Best workout leggings 2021 – CNN Underscored

(CNN) –

We gathered 10 staff members to test more than a dozen leggings. Our testers (who wear a variety of sizes and have strong opinions about leggings) rated each pair for quality, comfort, style and more. After weeks of testing, one of them has emerged as the best workout leggings on the market (and you can find more of our favorite leggings in our complete guide to the best leggings).

If you’re looking for sweaty, breathable legs that move with you no matter how hard you do your workout, and pants that are so comfortable you almost forget you have them on, Lululemon’s Align Pants are an investment we can get behind.


The Lululemon brand is practically synonymous with the word athleisure, and whether you love it or hate it, one thing is for sure: Lululemon makes great leggings. Yes, $98 may seem like a hefty price, but if you’re serious about your fitness and/or yoga gear, you can’t do better than the Lululemon Align pants.

The feel of the Alignment fabric is an incomparable sensation that gives new meaning to the term buttery. (One of our testers may or may not have screamed when she first put it on). This luxurious material embodies the extremely pleasant wearing comfort that was demonstrated in our test. The Align pants are perfect for everyday comfort and stretch. But don’t be fooled by the softness of the material: these leggings will stand up to all the training you give them. When it comes to intense, sweaty classes, they hold up remarkably well and deliver near-perfect results. We quickly learned what people mean when they say that in this outfit, they really forget they’re wearing leggings. We especially loved the material of these leggings and their lightness while still being opaque. His high belt was also surprisingly sturdy and stayed in place throughout the workout. One of the testers had a problem with the belt unwinding, but that seemed to be a problem because of his height. Based on our experience (and many customer reviews that say the same), we recommend going one size smaller for a better fit.

The aligners are by far the best workout leggings we tested, but there are some caveats: The material is too thin to wear outside in cold weather. You can run for position, but if you do anything else, your feet will get cold. According to our team rookies, they also tend to plop on the inside of the thighs over time if you don’t have a hip slot – and honestly, how many of us do? – But you don’t see much of it and it has never caused holes or cracks.

The Align pants come in sizes 0-20 and in three inch sizes: 25, 28 and 31 inches (they see you, big boys!). The colour range depends on the seam: the cut version contains 17 colours and patterns, the centre seam nine and the top seam four. With a simple silhouette, this pair also has a hidden hip pocket that’s big enough for a credit card, a little cash or keys.

Light but opaque, Lululemon Align Pant leggings let yogis, cyclists and other fitness fanatics forget they’re wearing leggings. Align’s butter-soft, super-stretchy fabric is unlike any other we’ve tested. It keeps you comfortable and supported no matter the workout.

We researched the best leggings on the market, looking at our team’s recommended pairs that our editors have been wearing for years, both for training and in everyday life, across a range of price points, and picked 13 to put to the test.

We wore each pair several times, before and after washing, during intense, sweaty workouts, as well as while hanging out at home and doing everyday activities, to determine how comfortable each pair was. We’ve made sure the waistband can be raised or lowered during training, if the leggings pinch or are uncomfortable for other reasons. We washed each pair at least four times and noted whether typical wash and dry cycles resulted in noticeable pilling, fading, or changes in softness; we also observed whether the leggings attracted lint and pet hair, and we used additional anecdotal evidence of durability provided by employees with years of experience with the leggings we tested. We looked to see if the sizes were correct and matched our normal sizes, and if the leggings fit different body types.

We also looked at the different sizes, stitching and colors, and reflected on our collective (albeit subjective, of course) opinion of each pair’s style. We have found that pairs have fewer seams (which often leads to less wear, more comfort and a flatter fit) and if they have a gusset (a piece of fabric sewn into the gusset to strengthen it, which leads to a sturdier foot).

Finally, we conducted a squat test for each pair to determine the degree of opacity of the fabric, noted the degree of moisture in the fabric during jogging/training, examined the degree of elasticity and dexterity of the fabric, and verified that the leggings were made of environmentally friendly, sustainable, and/or organic materials.

Based on the categories and testing procedures listed above, we gave all leggings a score in each subcategory, combined these numbers to get the maximum score in each category, and then added these numbers up to get an overall final score. We have broken down the result as follows:

  • The feature/item has a total of 50 points: Comfort (20 points), durability (15 points), fit (10 points) and dimensional accuracy (5 points).
  • The total number of style points was 45: Size availability (10 points), seam availability (10 points), color availability (10 points), overall aesthetics (5 points), seams (5 points) and inserts (5 points).
  • The material received a total of 35 points: Opacity (10 points), moisture resistance (10 points), percentage of stretchable material (10 points) and ecological and/or biological material (5 points).

We also looked at value for money by weighing the price of the leggings against their quality.

Athletic Salute Stash Pocket II 7/8 tights ($98;


Athletic Salute Stash Bag II 7/8 tight

If you’re looking for a leg that can do it all, you can’t go wrong with the Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight. We even named them the best in our overall guide to the best leggings. With pockets big enough to store things like your phone or wallet, we loved this pair for its comfort during workouts and daily activities, quality construction, secure waistband and chic aesthetic. If you want to know more and find out why we voted them the best, read our full guide to the best products here.

