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But one of the worst things to happen during a cycling class or strength training class? Uncomfortable workout leggings. Too many pairs that we’ve tried ended up soaked in sweat, sliding down, or simply weren’t working.
The ideal leggings must meet certain requirements. They have to stay up, not slide down or slip around during a workout. They must offer just the right amount of support and compression, and the fabric should be sweat-friendly and fast-drying. Most of all, they should be stylish, and make you feel confident when you’re working out.
In an effort to find the best workout leggings once and for all, we went to the pros — a variety of fitness instructors, coaches, and yoga teachers — to get their opinions. Here’s what they said.
Note: The following categories are just suggestions; most of these leggings can be worn across all different styles of workouts.
In this article
Best leggings for cardio
“These leggings look badass, the mesh panels keep sweat at bay, and the fit is secure, yet flexible — necessary since I teach Zumba classes! The stretchy fabric also offers a flattering, bum-sculpting bonus, while antibacterial properties help keep things fresh.”
— Abby Abesamis, Zumba instructor in Long Island, NY
“These vibrant and quirky patterned leggings always perk me up before a workout. The silky, stretchy fabric wicks away sweat, while the three-inch tall waist band hits at just the right spot on your waist. They’ve stood up to my hardest cardio workouts, and haven’t faded over tons of washes.”
— Locke Hughes, wellness writer, certified trainer, and health coach in Park City, UT
“Made from quick-drying Nulux fabric, these leggings literally feel like you’re wearing next to nothing, yet offer stellar compression and sweat-wicking properties. These are my go-to for my runs as I love the side pockets for stashing my essentials, such as a phone, tissues or gloves when it’s chilly. Some styles also have reflective dots on the lower leg so you can run safely after sunset.”
— Kira Stokes, celebrity trainer and fitness coach in New York, NY
“I’ve been in this business for about 10 years and have tried countless fitness clothing brands, and these are honestly my favorite! They’re affordable, stylish, fun, and withstand wash after wash. The fabric is stretchy but never see-through. I also love that the company is small and showcases their clothes on everyday women — not celebrities or models.”
— Lynn Montoya, a personal trainer and health coach in Southern California
Best strength training leggings
“Not only are these pants stylish and colorful, but they also stay in place no matter how intense your workout gets. The way the pieces of fabric are stitched together gives the right amount of compression in ‘all the right places.’”
— Georgette Yacoub Naber, Crossfit coach and nutrition coach at Fuel Your Fitness in Stamford, CT
Men can wear tights, too! “As a gym owner, trainer and endurance athlete, my exercise clothes are an investment I take very seriously. These surge tights are incredibly durable, but also extremely light and breathable. They’ve kept me warm during a snowstorm, but also help me stay cool and comfortable in the gym.”
— Sam Tooley, owner of Alpha Performance Studio in Garwood, NJ
7. Velocity Stash Pocket Tight (out of stock)
Editor's note: Athleta is out of stock on the Velocity Tight but has many alternatives for you to consider, like the Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight.
“They are sleek, high-rise and have a handy side pocket. I live in these to teach classes, but since they dry super fast, they’re also great for running and my own HIIT workouts that I sneak in between classes. I can even dress them up for a night out.”
— Ashley Battersby, fitness coach, yoga instructor, and owner of State of Mind Studio in Coalville, UT
“These leggings are snug but comfortable, so they won’t slip or slide when I’m working out, but aren’t too thin to show anything. They also have sweat-wicking fabric and super-flattering lines. I also love what the brand represents — Superfit Hero is a size inclusive brand that caters to any and every body imaginable. Their website features athletes of all sizes, and it’s truly inspiring to see an activewear brand not just show ‘fit’ people.”
— Laci Knight, personal trainer, Crossfit coach, and roller derby coach
Best leggings for barre, pilates and yoga
“These leggings from Koral have the best of both worlds — they’re sleek and shiny, but they’re also supportive and have the perfect amount of compression. The quick-dry fabric keeps you cool during and dry after your workout.”
— Lynn Goldstein, Lagree-certified instructor Third Eye Tribe in Atlanta
“‘Where did you get those?!’ That’s what I hear whenever I wear these leggings. They’re chic, great for any class I teach or take — from barre to cycling — and are comfy enough to wear on long flights. Size down to make sure yours are snug enough to stay up if you’re going for a run or jumping around.”
— Amelia Pavlik, instructor at Exhale Atlanta
11. Veronica Beard x Bandier Bike Shorts (out of stock)
Editor's note: These bicycling shorts are out of stock. As an alternative, consider Nike's Sportswear Leg-A-See.
“As we move into the summer, ditching full-length leggings for bike shorts is a must in the heat. The length of these bike shorts make them perfect for anything from an active yoga sculpt class to vinyasa flow. Plus the neon pink accents offer a cute retro flair.”
— Ava Johanna, a yoga and meditation instructor in Los Angeles
“All of Varley's clothing is both elegant and functional. I can wear their outfits to see clients and then afterwards for lunch with a girlfriend. Plus, their prints are so fun they make me feel totally uplifted. I love these leggings in particular because they have a cell phone pocket that will hold my phone in even when I'm doing a handstand.”
— Claire Grieve, a yoga instructor and health coach in Los Angeles
TRY THESE FITNESS ROUTINES
- A 31-day abdominal workout plan for summer — no crunches required
- A one-month resistance band workout you can do anywhere
- A 30-day strength training routine — no equipment required
- A 15-minute full body HIIT workout — no equipment required
- Get in shape for summer with this 30-day walk/run interval training plan (no gym required)