The best gym leggings can be hard to find – throw the search term into Google and you'll get over 112,000,000 (!) results.
We know you want leggings that won’t fall down mid sweat, that'll hold you in without digging in, and that won’t give your fellow gym-goers a flash of your underwear in the middle of a perfect-form squat. We also know there’s nothing worse than investing in a new pair of leggings only to find they fall short when put to the test.
Perhaps you love strength training, adore a HIIT workout at home, or would rather sell a kidney than miss your Saturday morning circuits class – finding leggings that work as hard as you do, without breaking the bank, is crucial.
Fortunately, our Women's Health Lab experts have done the hard work and put a range of styles from the buzziest brands to the test to bring you the ultimate gym leggings guide.
Best gym leggings for 2023
How do I find the perfect pair of gym leggings?
1. Check that they're squat proof
Nobody needs see-through kit in their life. You want to feel totally confident that your leggings aren't exposing anything they shouldn't be.
To save you yourself the anxiety of a bum display, our panel of testers did the squat test in all the leggings we tested.
2. Check that they stay up
Low-waisted leggings may work for some but, for many, the added worry of baring your midriff is an unwelcome distraction when you’re trying to focus on remembering how to deadlift properly. Choosing the best high-waisted gym leggings may be a better option for you if you'd rather focus on your session than your midsection.
3. Check what they're designed for
It may seem like you’re killing two birds with one stone by buying running leggings for the gym but you’ll seriously regret it when your zipper is digging into your back as you’re trying desperately to maintain focus (and form) on flutter kicks. As a general rule of thumb, running leggings need reflective panels and zips for energy gels, whereas gym leggings don’t need any fancy add-ons.
4. Make sure they're tight enough but not too tight
And finally, invest in gym leggings that actually fit you. In other words, make sure they’re not going to rip come lunge twelve or fall down on burpee four. It’s a fine balance, but one thing to bear in mind is that they will stretch with wear, so sometimes choosing a more snug fit pays off.
How we test
Our expert testers at the WH Lab put over 50 pairs of gym leggings from a range of leading brands through their paces.
They tested any sweat-wicking claims by measuring moisture absorption and timing how long they took to dry in the lab. They also checked that size, shape and colour remained unchanged after several spins in the washing machine.
The leggings were also sent to our panel of 200 testers, with each pair trialled by up to eight people during at least three workouts. Our testers reported back on how they found their design, fit, comfort and performance.
They also shared their honest thoughts on a range of key factors, including how easy the leggings were to slip on and off, how the fabric and fit affected movement and how comfortable they felt after a session.
Our Women’s Health editors have also chipped in and shared their favourite styles – marked with the Editor's Choice logo – giving you plenty of choice.
1. Spanx Active Booty Boost High-Rise Stretch-Jersey Leggings
Why? If you’re a Spanx fan, you’ll love the brand’s Booty Boost leggings, which offer the same compressive fit as its much-loved shapewear. Our testers raved about the stretchy, supportive material that sculpts the glutes and waist in all the right places.
These luxe leggings don’t just look the part, though; they stayed firmly in place as we got our burpees and tuck jumps in, and they performed brilliantly in the moisture-wicking stakes, so heavy HIIT sessions will prove no problem. What’s more, there’s a nifty back pocket big enough to fit keys or a credit card.
The compressive material does make them slightly restrictive and not as cosy as other leggings on our list, but if you’re after figure-hugging activewear, these will be your new best friend. Size up to ensure comfort.
2. Montane Women's Katla Long Trail Tights
Why? Serious runners need serious running leggings, and this pair from Montane fits the bill perfectly. The clever design features handy zipped pockets on the sides and back for stashing valuables, breathable mesh panels behind the knees and ankles zips for ventilation, plus reflective detailing to help keep you visible when running in low light.
The material proved super lightweight and moved well with the body, while our panel praised the stretchy mid-rise waistband, but some testers would have appreciated more compression to help them feel adequately supported.
Note, they come up quite big, so consider sizing down to eliminate the need for any mid-run readjusting. All in all, a trusty pair of leggings for the great outdoors.
3. Gymshark Apex Seamless High Rise Leggings
Why? Gymshark leggings are probably all over your Insta feed, but do they live up to the hype?
Well, if this Apex Seamless style is anything to go by, that’s a resounding yes. The high waistband and compression-like material offer constant support without restricting movement, while strategic heat mapping zones promise to keep you cool, dry and comfortable, even during the sweatiest sessions.
The vibrant jacquard pattern and muscle contouring lines split opinion among our panel, with some testers loving their sculpting credentials (‘I’ve never received so many compliments for my leggings!’ said one tester) and others questioning the out-there design. The lack of pockets makes them less appealing for running, and they come up a touch small, but if you like to make an impression, you’ll love these.
4. Pocket Sport Plein Air Legging
Why? One of our fave pairs for getting a sweat on, our testers’ rave reviews showed exactly why this is one of Pocket Sport’s best-selling designs. They fitted well, with no gathering, gaping or slipping, while the high waist was supportive and provided just the right compression for high-impact workouts.
They also smashed our sweat-wicking lab tests, making them a breathable buy for pretty much every sort of exercise. Bonus points for the dreamy colourways, too.
