The best leggings are like a second skin: They let you forget about your outfit and help you stay focused on your workout. On the flip side, the worst pairs can pull, chafe and ride up, making it hard to do anything but tug and squirm.
Still, there's no single pair that's best for everyone. What's going to work for you depends on multiple factors, but the most important are your body and how you plan to break a sweat.
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To help you find your ultimate pair, we talked with trainers about what makes the best workout leggings. Read on to shop their 11 favorite pairs.
How We Chose
We spoke with personal trainers about what makes the best leggings for every type of workout and different body shapes and sizes. With their guidance and recommendations, as well as our own product testing, we made these picks based on criteria, including:
- Quality of fabrics and materials
- Inclusive size range and fit
- Comfort and durability
We make deliberate choices about the language we use when it comes to gender. While more brands now carry gender-neutral workout clothes, you’ll still typically see clothing brands market their products to men or women.
The main difference between most women's and men's leggings is the fit: Men's versions tend to be longer in length and roomier in the front due to physical differences. However, fabrics, quality and comfort should be the same between gender-labeled pairs. We encourage everyone to purchase the products that feel right for them.
1. Best for Running: Nike Epic Luxe Mid-Rise Crop & Nike Phenom Elite
Pounding the pavement means lots of bouncing, so supportive running tights are key. "Compression leggings have a 'held-in feeling' and warm up your leg muscles," says Holly Roser, CPT, certified personal trainer.
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 Laferrara, CPT, co-owner of Compass Fitness.
Available in sizes XXS through 2XL, these feature a mid-rise waist for anyone who doesn't want a ton of fabric around their abdomen.
2. Best for HIIT: Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Crop & Vital Drive Training Tight
When high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is on your workout schedule, you want a compressing, high-waisted pant, Roser says. As with running, the supportive fabric will stay in place through the most intense workouts.
Keep the heavy sweat factor in mind too. "For HIIT workouts, I look for leggings that don't show booty sweat," says Laferrara. "Don't purchase cotton and steer toward dark colors."
These Lululemon leggings are made with fast-drying fabric, which is ideal for high-intensity training. Both come in dark colors to hide sweat, and the men's tights are even abrasion-resistant, so you won't have to worry about the fabric snagging during your burpees.
3. Best for Indoor Cycling: Pearl Izumi Attack Cycling Tight
You're going to be hanging out on that bike seat for a while, so shop accordingly. "You need a little extra cushion for your tush," Laferrara says. For the most comfort, look for padded leggings (or check out these shorts) — and avoid zippered pockets that could push into your skin or chafe. (Ouch!)
Pearl Izumi's Attack Cycling Tight is full-length and built with lightweight padding, giving extra comfort during your ride. It's available in XS through XXL and in both a women's and men's version. (However, the men's version doesn't have extra cushioning.)
4. Best for CrossFit: NOBULL High-Rise 7/8 Tight & 3/4 Compression Tight
All that jumping and squatting means you need bottoms that allow for maximum movement but still keep you cool. Try these capri-length pants, which will keep you cooler than full-length ones, Laferrara says. "They reduce the friction that can sometimes happen with shorts too," she says.
These also have a moisture-wicking, high-quality fabric that will help reduce sweating and chafing. What's more, both the men's and women's versions have a wide waist that will stay in place as you Olympic lift.
5. Best for Maternity Workouts: Gap Maternity Recycled Power Full Panel 7/8 Leggings
With pregnancy workouts, comfort and coverage are key. Pick a super-elastic, buttery soft pair that'll stretch with you and your growing baby.
This pair from Gap has a smooth, flat waistband and flatlock seams to prevent movement while you exercise. Another bonus? They're price-friendly.
"After all, people are only pregnant for nine months at a time," says Carolina Araujo, a New York–based strength coach. "Workout clothes are so high quality these days, they can last years. Why invest tons of money in products you can really only wear when you're expecting?"
Buy it: Gap.com; Price: $41
6. Best for Yoga: Lululemon Align Pant 28" & License to Train Tight 27"
When it comes to yoga pants, people will want a high waist for all that twisting and stretching. But that's not the only thing to look for.
If you're attending a hot yoga class, find a fabric that dries quickly, says yoga instructor Morgan Balavage. Practicing at a slower pace? Soft fabrics that gently hug the skin allow for free movement.
Lululemon's leggings, especially these two picks, are ideal for yoga. They have plenty of stretch and dry quickly. And you can even choose from different lengths to find your perfect fit.
