Lately, you may have found that leggings are a more frequent part of your wardrobe rotation. And while there are plenty of pairs out there that are perfectly suitable for bumming around the house, leggings you wear to actually exercise are a whole other game. The requirements depend on what exercise you favor: Perhaps you want a soft and stretchy pair for Pilates, or some that will keep you dry during a high-intensity workout, or ones that won’t slide down your legs during downward dog in your next Vinyasa flow. To learn about the best pairs of leggings for all kinds of workouts, we consulted with 18 fitness pros and class instructors (who teach everything from sweaty HIIT to meditative yoga) to find out their favorites.
Best overall leggings
Arguably the leggings that started it all, Lululemon’s longtime best-selling Wunder Train leggings still get praise from fitness pros — and four of the experts we spoke to. (They’re also a favorite of Erin Brockovich, who says their thickness is “just right.”) Kate Posch, a yoga instructor at Sky Ting, says the Wunders are her “go-to everyday legging” and praises the high-waisted fit in particular. “I live for high-rise and for not having to keep pulling up my pants while practicing or teaching,” she says. Ashley Rosenberg, a modelFIT instructor, calls the style “the forever classic” that’s “just unbeatable.” Katherine Gundling, a coach and programmer at ICE CrossFit NYC and Oculus CrossFit, agrees that they stand out among a sea of imitators. “I love the way they fit and feel on my body, and the way they allow me to perform in my workouts,” she says. “They will last you years and stay in great condition.” Tiffani Robbins, who teaches a total body conditioning class at FitHouse, appreciates their pared-down design: They’re “not overwhelming — no patterns or cutouts.”
Best leggings for high-intensity workouts
Another Lululemon staple our experts swear by is the Invigorate legging. Vanessa Chu, the co-founder of Stretch’d, knows a thing or two about leggings — “I probably have over 50 pairs” — and wears these for any running, cardio, or HIIT workouts. “I need sweat wicking for cardio and love if they have pockets in the back for stashing my credit card or a side pocket for holding my cell phone,” Chu says. “This way I can have all I need when I’m literally on the run.” These leggings are made in the brand’s Everlux fabric, which is sweat wicking, breathable, and fast drying, and they have pockets on the side so you’re never without your essentials. They’re also high-waisted and feature a drawstring in the waistband so they won’t roll down you don’t have to worry about constantly pulling them up.
These Fast and Free tights from Lululemon won’t roll down on you. That’s a must for Ediva Zanker, founder of intense boxing workout GRIT BXNG. “The last thing I would want is to have to take off my gloves to adjust my leggings,” she says. So she looks for “leggings that hug snuggly against your body and don’t show every drop of sweat.” She says you can’t go wrong with these. They look like the pair above with the same high waist, drawstring, and side pockets. But these have an additional five pockets in the waistband, come in a longer length, and are made in a lighter-weight fabric.
For a pair with an even higher waist, try these All Access leggings, recommended by Sydney Miller, who teaches at SoulCycle and leads the livestream (and very sweaty) workout class Housework. “They probably have the highest waist of any leggings I’ve ever owned,” says Miller. The bright-color options and smooth texture are part of the appeal, too: “I have them in several colors, and I love the shiny finish,” she says. “They’re super-sleek and flattering and, best of all, very comfortable to move in.”
For something in a more neutral finish, Tatiana Lampa, who teaches HIIT classes at Fithouse, and Dianna Falzarano, director of TRX programming at Flex Studios, are both fans of Nike Pro leggings, which hold up well in intense, high-impact workouts. Falzarano says that “they’re super-compressive, so they’re nice and tight and never fall down.” Both instructors like these leggings’ mesh panels and cropped length, which keep things cool during sweaty workouts.
Miller recommends these from Splits59, which she says are her “favorite pair of leggings, period.” They’re made of a soft, stretchy material and come in a variety of colors with a comfy high waist. “I love how high-waisted and soft these are,” says Miller.
If you’re into the seamless legging look, NASM-certified personal trainer Denajha Phillips recommends Alphalete. She does a lot of plyometric workouts, “so it’s a lot of jumping and just moving and changing in different directions.” She needs a thick, stretchy waistband that won’t roll down. Her go-to pair are Alphalete’s Amplify leggings, which feature a TikTok-legging-style scrunch seam down the butt. Phillips also mentioned that even the lighter colors don’t show sweat.
Best leggings for barre and low-impact workouts
For barre or other lower-intensity classes, Falzarano says that Outdoor Voices is one of her top picks. Though they’re not quite as sweatproof as the Nike Pros, there are still plenty of reasons why you might want them in your workout wardrobe. Hannah Jean Hildreth, an instructor at 305 Fitness, says, “They allow me to move freely and look svelte as heck. They’re also great for yoga, because I find they stretch in all directions and wick sweat quickly. The band at the top reminds me to engage my core, but they’re not so tight that they’re uncomfortable.”
Girlfriend Collective’s leggings are a perennial Strategist favorite for their comfortable fabric, light compression, and wide range of sizes. Personal trainer Tally Rye recommends them for studio classes, and Luster author Raven Leilani loves how they look: “There’s no compliment better than a compliment from another woman,” she says, “and whenever I wear this I get the most compliments from other women.”
