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The search for the perfect workout leggings starts with hope but often ends with overwhelming frustration as you look at an endless sea of tight pants. However, we’ve found the pairs that don’t snag, slip or play peek-a-boo while you do squats. The best workout leggings are soft, comfortable and opaque no matter what stretch or exercise you’re doing.
Workout leggings are typically designed for specific activities, like running, yoga or lounging around the house. Our best workout leggings list has pairs that let you lounge to compression, running and leggings on the cheap. We considered fabric, seam design, breathability and of course, opacity. Many of these leggings come in various lengths, sizes and colors and all of them are made of fabrics that feel scrumptious against the skin.
Our Picks for the Best Workout Leggings:
- Length: Full
- Material: polyamide, polyester, elastane
- Sizes Available: XXS-XXL
As a brand, Alphalete combines function and comfort with a dash of aesthetics that’s hard to ignore. The Amplify Leggings feature a silky smooth fabric made of polyamide, polyester and elastane in a snug cut that accentuates and enhances the curves. Ruching in the back further highlights natural curves to give wearers a rounded, sleek appearance.
These leggings fall on the tight side with contouring panels on the legs and glutes and a three-tiered high waistband. They have a touch of compression, leaving wearers supported. We like that they come in 29 colors and seven sizes. Women of all shapes and sizes deserve to look and feel good while they work out. The Amplify leggings are on the pricey side, but you’re paying for premium fabric cut to flatter figures large and small.
- Smooth, comfortable fabric
- Back ruching accentuates curves
- Balance of compression and stretch for a comfortable fit
- Lots of color choices
- Length: Full
- Material: Nylon, Lycra
- Sizes Available: 0-20
Lululemon’s legendary leggings are hard to ignore when you’re making a “best of” list. The Lululemon Align Pant has a versatile design that fits sizes 0 to 20. They’re made of a buttery soft nylon/lycra blend that Lululemon calls Nulu fabric. It stretches and conforms to the body while offering light compression all the way to the ankles. The Lycra, a name brand of elastane, adds shape retention giving the leggings durability. Designed for yoga, these leggings are lightweight and move with the body thanks to the fabric’s four-way stretch.
These high-rise leggings have a waistband that smooths the body. However, one of our favorite features is the length choices. Yes, these are the best full-length leggings, but they also come in 25 and 28-inch inseam leggings too. That not only works for shorter women but those who get too warm in full-length leggings. The Align leggings are made in 18 colors. The downside is the price. You’ll drop around $100 per pair.
- Excellent size range
- Buttery soft, four-way stretch fabric
- Three length options
- Length: Full
- Material: Polyester, spandex
- Sizes Available: XXS-XXL
Nike takes its shoe expertise deeper into the fitness industry to make leggings that accentuate any pair of Nike kicks. These camo leggings come in three colors and are made of a compressive polyester/spandex blend that’s used for Nike’s Dri-FIT technology. They’re sweat-wicking yet conforming without trapping excess heat. As one reviewer put it on Nike.com, “Don’t get sticky or sweaty and compliment the booty!”
A non-sheer fabric structure lets you safely do squats without exposing more of yourself than you’d like. Seamless sides reduce chafing and retain a smooth silhouette. We like the V-shape seam on the waistband, accentuating natural curves. The fabric has a slight sheen for a stylish design. However, for those who want their leggings to melt into the background, they might not be a good choice. The mid-rise waistband doesn’t work for everyone or every activity. According to Nike.com reviews, the mid-rise waist can slip on some body types.
- Wick away moisture well
- Comfortable, soft fabric
- Complimentary V-shaped waistband
- Waist can slip on certain body types
- Length: 7/8
- Material: Recycled plastic, spandex
- Sizes Available: XXS-6XL
These leggings from Girlfriend Collective boast an extra high waist to give added control and smoothing. They’re made of a recycled plasticspandex blend with four-way stretch and high compression for a figure-smoothing silhouette. However, the fabric also wicks moisture to reduce sweat marks and keep you comfortable while you work out. That same fabric is thick and durable enough for high-impact workouts and it’s non-sheer.
A small back pocket in the waistband can hold ID or keys for runs or trips to the gym. We are reviewing the ⅞ length pair. However, these leggings come in three lengths in total and six colors. Girlfriend Collective gets huge bonus points for carrying 11 size options. This brand definitely caters to all shapes and sizes. However, watch out for the non-black colors, which can show sweat despite the fabric’s moisture-wicking abilities.
