When you’re working out in the gym, you need squat-proof, technical gym leggings – so all you have to think about is your workout
There’s much more to gym leggings than just looking good in the studio mirror – although that counts, too. You need a pair that won’t restrict your movements as you work out, and technical fabric that wicks away sweat to keep you dry and comfy. Leggings you don’t have to keep hitching up as you squat or hit the treadmill are also a must-have.
Different leggings are designed for different training needs and bodily movements. So, while your favourite running or yoga leggings might see you through a few workouts if you’re serious about your training, it pays to get leggings specifically designed for the gym.
We’ve been working out hard to find the best gym leggings for all budgets and training needs and, whether you like to lift heavy, HIIT it up, or blast a group exercise class, these are our training faves.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best treadmills
How to choose the best gym leggings for you
When you’re choosing the perfect gym leggings, there are a few things to consider:
Can I use leggings designed for any sport?
While you can get away with using other leggings for a while, you’ll be much more comfortable in gym-specific leggings.
Unlike running leggings, gym leggings tend to have fewer pockets and zips. Zips that aren’t ideally placed for the gym can become uncomfortable if you’re knocking out the sit ups or lying down to stretch. Running leggings tend to be slightly tighter than gym leggings, too, so you don’t have as much freedom of movement.
Yoga leggings are generally made from softer material and are flexible enough for most gym workouts, but they’re not made for sweatier pursuits. They may not wick away sweat as effectively and could leave you feeling overheated and a bit damp around the knees, bum and groin.
Are they made from technical fabric?
To keep you dry and avoid chafing and sweat patches, look for technical fabrics that “wick” sweat away from your skin. This is particularly important to keep you comfortable in high-intensity workouts.
If you tend to sweat heavily, don’t go for light colours as they show up damp patches and it can look like you’ve had an accident.
Do they pass the squat test?
You don’t want the whole gym to see your underwear when you’re on the exercise bike, so check that your leggings aren’t see-through when stretched. A few squats in front of the mirror should give you the answer.
Do they fit?
Your leggings should be snug enough to stay up but not so tight that they feel uncomfortable when you bend over. Make sure the waist is high enough that it doesn’t gape when you squat or sit, and the material doesn’t bag or become looser as you wear them. Good-quality gym leggings should stay put when you run or jump, too. If you’re in between sizes, look for leggings with a drawstring so you can adjust the waist.
How much should I spend?
Gym leggings are available at a wide range of prices. You can pay hundreds for a designer pair if looks are important, but you can also get a serviceable, technical pair of leggings from the high street for £20 or less.
If you can afford it, a mid-range pair from a quality sports brand is a solid bet. They should last you through hundreds of workouts without losing their shape or elasticity, and better quality fabric tends to smooth out any lumps and bumps. You’ll find many big brands release their popular gym leggings in different colours and patterns each season, so you can often find older colourways in the sale.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best running shoes
The best leggings to buy
1. H&M Sports tights: The best budget gym leggings
Price: £18 | Buy now from H&M
Many high-street stores now offer workout gear, and H&M is one of our favourites. Functional, fashionable and affordably priced, it has a sizable range of leggings for different types of training, and the sports tights are a great budget option for the gym.
The waistband is high enough that it doesn’t gape when you bend and snug enough to keep everything in place when you run, lunge and squat. The fast-drying fabric keeps you dry and there’s even a small, concealed pocket for your locker key.
They might not be as buttery soft or offer quite as much movement or support as some more expensive options, but they’re a solid, reliable basic to add to any workout wardrobe.
Key specs – Size range: XS-XL; Fabric: 79% polyester, 21% elastane
2. Sweaty Betty Power Leggings: The best all-rounder gym leggings
Price: From £75 | Buy now from Sweaty Betty
Billed as “multi-sport gym leggings”, the four-way stretch fabric means they move with your body making them suitable for classes, weights, yoga and even running outdoors – although you might want to tighten the waistband slightly if you go for a run as they’re not as tight as many running leggings. The fabric is 90% opaque, so passes the all-important squat-test. Seams are designed to flatter your bum, and with two pockets there’s room for your keys and phone.
