If you’re someone who likes to mix up their workouts, you’ve probably realized that monogamy isn’t a thing when it comes to leggings. It might sound silly, but not all leggings are created equal. Some have high waistbands, while others sit low on your hips. Some are moisture-wicking, and others are high-compression. And when it comes to getting the most out of your workout, nothing should stand in your way—especially not your clothes.
Whether you’re just getting into lifting or are already a Pilates guru, there’s a pair of leggings out there with your name on them. We asked a handful of experts to recommend fabrics and styles to keep you feeling your best during every type of workout.
What to look for: form-fitting, opaque, high waistband, medium- to high-compression, moisture-wicking
Boxing is empowering both mentally and physically, and all those sweaty right hooks require some serious performance wear. That’s why MeMe Scott, a coach at Prevail Boxing in Los Angeles, recommends medium- to high-compression leggings, which support blood and oxygen flow to your muscles. “I also prefer my leggings in a darker color with a sweat-wicking fabric to keep me looking fresh and feeling dry,” she adds.
“One of the features that’s non-negotiable for me is a high waist. Once my gloves are on, I’m focused on sharpening my technique and giving 100 percent, so the last thing I want to do is have to stop to pull up my pants.” To kick ass without any distractions, check out Outdoor Voices’ Hi-Rise 7/8 Warmup leggings ($75) and (if you’re feeling super extra) Michi’s Midnight high-waisted leggings ($175).
What to look for: form-fitting, moisture-wicking, medium-compression, mesh paneling, breathable
Indoor cycling is a high-energy, serious calorie-burning workout that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. To recommend the best leggings for the bike, we spoke to Nairi Petrosian, founder of Rev Cycle in Los Angeles. Her advice? Find a pair of tights that feel like a second layer of skin.
“You need a lightweight pair that will stay put and won’t get heavy once you start sweating,” she says. “The best pair of leggings are ones that you don’t have to think about.” She likes medium-compression, moisture-wicking leggings with lots and lots of mesh paneling. “The more mesh paneling the better for maximum breathability.” Your safest bet is any mesh detailed tights like these Pace Rival leggings from Lululemon ($88) or these high-rise mesh panel leggings from Old Navy ($33).
What to look for: form-fitting, high-compression, high waistband, opaque
Strength-training junkies know the struggle of finding tights that’ll stay in place and cover everything that needs to stay hidden (ahem, butt crack, anyone?). According to master trainer and creator of the AB Fit app Ashley Borden, wearing tights that are high waisted and opaque is key to avoiding any unintended slips or reveals.
“If you’re squatting correctly, you’re really sticking your bum out,” she says. “You don’t want to modify your squat because you’re worried about someone seeing through your tights; it’s going to hurt your back.” Vimmia’s X line of leggings ($84-$180) will definitely have your back(side).
What to look for: form-fitting, moisture-wicking, medium-compression, 3/4 to 7/8 length
You may be dying to buy that adorable pair of running shorts you saw your fave influencer wearing on IG, but know this: Chafing is real, and it sucks. “Something that newer runners don’t really think about is the chafing aspect of your inner thighs, so they might go for bottoms that are cute as opposed to functional,” Borden says.
To avoid any unwelcome rashes, find a pair of form-fitting, moisture-wicking tights. And for those who feel a little claustrophobic in full-length leggings, opt for ones that are 3/4 to 7/8 in length. Under Armour’s capris ($35-120) are the perfect fit for running fanatics, according to Borden.
Look for: form-fitting, low-compression, full-length, breathable
One of the basics of being a dancer is to keep your legs toasty warm. “Dancers are always wearing leg-warmers and layers to keep the muscles as warm as possible to get the maximum efficiency and flexibility out of them,” says Elisabeth Halfpapp, executive vice president at Exhale Spa. “I love my leggings down to the ankle and high-waisted.” She recommends Sweaty Betty’s high-waisted leggings ($70-$140) because of their comfortable fit and fun color options.
Outdoor Running and Hiking
What to look for: form-fitting, moisture-wicking, medium-compression, full-length
If you prefer fresh air and the sounds of nature to a crowded gym, you need gear that’ll defend your body from the elements. When the temps are cooler, it’s especially important to cover up during your morning run or hike, so Borden recommends ticking all the boxes you would for indoor running (sweat-wicking, medium-compression, form-fitting) and then adding a few layers.
And if you’re trail running, bagginess can be an issue—to avoid snags, consider investing in Zensah’s leg sleeves ($19-49). They’ll improve circulation while keeping your legs warm, and you can roll them down if you start to get too hot.
What to look for: low-compression, moisture-wicking, breathable, soft, high waistband
Dance cardio classes are all fun and games until someone splits their leggings mid-twerk. “Moving your hips is an integral part of dance workouts, so it’s important that you feel free to shake and bounce,” says Simone Sobers, creator of the Boss Chick Dance Workout. “Personally, the less compression for dance cardio, the better. I want to feel the jiggle.”
High waistbands are a bonus because they encourage you to keep your core engaged throughout the class. Sobers loves to rock leggings from Kelly Nishimoto’s Cute Booty Lounge ($69-82), which are “perfect for hip shaking and booty bouncing,” she says.
What to look for: Low- to medium-compression, moisture-wicking, breathable
When you’re melting into savasana and slowly forgetting life’s daily stresses, comfort is key. That’s why Arizona-based yoga instructor Kimberly Dallman recommends wearing tights made from softer fabrics. “For me, yoga is a form of medicine and release. I need to be able to practice to my fullest without noticing any discomfort from yoga pants that are too tight or a material that rubs me the wrong way,” she says.
“Longer yoga pants that offer full range of motion make me feel comfortable enough to let go, which is what yoga is all about. I don’t have to worry about shorts riding up, or my bum, stomach, and thighs wobbling out of control.” Dallman loves to rock Spiritual Gangster’s high-waisted leggings ($78-88), Lululemon’s tights ($98-158), and high-rise leggings from Target ($7-41).
What to look for: Low- to medium-compression, moisture-wicking, breathable
If doing yoga in a 100-plus degree room is your thing, your clothes better be ready to handle some drippage. “With hot yoga, it depends on the studio and how they keep the temperature and humidity, but you’ll definitely sweat,” Dallman says. “As long as you’re comfortable with that, you can really wear whatever aids your practice best.” For her, that means moisture-wicking, low- to medium-compression leggings with a high waistband. If you can’t stand the heat in a full legging, opt for longer high-rise shorts like these from Girlfriend Collective ($48).
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