The athleisure bubble shows no sign of bursting yet, and whether you prefer to wear leggings strictly during a gym session or wear them as everyday pants, we know how hard it is to find a nice-looking, comfortable, and affordable pair. And which ones will stand up to a good workout? Here, 11 fitness pros and instructors of classes from sweaty HIIT to meditative yoga weigh in on their favorites.
A relative newcomer to the workout-wear scene, Australian brand Lilybod received shout-outs from two of our experts. Tatiana Lampa, who teaches HIIT classes at Fithouse, says, “They make your legs look nice, make your butt look good, and hug you the right way.” They’re also a favorite of Dianna Falzarano’s, director of TRX programming at Flex Studios. She likes that they’re “a thin material but not see-through, and they really keep their shape when you wash them.” She’s had one pair for three years and says they still look as good as new. Plus, the moisture-wicking fabric ensures that they won’t show — or smell like — sweat.
Lampa and Falzarano are also fans of Nike Pro leggings, which meet the demands of intense, high-impact workouts. As Falzarano says, “They’re super compressive, so they’re nice and tight and not constantly falling down,” and both instructors say the mesh panels and cropped length help with keeping cool.
For a high-waisted legging that doesn’t need adjusting during a dance cardio workout, modelFIT instructor Ashley Rosenberg loves Ultracor. While other leggings sometimes feel droopy at the waist or in the legs, Rosenberg says this is “one of the few pairs that I can kind of forget that they’re on throughout the entire workout.” She thinks the black-on-black star print is “the coolest,” and the best for masking sweat. The extra-high waistband also has a flattering effect.
While classes at Brrrn are held in a cold room (for a variety of health benefits), they’re still intense enough that founding instructor Coco Minot needs breathable, moisture-wicking leggings. Her go-tos are the fun, printed options from the Upside. “I love how lightweight they are, yet I still feel secure in them when I’m jumping and running,” she says, “and they aren’t see-through at all.”
Falzarano counts Outdoor Voices as one of her top picks, but adds that they’re best for barre or other lower-intensity classes since they’re not quite as sweat-proof as the options above. Still, there are plenty of reasons why you might want them in your workout wardrobe. Hannah Jean Hildreth, an instructor at 305 Fitness, says, “They allow me to move freely and look svelte as heck. They’re also great for yoga because I find they stretch in all directions and wick sweat quickly. The band at the top reminds me to engage my core without being so tight that they’re uncomfortable.” The brand’s rotating seasonal color palettes gives them a cool, limited-edition feel.
These athletic-inspired leggings come recommended by Rosenberg, who says, “I’ve never worn any other piece of clothing that makes my waist look so small and tight.” She explains that the V-shaped waistband gives the illusion that your waist is also tapered and V-shaped. Although she loves the look, she adds as a caveat that the fabric “just feels like you’re sweating in cotton. So I just wear these for a toning or Pilates class where I’m not working up as much of a sweat.”
For a slower-paced yoga class that isn’t going to leave you dripping in sweat, instructors agree that Lululemon’s lightweight and flexible Align leggings are the way to go. Saya Tomioka, a yoga instructor at Fithouse, says, “I eat, sleep, breathe … in my Lululemon Aligns pants. They’re the most comfortable and are great for wider-mobility workouts.” Lampa agrees that they’re “so soft” and stretch with you when you move, and Falzarano calls them a “second skin.”
If you like your yoga heated up, Rosenberg recommends this pair, which she says feel “silky and luxurious but [also have] that compressive element.” The snug compression supports muscles as you bend and flex. Since the waistband sits high on your torso, Rosenberg says, “they nip in right at the smallest part of your waist to make it look even smaller and [make your] butt look really good.” They’re quick-drying so you won’t be drenched in sweat (or less drenched than usual) after your Bikram class.
Along with teaching classes, Falzarano often runs outside and looks for leggings with lots of storage space for taking along her keys, phone, and other necessities. With two side-slit pockets and a zippered back pocket, she says this pair does the trick and are just as comfortable and supportive as the Nike Pro leggings she wears in the studio.
Another of Falzarano’s running picks, these Lululemon tights have plenty of pockets. She says, “they’re pretty tight so you don’t have to be constantly pulling them up.” Made from a thin, superlight material, they’re breathable and allow for a full range of motion, which means they’re great for other types of exercise as well. Helaine Knapp, founder and CEO of the rowing studio CITYROW, loves them, too. “The fit and style make me feel like I can conquer the world. When I feel amazing, I enter my workout in the perfect headspace to perform at my best.” And, of course, she likes that they “wick sweat, keep me cool, and last for years.”
Arguably the leggings that started it all, Lululemon’s longtime best-selling Wunder Unders still get praise from fitness pros. They’re now available in technical fabrics, but experts agree that the slightly thicker version (originally designed for yoga) is tried-and-true. Rosenberg calls the style “the forever classic” that’s “just unbeatable.” Katherine Gundling, a coach and programmer at ICE CrossFit NYC and Oculus CrossFit, agrees that they stand out among a sea of imitators. “I love the way they fit and feel on my body, and the way they allow me to perform in my workouts,” she says. “They will last you years and stay in great condition.” And if all the printed and color-block leggings aren’t your style, you can always count on basic black Wunder Unders. As Tiffani Robbins, who teaches a total body conditioning class at FitHouse, says, they’re “not overwhelming with patterns or cutouts.”
Fellow FitHouse strength instructor Nina Marchione prefers the Powervita leggings from Athleta. “They’re supersoft and move well with your body, and they also give light compression and support so they look awesome on most figures,” she says. And they’re totally seamless, for added comfort.
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“Leggings are a huge issue for curvy femmes,” according to Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher and author of Every Body Yoga. Her favorites are from Bombsheller, which offers extended sizes and sources prints from independent artists. She likes that they “use fun printed fabrics that don’t stretch into literal sheer oblivion over fat asses [and] have high elastic waistbands that stay up even when your belly is hell-bent on pulling them down.”
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