Zella Live In high-waisted leggings ($59;


Zella Live In High Waist Legging

In our test, we ranked the Zella Live In leggings as the best pair to wear as pants because they are durable, a little heavy, compressive but not restrictive, and can be paired with almost anything. Look at our thoughts.

Koala Women’s Colorful High-Waisted Yoga Pants in 7/8 length with pockets (from $25;


Colorful Women’s High Yield Koala 7/8 Leg Length Yoga Pants with Pockets

If you don’t want to spend that much money, the Colorful Koala Yoga Pants are a more affordable option for other winners. These are soft, comfortable leggings with large pockets that we’ve had a lot of fun with, both while working out and at home. Plus, they come in 33 colors, so you’re sure to find one that fits your style – or several. For more information on these economical leggings, click here.

Lululemon Miracle Under the High-Rise Belly ($98;


The Lululemon miracle is under a tight collar.

While this pair doesn’t have the same second skin as the Lululemon Aligns, we were still impressed with their comfort and performance. We loved the supportive but not restrictive waistband, the opacity and the soft, smooth feel. Some long-time users of Wunder Unders note that they remain good even after years of washing, without pilling, flaking or fading, making them a worthwhile investment for their nearly triple-digit price.

Our testers found this pair stylish enough to wear outside the gym (it also has a hidden hip pocket big enough for a credit card), and the thick material makes it a good choice for cold weather, too. However, some of us found the fabric too thick and tight for a comfortable workout in warm weather, and one of us found that the waistband sometimes came up to below the navel during the workout, which wasn’t ideal. However, if you’re looking for leggings that fit better and offer support – and/or if you want a good pair for walks outside when the weather isn’t so scorching – this is a great option that has stood the test of time. They are available in sizes 00 to 20, with seams of 25 and 28 inches, and in seven colors.

Girlfriend Collective Compression High Leg ($68;


Collective compression height foot

We found these leggings very comfortable to wear daily, and it received a perfect opacity score, passing the flying flower squat test. Each pair is made from recycled water bottles (25 to be exact), and we’re big fans of Girlfriend Collective’s ethos of creating sustainable clothing and maintaining an ethical work environment.

A few other things we loved about these leggings: They come in probably the largest size range of any pair we’ve tested, from XXS to 6XL (for your information, they fit for a waist of 22.5 to 52 inches and hips of 32 to 62.5 inches), and their three seams cover a wide range as well (19.5, 23.75, and 28.5 inches), so you’ll always find the perfect length, no matter your size. Our experience is that they are exactly the right size. The leggings are available in six colors, and currently in seven other limited edition colors. Plus, they wash and dry perfectly and still look as good as new after a few washes.

The material, true to the name of this product, compresses without feeling tight, and the leggings have small, very hidden side pockets. This pair ultimately didn’t make it though, as we felt it was too stiff for a comfortable, high-performance workout, and our testers had mixed feelings about the belt staying still throughout the workout. If you’re looking for casual leggings you can wear with confidence, we think this is a sustainable pair – and we appreciate the brand’s commitment to inclusive sizing and eco-friendly production.

CRZ Yoga High-Waisted Skinny Pants (from $24.99;


CRZ Yoga Tight Yoga Trousers with High Waist

Long considered a budget pair similar to the ranks of Lululemon, we tried to see if such a comparison was warranted. What we found is a layette that offers a lot for a relatively low price. Available in 41 colors and patterns, these leggings are aesthetically a no-frills pair that are truly as soft as the lineup, albeit slightly less durable. (They also have a small hidden pocket at the waist, like Align). While most of us found them comfortable for intense workouts and lounging around the house, and almost forgot we were wearing leggings, one of the testers had some issues with the waistband, which tended to roll constantly while running.

Here are some other reasons why we didn’t list the CRZ yoga leggings as the best budget pair: Larger sizes tend to be less opaque, and the fabric attracts more lint and hair than we would like. After several washes, however, we didn’t notice any significant pilling or fading, and they remained as soft and comfortable as when we first wore them. We also liked that these leggings come in sizes XXS to XXL, a wider range than most budget pairs we’ve tested.

Colourful koala leggings complete this pair with a slight slit pushed forward with large, handy pockets and a sturdier belt. And, as with the Colorful Koala, if you’re taller, you may find the short length too short, especially for cold weather outerwear, but there’s also a 28-inch seam (again, we didn’t test the full-size version).

High-speed drop-offs (from $9.99;


Support feet Depot High strength feet

Since this pair has over 15,000 5-star reviews and a $10 price tag, we knew we had to try them on ourselves to see what all the fuss was about. Could all these customers be wrong? Well, yes and no. For $10, you get what you expect: super comfy leggings, and that’s it.

