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The best gym leggings for every type of workout

a photo of a woman stretching at the gym wearing bright gym leggings
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The right pair of the best gym leggings can be the difference between a good workout and a great workout. Like the best running shoes or the best sports bra, 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. 

Which are the best gym leggings for women to buy right now? 

The best high-waisted gym leggings to buy right now are the Sweaty Betty Power High Waisted leggings, which sit above the belly button for a comfortable, supportive fit. They are sweat-wicking and fast-drying and come in a wide range of colors and patterns to suit every style. 

The best running leggings to buy right now are the Lululemon Fast and Free leggings. They are super lightweight and have a comfortable, high waistband. They’ve also got lots of pockets, which is handy when you’re marathon training or heading out for a longer run. 

The best black gym leggings are the Nike Dri-Fit One leggings, which are also a fantastic all-rounder. You can wear these leggings for just about everything; the only drawback with them is the lack of pockets. Not sure where to start? We’ve hand-picked some of the best gym leggings for women here. 

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. 

a photo of a woman wearing the Sweaty Betty Power leggings

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty )

1. Sweaty Betty Power High Waisted Gym Leggings

Best all-round high-waisted gym leggings

Size range : XXS-XXL
Leg length: full, 7/8
Reasons to buy
+ Sweat-wicking and fast-drying + A good number of pockets  + Come in a wide range of prints and colors  
Reasons to avoid
- Not 100% squat proof  

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. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Lululemon Align leggings

(Image credit: Lululemon)

2. Lululemon Align

Best high-waisted leggings for yoga

Size range : 0-14
Leg length: 25, 28, 31 inches
Reasons to buy
+They come in a wide range of colors and sizes  +Available in three different leg lengths +Super soft and comfortable 
Reasons to avoid
-Not really suitable for higher-impact workouts 

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. 

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.

A photo of a runner wearing the brooks carbonite leggings

(Image credit: Brooks running)

3. Brooks Carbonite Tight

Best reflective running leggings

Sizes available : XS-XXL
Leg length: full, 7/8
Reasons to buy
+The pocket on the back is big enough for most smartphones  +A good amount of reflective detailing on the legs 
Reasons to avoid
-No drawcord waist -No pockets for your phone 

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.

A photo of a woman wearing the Lululemon Fast and Free leggings

(Image credit: Lululemon)

4. Lululemon Fast and Free Leggings

Best gym leggings for running

Sizes available : 0-20
Leg length: 25, 28 inch
Reasons to buy
+ Lightweight and comfortable on the run+ Drop-in leg pockets big enough for a smartphone and pockets on the waistband for your essentials  + Available in two different leg lengths  
Reasons to avoid
- No zipped pocket for your keys 

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. 

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: 

a photo of a woman wearing the Nike Dri-Fit One Leggings

(Image credit: Nike)

5. Nike Dri-Fit One

Best all-round black gym leggings

Sizes available : XXS - 2XL
Reasons to buy
+Versatile leggings you can wear for everything +Great range of sizes  +Squat-proof
Reasons to avoid
-No pockets big enough for your phone 

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. 

Gymshark Adapt Animal Seamless Leggings

(Image credit: Gymshark )

6. Gymshark Adapt Animal Seamless Leggings

Best printed black gym leggings

Size range : XS-XXL
Reasons to buy
+High waisted  +Seamless design to avoid any uncomfortable chafing
Reasons to avoid
-No pockets-One leg length 

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. 

How to choose the best gym leggings for you

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. 

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. 

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. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.