Keen to invest in workout leggings that won’t fall apart after two uses? Look no further: these are our health ed’s top picks.
Looking for a pair of the best gym leggings for your next yoga class, 5km, or weight training session but don’t know where to start? There are quite literally thousands of different types available, but by scrolling this roundup, you’ll know which actually support and sweat-wick through a workout and are worth your investment, too.
How? Because I’m Ally Head, Marie Claire UK‘s Health Editor, and I run marathons and sweat test workout kit for a living. Lucky for you, this month I’ve put 30+ pairs of leggings to the test for you.
Keen to know how team MC test all of the products we include? All of the below products have been personally tested by me and are leggings that I’d buy myself. There are no products included that I haven’t tried personally.
The leggings below were tested over a minimum of one three-mile run and one gym session, but most of them were worn for at least four to five workouts before the reviews were written.
What did I look for when deciding the best gym leggings?
Aka, what’s the success criteria? Good question.
- Are the leggings well-fitting (no crinkly knees or baggy bums), and do they run true to size?
- Are they sweat-wicking?
- Are they non-see-through?
- Are they supportive and do they offer compression?
- Was the material prone to bobbling or piling?
- How well did the leggings retain their structure over time, and did they wash well?
- Is the product a reasonable price?
Gym leggings, chosen by brand
Best lululemon leggings – Wunder Under, £88
Sure, the different style names might be confusing, but having tried pretty much all of the lululemon leggings, know this: they’re all great, they just serve different purposes. The softer Align are designed for yoga flows, whereas the sweat-wicking Wunder Under – my personal favourites – have been crafted with sweat and support in mind.
Pros: Having run countless half marathons in these Wunder Under tights and the London Marathon last year in the Fast and Free shorts made from similar Nulux sweat-wicking fabric, I can confirm their bottoms are some of the best. They sweat-wick effortlessly – meaning you’re always the right temperature, never sweaty, too hot, or too cold – and I liked how much the leggings compressed my legs, too. Further, they wash well, making them a great investment for years to come, IMO.
Cons: As above, the lulu jargon can be a little confusing. The number next to the product name simply means how long the leg length will be on your legging – for example, a leg length 21 is the shortest length option, and 28 the longest. They’re also listed in US sizing – so for a UK size 10, you’d need to opt for a lulu 6. Check out their sizing guide, here.
Wunder Under HR Tight 28″, £88 | Lululemon
Bottom line: Fit well – true to size | Sweat wicking | Non see through | Supportive and offer compression | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure very well | High price point but worth the investment.
Best Sweaty Betty leggings – Power Gym Legging, £80
Team Sweaty Betty have been adapting their designs to create the perfect workout legging for over 20 years now. Enter stage right, the Power tight.
Pros: If you’re into yoga, Pilates, or Barre, you’ll live in these. I’ve tried a few of the SB styles and the Power leggings truly are the best. Why? I found them not as constrictive as other styles in this roundup, uber-comfortable, and I’ve also never noticed any unwanted sweat patches. Their main USP is that they promise to be bum-sculpting, and while I can’t confirm or deny if this is true, they did make me feel confident enough kitted out to smash my workout head-on.
Cons: In my experience, they do run slightly big, and stretch after a few years, too, so I’d opt for a size down.
Power Gym Leggings – £80 | Sweaty Betty
Bottom line: Run large – size down | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive and offer compression | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure very well | Mid-range price point but worth the investment.
Best Gymshark leggings – Adapt Seamless Legging, £40
Gymshark owner Ben Francis made headlines when The Sunday Times featured him on their ‘Rich List’ and reported the company is worth a whopping £138 million. Not bad for a relatively new company which launched only 9 years ago.
Pros: I loved that the Gymshark Adapt leggings are seamless, supportive, and comfortable, too – they hug you around the stomach area and are soft to the touch while also sweat-wicking. On me, they fit well and were squat proof, plus didn’t pile or bobble. Plus, I like that the design doesn’t have a seam down the crotch, meaning any camel toe issues are swerved.
