Choosing which leggings to wear to exercise in can be an absolute minefield. What fabric is best? Which cut is the most supportive? Should you go for full-length or cropped? Or would shorts be even better? And do you want them high-waisted? Or to have a zip? And should you stick to a plain black pair or go for something with a little more flair? And do you need different leggings for running and for yoga, or will the same pair work?
To help you navigate the tricky world of gym leggings, we’ve pulled together our mega guide which is crammed with know-how about the best leggings for women to wear everywhere from fast-paced gym classes to slow and healing meditation sessions.
You’ll find useful information about different fabrics, different cuts and different styles of gym leggings to help ensure you feel confident, comfortable and prepared for everything your exercise routine can throw at you.
Keep reading on for more info about which gym leggings are best and ideas on what to wear to the gym…
When it comes to choosing leggings to exercise in you need to consider which kind of fabric will work best for you. You want materials that are durable, have plenty of stretch (nobody wants to rip a hole mid warm-up stretch) and are moisture-wicking (this basically means that if you sweat loads, your clothes won’t become wet and soggy). The best candidates for the job? Synthetic materials such a polyester, lycra and polyamide. Leggings made from these materials are form-fitting, but have plenty of flexibility, are built to endure movement and will keep you cool and dry even through the most vigorous of workout regimes.
Are there any other legging materials you should consider for specific activities? If you’re doing something low-impact such as yin yoga or meditation, then you could opt for something softer on the skin such as cotton. Cotton is brilliant because it’s kinder on the environment and is super breathable, making it an ideal candidate for feeling good in what you’re wearing. It’s perfect for slower types of exercise where you’re not as likely to sweat vigorously.
With so many different styles of gym leggings on the market it’s no wonder so many of us get overwhelmed. To make it a little easier to choose the right pair, we’ve narrowed down the most common types of gym leggings and researched exactly which styles work best for which kinds of exercise. So, you can rest assured that the gym leggings you choose will be perfect for whichever kind of sport you’ve got planned.
Long length leggings are ideal if you plan on exercising outside as they maximise the coverage of skin and ensure those ankles are kept warm. They can be worn for anything from outdoor running and hiking, but also work well for indoor activities if they’re your preferred legging length. They’re a brilliant all-rounder to have in your activewear wardrobe and can, for the most part, be worn all-year round.
This popular legging length is a style which is cut just above the ankle – it’s perfect for indoor activities where keeping warm isn’t a priority and are also a great alternative for petite women looking for well-fitting sportswear. They’re a flattering length which avoid any gathering of fabric around the ankles.
Capri style leggings are the perfect choice for any keen cyclists as the slightly cropped length means they’re unlikely to get caught in the pedals. They’re also a brilliant legging choice for warmer weather as they allow a bit more skin to be fabric-free, helping the body to remain cool. Like long-length leggings, these are still a great all-rounder and would also work well for things like intense cardio classes as well as yoga stretches as they allow for plenty of flexibility and moisture.
If you love yoga, Pilates or barre, gym pants are a definite yes in your activewear collection. They’re great for helping you keep cool whilst retaining flexibility in their stretchy fabric. Plus, they are endlessly comfortable and flattering with a classic kick flare bootleg design. Team them with a plain oversized cotton t-shirt for a comfy yet still chic outfit for low impact exercise in the summer.
These days gym leggings come in every colour and print imaginable – you can truly change up your activewear wardrobe to suit your mood. But there are certain colours which may work best for different types of physical activities.
For the most gruelling of workouts, dark leggings are your best friend. They help disguise heavy sweat which will help you feel more comfortable and confident during your exercise routine. Try a classic black pair which are brilliant because there’s so many different styles available (and they go with everything), or something like navy or dark charcoal grey.
For everything else, it’s absolutely up to you. It’s important you feel your best self during a workout. With lighter shades of gym leggings it’s important to wear lighter underwear to avoid any accidental sheerness or see-through moments.
Try adding a bright pair of gym leggings or a printed style to add an element of feel-good fun to your next workout.
Whilst on first look most gym leggings probably don’t look wildly different, many of them have tiny details in the cut, fabric and design that make them perfect for different kinds of activities. Here’s some of the buzzwords you should look out for when trying to find the best gym leggings for you…
High waist leggings
High waist leggings are a great choice if you prefer a high rise for your personal comfort. It means your leggings are less likely to roll or slip down mid exercise, they’ll keep your tummy and lower back warm in cooler weather, and they look great when paired with a sports crop top. They’re perfect if you’re feeling nervous about stepping up your exercise routine and are unsure as to which style will suit you. These will also work brilliantly for most exercises.
Leggings with pockets are an absolute must if you plan on outdoor running or exercise that means you’ll need your phone or a house key on you as you move. Look for gym leggings which have a zipped or hidden compartment on the waistband which is big enough to hold a key, and gym leggings which have pockets on the legs (usually just above the knees) which are ideal for safely supporting your phone whilst you run.
Bootleg gym leggings
If the standard figure-hugging legging style doesn’t quite do it for you, you can also find bootleg styles which feature a slightly looser cut. These are especially perfect for low-impact exercises where there’s little risk of getting caught on a bike pedal or machinery. They’re also more likely to feature a cotton mix, making them lovely and breathable on the skin.
If you’re planning on exercising outdoors after dark, then a reflective trim on leggings and the rest of your outfit is a safety must-have. Whilst you’ll want to prepare with other items such as a head torch, adding a reflective stripe to your leggings will help make you more identifiable to passing vehicles.
Compressive leggings or compression leggings are a style which gently apply pressure to the muscles in the legs when worn. This then helps improve blood circulation in the legs. They’re best worn to maximise performance during a workout and are great for high-intensity exercises and activities.
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