What you wear during a workout is essential to how you feel before, during and after any exercise. If your clothes aren’t inspiring you to move, or are distracting you from your workout, you probably aren’t getting the most of that run in the park or HIIT class. That’s why it’s important to have a pair—or multiple pairs —of workout leggings that are secure and feel like a second skin.
What separates a decent pair of leggings from a great pair depends on personal preference and what type of exercise you love to do, whether that’s marathon-running or gentle yoga. However, there are a few factors to consider when shopping for a quality pair.
Best workout leggings
Below, we’ve rounded up expert-recommended leggings, as well some personal favorites from Select staff. Our list offers a range of materials and styles for different workouts, available at a range of price points for every budget.
Select’s associate updates editor Zoe Malin hates leggings that are too long and bunch up at the bottom when she is on a run through Central Park. These Athleta leggings fit securely, says Malin, and their ⅞ length should stop right above most people’s ankle. This pair is meant for medium to high impact workouts, according to the brand and comes in sizes XXS-3X.
Personal trainer Lynn Montoya, a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Spin instructor, said she loves these leggings because they are flattering and comfortable and sit smoothly along your figure, so there is no muffin top or camel toe. Mika says they are designed for hot yoga, regular yoga, the gym and aerial silk workouts, according to the brand. They’re available in sizes XS-XL.
Made out of the brand’s signature double-knit Airlift fabric, this pair is designed to fit and flatter every size. “They have a sleek and ‘shine’ look to them which helps them feel a little bit more professional or dressy if you're wearing them to work to train clients like I am,” strength coach Kristina Jennings, who is currently training for the upcoming Boston Marathon, said. The Alo leggings are available in sizes XXS-L.
In my figure skating days, it was imperative to have leggings that were flexible enough to handle every sit spin and could dry quickly. These served me well, and were also stylish enough that I could also wear them to school beforehand before practice without changing. They’re available in sizes XS-XL.
These leggings are great for a long run or even a marathon, according to Select's editorial director, Lauren Swanson. During New York City marathon training, Swanson chose this pair from LSKD because of its breathable fabric and secure waistband. "My running buddies and I were always talking about how important the waistband is on your tights," Swanson said. "This one hugs you so well without causing chafing or the leggings to fall down." The LSKD leggings are available in sizes 2XS-2XL.
Select editor Christina Colizza loves these leggings from Girlfriend Collective. They offer medium compression and a structured fit, which makes them great for weight lifting, spin class and even rollerblading. “No matter the exercise or adventure, the ultra-high waist and substantial feel of these keeps me feeling secure, but free to move around,” said Colizza. She also loves the matching Girlfriend Collective Paloma Racerback bra, which completes the look. The leggings are available in sizes XXS-6XL and 19 ½ inch, 23 ¾ inch and 28 ½ inch inseams.
This pair is Malin’s favorite “transitional legging,” meaning she can wear them to work and then wear them to the gym, making them extremely versatile. She likes how the crostband waist keeps the leggings from falling down and how the length stops just above her ankle. Aerie’s Real Me fabric is made from nylon and elastane material, according to the brand, which creates a smooth, soft texture for maximum comfort. These leggings are available in sizes XXS-XXL and 23 inch, 25 inch and 27 inch inseams.
These are Jennings’s favorite “tactical” leggings for outdoor usage. With side drop-in pockets for your belongings and a secure, zippered back pocket, these leggings are great for an outdoor run. “They are also ideal leggings to wear for any cross-training workout that you know you may be sweating more than most workouts in,” Jennings said. These leggings are available in sizes 0-20 with a 21 inch or a 23 inch length.
Jennings loves these leggings because they are super soft and have a drawstring to allow for sizing adjustments. She enjoys pairing these leggings with a t-shirt on a daily basis or to your favorite workout class. These leggings are available in sizes XXS-XXL.
Malin says these are the softest leggings she’s ever worn: soft enough to sleep in but also perfect for any type of workout. They are made with the brand’s signature fabric that is made to be soft with stretch and light compression that compliments your figure, according to the brand. These leggings are available in sizes XXS-XXXL.
I love wearing these leggings to take yoga classes, because they’re extremely smooth and don’t get caught on the yoga mat, blocks or straps. They also come in a fun pattern and are stylish enough to wear around town while running errands. They’re made of a polyester, spandex blend and are available in sizes S-XL.
What to look for when buying workout leggings
The experts we spoke to noted that different workouts means different movement and sweat levels, therefore requiring different materials and fit. Keep in mind what exercise you plan to do, and consider the following factors from there:
- Material: Montoya recommends looking for moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester and nylon, which wick sweat away during high-intensity workouts. Similarly, Jennings said moisture-wicking fabrics and overall breathability are necessary for her workouts.
- Durability: Leggings need to be durable and able to endure sweat and multiple washes over time. Montoya recommended looking for a “strong, durable fabric with reinforced seams, to withstand the wear and tear of frequent use, as well as hold up to frequent washing and drying,” Montoya said.
- Fit: When shopping, keep your height in mind and double check leggings’ inseam. “Being only 5 foot 2 inches tall, I usually like ⅞ inch length or cropped leggings that hit just above the ankle or, my mid-shin,” Jennings said. You also don’t want leggings to cause a dreaded camel toe when you’re active, according to Montoya. Similarly, if leggings are too loose in the waist and you’re constantly pulling them up while jogging, they’re likely to sit unused in your dresser.
- Style: Working out is supposed to make you feel good, and leggings should look and feel cute enough that they inspire you to move. “The perfect leggings should make you feel confident and ready to take on your day whether it's for a workout or you're hitting the town,” Jennings said.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Lynn Montoya is a certified personal trainer based out of Tustin, CA. She is also certified in fitness nutrition.
- Kristina Jennings is an LA based strength coach. She is CSFC certified and also works in digital fitness.