It's no secret that the right workout clothes can make or break your sweat session. The best gear can make you forget about your outfit altogether, while the worst stuff will pull, chafe, ride up and make it hard to think about anything else.
Leggings fall into this category, of course. (They're snug! They let you move in a million different directions! They're crazy comfortable!) But a single pair might not be optimal for every type of exercise.
So what kind do you need? That depends on how you plan to break a sweat. We chatted with fitness experts to find out exactly what you should look for in a legging based on your workout, plus the picks they swear by.
The Best Leggings for Running
Pounding the pavement means lots of bouncing, so tights made of a sturdy compression fabric are key. "Compression leggings have a 'held-in feeling' and warm up your leg muscles," says certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Holly Roser. That'll help keep uncomfortable jiggling at bay.
Other must-have features: A reflective patch (especially if you run early in the morning or late at night) and a pocket for your keys, phone or ID, says Tara Leferrara, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of Compass Fitness.
The Best Leggings for HIIT
When high-intensity interval training is on the docket, you want a compression fabric as well as a nice, high waist, Roser says. As with running, the compression fabric will stop uncomfortable jiggling when you bounce up and down.
And the high waist is a must for tucking in your top so it doesn't fly up during mountain climbers or burpees. Keep the heavy sweat factor in mind too. "For HIIT workouts, I look for leggings that don't show booty sweat," says Leferrara. "Don't purchase cotton and steer toward dark colors."
The Best Leggings for Hiking
You don't have to ask too much from your leggings when you go hiking, since the pace tends to be slow and steady. "Hiking is all about comfort," Roser says. A basic pair of medium-rise, non-compression tights are just fine. Concerned about the cold? Opt for a material that'll help you stay cozy, like merino wool.
The Best Leggings for Indoor Cycling
You're gonna be hanging out on that bike seat for a while, so shop accordingly. "You need a little extra cushion for your tush," Leferrara says. For maximum comfort, look for a padded tight — and steer clear of zippered pockets that could push into your skin or chafe (ouch).
The Best Leggings for CrossFit
All that jumping and squatting means you'll need bottoms that allow for maximum range of motion but will still keep you cool, so consider going with a pair of high-waisted compression shorts, Roser recommends. (Look for a length that hits mid-thigh so they don't ride up.)
Prefer more coverage? Try a capri-length legging, which will keep you cooler than full-length pants, Leferrara says. "They reduce the friction that can sometimes happen with shorts too," she says.
The Best Leggings for Yoga
You'll want a high waist that stays put regardless of how much bending and stretching you do. But that's not the only thing to look for. If you're hitting a hot yoga class, seek out a fabric that dries quickly, says yoga instructor Morgan Balavage. Practicing at a slower pace? "Soft fabrics that gently hug the skin allow for unconstricted movement.
The Best Leggings for Pilates
The slow, deliberate movements mean you don't have to worry too much about sweating or jiggling. "So you really can't go wrong with any fit or material," Leferrara says. Just steer clear of leggings with pockets or zippers on the butt or rear waist panel, since you'll be spending much of class on your back.
The Best Leggings for Weightlifting
Look for a high waist to support and engage your core, Balavage says. Another thing to keep in mind? With all that bending and squatting, quality is key. "You want good stitching as to not break the pants open," Roser says.
Leggings with a double layer of stitches will be less likely to tear than ones with a single layer. Not sure whether a pair fits the bill? Give them a tug at the seams. The stitching should hold tight and bounce back when you let go.
The Best Leggings for MMA and Boxing
Like with leggings for HIIT, high-rise leggings are a must for MMA or boxing. Kicks can cause the waist of lower-rise picks to slip down toward your hips, forcing you to stop and readjust over and over. But high-rise pairs will stay put — so you can focus on your workout.
The Best Maternity Workout Leggings
Since most pregnancy workouts are on the low-impact side (especially the later into pregnancy you get), performance matters less than comfort and coverage. Pick a super elastic pair that'll stretch with you and your growing belly, and a lightweight fabric that'll help you stay cool. For maximum versatility, look for a crossover back panel that allows you to wear the leggings over or under your bump, too.
The Best Plus-Sized Workout Leggings
Ill-fitting leggings that don't work with your curves can mean you spend your entire workout focused on your outfit. Steer clear of that bummer scenario with a high-waisted pair of compression tights, Roser says. They'll help you feel hugged and supported, and they'll stay in place no matter how you move.
The Best Inexpensive Workout Leggings
Just dipping your toes into a new workout? It's totally understandable to not want to drop a ton of money on gear until you're fully committed. A simple pair of black, cotton, high-waisted leggings are versatile enough to work for most sports — and budget options are easy to find.