5. MyProtein MP Power Ultra Leggings
Why? Jump, squat and burpee your way through your workout with these reliable, snug-fitting leggings that didn’t become see-through or chafe during testers’ workouts. They’re stretchy too, and thanks to the high waistband, everyone felt supported. However, while the mesh pockets look nice, most testers couldn’t fit their phones in. The design performed well in our lab tests though, so you shouldn’t feel too sweaty as the intensity rises.
6. Vuori Clean Elevation Leggings
Why? These luxe leggings aren't cheap, but when it comes to quality, they’re simply *chef’s kiss*. Our testers found them supremely comfortable and couldn't get enough of the flattering high-waisted fit and blissfully soft material. One particularly enthusiastic panellist declared that she could ‘live in them all day and all year.’
But trendy SoCal brand Vuori doesn’t sacrifice practicality for comfort. They stayed in place during a range of workouts, meaning no more mid-set hoicking up, and they allowed our testers to move freely.
Although they received a high score for sweat-wicking in our lab test, they did get a bit toasty during heavier sessions, making them best suited for milder activities such as Pilates, barre, yoga and walking. They’re also a dream if you like to live in activewear – our eds will be pairing them with oversized tees and white trainers for the foreseeable. In short, there’s little not to like.
7. Montane Women's Ineo Lite Capri Pants
Why? After a pair of leggings to take you from the gym to the trails? Then these should fit the bill; they’ve got well-placed pockets – on the leg and the waistband – so you can store all your essentials when running.
They also fitted our testers comfortably, and the soft fabric was flexible enough for everything from CrossFit workouts to cycling. Our only niggle: visible sweat patches due to their grey colour.
8. Sefi Timeless Leggings Tourmaline
Why? Not only do these leggings look très chic, but they’re also a doddle to slip on and off, and the compressive material offers plenty of support without feeling restrictive. They boast great booty-sculpting credentials and scored a respectable 4/5 in our sweat-wicking lab test.
The fabric is on the thicker side and there aren’t any pockets, so we wouldn’t reach for these for running or CrossFit. But for less vigorous workouts and daily errands, they’re top of our list.
Tall gals, we suggest sizing up or opting for full length over 7/8s, as our testers found they were cut quite snug.
9. Nike Pro 365 Women's High-Rise 7/8 Leggings
Why? If you've had your beloved black Nike Pros for as long as you can remember and can't bear to part ways with them or brave the big bad world of gym leggings and branch out, check out this pair – they're just as reliable but come in a snazzy royal blue colourway. They'll give you extra motivation to get moving and put that statement shade on display.
10. Everlane The Perform 24/7 Legging
Why? Everlane has gone and done the impossible. The brand has taken its best-selling Perform leggings with their lightweight compressive fit and sweat-wicking abilities and, after two years of hard work, has turned them into something even greater. These leggings will provide ultimate comfort 24/7 whether you're WFH or WOFH (working out from home). Mic drop.
11. Sweaty Betty Power Gym Leggings
Why? SB's power gym leggings are well known for their tip-top gym-creds and fashionably functional details. We're talking bum-sculpting, 4-way stretch, quick-drying and sweat-wicking fabric for your most sweaty cardio workouts.
What makes them even better? The adjustable drawcord, handy pockets and the fact that the stylish prints look just as good when it comes to squats as it does when it comes to snapping selfies on the sly.
12. H&M High Waist Sports Tights
Why? You may think of H&M as the brand you can always rely on to provide you with attractive yet cheap sportswear and while you wouldn’t be wrong, its many highly-rated pieces prove there is substance behind the savings.
This pair, which is made from fast-drying functional fabric, will ensure you stay cool, dry and committed to the task at hand. High waisted, long-legged and very purple, you'll also be sure to stand out no matter where you wear them.
13. Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Compression Leggings
Why? We’re always quick to recommend Girlfriend Collective when it comes to leggings, whether it be for yoga, to meet all your pocket requirements, or for performing at your best in the gym. Understandable when they have so much going for them.
Firstly, their leggings are made of recycled water bottles; secondly, they are extra-high rise; and thirdly, they are more than attractive in their many colourways. As aesthetically pleasing as they are technical, when it comes to all things gym, the GC compressive high-rise leggings are the perfect stretchy companion to your next lower or upper body day.
14. STAX Premium Seamless V5 Full Length Tights
Why? Had one too many encounters with unflattering fits in your lifetime? Not to worry. These celebrity-approved gym leggings have been designed to complement your curves with specially positioned panels, a seamless design and a high waisted cut. They also come in six soft shades so you'll have no trouble finding the right one for you.
15. Lorna Jane Marble Print Ankle Biter Leggings
Why? Marble is all the rage in the activewear world of late, and this mesmerising design is a great way to get on board the trend train and get exactly what you need from a pair of gym leggings.
Deadlift your way to stronger glutes without giving your bottom a second thought, thanks to the light-blocking tech providing maximum coverage. Feel respite from any heat you build thanks to the breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. And enjoy the freedom of movement that comes with 4-way stretch material as you lift, lower, lunge and leap.
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