- Ultra-high rise waistband offers more body control
- Made of partially recycled materials
- Comes in 11 sizes and three lengths
- Non-black colors can show sweat
- Length: 7/8
- Material: Nylon, Lycra
- Sizes Available: XXS-XXXL
Leggings aren’t just for workouts. Their soft, stretchy fabrics are super comfortable for days around the house or trips to the store and the Athleta Transcend ⅞ Tights look and feel luxurious enough for any kind of activity. They’re made of VITAFREE, an ultralight Lycra fiber that feels like a second skin. They’re seam-free to reduce (or eliminate) rubbing and chafing. Of course, we like that the fabric is moisture-wicking to keep you cool and comfortable, too.
The Transcend Tights also have a hidden pocket in the waistband for a key or ID. For those who like to spend their leisure time in the sun, the Transcend Leggings are also rated SPF 50+, giving you added sun protection. A high-rise waist keeps them from cutting into the skin. Athleta makes these leggings in regular, tall and petites, offering fits for different sizes and shapes. While these leggings have compression, it’s lighter compression than some reviewers on Altheta.gap.com would like, “They are thinner and have less compression. I need something that will take me from work to workout. These were not it unfortunately.”
- Buttery soft material
- Comes in regular, tall and petite
- Rate SPF 50+
- Light compression might not be enough for everyone
- Length: Full
- Material: Airlift fabric
- Sizes Available: XXS-XL
Alo Yoga’s High Waist Airlift Leggings are lightweight but supportive with gentle compression. The Airlift fabric has a four-way stretch designed to move with the body. When you’re doing pilates, that means the fabric moves with you without sliding or catching as you go through your workout. Airlift is also designed for maximum ventilation and moisture-wicking to keep you cool and free of chafing.
The high waistband has a front smoothing panel to streamline silhouettes. This comfortable fabric also provides light lift and brings a slight sheen. On the downside, they primarily stick to standard brown and black leggings with nine limited edition colors. And, while the size options aren’t terrible, these leggings are only carried in up to a size XL.
- Lightweight, stretchy fabric
- Moisture-wicking and breathable
- Light lift and sheen
- Limited colors and sizes
- Length: 25 inches (28 and 31 inches)
- Material: Nylon, Lycra
- Sizes Available: 0-20
Lululemon’s buttery soft leggings are a highly sought after item, whether for workouts or lounging. The Align High-Rise Pant falls into the buttery category and comes in 15 colors and 11 sizes. The colors also include textured and patterned options. While we’re reviewing the 25-inch leggings, the Align High-Rise also comes in 28 and 31-inch inseam designs if you’re taller or prefer longer leggings.
We love these high waist yoga pants for their comfortable, non-sheer fabric. The softness of the fabric lets you relax deep into your yoga practice without any distractions. You can fully focus on your breathing and body position and forget about what you’re wearing.
They’re made of Nulu fabric, which has a four-way stretch, high breathability and sweat-wicking abilities. The blended fabric also contains Lycra to help the leggings hold their shape over time. If you want to wear them out of the house, they have a hidden pocket at the waistband that’s large enough for a key or ID card. But they’re pricey.
- Lightweight, soft fabric
- Breathable and sweat-wicking
- Comes in 11 sizes and three lengths
- Length: ⅞, full
- Material: Polyamide, elastane, polyester, spandex
- Sizes Available: XS-XXXL
You might not be as familiar with ODODOS as you are with some of the other legging brands on our list. However, this lesser-known brand is a hit with Amazon customers. These affordable leggings come in a whopping 53 colors and patterns, some of which are fleece lined.
However, not all colors and patterns are available in all sizes and the blended fabric doesn’t offer anything in the way of compression. However, the four-way stretch moves with the body for high and low-intensity workouts. For the price, it’s hard to beat what you get. Plus, you can buy pairs in almost any color. Reviewers on Amazon.com report that the thick fabric is squat proof, which basically means you can do squats without anything underneath showing through.
A couple of things to consider—reviewers on Amazon also state that these leggings are easy to snag and attract hair and lint more than some other fabrics.
