The right pair of the best gym leggings can be the difference between a good workout and a great workout. If you feel comfortable as you run, squat, or lift, you’re likely to perform better. But what are the best gym leggings to buy right now? We’ve hand-picked the top pairs on the market.
The best gym leggings for you will depend on what you’re doing — your favorite pair of running leggings might be too compressive or uncomfortable for a yoga class, whereas the pair of high-waisted leggings you love in your Vinyasa flow might not be sweat-wicking enough for that sweaty HIIT class.
Most gym leggings will be sweat-wicking, fast-drying, and machine washable, but some will have some extras that make them worth investing in. For example, drop-in leg pockets on a pair of running tights mean you might be able to leave your running belt or phone arm belt at home, and reflective details will help you stay seen when running in low-light. In the gym, you’ll also probably want to look for leggings that are fully squat-proof so you can move freely without feeling self-conscious.
All of the pairs below vary in price too, so if you're on a budget, look out for the more affordable picks. We've tested all of the leggings in a number of different sweat sessions to help you hand-pick the best for you.
Best high-waisted gym leggings
The best high-waisted gym leggings will sit higher on the waist, to offer extra coverage during a yoga class, and keep everything sucked in and supported when you’re working out. They won’t bunch up, or slip from your waist as you move, but will also be sweat-wicking and comfortable.
These are Sweaty Betty's latest innovations and they are a brilliant buy if your 2022 goal involves yoga or Pilates. They are super high-waisted, and the waistband does a good job of sucking everything in, without rolling or bunching — during testing, we found these didn't budge at all during Pilates classes.
Unlike other yoga leggings on the market, these leggings have a drop-in pocket on your leg for your phone if you do want to wear them in the gym. While we haven't worn these for a run (they don't have a drawcord waistband), on hikes with the dog, having somewhere to store your phone is handy.
For their buttery-soft fabric, these leggings wick sweat remarkably well, and are 90% squat-proof, although you are likely to see some sweat patches at the end of a workout. If this doesn't bother you (why should it?) and you're looking for a comfortable pair of leggings to keep up with you, these tick the right boxes.
There’s a reason why these Lululemon leggings are famous — they are wonderfully buttery-soft and extremely comfortable. Made from Lululemon’s Nulu fabric, the Align leggings are designed to be supportive and soft for yoga classes, Pilates, hiking, and just wearing day-to-day (trust us, you won’t want to take them off). They also come in three different leg lengths — 25, 28, and 31 inches, which makes them the perfect choice for shorter or taller yogis.
The Align leggings come in a huge range of colors and patterns, and last year, Lululemon also released an Align with leg pockets, which come in handy when carrying your phone or keys around in the gym. The high-waistband doesn’t budge, and we’ve worn these for hikes and yoga classes and found them wonderfully supportive.
The downside with the Align is that they aren’t the most sweat-wicking or fast-drying. The fabric is thick and plush but doesn’t dry as fast as some of the other leggings on this list, meaning you might finish your workout with some visible sweat patches. While this shouldn’t bother you (sweat is the sign of a good workout, right?) if you are conscious, or heading to a Barry’s Bootcamp class, you might want something that will keep you a little dryer.
Take a look at all of the best Lululemon leggings to shop here.
If you're a Peloton fan, you've probably spotted these leggings on the legs of some of your favorite female instructors, and for good reason — they're buttery soft, super high-waisted, and comfortable to wear on the Tread, or Bike. They come in a 7/8 leg length (which is full-length on more petite testers, like myself), and they have one concealed pocket on the waistband which is big enough for your gym card, or key.
The leggings are buttery-soft against the skin, and during testing, we never had any issue with chafing. There's a drawcord waist, which allows you to pull the leggings tight against your stomach, and the Peloton branding is subtle enough that you can wear these to the gym, without looking like a walking advert.
The downside here is that while these leggings are 100% squat proof, in the dusky blue colorway, you will see sweat patches. Of course, this shouldn't put you off —it's a sign you've worked hard, but if you're self conscious, it might be best to opt for a darker color.