Cons: I tested the dark grey, which didn’t show sweat patches too badly, but I can see the lighter option posing a problem. I like the concept of their new butterfly detail – a ruched detail on the bum which promises a more flattering fit – and while it wouldn’t stop me from buying them, it would benefit from being slightly longer.
Adapt Animal Seamless Leggings – Now £40,
was £50 | Gymshark
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure okay | Low price point.
Best Nike gym leggings – One Luxe, £64.95
When it comes to workout leggings, Nike knows how to do them the right way. They’re worn by most of the top athletes, and if it’s good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for us.
Pros: Trialling Nike’s One Luxe leggings, they feel slightly thinner than other alternatives but offer the same amount of support. Their most stand-out feature is how soft they are – when reviewers said butter, they weren’t wrong – and they passed the sweat-wicking and non-see-through tests, too.
Cons: They do show a small amount of sweat, but not enough to deter me from wearing them again. Similarly, they are long, so if you’re short, like me, it might be best to opt for another pair in a specific 3/4 or 7/8 style.
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive and offer compression | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure well| Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best adidas gym leggings – FeelBrilliant Designed to Move tights, £35
I love – I repeat, LOVE – gym leggings that not only look but feel great and don’t cost the earth – like the FeelBrilliant design from adidas.
Pros: My first impression of the FeelBrilliant leggings? They’re thick, high-waisted, and so feel super supportive when you first put them on. Having run in them, they sweat-wicked perfectly, keeping me warm but also cool. While they’re not super stretchy, you feel as if they’ve been engineered to help you feel supported and, well, designed to move.
Cons: Again, they run long, and I’d also suggest sizing down, as I found the sizing a little on the large size.
FeelBrilliant Designed to Move tights – £35 | adidas
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | Low price point.
Best M&S gym leggings – Go Balance Leggings, £25
M&S is one of my go-to options for gym leggings that don’t break the bank but also sweat-wick and support, too.
Pros: First off, they look good and feel more expensive than they are. They feel supportive, don’t slip down, and are a good level of high-waisted, too – I’m 5 foot 2 and they sit above my belly button.
Cons: I would have preferred if these leggings had a pocket somewhere to store my phone and keys. Plus, while they withstood a strength training test session, they’re actually designed for yoga, so I wouldn’t recommend for distance runs and HIIT.
Go Balance High Waisted Yoga Leggings – £25 | M&S
Bottom line: Run big – size down- and lose structure over time | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Prone to piling and bobbling after time | Don’t wash and retain structure as well as other competitors | Low price point.
Gym leggings, chosen by function
Best high waisted gym leggings – Pocket Sport Claude leggings, £44
Pocket Sport may be the company of Louise Thompson of Made in Chelsea fame, but that’s not all they’re noteworthy for. Having worn my pair for the best part of two years now, I’d say they’ve been tested pretty extensively, and I can confirm that they’re some of the best on the market – plus, promise no sweat patches, despite the jazzy colours.
Pros: I rave about the Pocket Sport leggings for a reason – workout-wise, every pair I’ve tried are made from breathable and quick-drying fabric with a super flattering high waist and squat-proof fabric, too. I’ve never found workout leggings in such bright colours that genuinely don’t show any sweat patches (and I’ve worn them for marathon training long runs). Another feature I love: they have an elasticated waistband with an inner rubber grip so that they really – and I mean really – don’t move mid-session.
Cons: If you’re not a fan of, well, mega bright workout leggings, you probs won’t be a fan of the Pocket Sport collections. We, on the other hand, love them.
Claude leggings – now £44,
was £55 | Pocket Sport
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive and offer compression | Not prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well| Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best patterned gym leggings – Varley Let’s Move leggings, £46.75
Varley’s gym leggings are really great quality, and you can currently save over £30 on this fun feather print pair.
