15 best workout leggings of 2024, according to experts


What you wear during a workout is essential to how you feel before, during and after any exercise. If your clothes aren’t inspiring you to move or are distracting you from your fitness session, you probably aren’t getting the most of that run in the park or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class. That’s why it’s essential to have a pair — or multiple pairs — of secure workout leggings that feel good.

We spoke to experts about what separates a decent pair of leggings from a great pair, how your movements impact your legging choice and what to look for when shopping. We also rounded up a list of their workout legging recommendations and NBC Select staff favorites that align with expert guidance.  

SKIP AHEAD The best workout leggings | How to shop for workout leggings

How we picked the best workout leggings

When shopping for workout leggings, our experts recommend keeping the below factors in mind. 

  • Type of workout. The leggings you pick should depend on your form of training. If you prefer low-impact exercises, like yoga and pilates, consider options with slight compression that still feel lightweight and allow for easy movement, says Vanessa Willett, a certified trainer and group fitness coach. High-intensity and high-impact workouts may necessitate quick-drying materials with a tighter compression, according to Willett.  
  • Fit. When it comes to fit, you want your leggings to be form-fitting, stretch in all the right places and stay in place as you move through your workout, says Rachel Coyle, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.  
  • Price. Legging prices can vary greatly; our list has options starting at $30.

The best workout leggings

Below, we rounded up expert-recommended leggings, NBC Select-staff favorites and highly rated options we think you should know about. Every item on our list is moisture wicking; we also included options across various price points and fabric makeups.

Lululemon Wunder Train High Rise Tights With Pockets

These leggings, which won an NBC Select Wellness Award for best overall leggings for all activities, come recommended by Coyle. “They are the perfect combination of maintaining a soft material while still having that high compression that I prefer when doing high-intensity workouts,” she says. I also like and own these leggings, which I wear on days when I focus on high-impact and intensity workouts; my colleague NBC Select updates editor Zoe Malin prefers to wear them for barre, Pilates and cardio. Plus, they come in three lengths and have an adjustable waistband drawcord that helps prevent the leggings from slipping or folding. 

Fabric: 77% nylon, 23% lycra elastane | Best for: All workouts | Size range: 0-20 | Inseam: N/a

Alo 7/8 High-Waist Airlift Legging

If you prefer strength training, Willett recommends these leggings, which she says offer more compression than other leggings she’s tried. She also likes that they stay in place as you move and have a thick fabric that is great for sweatier workouts because it keeps you dry during and after, according to Willett. The lightweight and breathable fabric is also thick enough that they’re not see-through as you squat and lift weights, she says. They come in 19 colors, including black, plum and teal. 

Fabric: 82% polyester, 18% elastane | Best for: Strength training | Size range: XXS-XL | Inseam: 24.25 inches, 24.75 inches

Lululemon Align Leggings

These are great for low-impact workouts, including yoga, Pilates and barre, according to Coyle. The buttery soft leggings offer a slight compression, but are stretchy at the same time, so they let you move comfortably without feeling constricted, according to Willet, who also says that they are great for heated classes since they are moisture-wicking and dry quickly. They come in 16 colors and have four lengths: 23 inches, 25 inches, 28 inches and 31 inches. 

Fabric: 81% nylon, 19% lycra elastane | Best for: Yoga, Pilates and barre | Size range: 0-20, 4 lengths | Inseam: N/a

Spanx Soft and Smooth ⅞ Leggings

These NBC Select Wellness Award winners for best running leggings are made with a smooth compression fabric that doesn’t feel restrictive. “I have sensitive skin that most athletic clothing winds up leaving marks on my body, but I have never had this issue with the Spanx leggings,” says NBC Select editorial project manager Rebecca Rodriguez. “With each wash, they get softer and I can easily pick them out of my sea of black leggings just from their buttery feel.” They also have a high-rise waistband that holds you in and hugs your hips and waist to prevent it from slipping as you run, says Malin. 