Best gym leggings for running
If you’re looking for a pair of gym leggings you can wear on the run, you’ll want to look for leggings that have an adjustable drawcord around the waist that’ll let you pull the leggings tight and minimize all movement when you’re on the run. For running leggings, you might also want to look for features like reflective details that will help you stay seen when running in low light.
These are Sweaty Betty’s best-selling leggings and for good reason. They are a brilliant all-rounder — we’ve worn them on the run, for HIIT classes, and just walking the dog and they’ve performed brilliantly. They are sweat-wicking, fast-drying and the high-waistband stays put, no matter what you’re doing. They also come in a wide variety of patterns and sizes to suit every style.
The Power leggings have Sweaty Betty’s “bum-sculpting” technology and flattened seams for a more streamlined look on the body. They’ve also got three different pockets — two drop-in side pockets on the legs, and a zipped pocket on the back of the leggings which is perfect for your keys when you’re on the run or in the gym. They also come in two different leg lengths — a 7/8, which is perfect for more petite women, as they’ll be pretty much full length on them, and a full leg length.
One thing to note before buying these — they’re only 80-90% squat proof, so certain patterns and colors might be the tiniest bit see-through when you’re squatting, or wearing them when stretching.
These Brooks leggings are some of the best reflective running leggings around, with 3M Scotchlite Carbon Black Stretch reflectivity panels in critical motion zones to help drivers see you running up to 600 feet away. They are also sweat-wicking and fast-drying and are made from a thicker fabric which provides more insulation when the temperature drops.
Fit-wise, the Brooks leggings come up full-length and a 7/8 leg length, which is a better choice for petite runners who don’t want to have to fold their leggings up. They don’t have a drawstring waist, so you can’t adjust how tight the waistband sits, however, we didn’t have any problem with slipping or bunching up on the run.
A great buy for runners who are training in the evenings and are worried about their visibility in low light.
When it comes to the best running leggings on the market, it doesn’t get better than the Lululemon Fast and Free tights. They’re super lightweight, made from Lululemon’s Nulux fabric that offers “weightless coverage”. They also have a great amount of storage, with two drop-in leg pockets big enough for your smartphone, gels, and running gloves, and a number of smaller pockets on the waistband. None of the pockets are zipped, however, we’ve never had a problem with anything falling out on the run.
Fit-wise, the Fast and Free leggings come in two different leg lengths — a 25 and a 28 inch. The 25 inch leg is designed to sit above the ankle, however on petite runners, it’s more like wearing a full-length tight. The waistband is high, sitting above the belly button, and has a drawcord, so you can customize the fit and prevent the leggings from slipping on the move.
If you’re planning on wearing these on the run and to the odd HIIT class, they’re squat proof and feel sleek and cool to the touch, even when wet. We’ve had pairs of the Fast and Free for years and they’ve washed well, without bobbling, although it’s important not to tumble dry them, or use fabric softener on your gym leggings. If you can afford them, these are a brilliant buy.
These Nike leggings are designed to offer a firm amount of support when you're on the run, hugging the leggings for a comfortable fit. We were impressed by the number of pockets in these leggings — there's six, including a handy zipped pocket on the leg, perfect for your essentials.
The leggings come in two different waistbands — a mid-rise, and a high-rise, which sits above the belly button for a locked-in fit on the run. Nike has thought of everything — there's a toggle on the drawcord waistband to stop it becoming bunched in the wash, and keep it in place when you're on the run. We had no issue with chafing or slipping when wearing these leggings.
The downside is that these are a tighter, more compressive fit, which won't be for everyone. You wouldn't want to wear these sat at your desk, for example. That said, they're an excellent pair of running leggings, and we loved how soft and comfortable they kept us on the move.
Best black gym leggings
You can't go wrong with a pair of black gym leggings — they go with just about everything and won't show sweat as obviously as colored prints. Here's the best black gym leggings around:
If you’re someone who wants one pair of leggings you can wear for everything, the Nike Dri-Fit One has been made for you. They are squat-proof enough to wear for your HIIT class, but also comfortable enough to wear on your yoga mat at a retreat. Nike has also made these leggings in a huge range of lengths and sizes so you can find your perfect fit.
