What to Look for in Workout Leggings

legs of woman walking in multicolored leggings and pink sneakers
Squats, lunges and lifts will put your leggings to the test. There are a few features to consider when you're shopping around for a new pair.

by Mary Lambkin

When it comes to your workout wardrobe, there's nothing like a functional pair of workout leggings!

Like a pair of tried-and-true blue jeans or the perfect handbag, a good pair of leggings can last years and form the foundation of a great exercise ensemble (and gym session). If you're in the market for a new pair of leggings, consider the following features when you're shopping around.

The Right Fit

Workout leggings — also sometimes referred to as "tights" — are a great go-to when prepping for the gym. The last thing you want to be focused on when you work out is your wardrobe, so the less excess fabric you have to deal with, the better. Make sure the leggings fit snugly around your hips and opt for a high-rise waist for extra support. Avoid leggings that bunch around the ankles and knees, as these problem areas will likely get worse with continued wear. While some gym-goers may prefer bold and bright colors, a pair of solid black leggings is a good staple.

Put your leggings to the test by performing a few basic squats at the store. Did the waistline creep down toward your hips as you moved? If so, they're too big. Did the seams press into your stomach uncomfortably? If so, they're too small. It also can't hurt to search for leggings with an adjustable waistband. Comfort should be your priority!

Once you've found the perfect fit, consider other features that complement your lifestyle. For example, if you like to work out with your phone nearby, look for leggings with built-in side pockets. If you run outdoors at night, seek out leggings with reflective stripes.

The Right Feel

Not all leggings are created equal, and one of the biggest differences in quality comes down to the fabric. Elastane, also known as Spandex or Lycra, is one of the most common materials used to make leggings. Elastane is stretchy and durable — two features you definitely want in a pair of trusted workout leggings.

As noted by Shape magazine, most "athleisure" companies blend elastane with other materials such as polyester, nylon and even silver to create leggings that release moisture quickly (also known as "sweat-wicking"), move easily with your body and reduce odor. Alternatively, some companies avoid synthetic materials in favor of fabrics made from all-natural products like cotton, wool and bamboo. These materials are ultra-comfortable but their sweat-wicking abilities are limited.

Pay attention to product material details when you're shopping, and take note of what fabrics feel best on your body.

The Right Functionality

The right workout leggings can help you make the most of your time at the gym, so make sure you choose leggings suited to the type of activity you're performing. Here are some recommendations for common workout routines.

Running/cardio: High-impact workouts call for durable leggings that can power through with you. Sweat-wicking material is a must since you'll be ramping up your heart rate. Lower waistlines will keep you comfortable as you breathe heavily. If you run or cycle outdoors, you'll probably want leggings with a small pocket for keys. When you're at the gym, you can use the pocket to carry your phone.

Stretching: Sitting, stretching and bending over means that you'll want extra stretchy leggings. Natural fabrics like cotton and bamboo could be a good choice, as they're gentle on skin. Avoid leggings with zippers or drawstrings, as these can press into you uncomfortably if you lay on your stomach, side or back. Search for pants with a high waist for extra comfort during exercises that involve a lot of bending.

Weightlifting: Squats, lunges and lifts will put your leggings to the test. Since you'll be in front of a mirror for much of your workout, there's no shame in choosing an extra cute pair of exercise pants! Leggings with a drawstring waist are perfect for functional workouts that transition between weightlifting and cardio.

The more comfortable you feel at the gym, the better. So why not invest in a go-to pair of workout leggings? Happy shopping!