How often have you been in the gym at the squat rack, loaded up your barbell, perfected your form and bent down, only for your gym leggings to go down with you? Not chic, or helpful.
A great pair of gym leggings will feel like a second skin – and move like one too. Which means no budging whether you’re lunging, jogging or stretching. They’ll be completely opaque, and you’ll feel comfortable and confident them. They should support your workout so well that you don’t give them even a second thought. No mean feat, right?
Well, after a successful round-up of the best sports bras, our team took on scouting out the best leggings at affordable price points, and trialing them for every kind of workout so that you can shop (and squat) safely.
Seven of us have hit the gym (or in some cases, the living room) to put the best pairs to the test.
Best It brand: Tala’s Sculpt Seamless Scrunch legging in taupe, £52
Reviewed by: Fashion Editor Krissy Turner
Leggings size: 12 (I took a size medium in these)
Exercise: Low impact strength training
I came across Tala after spotting the brand at least once a day on my Instagram feed and I was instantly intrigued. The colourways are chic (right up my street), the price point is affordable (another tick from me) and the product descriptions picked up on all my favourite gymwear buzzwords: ‘flattering’, ‘second-skin’ and ‘smoothing’, if you’re wondering.
First things first, the ‘scrunch’ detail which starts just above the bum works absolute wonders. I almost didn’t bother with the workout since the leggings were that flattering. Typically, I do low impact training, so as much as I can’t vouch for how well the leggings stayed in place after jumping and sprinting, I did bend and squat lots, and the waistband didn’t budge and sat comfortably the whole time.
I really appreciated the discreet branding too, as I’m not keen on anything too showy in the gym. Comfort-wise, they’re super soft and lightweight, but still sucked me in nicely. I only wish I’d got them in black: while this taupe shade is quite chic in general, I think a darker shade would be far more flattering, but now I know they’re brilliant, I’ll happily invest in a black pair.
Best on a budget: M&S Goodmove’s Go Move high waisted gym leggings, £27.50
Reviewed by: Fashion Content Creator Lottie Franklin
Leggings size: 10
Exercise: Reformer pilates
The savviest sportswear buy for bagging a pair of leggings under £30 has to be the M&S Goodmove range. I wriggled my way into this high waisted pair and was happy to find they hugged onto my legs with a slick and smart finish. They not only pulled in my tummy with the elasticated waistband, but my thighs as well for a supportive tight fit – ideal for a reformer pilates class where any illusion of extra strength is a bonus.
My favourite colour for leggings is normally plain black – it’s the most flattering and I like to mix and match my tops. Plus the fabric of these has a satisfying shine, making them look way more expensive than they are, as well as having all the technology to ensure any sweat dries away quickly. An added bonus (but something I always now look for) is their useful pockets – a back one as well as a side pocket for storing things for the journey to the gym. I’m a ClassPass fan and like to switch up my classes, so depending on how far away it is, I like to have leggings that’ll work for a walk there and back too.
Best for pregnancy: Nike One high-waisted leggings (maternity), £59.95
Reviewed by: Editor Joanna Bridger
Leggings size: 12-14 (a medium in these)
Exercise: Pregnancy yoga
Comfortable trousers during pregnancy are hard to come by, so I discovered early in my first trimester that stretchy, supportive leggings are a must-have. And their use has gone way beyond workouts – from casual weekend outfits to lounging at home, leggings have me covered. So believe me, I’ve tried a lot, and this Nike pair are one of my favourites.
The 75 per cent recycled polyester and elastane mix is tightly woven so it smooths over skin without feeling restrictive during exercise. The waistband easily pulls up over my bump (and warning, it does come up high) but it can also be folded down post-workout or if I don’t want the support.
The leggings in the regular length are long enough to gather slightly at my ankles (I’m 5’6) – a big tick from me as I hate ones that sit too short.
As for the all-important see-through test, these pass with flying colours. Even when the fabric stretches over my bump, it’s not at all sheer. The colour remains dark black – it really makes them the perfect pair of leggings, whether for workout or weekend.
Just watch out if you have a pet at home, the fabric does tend to collect every bit of fluff – and in my case – my Dachshund’s hair. Have a lint roller at the ready!