7. Best for MMA and Boxing: Under Armour HeatGear Leggings
High-rise leggings are a must for people doing MMA and boxing workouts. Kicks can cause the waist of low-rise picks to slip down toward your hips, forcing you to stop and readjust over and over. But higher pairs will stay put — so you can focus on your workout.
"When you're finding a pair of leggings for MMA sports, support and flexibility are important," Araujo says. "You also want them pretty lightweight and breathable in case you need to layer under a gi or shorts."
These Under Armour leggings are made as a lightweight baselayer, so they can slip under other clothes easy or be worn solo. The HeatGear fabric is quick-drying for your sweatier sessions and the four-way stretch gives you plenty of mobility in all directions.
8. Best for Pilates: Alo 7/8 High-Waist Airlift Legging & Warrior Compression Pant
Pilates' slow, precise pace means you don't have to worry too much about sweating buckets or doing complicated movements. "So you really can't go wrong with any fit or material," Laferrara says. But avoid pants with pockets or zippers on the butt, since you'll be spending much of class on your back.
Alo is probably best known for their Pilates-friendly leggings. These two picks are moisture-wicking and plenty flexible. And they have zero zippers or pockets to worry about.
9. Best for Weightlifting: Virus Bioceramic Compression Pants
"They provide compressive support throughout the entire leg and are made with a Bioceramic material that is supposed to help with blood flow and circulation," he says. "Due to the supportive feel, I like to wear these pants when I'm doing heavier leg workouts such as squats or deadlifts.
10. Best From Amazon: Redqenting Women’s High-Waist Seamless Leggings & TSLA Compression Pants
Just dipping your toes into a new workout? It's understandable to not want to drop a ton of money on gear until you're fully committed. These cost-friendly leggings from Amazon are incredibly versatile.
"These are super breathable and very compressive," says Bojana Galic, LIVESTRONG.com's Associate Fitness Editor. "They also have a super high waist, which feels supportive during all kinds of workouts."
11. Best for Compression: Girlfriend Collective Plum Compressive Drawstring Legging & Gymshark 315 Seamless Tights
During a workout or long walk, the last thing you want is a shifting waistband. That's why drawstring leggings are practically a no-brainer. And this Girlfriend Collective pair is a favorite for April Benshosan, Senior Nutrition Editor at LIVESTRONG.com.
"I didn't have to pull them up once during my workout, and that's a major win for me," she says. "I also love the drawstring and waistband details, which add some flair, and the the fabric is super smooth and buttery."
These Girlfriend Collective and Gymshark leggings offer a distraction-free workout. Plus, you can get them in multiple colors.
4 Factors to Consider Before You Buy
With workout leggings, fabric is everything. The last thing you want is a pant that absorbs moisture, according to Araujo. So, steer clear of cotton because this material absorbs sweat and dries slowly.
Instead, look for quick-drying and sweat-wicking materials like polyester, nylon and spandex. A good way to double check the fabric on your leggings? Read the product details before you invest in a new pair of tights.
You can find leggings in various inseam lengths, from cropped to full length. The best length depends on your height, personal preference and climate.
In warmer weather, capri or 7/8 lengths offer a little extra ventilation by keeping your calves and ankles uncovered. But for wintery areas, full length coverage is probably best.
To be sure of the length, you can read the product details on your leggings before you buy.
3. Waist Height
Leggings come in low-, mid- and high-rise waist lengths and the best one for you depends on your activities and personal preference. Low rise isn't too common but you can still find some low-rise leggings. For the most part, these are ideal for lower-intensity activities (like walking) where you don't do much jerky, high-intensity movement, Araujo says.
Mid-rise leggings are great for all kinds of workouts, including strength and HIIT training. For most people, these land right beneath your belly button, fully covering your lower abdomen. So, they provide support in your lower belly without rising up your stomach.
High-rise leggings are probably the most popular right now and are suitable for practically every modality. These won't fall or shift when you kick your legs up, lunge from side to side or jump up and down. Usually, these sit right at or right above your belly button, depending on your height.
A lot of leggings come with bonus features, like pockets or drawstrings. These give leggings an extra functional touch and can be pretty convenient, depending on your activity. For instance, pockets are great for anyone that's biking, running or walking because they give you a safe spot to stash your keys without needing an extra bag.
Drawstrings are a fun feature that gives a more personalized, custom fit. These leggings are ideal for activities that involve a lot of leg movement because they help guarantee your leggings won't slip down as you train.
You can even find tights with ventilated mesh panels or zippered ankles for extra breathability when you need it.