Available in a range of colours and patterns, the Power also comes in two leg lengths – full length and 7/8. Full length is perfect for taller women, while 7/8 comes up as full-length on anyone 5ft 4in and under, so no more excess material around the ankles! The waist is a flattering mid-rise, coming to just below your belly button, but Sweaty Betty has recently introduced a high-waisted option, with an extra two inches, if you want more coverage.
Key specs – Size range: XXS-XXL; Fabric: 62% polyamide 32% elastane
3. Nike One Maternity: The best pregnancy gym leggings
Price: £55 | Buy now from Nike
Many women carry on training throughout their pregnancy, but in the second and third trimesters, as your bump grows, you’ll probably need to adapt your workout wardrobe. While you can usually get away with buying tops in a bigger size, maternity gym leggings offering comfort and support are a must-have.
Nike’s popular One training tights are consistently highly rated by wearers, and in 2020 it introduced a maternity option.
Designed to be worn during and after pregnancy, the breathable, wicking fabric grows with you – so they should see you through the full nine months. The stomach panel completely covers your bump, providing support as you work out, and can be folded down when you want to relax afterwards. They’re also good when you want a bit more support and coverage postpartum. There’s no pocket, though, so you’ll have to carry your phone if you’re taking it on the gym floor.
Key specs – Size range: XS-XXL; Fabric: 83% polyester 17% elastane
4. Gymshark Vital Seamless Leggings: The best high-waisted gym leggings
Price: £40 | Buy now from Gymshark
If you’ve been anywhere near Instagram in the past few years, you’ll definitely have seen a few pairs of Gymshark leggings. Known for their flattering fit, they’re a firm favourite with fitness influencers, and new colourways sell out fast.
The Vital Seamless 2.0 leggings have a high and slightly compressive ribbed waist, which stays firmly in place as you squat and run but isn’t so tight that it digs in. They’re contoured to flatter your bum and thighs and accentuate the shape of your legs – hence all those Insta gym selfies. The fabric is breathable and there are some great colours on offer – all dyed using dope dying technology, which uses less water, energy and chemicals so it’s better for the environment. These seamless leggings are slightly thicker than some leggings, so if you’re prone to overheating, you may find them best for weights and lower-intensity workouts.
Key specs – Size range: XS-XL; Fabric: 93% nylon 7% elastane
5. Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging: The best eco-friendly gym leggings
Price: From £65 | Buy now from The Sports Edit
US brand Girlfriend Collective specialises in sustainable, ethically made activewear. All its packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, and each pair of compressive leggings is made with 79% recycled polyester, containing 25 recycled plastic bottles.
That’s the eco-credentials ticked off, and these compression leggings score highly on fit and function, too. They come in a range of muted tones and the minimal style doesn’t look too sporty, so they’re perfect for wearing outside the gym.
The compression fabric means they fit snugly, don’t roll down, and provide support in your workouts. If you like a slightly looser fit, try Girlfriend Collective’s lightweight Float leggings instead.
We love the inclusive range of sizes – XXS-6XL (although most UK stockists only go up to XXXL) – and standard, capri and 7/8 lengths mean they’re good for shorter women, too.
Key specs – Size range: XXS-XXXL; Fabric: 79% recycled polyester, 21% spandex
6. Fabletics Define High-Waisted PowerHold Leggings: The best plus-size gym leggings
Price: From £50 | Buy now from Fabletics
It can be hard to find plus-size gym leggings in anything other than basic black. For some brands, larger sizes seem like a bit of an afterthought, but Fabletics has a great selection of colours and patterns in sizes up to 4X.
The Define leggings are made using Fabletics’ signature PowerHold fabric, which offers a compression fit to flatter your figure by keeping everything in place and supported as you work out. There’s a hidden pocket in the waistband for your locker keys and the technical fabric wicks away sweat. We love the high waist, too.
Fabletics has a VIP membership scheme, where you pay a monthly subscription for heavy discounts on regular prices, but unless you buy new activewear regularly, it’s probably more cost-effective to pay as a guest.
Key specs— Size range: XXS-4X; Fabric: 88% Polyester, 12% Elastane