Best investment pair: Vuori Clean Elevation legging, £100
Reviewed by: Beauty Editor Rebecca Fearn
Leggings size: 10-12 (a size medium, but could have gone for a small)
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times: Vuori activewear is THE BEST. I have one bra and a couple of pairs of leggings, and every time I wear them, I am inundated with compliments and questions.
My absolute favourite thing about them is the material; they are made from the softest fabric ever, even better (IMO) than the likes of Lululemon. They feel like a cloud, and stretch to your body as you exercise.
You may want to size down with these; I am a medium usually (including in other Vuori styles), but I feel like I could have gotten away with a small as I like my sports leggings to feel really snug and fitted, especially as I use them most for spin classes where anything too big can slip down easily.
I can’t recommend these enough, and despite them being pricey, I think they’re worth every penny. My other pair from Vuori have lasted really well, so the cost per wear will go down dramatically as you continue to reach for them at every gym visit.
Most interesting design: Hush Gettie Star leggings, £59
Reviewed by: Editorial Assistant Laren Tayyip
Leggings size: Small
This is the first time I have tried activewear from Hush and I absolutely loved these leggings. They’re super-soft and fit like a glove thanks to the two-way stretch fabric. That being said, they still have the perfect amount of breathing space. There’s nothing worse than exercising in a pair of leggings that stick to you without letting you move comfortably. I would definitely recommend staying true to size even if you think you want a tighter fit as the leggings really do mould to fit your body.
My favourite feature is the waist band which tucks your stomach in. I love a bit of extra support. Practicality is also SO important when it comes to exercise. These leggings have an internal pocket located inside the waistband which worked wonders when I needed somewhere to put my keys and phone when running.
Although they are a bit pricey and more than I would typically spend on a pair of leggings, they are 100% worth the money. I have started to invest more in pieces of clothing which make me feel good. And not to mention, they have the cutest star design along the bottom half of the legs and are made from 78% recycled polyamide. That’s always a plus!
Best for practicality: Pocket Sport Claude pocket leggings, £55
Reviewed by: Beauty Content Creator Hannah Thompson
Leggings size: 10 (a small in these)
I’ve pretty much always been an advocate for affordable activewear, but after trying Pocket Sport my mind might have been swayed. Immediately I was impressed by the quality and feel of the material. The material was about half as thin as my usual workout leggings so I wasn’t convinced they would be able to deliver on the “sucking everything in” effect that I like (isn’t that 99% the point of gym clothes?). I needn’t have worried, as when I put them on they made me look even more sculpted than my usual gym leggings.
When it came to the workout, I was really impressed with the fit. I normally have to hike up my current gym leggings a few times throughout my session (not ideal), but these stayed put around my waist without being uncomfortably tight.
Also, can we talk about pockets in gym leggings? What a revelation. I’ve always avoided running because how do you carry things?! Well, I could easily fit my phone, cards and keys into these roomy pockets so you may get me running yet. Top marks for practicality and fit.
Best for petites: Power high waist gym leggings, £80
Reviewed by: Picture Editor Tivina Elliot-James
Leggings size: 12 (a medium in these)
First impressions of these leggings are great! The feel of the fabric is super thick which is reassuring (and they’ve basically won me over already.)
I went for the 7/8 length and as someone who is 5’4 (and a half) and straddles the line of regular length and petite, I can honestly say it is very rare that I have a pair of leggings that doesn’t give me that granny ankle finish. So I was pleasantly surprised that I had the perfect regular length fit by following the suggested tip for those 5’4″ or under – try 7/8 as full length.
Once on, I could see why they are called POWER high waisted. You really feel secure and held in these leggings. I wore these in a HIIT class and all those classic arms up moments during burpees (when your t-shits skims your tummy) I felt confident that my tummy was covered and there was no chance of a jiggle. Another test for a great pair of gym leggings has to be the squat and these are not going to let you down on that front either – there’s nothing see-through about these. Verified by my friend who was behind me in the class.
All round I loved these, the fit, the fabric and the supportive feel. One tiny thing if I had to pick was the placement of the pocket on the leg, I would prefer to have one more discreetly hidden in the waist band. But, realistically I will probably never use it. Totally happy with them and they’re now my firm favourites.