Workout leggings were something I never thought I’d be spending countless dollars on just a few years ago. I never really saw the point. The only yoga pants I ever purchased in high school through my sophomore year of college were those crappy see-through, bedazzled pants from Victoria’s Secret PINK. And the only purpose those leggings had were for lounging and sleeping. When I changed my lifestyle in 2017, I realized good workout pants were a rarity. I also realized that they cost, for “premium” brands, $50-$120 a piece. To this day, I think that is ridiculous. But I have realized that sometimes the price tag is for the brand, not the quality.
I often get asked what workout leggings I recommend, so I decided to break it down for you guys in a blog post. There are 4 brands that I will be exploring. I’m not going to rank each legging but I will provide a breakdown of price, fabric, fit, quality, and of course, the squat test. Let’s dive in!
I am super biased when it comes to Athleta. I worked for them for almost a year, so I’ve gotten to know all of their products and fabrics pretty well. Athleta is a B-Corp and is working hard to integrate sustainability into their brand. Though I have issues with Athleta and the other Gap brands greenwashing (you should SEE all the plastic a single store throws out in a day) and claiming to stan body inclusivity (and then not using plus-size models in store displays, social media, magazines, and not offering the full range of products in plus size), I do have to say that Athleta’s quality is top-notch. There are two styles of leggings I will talk about here:
The Salutation Tight
The Salutation (or Elation– which doesn’t have a side seam but is the same as the Salutation otherwise) is my favorite tight that Athleta makes. Not only does it come in a style that has pockets, but the leggings are made with Athleta’s Powervita fabric. This fabric is a blend of nylon and Lycra and is “buttery” soft. In comparison to the Lululemon Align pant, which is the closest tight to the Salutation on the market, the Salutation is a bit more compressive. The Salutation definitely holds you in, but not in a constricting way. Athleta describes the compression as a “gentle hug”. The Salutation also pills considerably less than the Align. This isn’t to say that these tights don’t pill at all, especially if you have thick thighs like me. But they hold up much longer than the Lululemon Align tights. Just be sure to wash them with like materials and to air-dry.
The Salutation comes in short, crop, capri, 7/8, and full lengths. They are offered in mid, high, and ultra-high rises. You can purchase them in petite, regular, tall, and plus sizes. A full-price pair of these leggings is $89, but Athleta frequently has sales. I’ve seen these tights for as low as $40.
The Contender Tight
Athleta’s Contender tight is my favorite for intensity workouts and running. There are plenty of sneaky zip pockets in these pants, and they are made with Athleta’s Powerlift fabric, which is a polyester/Lycra blend. This fabric is sleek, cool, and highly compressive. You’re not going anywhere in these things! These tights also provide sun protection; they are UPF 50+! So cool.
You can wash and dry these in the machine because the fabric does not pill at all. It’s amazing. The only downside to these is that they are mid rise rather than high rise, which is just a personal preference. They are available in short, crop, capri, 7/8 and full lengths and are available in petite, regular, tall, and plus sizes. Full-price Contenders cost $89, but Athleta frequently adds different colors of them to the sale rack.
The Contender is great for all of your intense and sweaty workouts, as they don’t show sweat at all and completely pass the squat test. I personally wouldn’t recommend them for yoga and similar studio workouts, as they don’t allow as much movement as softer tights.
How could I possibly not include Lululemon tights in this post? I think we all know about the company, and it’s not the greatest as they aren’t really body-positive. They only have sizes 0-14, only recently adding size 14. They have also had complaints about openly discriminating against plus-size people. On top of that, they aren’t doing much to integrate sustainability. I feel that Lululemon depends on their established brand name and collaborations to make money. But here are my thoughts on two of their styles of workout leggings.
The Align Pant
The Align is probably Lululemon’s most popular pant. This pant is the “OG” buttery soft yoga pant, made of Lululemon’s Nulu fabric. The Align is also said to have a “naked sensation” which I will say is true. These pants are not forgiving at all! They seriously show all of my cellulite; I can only get away with wearing them in dark colors. However, they do make my butt look poppin.
The Aligns come in a variety of lengths (6″-31″) and they are currently only offered in high and ultra-high rise. They also come in a jogger style, which is awesome as the Nulu material is great for lounging!
I currently only use my Aligns for sleeping and lounging, as they have pilled so badly over time. It’s important to wash them with like materials and let them air-dry, but both of those things couldn’t save my pair. They show sweat, but they do pass the squat test for me. Someone with a very toned body could definitely wear these for yoga, pilates, or barre. Overall, I think they are a great, comfy pant for wearing around the house. But they are very expensive for that purpose. Full-price, these pants are $98. You can find some colors on Lululemon’s “We Made Too Much” aka sale rack for as low as $69, which is still pretty pricey if you ask me!
The Wunder Under Tight
The Wunder Under is what I would call Lululemon’s signature tight. They come in a huge variety of colors, patterns, lengths, and rises. A full-price pair of Wunder Unders is about $98, but it can be more or less depending on the length and edition. Wunder Unders also hit the “We Made Too Much” rack, and I’ve seen them for as low as $69.
