steep ascents, the stops provide really positive toe engagement for a rock-solid feel when front-pointing.

As you can see, just two design features provide a great deal of functionality, keeping the binding elegantly efficient.

Customizable fit: From big boots to small

Everyone from mountaineers to winter hikers use our Ascent Series Snowshoes. Which means a wide range of boot sizes and styles. To ensure they all experience the same secure, comfortable fit, Steve designed the buckles to subtly articulate (adjust). When tensioned, the binding customizes to a men’s large snowboard boot just as well as it does a women’s size 5 hikers.

Clever field maintainability: No tools needed

All MSR gear is built for long-term durability, but when you’re pushing your gear to the extreme, it’s reassuring to know there’s a remedy if something happens. Steve wanted the Paragon to be simple to maintain in the field, with no chance of losing parts in the snow. His solution? A simple and elegant key-lock system. The clever design means the strap can’t come undone unless the user intentionally removes it, never compromising safety. Click the video above to check it out.

Though it delivers the pinnacle of comfort and security, the Paragon binding hides its engineering well. Step in and you’ll experience only the pure, undistracted confidence needed to explore winter’s vast and variable terrain.