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The Best Women's Leggings For Every Situation

From street to gym to studio and back again, any fitness-loving lady is likely to have at least a handful of leggings stashed away in her dresser drawer. But, if you are anything like me, you’ll rummage through the entire lot, trying to find that favorite pair that you would wear every single day if you could get away with it. Am I right?

A good pair of leggings is an investment that keeps on giving back—if you choose the right pair, of course. I’ve listed my fave leggings below, including tights that have gone from trail to squats to downward dog with a whole lot of toddler chasing in between. Tried, tested, and approved.


Best for Winter Running: innov-8 Winter Tight

You don’t need to stay indoors just because it’s snowing and freezing outside! A waterproof and windproof three-layer softshell covers the front of these pants, protecting your legs as you jog into the storm. A soft, knitted fabric lines the back so you can easily dump extra body heat. The small zip pocket on the waistband stores your car keys and a larger mesh pocket gives you bonus space for fuel or your phone.

Best Value: REI Co-op Active Pursuits Tights

Maybe you don’t want to spend $100 on a pair of decent workout tights; I totally get it. Thankfully, REI also understands and slashed the price on their Active Pursuit Tights. For as low as $49, you can snag a pair and enjoy the extra-wide drawstring waistband and flat-seam construction that eliminates chafing. My fave feature: UPF 50 ultraviolet protection is woven into the fabric. Not only will these work in the gym, but they’ll keep the sun off your legs while outdoors, too.


Most Flattering: Lululemon Wunder Under High-Rise 7/8 Tight

If you spend any time in the fitness realm, there is a great chance you’ve already heard plenty about the joys of the Wunder Under. I’m here to say that it’s all true! Four-way stretch with a slight bit of compression makes these leggings both supportive and flattering as they tuck in anything you want to be covered. The high-rise waist does the same for your belly. Personally, I love the full-on luon material, which is thick enough to prevent any type of see-through action while at the squat rack.


Best Pattern: InknBurn Phoenix Tights

Fair warning: you will draw attention while wearing these tights. InknBurn specializes in small-batch, unique patterns and they certainly deliver. The Phoenix tights truly look like a pair of jeans with a beautiful bird covering the right leg. But, they perform too. A thigh-pocket fits a cell phone or snacks and the two-way waistband can be worn up for more coverage or folded down for a little breathing room. InknBurn routinely cycles through patterns, so if you like the Phoenix, you better snag it quickly. Once it is gone, it’s gone forever!


Best for Curvy Women: Skirt Sports Liberator Capri

I spoke with The Mirnavator—aka Mirna Valerio, ultrarunner extraordinaire—about her favorite workout tights and she swears up and down by the Liberator Capris. The high-rise waist supports the stomach while the midweight, lightly compressive fabric moves well with your body. Intentionally created design lines flatter all body types and the calf detailing is a nice touch. Mirna approved!


Best Compression: Brooks Running Formation Crop

Sometimes you want compression, sometimes you don’t. When you do, definitely reach for the Formation Crop. Not only is the geometric patterning fun, but the compressive fit sticks to your body well, eliminating any moving or shaking during your workout. The tights feature two waistband pockets, one of which is totally sweat-resistant. This means you can stash your goods without worrying about copious amounts of sweat ruining anything.


Best for Yoga: Athleta Elation 7/8 Tight

I’ll say it: these tights are so soft that I love running my hands up and down the fabric. Weird? Maybe, but whatever. They’re that soft! Athleta uses their nylon and lycra Powervita fabric that uses slight compression (although I don’t notice it) and zero side seams to create a tight that moves with your body, making it a no-brainer for yoga class. Plus, they are a brand I love to support: as a certified B-corporation, their goal is to empower 10,000 women through fair trade by the year 2020.


Most Eager to Try: Scout Designs Attitude Legging

I’ll admit that I have yet to try these leggings, but it is happening soon, so I’ll be sure to report back. Why are they so exciting? The founder Lisa Gindy designed these tights to fit her personal active lifestyle, whether it was on the yoga mat or running Colorado’s arduous 27-mile Four Pass Loop. She had three goals in mind: fun patterns, quick-drying, and tights that would stay put all day long. To be determined on whether these leggings will stay up or not, but I sure am impressed with those patterns!


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About the author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather Balogh Rochfort is an outdoor expert and full-time freelance writer and author in the outdoor industry.