Fabric: 69% polyester, 31% lycra elastane | Best for: Cardio | Size range: XS-3X | Inseam: 25 inches

Neiwai Mousse Light Support High Waist Leggings

The nylon-spandex blend gives these leggings the perfect level of compression, according to NBC Select editorial director Lauren Swanson. I also own them and like to wear them during barre and yoga classes, where I move my body around in  many positions. I love that I never need to readjust my pants in the middle of class because the waistband doesn’t roll down. The brand also has an option with medium compression that comes with a high-visibility stripe for safety in low-light conditions and side pockets to store essentials, which is great for those who prefer to run or exercise outdoors 

Fabric: 80% nylon, 20% spandex | Best for: Yoga, Pilates and barre | Size range: XS-XL | Inseam: 30 inches

Crz Yoga Butterluxe Yoga Leggings 

If you want a pair with minimal compression and more stretch, Coyle recommends these high-rise leggings that have a seamless waistband. “Crz leggings are great because they have the high-end feel and quality of other leggings at a much more affordable cost,” says Coyle. 

Fabric: 81% polyamide, 19% lycra elastane | Best for: Yoga, Pilates and barre | Size range: XXS-XL | Inseam: N/a

Brooks Running Movement Tight

These are incredibly reliable for runs of any distance since they never get itchy or slip, says Malin, who runs five miles a day. They have minimal seams, pockets for convenient storage and a wide-mesh waistband to secure them on your body, according to the brand. They’re also sweat-resistant and dry quickly, so you don’t have to worry about sweat showing in awkward places, says Malin. 

Fabric: 74% recycled polyester, 26% spandex | Best for: Cardio | Size range: XS-XXL | Inseam: 27.5 inches

Lskd Fusion Full Length Legging

These are also great for long runs, according to Swanson, who wore them during New York City marathon training because of its breathable fabric and secure waistband. “These hug you so well without causing chafing or the leggings to fall down,” says Swanson. They run true to size, according to the brand, and are available in bright and neutral color options.

Fabric: 70% polyester, 30% elastane | Best for: Cardio | Size range: 2XS-3XL | Inseam: N/a

Athleta Salutation Stash Tight

If you need one pair of leggings that can do it all, these are it. I wear them to HIIT classes and Pilates and like that they pass the squat test, meaning they are not see-through. They have just the right amount of compression to keep things in place, and I like that they come with exterior pockets to hold essentials like my phone and headphones. 

Fabric: 75% nylon, 25% lycra elastane | Best for: All workouts | Size range: XXS-3X, including petite, regular and tall | Inseam: 25 inches, 27 inches, 30 inches

Beyond Yoga Spacedye Caught In The Midi High Waisted Legging

These high-waisted, moisture-wicking leggings have a 4.7-star average rating from 2,260 reviews at Beyond Yoga. “These are genuinely some of the yummiest, butteriest leggings I’ve ever worn,” says NBC Select editor Lindsay Schneider. “They have a warm coziness that makes them really nice to wear during colder months.” They’re available in more than 15 colors and do not have any outside seams, according to the brand. Reviewers say they are great for hot yoga classes because they don’t roll down or slip, and the fabric stays dry and absorbs sweat without leaving wet spots. 

Fabric: 87% polyester, 13% elastane | Best for: Yoga | Size range: XXS-4X | Inseam: 25 inches

Knix LeakStrong Leakproof Leggings

Working out while on your period can be daunting, but with these workout leggings, which have a built-in leak-proof liner that acts like a pad, you don’t have to worry, according to Malin. “Knix says you can go commando with these leggings, which I don’t do, but it’s reassuring knowing the pad is there since there’s always a chance of leakage, especially on hour-long runs,” says Malin. They have a phone pocket on the side and anti-chafe bonded seams too, for comfort. 

Fabric: 70% nylon, 30% lycra | Best for: Training | Size range: XS-XXXL | Inseam: 25 inches

Zella Studio Luxe High Waist Pocket 7/8 Leggings

These are one of my most used pairs of leggings and a staple in my closet for low-impact classes like yoga and barre. I love that they’re moisture-wicking, so I don’t see sweat coming through, and they stay soft no matter how many times I’ve worn and washed them. As someone who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, I prefer leggings that don’t hit my ankle right at my sock line, so I love that these come in a ⅞ length. Like other options on our list, they also come with a pocket to hold your phone. 

Fabric: 74% nylon, 26% spandex | Best for: Yoga, Pilates and barre | Size range: XS-XL | Inseam: 24 inches

Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging

These NBC Select Wellness Award-winning leggings for best training leggings have medium compression and a structured, secure fit that doesn’t leave you feeling restrictive during weight lifting sessions and cycling classes, according to former NBC Select editor Christina Colizza. NBC Select manager of editorial operations Shari Uyehara also wears these leggings and says the fabric is thick enough so that it isn’t see-through and is sculpting so everything stays in place as you move. The leggings are available in 10 colors, including neutrals and brightly colored options.