I find the Wunder Under to be an incredibly versatile pair of workout leggings. They come in a variety of fabrics, including the Lululemon signatures Nulux, Full-On Luon, and Full-On Luxtreme. The Full-On Luon has more of a cotton-y feel and the Nulux is soft and lightweight. The pair I own is in Full-On Luxtreme, which is a sweat-wicking fabric that is cool and smooth. These tights also offer a gentle amount of compression.
I have not had any issues with pilling and I have worn these leggings to a variety of workout classes, from spin to barre. They have held up incredibly well, especially since I machine wash and dry them. What I will complain about is that they always fall down! I don’t know if I have the wrong size or what, but it is super annoying. I’ll also mention that there are many online reviewers that have had the same problem with these tights.
I’m obsessed with the Outdoor Voices aesthetic. Their colors are so fun and their slogan “Doing Things” is adorable. And I should mention they recently did a collab with Madewell which was just everything. I was eyeing OV online for a while, but I stumbled upon their store while I was in Boston and tried on all the things. I ended up buying a pair of workout leggings and the Doing Things Bra, which I LOVE.
OV’s mission of making finding joy in movement and making fitness fun and less competitive is great. They also use models with a variety of body shapes. However, their clothing only comes in sizes XS-XL, which is quite limited in my opinion. Their clothing also runs very small compared to Athleta and Lululemon. OV does have sales pretty often, and they also offer the OV Kits, which is a top and a bottom for $95. That’s a pretty good deal considering a single legging is $75-$95!
The TechSweat Leggings are designed for your sweaty workouts. The TechSweat material is a blend of nylon, polyester, and Lycra. They offer a very gentle compression and have a waistband that will not move at all. I love it. The leggings feel relaxed, yet I know there’s no way that they are falling off. Sometimes I wish they had a bit more compression, but they work well for spin class- especially since those classes are in the dark. They don’t show sweat, but I wouldn’t recommend them for running since they aren’t super compressive. But they’d be great for lifting!
I had some issues with these pants passing the squat test. The ones I have now pass, but they are a little bit looser than I’d like. The squat test was failed drastically when I tried one size down in the store. Still, I really enjoy these tights! I haven’t had any pilling issues; I wash cold and then let them air-dry.
These leggings come in 7/8 and 3/4 lengths. The lengths are a bit awkward though. The 7/8 is more like full-length and the 3/4 is a little shorter than a traditional 7/8. A pair of TechSweat Leggings retails for about $85-$95 depending on the color you choose.
Warmup & Springs Leggings
The Warmup and Springs Leggings are very similar. Both are made of the same polyester/spandex blend. The website describes these leggings as having “textured compression”. What I’d say this means is that they are scratchy. My pair of Warmup Leggings is much scratchier than the TechSweat ones I own, which kind of surprised me at first. I’d say that because of this, the Warmup Leggings are great for wearing around the house and for running errands. This is a bit unfortunate, as the Springs Leggings are the ones that come in the cutest colors! Many people wear them for yoga and studio workouts, but I just can’t imagine. They definitely show sweat and don’t really pass the squat test.
These leggings run very small. I own the Warmup and TechSweat in the same size, and I’d say the Warmup is almost too small for me. These leggings also come in the same 7/8 and 3/4 lengths as the TechSweat. They come in high and mid rises and retail for $75-$85.
Girlfriend is by far the most inclusive brand of workout clothing that I’ve ever seen. They offer sizes XXS-6XL in workout leggings and sizes XS-XXXL in bras. Incredible!! Girlfriend is also passionate about sustainability. The leggings are made out of recycled plastic water bottles. They also offer clothing made from recycled fishing nets. Girlfriend has a super informative and transparent about page that describes where they source their bottles and fishing nets, factory ethics, and labor laws. This is something that so, so many companies don’t have and I respect Girlfriend so much for it. They also use minimal plastic to package their clothing which is also so great.
Now, you may be wondering how good a pair of workout leggings made from plastic water bottles could be. And let me tell you, they’re really good.
Compressive High-Rise Legging
The original Girlfriend leggings are incredibly versatile. They come in some of the cutest colors, on par with Outdoor Voices for sure. The leggings have enough gentle stretch for studio workouts, yet they are compressive and sweat-wicking- perfect for high intensity workouts. The fabric is buttery soft, and I haven’t had any issues with pilling just yet.
The Girlfriend leggings are offered in a 19.5″, 23.75″, and 28.5″ inseams. So basically capri, 7/8, and full length. The high rise is absolutely perfect. And if you find these leggings a bit too constrictive, Girlfriend also offers a LITE version, which is made from the recycled fishing nets. When you are done with the leggings, you can recycle them using Girlfriend’s ReGirlfriend program. These leggings retail for $68-$78, which is the most affordable out of all the other brands I have talked about. I am all about this company! Such a great mission and great transparency. It is so nice to feel good about what you’re buying!
And there are my thoughts on 4 popular brands of women’s workout leggings! As vain or as insignificant as this post may seem, it was really challenging for me. This is because of the photos. Taking photos of myself and putting them out there, saying “this is my body”. It takes vulnerability, which I am not comfortable with. But I’m happy I found the strength to do it.
What are some of your favorite activewear brands? Are there any big ones that I didn’t mention? Let me know below! Thank you so much for reading, I am forever grateful!
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