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Best running leggings for women 2021: Comfortable, sleek and supportive leggings for sprints, marathons and more

Martha Alexander
23 Sep 2021
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Guarantee a comfortable, distraction-free run with our guide to the best running leggings for women

Running is one of the most liberating things you can do – hello endorphin boost, time alone, cardio joy, increased step count, happy heart and improved muscle tone – but trying to run without decent kit is going to put you on a road to nowhere.

While for women bras and trainers are probably the two most important pieces of running kit, the value of good running leggings can’t be overlooked. After all, chafing, sagging and – for want of a clearer phrase – wedgies are only going to hamper even the most determined of athletes.

Running leggings should make the wearer feel light and free, and be almost like a second skin. They should make running the focus and be a joy to wear, instilling confidence, comfort and a love for the simplicity of running.

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How to choose a pair of running leggings

What’s the fit like?

Running leggings should feel tight – size down rather than up if you’re in between sizes – but not painful. Sagging leggings are going to be distracting, especially if you find yourself having to pull them up mid-run.

A high waist is going to make you feel secure and held in. It will also be less likely to sag.

Length is a matter of personal preference: some people favour a cropped Capri, while others want full length. However, in the long UK winters, no one will ever regret full length.

READ NEXT: Stay comfortable with the best running shoes

How do you feel about seams?

Seams (or a lack of) are a big deal when it comes to leggings. Some are more like tights, seamless and sleek, while others have an intricate web of flat seams across the fabric. A badly designed or installed seam is going to either itch, chafe or dig in uncomfortably.

Are there pockets?

There should be pockets for keys, cash or a phone. This is often found at the back of the waistband, although some leggings have hidden “flat” pockets down the side of the legs. These pockets should either be deep or come with a zip. Running without pockets means you have to hold your essentials, which can be distracting.

What do they offer that will actively improve your run?

Is the fabric especially light? Does it include a waterproof or quick-dry material? Are there features to stop the wearer from getting too hot? What about reflective stripes for nighttime runs? Is there a fabric that reduces sweat or soothes muscles?

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The best running leggings for women

1. Zero Gravity High-Waisted Running Leggings: Best for comfort

Price: £95| Buy now from Sweaty Betty

Providing support, sleekness and structure while being light and thin, these could well be the most comfortable leggings we’ve ever worn. Everything has been beautifully designed with comfort in mind, specifically for runners. Not only this, but the bum sculpting claim is, joyfully, true. You feel lifted and perky, unlike with so many leggings, which can feel cumbersome and clunky.

Not only are these sweat-wicking, they’re also quick-drying, which will be music to the ears of cross-country runners everywhere. After a particularly rainy 5k jog, these dried off in just 10 minutes after the sun came out.

There’s a small back waist pocket and deep hidden side pockets, so plenty of hands-free running is possible.

The only complaint is that the adhesive reflective strip on the back of the right leg started to peel after one wear, which is a little disappointing given the price.

Key specs – Sizes: XXS/S to XL/16; Material: 59% polyamide, 41% elastane; Colours available: 1; Pockets: 2

Buy now from Sweaty Betty


2. Running Technical Leggings: Best understated find

Price: £28 | Buy now from Next

A brilliant choice for runners on a budget, these are light and tight, have deep pockets, non-irritating seams and no jaw-dropping price tag.

The real test, is of course, on the run itself, and luckily there was no sagging or itchy seams to contend with. There are no bells or whistles, no big promises or flashy labels, but these leggings perform beautifully and hold their own in an impressive, crowded and expensive field.

Key specs – Sizes: 6 to 22 (plus petite option); Material: 80% polyester, 20% elastane; Colours available: 2 (black, charcoal); Pockets: 2

Buy now from Next


3. Fast & Free Tight: Best lightweight legging

Price: From £84 | Buy now from Lulu Lemon

As the name suggests, these are designed to make the wearer feel light and unrestricted. The result is a “second skin” feeling; the Nulux material is thin but not feeble, and certainly not see through. These are high waisted and ultra-tactile, on the way to having a silky finish. Even if you’re a beginner who plods rather than runs, these will give you a feeling of swift athleticism, and what could be better than that?

There are shallow pockets all around the waistband, as well as a cord for tightening, all of which felt slightly surplus to requirements but at the same time reassuring to have. The better pockets were the ones on the legs given they were deep enough to secure valuables such as phones or keys.

Key specs – Sizes: US 0 to 26; Material: 84% nylon, 16% Lycra® elastane; Colours available: 9 including black and red; Pockets: 7

Buy now from Lulu Lemon


4. Raid Women’s Reversible Performance Capris: Best budget buy

Price: £10 | Buy now from Tog 24

There are so many selling points for these capris it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s go with the price point, which is almost ridiculously low, especially as they’re currently in the sale.

They’e reversible, which is a lovely way of getting a two-for-one style situation, while the flatlock seams prevent chafing and itching. These do feel rather thicker than some of the others on the market – perhaps better suited to colder seasons – but with that said they live up to their “breathable” promise, and don’t feel clammy or suffocating even after an 8k run. Snap them up while you can, selling out is what these leggings seem to do.

Key specs – Sizes: 8 to 18; Material: Polyester mix Colours: 2; Pockets: 0

Buy now from Tog 24


5. Women’s Infrared Training Core 3.0 Leggings: Best for boosting your energy

Price: £80 | Buy now from Kymira

These are lower rise than the others in this roundup but no less comfortable. But the fit, which is lovely and firm, is only part of the reason you’d plump for these. They boast a whole lot of frankly complicated-sounding technology that essentially promises to boost energy mid-run and help muscles to recover afterwards with the help of infrared-emitting fabric. It might sound too good to be true, but we found that we felt dry and fresh despite a gruelling 10k run in 22° heat – so much so that we felt happy to remain in them for 30 minutes afterwards so the fabric’s muscle recovery technology could work its magic. The fabric is also said to boost blood circulation, along with other things such as cellular metabolism, and while we can’t prove that this happened with us, we haven’t had a bad run since wearing the Kymira.

Key specs – Sizes: (XS/8 to XL/16); Material: 50% KYnergy polyester, 30% polyester, 20% elastane; Colours/finishes available: 1 (black); Pockets: 0

Buy now from Kymira


6. Red Cheetah Active Leggings: Best for making a statement

Price: £33 | Buy now from Lucy Locket Loves

These are so extra you’d be forgiven for questioning if this is a style over substance situation, particularly when you consider the enormous design range Lucy Locket Loves provides. There are some 168 different designs in the legging collection.

However, these cheetah print beauties are as practical, comfortable an easy to move in as any runner could wish for. The thick, high waistband sits perfectly in place without threatening to sag or flop – you feel held and strong, even after a long run on a hot day. The discreet pocket in the back will hold your phone and keys.

The full length is super flattering – the finish is shiny without being sheer – but a Capri length is available too.
With black being an enduringly popular choice when it comes to leggings – these are a breath of fresh air and something of a mood enhancer (perfect for runners who also moonlight at music festivals!)

Key specs – Sizes: 6 to 26; Material: 85% Polyester and 15% Elastane; Colours available: 168; Pockets: 1

Buy now from Lucy Locket Loves