Fabric: 79% recycled plastic bottles, 21% spandex | Best for: Training | Size range: XXS-6XL | Inseam: 19 ½ inch, 23 ¾ inch, 28 ½ inch

Lululemon Base Pace High Rise Tight

These are a great option for those who like HIIT workouts or running since they feel lightweight and have a pocket big enough to fit your phone, according to Willett. In my experience, these feel like you’re not wearing anything at all, which is why they’re my most used pair of leggings. What adds to this feel is that, unlike other leggings on this list, these have an unhemmed bottom, making them feel less suffocating, comfortable and lightweight to move in, in my experience. 

Fabric: 84% nylon, 16% lycra elastane | Best for: HIIT and cardio | Size range: 0-20 | Inseam: N/a

Old Navy High-Waisted PowerSoft Leggings 

These Old Navy leggings have an elasticized waistband that sits right at your belly button and on-seam pockets for storage of your workout essentials, according to the brand. “These are hands down my favorite leggings,” says Schneider. “I now compare every other pair I try to these. I love how much they suck me in, the 23% spandex really makes a difference and the pockets are just so helpful to have. Plus, the price tag doesn’t hurt either; they’re super affordable compared to other leggings I’ve tried.” 

Fabric: 77% nylon, 23% spandex | Best for: Yoga, Pilates and barre | Size range: XS-4X, including petite and tall | Inseam: 26 inches, 28 inches, 32 inches

How to shop for workout leggings

The experts we spoke to say that workouts result in different movement and sweat levels, therefore requiring options with different materials and fit. 

Material 

Look for moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester and nylon, which wick sweat away, according to Lynn Montoya, a personal trainer and HIIT and spin instructor. Similarly, moisture-wicking fabrics and overall breathability are helpful for specific activities like HIIT classes, says Montoya.

If you want leggings that will move with you, consider options spandex, lycra elastane and elastane, which will stretch themselves to their max and still get back to their original shape after stretching, according to Deborah Young, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Art. Although they are quite stretchy they’re not the most durable since the elastomeric fibers in them aren’t the strongest or longest-lasting, says Young.   

Durability

Leggings need to be durable against sweat and multiple washes over time. Look for options made from strong fabrics, like nylon, with reinforced seams to withstand the wear and tear of frequent use, as well as hold up to frequent washing and drying, says Montoya. 

Both polyester and nylon tend to be the gold standard for workout leggings because of their moisture-wicking abilities and durability, according to Young. This is because of their elastic recovery, which means they revert back to their original shape after stretching without losing their formfitting qualities — they don’t sag or stay baggy like cotton would if stretched, says Young. The difference between the two is that nylon tends to be a little lighter, stronger and more expensive, whereas polyester is a bit cheaper but still holds up in comparison, according to Young. 

Design

Aside from the material, consider options with pockets, straps and reflectors. To help secure your leggings and ensure a comfortable fit, Willett recommends options with waist cords. If you are a frequent runner, look for leggings with a space to hold keys, phones, credit cards and more, says Coyle. You can also look for options with reflectors or logos because these will help passersby see you in low-light conditions and are a subtle safety feature. 

Fit

Remember your height and double-check the leggings’ inseam when shopping. Similarly, if leggings are too loose in the waist and you’re constantly pulling them up while trying them on, you’ll likely have issues during your workout sessions.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Lynn Montoya is a certified personal trainer, health coach and group fitness instructor based out of Tustin, CA. 
  • Rachel Coyle is a certified personal trainer in Washington, DC. She’s been in the fitness industry for over seven years, and coaches high-intensity interval training classes. 
  • Vanessa Willett is a certified personal trainer in Washington, DC. Alongside personal training, she teaches various group fitness classes, including HIIT and strength training. 
  • Deborah Young is an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Art, where she teaches courses on textiles. Her expertise includes fiber and fabric analysis, pattern and design classification and end-use evaluation.

Why trust NBC Select?

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter covering beauty and wellness, whose recent stories include roundups of the best shampoos for damaged hair and self care gifts. For this story, she interviewed experts and researched highly rated workout leggings that were in line with expert guidance.

Katrina Liu is a former digital editorial intern for NBC Select.

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