Gear choices can really make or break your workout. No one wants to spend their entire gym session adjusting their leggings or fussing with a leaky water bottle. Workout apparel and equipment, however, doesn’t have to be complex or flashy to be worth buying. What it does need to do is perform well in all conditions, fit and feel good, and hold up workout after workout.
How We Test
Our women’s workout gear testers spanned a range of fitness levels and workout preferences, including strength training at the gym, bootcamp-style workouts at home via Zoom, and power walking around town. Equally as important, we spent a lot of time in every product—often keeping them on to run errands after wearing them for a workout.
As we put each item to the test, we focused on how it felt, how it held up to squatting and stretching, how it handled sweat, and whether we wanted to keep using it for future workouts. The following list encompasses the products that fit securely and comfortably, breathed effectively, dried fast, and made us feel good wearing them, both inside the gym and out.
Number of products tested: 25
Weeks tested: 8
Workouts per week: 6+
Squats performed: 720
Reviews: The Best Women’s Winter Workout Gear of 2023
Lorna Jane Amy Winter Thermal Phone Pocket Tech Leggings and Zip-Up Jacket ($126 leggings, $117 jacket)
Three things earned these leggings a spot in our regular rotation: the fleece-like lining, ample pockets, and high waist. We loved the snug-yet-stretchy nylon-elastane material that is thick and lightly brushed on the inside, producing enough warmth for outdoor sweat sessions in cooler months while preserving the breathability needed for indoor lifting. The waistband is nice and wide—coming up well past the belly button—lies flat, hugs you in and stays secure squat after squat. They’re so soft and comfortable, our testers said they essentially lived in them throughout the late winter/early spring months, wearing them around the house and out to run errands on top of working out in them. One large pocket on each thigh made that convenient: we filled them with our phone, credit card, cash, and even our car keys on jaunts to the grocery store. Add the zip up jacket ($117) and you’ve got the perfect athleisure outfit that looks good, feels good, keeps you cozy going from your car to the gym, and holds its own during a cold-weather workout outside.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for athleisure that also performs well in the gym and on cold-weather walks, you’ll want to live in these.
Women’s UA HOVR Omnia Training Shoes ($110)
Our prayers for the ultimate cross-training sneaker have been answered. Designed by women using a female-specific last, the Omnia’s midsole is made from a wax-based foam that is ultra-soft and bouncy, encased in a mesh fabric to control and enhance the shoe’s energy return. The resulting cushioning coddled our feet, yet was still responsive and springy when doing explosive moves like jump squats. A moderate six-millimeter drop felt nicely balanced, while an internal support strap across the middle of the foot and sock-like wrap around the ankle kept us snug and stable while doing plyometrics and lateral movements. The durable, grippy-rubber soles provided excellent traction on gym floors—no slippage in sight, just how we like it.
Bottom line: The perfect sneaker for anyone who wants both cushioning and control for circuit-based workouts and exercise classes.
Ridge Merino Women’s Send-It Merino Seamless Sports Bra ($59)
One of the most comfortable sports bras we’ve ever encountered, this seamless racerback number is made of 30 percent merino wool, blended with stretchy nylon, spandex, and polyester to give it just the right amount of compression for high-to-medium-impact workouts for small and moderately sized chests, and good support for medium-impact activities for those with larger chests. The inside is lined with 90 percent merino, putting the soft, naturally sweat-wicking material against your skin. And man, is this bra sweat-wicking; one of our testers wore it long after a workout (more than once) and it dried so quickly she forgot she hadn’t changed—it felt like a fresh bra again. Another huge pro: It doesn’t get stinky like many synthetic sports bras do, so you can wear it more times before washing.
Bottom line: A fast-drying merino-wool sports bra for those who crave softness with control.
Kane Revive Recovery Shoes ($70–75)
There’s just something wonderful about a recovery shoe that soothes your tired feet after a long workout. This eco-friendly model from Kane is made with renewable sugarcane-based foam that provides cushioning underfoot while adding a resilient spring to your step. We loved how the slightly stretchy upper made the shoe easy to slip on and then locked our heels in place, as well as the underfoot support from the contoured arch. One tester replaced her house slippers with these because they are so comfortable, airy (thanks to the large perforations throughout the upper), and easy to clean—just hose them off outside or throw them in the washing machine on cold for a total refresh.
Bottom line: These eco-friendly, washable, recovery slip-ons are great for anyone who wants to give their feet a little extra TLC.
Mystery Ranch Superset 30 Pack ($165)
This backpack gym bag makes it a breeze to carry everything you need—and find it when you need it. It has a drawstring closure on top, but also unzips completely down the middle for full access to its contents. Two zip pockets made from clear, plastic-backed mesh—one on the front and one on the inside—mean small sundries are easy to locate. A zippered compartment on the bottom is perfect for stashing dirty clothes, a swimsuit, shower shoes, or muddy trail runners before heading into the office. We found the padded straps to be comfortable and strong when we carried it loaded with clothes, shoes, and toiletries to and from the gym, or when we used it as carry-on luggage. You can also easily detach and store the straps if you want to carry the pack by the side handle.
