Gyms and running trails are setting the stage for a new era of fashion — thanks to the popularity of activewear — and the new styles, patterns and colors of women's workout leggings that are coming out every month.
Having so many choices when it comes to women's workout leggings is a good problem to have, because now you can be both comfortable and stylish during a workout session or anywhere on the go. However, not all women's athletic leggings are created equal, and what works best for your long run might hinder your range of motion during hot yoga, or sag off your waist while you’re practicing your squat.
But, don’t fret! We’ve rounded up a few expert tips on how to fall in love with the perfect women's exercise leggings for you, no matter if you’re a marathoner or a kickboxing enthusiast.
Choose the Right Cut for Maximum Comfort
Women's exercise leggings, like all pairs of pants, are made in different styles and lengths. Most athletic leggings found online and in stores are made in one of a few different lengths. Here’s what you can expect when the following cuts are listed on the product page or tag:
- Full-length: Also commonly called ankle length, full-length leggings cover the entire length of the leg. Some even come with stirrup heels that fit around the bottom of your foot so no skin in showing.
- Capri: Athletic leggings made in the capri style are typically cut to hit just under the knee, meaning a portion of your leg will be uncovered. They’re perfect if you’re looking for something a little less constricting than full-length leggings, but want more coverage than a pair of shorts.
- Basic: Basic leggings can describe any number of leggings, athletic or not. They come in a variety of styles, ranging from full-length to ankle-length, and materials (including cotton, spandex and even denim).
- Boot-cut: Most athletic leggings are made to fit snuggly against your skin. Boot-cut leggings, on the other hand, are often made to fit around the hips and thighs and then flare at the bottom for maximum comfort. Yoga pants are often made in this style, as are more casual everyday leggings worn with boots instead of athletic shoes.
- Cropped athletic: These leggings are cut to hit around your mid-calf and are often made with materials that provide compression (like spandex and polyester) to help you move throughout your workout.
Leggings also differ in the amount of compression (elasticity) they offer, ranging from no compression (like with cotton yoga pants) to high compression that has been thought to help increase blood flow during strenuous workouts and help recovery afterward.
Rise — or how high the waistband of the leggings sits on your hips and waist — is another factor to consider. Women's workout leggings with higher rises help keep everything more “secure” and decrease the possibility that they’ll fall down during a downward dog or an intense HIIT session. Looser fits, like with cotton yoga pants, don’t stay in place as well during more high-impact exercises (like running), but are more comfortable for everyday wear.
Think About the Fabric
If you’re like most of us, you spend more time thinking about the print on your leggings than the material they’re constructed with. Natural fibers — like cotton — soak up and hold onto sweat, making it a poor choice for sweaty workouts like running. For that reason, they tend to be used in slower (but still challenging) yoga and weightlifting workouts.
That doesn’t mean that man-made fibers like spandex don’t have their place. Antimicrobial materials built in to polyester and spandex blends — like the materials that make up the FlipBelt athletic crop leggings — can help wick away the sweat (and keep the smell at bay) while giving you the compression and range of motion you need to power through the miles or biking down the trail.
Tip: Can’t get that unmistakable sweat smell out of your leggings after a workout? Skip the fabric softener in the wash and add a half-cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. It works to help neutralize the odors, while fabric softener can create a “coating” on the material over time that helps the smell stick around.
Consider the weather when choosing your women's workout leggings, especially if you work out outdoors. Always go for leggings made of moisture-wicking materials to help pull the sweat away from your skin to keep you cool (during the summer) and warm (in colder temperatures). Wearing athletic leggings made of polyester during the summer also gives extra protection against the sun’s strong ultraviolet rays. The material used for leggings come in different weights, so take in account what type of activity and the season you will be using them for. A more breathable and lighter weight material is a good choice for most activities.
Opt for a moisture-wicking polypropylene base layer to wick away sweat. Also, consider adding a layer made of fleece for extra warmth during those colder months.
Think About the Extras
The main job of your athletic leggings is to provide protection and comfort while you work out, but they can also double as your personal assistant with pockets and other compartments.
Take the FlipBelt Crops, for instance: The three-quarter length women's workout leggings come with a built-in FlipBelt to hold your keys, phone, medication and other necessities while you run or bike. The rear zippered pocket also provides extra secure storage compartment for cash or other items.
Tip: Don’t have pockets or a belt on your athletic leggings? Invest in a FlipBelt to keep your must-haves secure and out-of-sight during your workout.
“Try” Before You Buy
Quality varies from brand to brand, so that’s why it’s important to first “try on” a variety of women's workout leggings before you put your hard-earned money on the line. Buyer reviews are a good place to start, especially when you buy online.
Look for reviews that give insights on the size and fit — like if the leggings are true to size, or run big or small. Also, look for buyer reviews about the quality of the material: Is the fabric thick, or see-through when you squat and stoop? Are the leggings made well with quality stitching, and will they last through several turns through the washing machine and dryer?
Choose a store with a guaranteed return policy before you buy, too, even if the reviews are mostly positive.
And Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Your athletic leggings are there to help you perform, but can help you show off your personality, too. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles and options— after all, your workouts should be fun!