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All the Best Cheap Workout Clothes We’ve Ever Written About

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the retailers

After years of being called a trend, it’s clear that athleisure is simply how we dress now. But, like with all other styles of clothing, there are a lot of things — whether fashion-y bike shorts or activewear designed for peak performance — that don’t come cheap. In fact, when we asked fitness instructors about their favorite workout leggings, many of the recommended pairs cost over $90.

Lots of pros consistently turn to pricey brands like Lululemon and Outdoor Voices for stylish pieces that are moisture-wicking and can stand up to anything from spinning to barre class. “I care most about performance and quality since it’s my uniform,” says trainer and fitness model Bianca Paige Vesco, “so I have to budget for the cost.” But is it possible to find inexpensive workout gear that looks — and feels — like the high-end stuff? Turns out, yes, if you know what to look for. So, to find the best affordable workout clothes, we turned to the trainers, instructors, weightlifters, models, stylists, fashion editors, and gym rats who spend the majority of their time in spandex to see how the cheaper stuff measures up. Most of the items on this list ring in at under $40, but we included a few slightly over options that are worth the price when you factor in construction and versatility.

Best inexpensive leggings

In a previous version of this story, Gina DiNapoli, a personal trainer and creator of the Jabs class series at Project by Equinox, said Colorfulkoala’s subtle patterns set the brand apart from other cheap leggings with wild prints. This high-waisted pair in particular is very reminiscent of Lululemon’s Align leggings — but for less than a third of the price — and comes in a gray-on-black camo print that’s representative of the brand’s aesthetic that DiNapoli says “people would actually wear without feeling like, Is this a little bit too much for the gym?”

Strategist writer and self-proclaimed gym rat Tembe Denton-Hurst says she lives in her Old Navy leggings, which are the best she’s tried for the price point. “If they ever discontinue them or switch up the fabric, I’ll scream,” she says. Curve model Tatiana Lewis also says she likes these leggings, calling them “eye-catching” and “super-affordable.” They’re available up to a size 4XL.

These $30 leggings are made of thick, “squatproof” fabric, so your underwear won’t show through if you’re doing a lot of jumping around or lifting, Denton-Hurst says. They’re made of Old Navy’s PowerPress material, which the brand says is moisture-wicking, stretchy, and highly compressive for intense workouts.

If you prefer a thinner material, Denton-Hurst recommends Old Navy’s PowerSoft leggings for fabric that’s warm but not hot, compressive but not restrictive. “I’m a big fan of the brand’s PowerSoft material, which feels incredibly luxe despite the affordable price tag,” she says, adding that it’s moisture wicking and comfortably supportive. And because the bottoms are high-waisted, she doesn’t need to worry about them falling down. “I don’t have to constantly re-adjust during a workout and can walk, jog, and lift with ease,” she says.

Best inexpensive workout top

Denton-Hurst’s go-to gym shirt is one that’s tuckable, well-constructed, and soft, and she says this men’s long sleeve from Goodfellow ticks all those boxes (rapper Mick Jenkins is also a fan of the brand). She bought one in a XXL for an oversize fit, and she says the droopy shoulders and shapeless front are “perfect for scrunching the sleeves up to the elbows and tucking it into my bra,” which she says makes for “a very casual-but-I’ve-been-here-before look.”

Best inexpensive workout bottoms

For practicing Muay Thai or boxing, personal trainer Andrew Flores likes these shorts because they have a “great stretch to them, meaning you can perform exercises in all planes of motion without obstruction,” he says. The five-inch pair are designed for running and walking so they have a supportive liner and a small zippered back pocket for stashing your cash or keys. As for style, Flores says they also “go well with a long-sleeved tee for that post-workout run to the store.”

These are “cool because they look vaguely ’90s, which is the best era of sweatwear, I think,” says model and actor Miles Garber, who adds you can’t beat Gildan when it comes to inexpensive sweats. “They’re just elastic ankle sweats you can get on Amazon for like 14 bucks,” he says, “and when they wear out, you can order more.” He shares three pairs with his girlfriend, model and actress Juliette Labelle. The no-frills pants have a drawstring closure and pockets on the sides, and they come in navy, blue, and gray.