Pros: As above, they’re really great quality designed to go the long run. A little like the Nike One Luxe, they’re slightly on the thinner side, shiny, and soft, yet they supported me through sweatier sessions, too. When I tried them, they flattered in all the right places and I didn’t think twice about them falling down or giving me cameltoe mid-workout. I also love that, thanks to the fun print and high quality, I can (and do) throw on an oversized gym t shirt and wear for coffee at the weekend.
Cons: They’re a higher price point when on sale for full price, but they are worth it. They also come in pretty stand-out prints, so as with the Pocket Sport styles, if you’re after a more traditional black, these aren’t for you.
Varley Let’s Move High Waisted Leggings in Pewter Feather, now £46.75,
was £78 | The Sports Edit
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best black gym leggings – New Balance Shape Shield leggings, £65
I’ve long been a fan of New Balance kit – they’re the sponsor of the London Marathon and so always design styles that really function in sweaty situations.
Pros: These leggings fit me really well and moisture-wick, too – I wore them on a 10-mile long run and they were cool yet kept me at a good temperature. I found them to be stretchy – I didn’t have to jump to get into them, as with other leggings – and cameltoe-free, too.
Cons: As someone who’d always opt for a high waist option, these are lower rise and so won’t be for everyone. They didn’t fall down, but didn’t offer the same support around your stomach that other options did. Plus, they’re 7/8 length, better for petite people or those of you who prefer a cropped look.
Shape Shield 7/8 High Rise Pocket Tight – £65 | New Balance
Bottom line: Run big – size down – and aren’t as high waisted as other competitors | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure okay | Mid-range price point but worth the investment.
Best navy gym leggings – Hush Gettie Star leggings, £59
How cute are these star print leggings from Hush? Not only do they look great, but after testing them myself, I can confirm that they function well, too.
Pros: I was expecting these to show sweat patches really badly, but have been pleasantly surprised by how little mine showed (yes, I’m a sweaty person). While primarily designed for yoga – I’d likely not run in them – they’ve been great for the gym sessions I’ve worn them for and I love the matching bra. Thanks to the two-way stretch fabric they’re designed from, they hold you in in all the right places again, without cutting you in half or leaving you in discomfort. I loved the internal waistband pocket, big enough for headphones and keys, so I didn’t have to take a bag to the gym.
Cons: These leggings are only available in one length, meaning they won’t be the perfect fit for everyone – they fit me well, touching my mid-ankle, and I’m 5 foot 2. Similarly, they’re not as sweat-wicking as other options in this round-up, but a good option for lower impact strength or Pilates sessions.
Gettie Star Leggings – £59 | Hush
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking but do occasionally show sweat patches | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | Mid-range price point but worth the investment.
Best cheap gym leggings – ASOS 4505 Seamless leggings, £19.40
You’ll all have heard of ASOS – but did you know they have their own range of gym wear that starts at as little as £8.40?
Pros: I think that the ASOS 4505 range is great value for money, and comes in lots of fun styles and colours, too. I was pleasantly surprised by both the fit and sweat-wicking abilities of the pair I tried, and they were seamless, too – great to avoid chafing.
Cons: At such a low price point, I can’t imagine they’d last for years, and might end up smelling, too, but from the handful of times I tested them, they were a good bargain option if you’re someone who works out once or twice a week.
4505 Seamless Legging, now £19.40,
was £24 | ASOS
Bottom line: Fit well but lose structure slightly over time | Sweat-wicking but had a slight sweat patch | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure okay | Low price point.
Best gym leggings with pockets – LNDR Limitless legging, £98
LNDR believe in quality over quantity: producing better quality products and less of them for the sake of our planet. As a sustainable business, fun fact: it takes factories up to 20 times longer to knit LNDR seamless leggings compared to other mainstream brands. Hence the price tag.
Pros: When I first tried the LNDR leggings, I was surprised at how softer they are, and they feel similar to lululemon in terms of quality and support. They don’t roll up or down, sag or bag, and I found them to have great moisture-wicking capabilities, too. Plus, I loved the practicality of the zip pocket, making them a good option for runs where you don’t want your belongings flying out.