- 53 color and pattern options
- Affordable price
- Comfortable, stretchy fabric
- Run big
- Snag easily
- Attract hair
How to Choose the Best Workout Leggings for You
Leggings should fit like a second skin, naturally moving with your body. The perfect fit should let you forget about your clothes to focus on your workout. However, bodies are not all the same. You know your body best and might need to look for specific fit features to better accommodate your figure.
For example, women with a smaller waist and wider hips may need a brand that carries a curvy fit or that high rise tights that have a drawstring waistband. However, a woman with an athletic build with a smaller waist-to-hip ratio may find a curvy fit too tight in the waist and loose at the hips.
Your height can also make a difference. A regular-length legging may be too long for a petite woman and a woman who’s taller than average may find a regular length legging hits at a capri length. One may need a petite, while the other requires a legging with a tall option.
Compression also factors into fit. Most leggings have some level of compression, though for some, it’s so light you’ll hardly notice. Others have compression that’s tight enough to require a special entry and exit procedure. The compression level should feel comfortable to you while you’re doing your primary activity. For example, compression running leggings might be too tight to wear around the house, but once you’re on the run, they feel amazing because they reduce muscle movement. In short, the fit should complement the legging’s function.
A high rise or high waist legging comes above the belly button. They offer extra support and smoothing and often stay in place better during high-intensity workouts, like running and HIIT workouts. A mid-rise waistband sits at or just below the belly button. Some people find them more comfortable because they feel more like a regular pair of pants. However, they are prone to slipping. A mid-rise is often a better choice for workouts that are less intense and have a smaller range of motion. They may also be a good choice for an athleisure look when you’re lounging around the house.
Leggings should flatter your figure and accentuate your body. Fit plays a big role in that but so do style features like color and cut. Note that darker colors tend to show less sweat than light colors and they resist dreaded see-through fiascos. Patterns can also hide sweat and what’s underneath your leggings to help maintain your style in the midst of a workout.
Cut, as in the location of seams, can also make a big difference in style and comfort. Seam location can slim your figure or play a more active role in performance by enhancing compression. Seams can cause chafing when doing repetitive activities, like running. The fewer the seams, the less likely you are to chafe. However, extra seams can streamline your appearance and provide added strength for stronger compression.
If you want a cohesive look, many brands create matching sports bras to go with their workout leggings. A matching set might boost your confidence and make you look amazing while you’re sweating it out at the gym or on the trail.
The most common legging materials are various forms of polyester, elastane (sometimes known as spandex or the brand name Lycra) and nylon. Brands that prefer natural materials may also use wool, cotton or bamboo blend fabrics. Some brands incorporate materials like silver or copper to add antibacterial properties to the leggings.
The percentages of these materials affect the feel and function of the leggings. It might take some trial and error to find the fabrics that feel best to you. Take note of not only how the fabric feels but how well it wears over time. A higher elastane or spandex percentage increases compression while different types of polyester better wick sweat or add softness to the leggings.
Length preference is a matter of comfort and activity. The most common lengths include:
- Full: Full-length leggings cover the ankle bones. They’re definitely a favorite for the colder months and for those who prefer more coverage while they work out. Thicker variations or those with a fleece lining are good for outdoor workouts in places where the temperatures hover around freezing during the winter.
- ⅞: A ⅞ legging falls just above the ankle bone. They’re slightly less warm because of the exposed ankle but still offer almost full coverage. They’re also a good choice for petite frames or those with shorter legs for whom full leggings might be too long.
- ¾: The ¾ legging isn’t quite as common as the ⅞ or carpi lengths and it falls in between the two. However, they’re still a popular length for those who prefer a little less coverage or for women who find a capri or ⅞ length falls in an awkward place because of their height or build.
- Capri: Capris hit just below the knee. Go for a capri if you want a little more ventilation but aren’t ready to wear bike shorts.
One of the first questions you should ask yourself is when and where you want to wear the leggings. Leggings are usually designed for specific sports or activities with design features that cater to that sport/activity. Pick a legging that’s designed for the activity you do most or the one for which you’re buying them. You don’t need a high-priced, high-compression workout legging if you’ll be wearing them around town or doing yoga.
For example, leggings for yoga, barre and pilates aren’t usually high in compression. They also tend to be made of softer materials and may have folded waistbands. Running leggings are designed for the high wear and friction created when running. They often have compression to reduce muscle movement, too.