Bottom line: For gym-goers looking for organizational help, and those who commute to workouts
Darn Tough Women’s Element Quarter Lightweight Athletic Sock ($18)
Darn Tough is known for making high-quality hiking socks that are comfortable and durable—so durable that the brand offers a lifetime warranty. The Element Lightweight Athletic sock line is made with a thin 43 percent merino wool weave that fits well inside training shoes. Designers put extra cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot for protection where you need it most during gym workouts and classes, but any extra insulation from that padding is offset by mesh paneling on top of the midfoot, which promotes maximal ventilation. The merino/nylon/spandex blend kept our feet from feeling wet, even during very sweaty high-intensity training. You can’t go wrong with any of the height options, but we’re partial to the quarter sock when paired with training sneaks.
Bottom line: Soft, durable, natural-fiber socks that will keep your feet feeling good throughout all of your gym workouts or group fitness classes.
Hydro Flask 24 oz Standard Mouth with Flex Straw Cap ($45)
This water bottle has the insulating features you know and love from Hydro Flask (it really does keep water cold for up to 24 hours, as they claim), now with a straw lid that makes it easier to sip fluids midworkout. Fold the straw down, and the bottle is leak proof. Many water containers make this claim; this one actually lives up to it. We tipped it over multiple times during workouts and even on our desk, and the contents never spilled. We love that the cap has a handle, which makes it easy to carry the bottle with us from one workout station to the next. Bonus: Everything can go directly in the dishwasher—or it’s easy to disassemble the lid and wash by hand.
Bottom line: If you want super-convenient sipping mid-workout without sacrificing insulation, this is your water bottle.
Nathan Women’s 365 Joggers ($80)
Made with a thin, lightweight, and stretchy sweat-wicking polyester and elastane fabric, these joggers are great for both casual wear and banging out reps at the gym. The loose styling gives them an ultra-comfortable fit, as well as making it convenient to pull them on over another layer—say, if you want to workout in bike shorts but need to cover up while commuting to the gym, or if you need dry pants to put on over your suit after a swim workout. But the tapered silhouette keeps them from feeling too baggy, and the snug-yet-stretchy athletic feel and fit around the mid-rise waist, similar to leggings, means they don’t slouch down when you squat or lunge.
Bottom line: Versatile joggers for anyone who’s looking for a relaxing pair of pants with athletic capabilities.
Adidas Techfit Period Proof 7/8 Tights ($65)
Adidas is the latest major sportswear brand to jump on the period-proof leggings bandwagon, and not surprisingly, the design and fit are top notch. These high-waisted leggings are made from a polyester-elastane fabric that’s stretchy, smooth, and extremely squat-proof (it doesn’t become see-through when you squat or bend down) The side pocket is large enough to fit a standard-sized smartphone securely. Inside, you’ll find a liner with a built-in three-layer pad that provides extra insurance for leaks when you’re exercising during that time of the month. The inner layer is not so thick that you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, and its smooth, well-placed seams don’t chafe. Plus, you can’t see any underwear lines on the outside of the pants, so no one else will have any idea you’re wearing them.
Bottom line: Anyone who wants high performance plus added protection during that time of the month will appreciate these leggings.
Vuori Studio Pocket Legging ($98)
Extremely stretchy, soft, and slightly compressive, with a stylish high waistband, these versatile leggings are comfortable, secure, and quite flattering, whether running, doing a yoga practice, workout out in the gym, or meeting friends at a café. The relatively thin polyester and elastane material dries quickly post workout, and we found that it resisted stink even after a 12-hour travel day. There are large pockets on each side that fit an iPhone easily and sit higher up on the thigh than most side pockets, just below the waistband, making them barely visible unless you have something in them.
Bottom line: For the woman looking for versatile leggings that are fashionable and functional both for working out and for everyday wear.
TNF Sunset Pass Jacquard Tight ($95)
Cold-weather walks and hikes call for leggings that are breathable without losing their warm, plus adequately rugged. This pair, made of a thick polyester and spandex blend, has it all—plus substantial stretch and a high waist that’s just the right level of snug. We liked the textured, jacquard fabric that feels substantial and nicely hid a small snag we ended up with after a run-in with a tree branch. And we loved the spacious pockets, which were especially helpful when we wanted to exercise outside but didn’t want to carry a fanny pack or backpack to hold our phone, keys, and wallet. There’s also a matching long-sleeve if you’re in the market for a full-on ’fit.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a durable legging for outdoor activities this winter, these will be your new favorite pair.
How to Buy
The first thing to consider when assembling a workout kit is to identify what type of exercise you are going to do, and where. This will help guide the materials you choose. A sweaty cardio workout, for example, may require more sweat-wicking fabrics than a standard lifting session where you’re not going all-out nonstop. And if you’re exercising outside or in your garage you’ll want a little more insulation than if you’re going to be in a warm gym.
Next, make sure everything works with your body and your activity of choice. Fit is paramount. There’s nothing more distracting than a pair of leggings that slouches down, or a top that binds your back muscles or rides up when you’re trying to lift. Plus clothing that makes you feel confident can also give the extra motivation you need to power through a hard set.