Cons: Again, a sizeable price tag, but I reckon they’re worth the investment.
The Limitless 8/8 Legging – £98 | LNDR
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure okay | High price point but worth the investment.
Best sweat-wicking leggings – UA Rush Tights, £44.97
Under Armour have successfully positioned itself as one of the leading competitors when it comes to fit kit in the last few years – and they’ve got some great workout kit currently available if you’re keen to feel confident in your kit choice.
Pros: The leggings are designed from their trademarked HeatGear Under Armour technology, which means they really are next-level good at sweat-wicking and making sure you stay the right temperature. Never heard of it? It’s a new and improved version of a fabric that’s been with them since the company began, and uses a special hidden print to make sure your leggings never fall down or slip during your workout. Did they stand the sweat test? Oh yep – just opt for the darker colourways if you sweat a lot, as they weren’t sweat-patch friendly.
Cons: It’s worth noting that they only come in one length that fitted me well at 5 foot 2.
UA RUSH HeatGear Stamina Ankle Tights – now £44.97, was £75 | Under Armour
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best compression gym leggings – adidas Formotion Tight, £65
Adidas are one of the most trusted fit kit brands on the planet – there’s a reason their leggings are in this round up twice. They’ve been making high-quality gym gear at an affordable price since 1949.
Pros: These are super high-waisted, offering that bit more support for your mid-section, which I personally liked. Available exclusively on the adidas site or in stores – no third party retailers – they’ve also got what they call a “zoned compression fit”, meaning my legs felt fresh after testing them at an hour speed session and they fit like a glove, too – thankfully, no saggy knees over here.
Cons: They’re sold at a higher price point and can’t be tumble dried, but we’d say they’re worth the investment for how much wear you’ll get out of them.
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive and offer compression | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best flattering gym leggings – Adanola Ultimate Leggings, £39.99
One of the most ‘Grammed workout brands, I was sceptical that Adanola’s kit wouldn’t live up to the hype or might just be better suited for brunch and Sunday walks. I was wrong – not only are they flattering, but they come in some gorgeous colours and actually support you through intense workouts, too.
Pros: They’re really supportive, holding you in at the waist without constriction your movement. I loved how high-waisted they are, and that you can get matching sets (the Coffee Bean bra with spaghetti straps is my current go-to).
Cons: They do pile a little if worn on things like wooden chairs, but not enough to notice. You also get small sweat patches in the lighter colours if you do a super intense workout, like an interval session.
Ultimate Leggings Coffee Bean – £39.99 | Adanola
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well| Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Best gym leggings for running – ON Running Active Tights, £90
Runners, these ones are for you. ON’s kit is top tier: made with high-quality materials and designed by runners, for runners, they’ve been working on their workout clothes for years and you can tell.
Pros: I tried the new black ON active tights and really loved them for both winter workouts and gym sessions. They’re soft to the touch and support you through most workouts without feeling like they’re cutting you in half. Plus, I liked the adjustable waistband (great to ensure that, at a higher price point, the leggings will fit perfectly) and the pocket, big enough for both your keys and phone.
Cons: They are 7/8 tights, so will be cropped at mid-calf length for taller runners, and closer to ankle length for shorter runners.
Active Tights – £90 | ON Running
Bottom line: Run big – size down – and can wrinkle around the knees | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive and offer compression | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | High price point but worth the investment.
Best petite gym leggings – Nimble Activewear, £75
Nimble’s workout bottoms come with the promise of maximum flexibility and movement combined with support in all the right places: there’s a style to flatter every body shape.
Pros: Similar to the Varley tights featured in this roundup, the Nimble leggings are high quality, and I thought offered great compression when tested. The seams are noticeable flat – zero chafing, here – which I find out after a little research are their signature “flatlock seams.” They’re great for petite women (like me) as most of their designs are 7/8 – a cropped look for taller women, and ankle-length on those under 5 foot 5.