The waistband on the Nike One isn’t as high as some of the others on this list — it sits just below the belly button. Fit-wise, the leggings have a tighter fit for a body-hugging feel and seamless sides to avoid any uncomfortable chafing.
Pocket-wise, the One leggings have some smaller hidden pockets in the waistband which are big enough for some keys or maybe a hairband. There’s nowhere to stow your phone or your gym pass, but if you can get over that, these are a pair of brilliantly versatile gym leggings.
The chances are you’ll have seen a girl with these leggings in the gym or on your Instagram feed. They’re super popular thanks to the high-waisted, seamless design, which is comfortable for just about everything (although we wouldn’t wear these running due to the lack of waistband). They’ve also got ruched detailing on the bum for a flattering fit that makes the glutes look more sculpted.
In the gym, these leggings are fully squat-proof and come in a number of different shades and patterns. There aren’t any pockets, so you’ll need to find somewhere else to put your keys and phone, however, the fabric and fit are comfortable during most gym sessions.
The drawback with these leggings is that they only come in one leg length, so shorter women might find they have to fold the leggings or get them taken up, for them to sit neatly on the anklebone.
One of the biggest trends in workout gear in 2023? Flared leggings. Best suited for hikes, yoga and Pilates, the slight flare elongates the legs, and helps upgrade your post-workout look. Our flared leggings of choice are the Groove Super-High-Rise flares from Lululemon, which fit like normal leggings to the knee, then flare outwards for a flattering fit.
The leggings are available in sizes 0-20, and come in 14 different sizes. The super high waistband sits above the belly button, and hugs the stomach for a comfortable fit. The Nulu fabric is the same as that used in the Align leggings, so it's extremely soft and comfortable. That said, it's not the most sweat-wicking, so if you're wearing these in a light color for a warm hike, you might get some visible sweat patches.
The only downside with these leggings is they only come in one, very long, leg length of 32.5 inches. Our tester is 5"2 and had about a foot of material to take off the bottom. The good news is, Lululemon offers free alterations in store, but if you're looking to buy these online, be aware you're probably going to need to get them turned up.
How to choose the best gym leggings for you
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The best gym leggings for you will be the ones that fit and feel best when you're in the gym, or on the run. Before choosing a pair of gym leggings, it's worth looking at:
The fabric: and how sweat-wicking it promises to be — if you're hoping to wear the leggings for intense gym sessions, you'll want them to dry quickly, so you don't feel too cold from your sweat in the cooldown.
The fit: There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to gym leggings, so it's also important to find a pair that fits you, and your body, best. Some women love the support a high waistband offers, others prefer a 7/8 fit that doesn't bunch up around the ankles when they run. If in doubt, use the brand guidelines to work out which size fits your body.
The design: If you're a runner, you are probably going to want to buy a pair of gym leggings with pockets to stash your essentials. If you're a yogi, you might want a soft, high waistband for upside-down poses. Think about what you want from your leggings before shopping.
How we tested the best gym leggings
We tested the best gym leggings on the market by sweating in them! We put each pair of leggings through their paces by sweating and squatting in them for a range of different workouts. We also looked for stand out features in the leggings, such as pockets that allowed us to leave our running belts at home, or drawcord waistbands, that allowed us to really pull the leggings tight against the tummy during a particularly gruelling HIIT class.
What makes leggings 'squat proof'?
Squat-proof leggings are ones that provide enough coverage to let you comfortably squat, without the fabric being pulled tight or going see-through.
Should you size up or down in gym leggings?
Most of the time, you'll be able to buy your normal size. Remember, gym leggings are designed to fit tight against the body, allowing you to move freely during your workout. If they are slipping at the waist, or you have excess fabric around your knees, the chances are your leggings are too big and you need to size down.
Are lululemon leggings squat-proof?
In a word, yes! During testing, we found all of the best lululemon leggings to be completely squat proof.