Best leggings for yoga and Pilates
For a slower-paced yoga class that isn’t going to leave you dripping in sweat, instructors say that Lululemon’s lightweight and flexible Align leggings are the way to go. Saya Tomioka, a yoga instructor at Fithouse, says, “I eat, sleep, breathe … in my Lululemon Align pants. They’re the most comfortable and are great for wider-mobility workouts.” Lampa agrees that they’re “so soft,” and stretch with you when you move. Falzarano calls them a “second skin.”
“For yoga or Pilates, which require lying on my back, I’m very picky about having no zippered pockets on the back — it really gets in the way,” says Chu, who is a certified yoga instructor. Her favorite solution is the seamless leggings from Free People. “I need just the right amount of not too thick, not too thin for temperature regulation and coverage,” she says, and these leggings have a perforated panel on the back of the legs for some breathing room. They come in over 30 colors, from mint green to basic black.
If you prefer a pair of leggings with a slightly looser fit in a soft, breathable fabric, Bryn Chrisman, founder and owner of Yogamaya, says she loves Ripple leggings, which are 95 percent cotton and 5 percent elastane. “The pants feel very good on my skin,” she says. “They allow airflow and do not restrict my movements.” The length of the pants is also a draw for Chrisman. “I just love a long cotton pant, and there is a lot of freedom to move at the hips,” she says. “They bunch up a little around the ankles, and that feels really supportive and good.” Ripple’s leggings and yoga pants come in a range of muted natural tones — “They have beautiful colors and designs,” Chrisman says — and she appreciates that Ripple is a small woman-owned company. BodyTonic Pilates instructor Merav Cidor is a fan of Ripple’s line, too. “I own the leggings, shorts, and jumpsuit in all colors,” she says.
For those who want natural-fiber leggings without sacrificing the bright colors and patterns you generally find in synthetic pairs, Deborah Bagg, owner of Juniper Yoga, recommends Nooworks, a Los Angeles–based brand that produces limited-edition prints and fabrics with artists each season. Its leggings are 97 percent cotton and 3 percent Lycra. “They’re fun, and they’re playful, and I just love the way I can live in them,” says Bagg, who adds that she has a pair of tiger-print leggings from the brand that she has “worn to death.” Bagg, who is a psychotherapist, says the leggings take her through the whole day: “I can teach in them, I can practice in them, and I can wear them when I’m seeing my clients.” The fit is especially practical for doing yoga. “I like high-rise pants, but I also don’t like anything that squashes my belly because I’m a big belly breather,” she says. “They give me the right amount of containment, but it doesn’t suck me in.”
Best leggings for high-intensity yoga
“If I know I’m taking a sweaty or more intense class, I always wear K-Deer leggings,” Posch told us. “The fabric doesn’t show sweat at all.” Posch says the brand has plenty of “really fun colors” that make a good antidote to her usual black yoga clothes and calls the striped collection “a long-standing favorite.” Another draw, according to Posch: “K-Deer is a female-run company and is a size-inclusive company as well,” she says.
Best leggings for CrossFit and weightlifting
For CrossFit training and weightlifting, FitHouse strength instructor Nina Marchione prefers the Powervita leggings from Athleta. “They’re supersoft and move well with your body, and they also give light compression and support so they look awesome on most every type of figure,” she says. They have a three-layer waistband lined with mesh that keeps the leggings in place — and they’re seamless, which makes them especially comfortable.
Jen Romanelli, the co-founder of Trooper Fitness, hasn’t owned a pair of jeans in ten years and relies on leggings instead, especially these from the Gap. “Once the day begins, I am out the door and don’t return till evening, so the leggings I choose must be cute, durable, and have a ready-to-handle-whatever-life-throws-at-me fit,” she says. These have the perfect high-rise, but what really sold her on the Gap leggings is how well they wear and wash. “I am a powerlifter, so my legs are muscular and need space to move,” she explains. “I need my leggings to be thick enough to support that inner thigh rub while maintaining breathability.” Romanelli reports no inner-thigh pilling and says the leggings don’t require any special washing routine to keep them in good condition.
Best leggings for women with curves
“Leggings are a huge issue for curvy femmes,” says Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher and author of Every Body Yoga. Her favorites are from Bombsheller, which offers extended sizes and prints from independent artists. She likes that they “use fun printed fabrics that don’t stretch into literal sheer oblivion over fat asses [and] have high elastic waistbands that stay up even when your belly is hell-bent on pulling them down.”
Best leggings with compression
Strategist senior editor Crystal Martin tested Physiclo’s resistance leggings for running, boot camp, ballet, and yoga and “highly recommends” them for engaging muscles during workouts. “The Physiclos had turned my run day into an ab day,” she writes, describing the leggings as “getting me a better value out of my usual fitness routine.”
Best SPF leggings
“An SPF legging — or really a UPF legging, which is SPF for clothing — is what I wear when I’ll be surfing or swimming for more than two hours,” writes Strategist contributor Molly Young. Her favorite brand is Olas: Its leggings are “a silky Italian-made recycled textile made from old plastic water bottles.” She appreciates the sustainable packaging as well. “The company is obsessive about minimal packaging, which is something I watch sharply when it comes to any brand that claims to be ecoconscious.”
Hilary Reid contributed reporting.
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