Any other factors to consider
- Mesh panels and cutouts: Mesh panels and cutouts serve a dual purpose. First, they add ventilation, reducing heat build-up and potentially sweat marks. Cutouts and mesh panels also bring a sense of style. If you’re tired of plain colors or even prints, cutouts and panels can bring variety and personality to your workout outfits.
- Pockets: For pockets, we follow the old saying, the more the merrier. Pockets store keys, ID, phones and anything else you need while you workout. Some leggings have a hidden pocket or two in the waistband. Others have side pockets on the outside of the leggings. Some have both. If you want to leave running belts or backpacks at home, a legging with lots of pockets are the way to go.
- Reflective elements: For those who exercise outside, reflective elements are a huge bonus. They make you more visible to vehicles at dawn and dusk when visibility might be compromised.
- Drawstrings: Some leggings have a drawstring so you can adjust the waist. For people who have a larger waist-to-hip ratio, a drawstring can help your leggings fit better. A drawstring can also simply be a way to ensure the leggings don’t slip during your workout.
How We Chose the Best Workout Leggings
We didn’t want to limit our choice of leggings to only the well-known brands, though many well-known brands made our list. We considered up-and-coming brands that focus on quality and design and researched customer and independent reviews to find the leggings that work for running errands or running a marathon.
When comparing leggings, we looked at:
- Fabric content and quality: Legging fabrics should be both high-quality and sturdy. You put a lot of stress on your clothing when you’re working out. We wanted fabrics that could look amazing even after a lot of wear and tear. We considered quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics as well as those made of recycled water bottles for eco-friendly options.
- Style and cut: Styles and cuts that flatter a wide range of figures and frames made us more likely to include the leggings on our list. Everyone deserves to look and feel great in their leggings.
- Color and size options: A wide range of options gives people of different sizes and shapes an opportunity to find leggings that work for their body types and activities. Fun colors and patterns aren’t an absolute must, but we like options. For some people, fun, brightly colored leggings can be a workout motivator.
Should you wash workout leggings after every workout?
The answer is yes for some and no for others. A number of factors affect whether or not you need to wash your leggings after each workout. If you sweat a lot, then yes, you probably should wash your leggings. If not, they (and you) will smell.
However, if your workout was light and you didn’t get very sweaty, you might get a few wears out of them before the leggings need washing. The climate can make a difference too. People who live in drier climates can hang their leggings to dry out in between wearings, while people in more humid climates may find that their leggings won’t dry out. Musty leggings aren’t wearable, so daily washing might be in order.
Can I wear regular leggings to the gym?
You can wear regular leggings to the gym if you’re doing a light, low-impact workout, but we don’t recommend it. Regular leggings don’t wick sweat, which could leave you hotter (and smellier) than usual. Regular leggings aren’t designed for the friction and stress of a workout, so they may wear out faster if worn for exercise. Additionally, if you wear regular leggings, you’ll miss out on the extra pockets and compression that usually come with workout leggings.
What’s the difference between regular leggings and activewear leggings?
Regular leggings and activewear leggings have a few key differences. Regular leggings are not compressive so, in general, they’re more comfortable as everyday or lounge wear. Workout leggings feature high-quality, breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you cool while you work out. They also tend to have thicker, more durable fabrics to take the friction and stress of repetitive movements.
Is it better to size up or down in workout leggings?
Sizing up or down in workout leggings depends on your personal comfort preferences. If you want tighter compression, sizing down will definitely give it to you. Consider that you might get uncomfortable in the waist if you size down too much. Size up if you prefer lighter compression and a looser waistband. You’ll know you’ve sized up too much if the leggings start slipping.
The perfect workout leggings feel super soft and make you excited to work out. They can also enhance your performance or at the very least, help you focus on performance without worrying about what you’re wearing. The best workout leggings should pass a squat test, make it through sweaty workouts and get you comfortably through yoga class.
Our top picks also include leggings that make a fashion statement and collect a serious amount of five-star reviews. You can find pairs in a rainbow of colors and patterns for everyday wear and every type of workout. Whether you’re size XXS or plus-size, there are a pair of leggings for every body. Know your activity, your preferred compression level and you’ll end up with a pair of workout leggings you’ll want to wear for everything.
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.