Our roundup of best plus-size workout clothes for women includes this pair of compressive bike shorts from Nike, which has a high waist that fitness influencer Chasi Jernigan says “is extra supportive for high-impact exercises like burpees and jumping jacks.” They’re available in regular and plus sizes and a range of colors.

Best inexpensive sports bras

Spiked Spin instructor Stacy Maharaj says this Old Navy PowerSoft sports bra is fashionable, affordable, and “all-around great for high-intensity workouts and training,” recommending it to heavy sweaters for its absorbency. Denton-Hurst says she can also attest to Maharaj’s praises, especially because the bra is made of the same lightly compressive material as the PowerSoft leggings seen above. “You get the Girlfriend Collective look for less,” she says.

While the price point is on the higher side, we’ve included Girlfriend’s much-loved Paloma bra on our list because of its durability and longevity (both reasons why we named it our best overall). The racerback is made from recycled water bottles and has a supportive band Denton-Hurst says is suitable for just about any activity. “It’s my most worn bra,” she says, “and holds up well during my daily gym workouts, which mostly comprises of walking and lifting.” Similarly, Y7 and Harlem Yoga Studio teacher Angela Dawn says it’s as good for yoga as it is for cardio workouts because there’s “no spillage at all,” thanks to the lower band and higher cut. And the security the long-line bra provides means you can be really active without your breasts getting in the way, says sustainable style expert Brandii Stuart, who’s had her Paloma for years. Overall, the bra’s “colors are great, fabric is good, it’s comfy, it’s supportive,” Denton-Hurst says. “I’ve tried other options, and I come back to this bra every time.” Girlfriend offers sizes from XXS to 6XL.

Best inexpensive workout socks

These classic Nike crew socks are as quality as they are “quintessential,” says celebrity stylist Nichole Goodman, who likes that they’re “perfectly thick and have the right amount of ribbing so it won’t squeeze your ankles purple.” Denton-Hurst says they’re not too chunky, comfy on the foot, slightly compressive, and hold up well over time. Plus, she says, they work with a dress shoe just as easily as an Air Force One. “I wear them every day because they offer cushioned support,” says Toniesha Renee, a senior influencer marketing and brand strategy manager at Coach. “They also just look cool.”

Nike’s socks are a similar price point to these Old Navy quarter crews, which Denton-Hurst says she prefers for their thinner profile, “ridiculously soft” fabric, and shorter length. “They hit at the perfect spot on the ankle, and the lack of extra fabric looks rather sleek over a pair of leggings or bare skin,” she says.

$11 for 10

And for cushioned quarter crews that are even more affordable than Old Navy’s, Who What Wear fashion editor Eliza Grace Huber tried these on a whim and has never looked back. “They’re the perfect sock height because I normally fold my crew socks in half, and these took away the need to do that,” she says. At $11 for ten, each pair costs less than a latte and are available in white or black.

Best inexpensive workout shoes

From $35

Strategist UK contributor Anna Fielding says these rubber-soled plimsolls are commonly worn by martial artists, but their supportive canvas upper and flat, cushioned sole also make them a solid weightlifting shoe. Plus, they hold up well in the washing machine, Fielding says, adding that “they don’t fall to pieces, as Keds can, even if you treat them badly and kick them off without bothering to undo the laces.”

From $54

Converse All Stars have a cult following among weightlifters thanks to their completely flat sole, says Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa. Product designer Amardeep Singh is one of those fans — he prefers this ’70 model for its thicker sole, saying “you’ve got to keep it flat if you’re lifting.” Sean Sewell, personal trainer and owner at Engearment and Mountain Fitness School, also likes these Converse because they’re the next best thing to going barefoot, which he says “allows for the most beneficial alignment of the body if you really want to train hard with heavier weights.” Although the high-tops ring in at $85, Rellosa says there’s “killer value” here beyond the gym. “It’s good for your wardrobe (and your wallet) that one of the best weightlifting shoes is also an iconic, classic sneaker,” he says.

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All the Best Cheap Workout Clothes We’ve Ever Written About