Unlike all the other leggings in our sample, this pair does not have a crotch, which means they are more likely to tear at the crotch. While the leggings scored well in the opaque and stretchy categories and are soft both inside and out, they’re not ideal for a workout because the material is too thick for ideal comfort when sweating, and they don’t look very sweaty either (which isn’t surprising given the low price). If you are looking for a couple to rest or sleep and nothing else? They fit perfectly and you don’t have to pay dearly if you have a few in stock. Moreover, they are available in an impressive 44 colours and patterns.

Old Navy High Compression Legs ($22, originally $29.99;

Old Navy

Old Navy: Power lift compression leg.

We were pleasantly surprised by this pair, considering the low price. The old navy leggings have kept their shape and color very well (even after several washes), are very comfortable and breathable, and because of its design can be worn with a sports outfit without too much effort. Not only do the leggings come in sizes XS to XXL, but they also come in three seam sizes: 26.5, 28, and 31 inches, with the latter (a bonus for the taller people in the room) being one of the longest seams of any pair we tested.

Although they’re made of a moisture-wicking polyspandex blend, they didn’t win first place, as we found the Colorful Koala pair to be a flattering fit (one of our testers noted that the Old Navy leggings were a bit tight around the ankles), with extra pockets and a material that wasn’t a magnet for lint and pet hair as is usually the case.

Fabletics Trinity High-Waisted Utility Legging ($84.95 for non-members or $59.95 for members;


Fabletics Trinity High Frequency Legs

There was nothing uncomfortable about these leggings – in fact, they scored top marks almost across the board, with particularly high marks for comfort and style. We love that they have pockets (both side pockets and a discreet zippered pocket on the back), that they stay in good shape and look like new even after multiple wash and dry cycles, and that they keep us warm outside in near freezing temperatures. They have three seams, are available in sizes XXS to 4XL and in 11 colors, from neutrals to bright, bright colors.

A few things worth mentioning: The pockets are definitely useful, but they don’t fit the shape of the leggings and stand out a bit when you sit down. Also, after a few hours of wear, one of our test subjects noticed that the high waist was a little tight when put on. One of the main reasons we didn’t pick them as the winning couple? Fabletic’s business model, based on subscription. While new members can get two pairs for the ridiculous price of two for $24, existing members pay $59.95. If you don’t want to commit to $49.95 per month, you’ll have to pay $84.95 per pair. If you’ve already taken out a Fabletics subscription or are considering it, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Oalka Yoga Pants for Women Running Leggings (from € 9.99;


Oalka Women’s Yoga Pants Workout Running Legs

What we liked about these leggings: They come in 61 (no, not a typo!) colors and patterns, with a choice of models with or without pockets. The pockets are big enough for a standard smartphone, and they scored well in the opaque category. Overall, we were impressed with the quality, considering the $20 price tag.

What we didn’t like: The sizing was a little different for all of our testers (some said the leggings were slightly larger, while others said they were too small in the regular size), and they were longer than ideal. For small people this can be a problem, as only one seam length is offered. We didn’t find them stylish enough to easily pair with casual wear – aesthetically they are clearly workout legs, and the placement of the pockets was awkward. The front crotch design was not very flattering, we found that the waistband often struggled to stay in place, and the fabric was too stiff for the most comfortable workout.

Outdoor Voices 7/8 feather leggings ($78;

On the road of voices

Outdoor Voices Feather 7/8 Legging

Of all the leggings we tested, these from Outdoor Voices perhaps held up the best – according to our tests, they were still very durable after many workouts and washes, and they looked like new, with no significant pilling, fading, or lint. They didn’t shrink when one of our testers put them in the hot air dryer, nor did the color transfer.

This is a very stylish and flattering pair that we feel comfortable in for workouts and daily activities. But compared to other high-end leggings we’ve tested, it didn’t blow us away in terms of comfort, especially during hard, sweaty workouts. Overall, our testers wished the fabric allowed for more movement and wasn’t so stiff, but this would be a great pair for outdoor activities on cooler days. We loved their relatively wide range of sizes (XXS to 3XL), although we noticed they only come in two colors and one inseam. They also come in envelopes made from 100% recycled paper or in recyclable boxes, and the brand says it has reduced its use of conventional fabrics in favour of more sustainable materials.

JoyLab High Power Seamless 7/8 Legs ($34;


JoyLab High Power Seamless 7/8 Legs

We had mixed feelings about these JoyLab leggings from Target. While some test subjects appreciated the softness and stretchiness of these shoes, most found them to offer little support and to be uncomfortable for training. The design of these leggings is polarized, some find them aesthetically elegant, others not so much. (The perforated detail isn’t exactly ideal for cold climates, and some of us weren’t fans of the highly visible ribbing at the waist and ankles.) A little less opaque than our favorites in the test pool, but they still held up well after a few washes. The leggings are available in four colors and in sizes from XS to XL. We had originally wanted to test a different JoyLab legging, but we learned that it is no longer made and that this style is the most similar. Unfortunately for us overall, they didn’t hit the target.

For more on the field test, visit CNN Underscored:

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