The best gym leggings can be hard to find – throw the search term into Google and you’ll get over 115,000,000 (!) results.
We all 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 deadlift. 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.
Whether 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 2024
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 60 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.
Lululemon Wunder Train High Rise Leggings
It was hard to find fault with Lulu’s staple training tights, which blew us away in every department. One panellist said they’re ‘the best pair of gym leggings I’ve ever owned,’ and another told us they would recommend them to anyone and everyone.
Thanks to the breathable, sweat-wicking material (they scored full marks in our lab tests), they saw testers through the toughest, most burpee-filled workouts in comfort. They also passed the squat test with flying colours, offering plenty of coverage during heavy lifts, hinges and snatches.
The sculpting fabric and high-rise waistband combine to provide a supportive fit, and there’s also a handy drawcord at the waist to keep everything in place as you work up a sweat.
Want to wear them outside the gym? The soft, weightless fabric is ideal for Sunday morning coffee runs and WFH days too. We would have liked a larger pocket for our essentials but we’re willing to let that slide given the otherwise impressive list of features.
Gymshark Vital Seamless Leggings 2.0
Gymshark leggings are probably all over your Insta feed, but do they live up to the hype?
Well, if this Vital 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 breathable mesh dots and advanced moisture-wicking tech promise to keep you cool and dry even during the most intense sessions. ‘I never sweated through them,’ confirmed one tester, and another said they didn’t reveal any sweat patches. Excellent stuff.
According to our panel, the seamless design also prevented any dreaded camel toe, and everyone loved their sculpting credentials. Despite the compression, they were comfy enough to wear for extended periods and didn’t need constant readjusting.
The lack of pockets makes them less appealing for running, but they’re the dream for strength sessions, HIIT and hot yoga. We want them in every single colourway now.
Adanola Ultimate Wrap Over Leggings
We’re huge fans of cult-favourite athleisure brand Adanola here at WH so we had high expectations when these gorj leggings arrived at the lab. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint. Our panel was instantly impressed with the flattering wrap-over design, with many saying they complemented their curves and made them feel more confident. The seam-free panel at the front for preventing camel toe earned them extra brownie points.
With exceptionally soft fabric and just the right amount of stretch, our testers were able to bend, stretch and flow through yoga and Pilates classes in total comfort. The stylish design meant they enjoyed wearing them for post-workout coffee and brunching, too.
They don’t claim to wick away sweat, however, so we’d save them for low-impact workouts such as Pilates, barre and #HotGirlWalks. We found they come up small, so go for a size up if you’re umming and ahing.
Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity Leggings
Serious runners need serious running leggings, and this ‘faultless’ Sweaty Betty pair fits the bill nicely. The clever design features handy zipped pockets on the sides and at the back for stashing valuables, a drawcord for adjusting the fit and keeping everything in place, plus reflective detailing to keep you visible when running in low light.
The material proved super lightweight – it scored top marks in our sweat-wicking lab test – and unlike some leggings, which can be itchy and unpleasant when wet, these felt gloriously soft against the skin when running. They hit the perfect balance between compressive and comfortable, and they looked great on all body types. One keen runner on our panel told us they, ‘really could not find fault,’ with them, while another panel member declared they’re ‘hands down the best running leggings out there.’ We’re sold.
MyProtein Women’s Tempo Ultra Leggings
You’ve probably tried MP’s legendary protein bars and powders, but the brand’s activewear should also be on your radar. This super-sweat-wicking pair will keep you cool, calm and collected as you put in the work, whether it’s a spicy HIIT sesh or a 5k PB attempt. They even have an antimicrobial finish to keep them feeling (and smelling) as good as new.
There’s nothing worse than peeling off a wet, sticky pair of leggings post-workout, but these were a cinch to slip off after exercise. Despite the snug, secure fit, our testers found the fabric exceptionally comfy, with one saying it felt ‘buttery soft’ and ‘luxurious’. They also appreciated the roomy pockets for storing their bits and bobs when running or walking around the gym.
The fit was on point for the tall gals on our panel, so if you’re on the petite side, look to one of our other options, such as the New Balance 7/8s. All in all, an excellent all-rounder that can handle any type of workout.
Vuori Studio Pocket Leggings
Fed up stashing your stuff in your sports bra? There’s no such problem with these practical Vuori leggings, which boast two generous side pockets for your phone and cards and a hidden pocket in the waistband that’s large enough for your keys. Hallelujah!
As with all Vuori pieces, the quality of the fabric is *chef’s kiss*. It’s on the thicker side, which means these leggings are ultra supportive, squat-proof and offer a streamlined silhouette – a feature that proved popular among panellists. They didn’t ride up or down during exercise and despite the high level of support, they scored highly for comfort and gave testers the freedom to move as they pleased.
Wear them for low and moderate-impact workouts or just for lounging around the house. Granted, they are on the pricier side at £100, but they’re an investment that will be with you for years to come.
New Balance Shape Shield 7/8 High Rise Pocket Tight
Petite girls, wave goodbye to floor-trailing tights and roll-up jobs – these 7/8s from the legends at New Balance are the perfect all-rounders if you’re on the shorter side.
Made with the brand’s high-tech DRYx fabric, they scored full marks in our lab sweat-wicking tests and will do the job nicely for all your cardio days. The high-waisted design holds everything in and serves up extra coverage when you’re moving around. Testers rated the figure-hugging fit and loved that they didn’t need constant readjusting mid-activity.
Given the top-notch support, our panellists were surprised with how velvety soft and comfortable they felt. ‘They were so comfortable, I forgot I was wearing them!’ one tester told us. They have a decent-sized pocket for storing your phone on runs, they dried in a flash when wet and maintained their quality after several goes in the washing machine. What more could you want?
Spanx Active Booty Boost High-Rise Stretch-Jersey Leggings
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.
Pocket Sport Plein Air Legging
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.
Myprotein MP Power Ultra Leggings
Yes, it’s Myprotein again. 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.
Vuori Clean Elevation Leggings
These luxe leggings aren’t cheap, but when it comes to quality, they’re hard to beat. 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.
Montane Women’s Ineo Lite Capri Pants
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.
Sefi Timeless Leggings Tourmaline
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.
Nike Pro 365 Women’s High-Rise 7/8 Leggings
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.
Everlane The Perform 24/7 Legging
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.
Sweaty Betty Power Gym Leggings
SB’s power gym leggings are well known for their tip-top gym-creds and fashionably functional details. We’re talking bum-sculpting, four-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.
H&M High Waist Sports Tights
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.
Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Compression Leggings
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.
Yanar was our former Fitness Group Testing Manager. She managed health and fitness product testing across all the magazines, overseeing all testing processes and ensuring our lab and panel tests are conducted to the highest standards. Yanar spent 15 years as a health and wellness content editor and writer for national titles such as Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health. Yanar is a Level 3 qualified PT, trained yoga teacher and a registered yoga therapist. She has been into fitness and wellness her whole life. After many years running races and marathons, she now trains and competes in CrossFit and Olympic lifting. She passionately advocates strength training for women to build a stronger mind and body for life.