Cons: They don’t have a zip-locked pocket, so make sure you’ve got a running pack to hand if you’re using for a run and plan to take essentials like keys and phone out with you on your jog.
High rise 7/8 tights – £75 | Nimble Activewear
Bottom line: Fit well | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Not prone to piling or bobbling | Wash and retain structure well | High price point but worth the investment.
Best period-proof leggings – ModiBodi Period proof leggings, £55
Did you know period-proof activewear existed? Well, you do now, and Modibodi’s is about as good as it gets.
Pros: When I read that these leggings can hold up to two to three tampons worth of period blood and promise to support you through any sweat session, I had to try. Tampons or pads can be seriously uncomfortable for some when you’re working out – no thanks, chafe – so these promise a more comfortable alternative. Find the idea a bit… ick? I thought I might too, but when I tested them, I kind of forgot I was on my period at all. They absorbed all blood and didn’t smell whatsoever. Simply pop in the wash post workout and you’re good to go.
Cons: They won’t be for everyone, sure – if you like feeling really protected during your period and know you’re prone to worry about leaks and so on, I’d swerve these leggings.
Period proof leggings – £55 | Modibodi
Bottom line: Run big – size down | Sweat-wicking | Non-see-through | Supportive | Slightly prone to piling and bobbling | Wash and retain structure well| Mid range price point but worth the investment.
Your gym legging buying guide: What to look for in a pair
Workout leggings are a bit like household appliances: if you’re using them often, it may be wiser to opt for a mid-range price point to guarantee you’ve made a good investment, in my opinion.
That said, there are also some must-look-out-fors – see below.
FYI, it’s worth going for a pair of gym leggings that are sweat-wicking. One easy way to test this? Place a drop of water on the material and see how fast it absorbs it. Workout leggings should be designed to absorb moisture, after all – you’ll notice it mid HIIT class if they aren’t.
Next up: make sure they’re not see-through. Sure, easier said than done, but I’d always recommend heading in the store or ordering online and then doing a series of squat tests in the mirror to confirm they are, in fact, enough cover.
Notice that they’ve faded over time? Take them in-store – if it’s within a certain time frame, the brand is obliged to offer an exchange.
Because no one likes a legging that doesn’t hold you in, right? Making sure your leggings are just the right amount of support – that is, makes you feel invincible but also doesn’t cut you in half – is a fine art. Again, trying on different types will be the best way to work out which ones are for you.
4. Flattering and functional
It’s all well and good if a pair look great, but if they roll down mid-spin class, crinkle around your knees during Barre, or fail to sweat-wick, you’ll likely chuck them in the back of your wardrobe and not wear them again.
Similarly, if leggings cut you off at the wrong point or you don’t feel you look good in them, you’ll likely not wear them all too often. Opt for a design that’s both flattering and functional.
5. Designed for working out
And finally, do check the fabric pre-investing – cotton leggings won’t make the cut here. You’ll want to opt for leggings made from fabrics like nylon or polyester as they sweat-wick better.
Similarly, you’ll want to check the seams are as flat as possible to avoid any chafing and that there’s a gusset – aka a bit of material covering your crotch – sewn in, again to minimise and reduce any movement or thigh chafe (read our round-up of the best chafing creams, here).
Best gym leggings: frequently asked questions
Which workout leggings are the best?
Short answer: it depends what workout you’re doing and what your preferences are.
I’ve indicated above which leggings I think are best from each brand and further, which are the best high waisted, petite, flattering leggings and so on.
Which gym leggings are most flattering?
Health Editor Ally Head’s personal favourites in terms of how flattering they looked and were to workout in were the:
What are the best leggings for HIIT workouts?
For a HIIT session, you’ll need leggings that are sweat-wicking, non-see-through, high waisted and offer compression, too. My recommendation? Try the Nike One Luxe leggings, £64.95.