Whoever coined the phrase “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” clearly didn’t understand her relationship with leggings. Quite possibly the world’s most perfect pants, leggings are flattering, forgiving and pajama-level comfortable. And they’re pretty much the definition of versatility—there aren’t many garments that can go seamlessly from lounging on the couch to kicking butt in the gym to walking laps around the parking lot during the kids’ soccer practice. Oh, and most can even be dressed up with a tunic and flats for a day at the office or a casual dinner out.
Just as there are no two identical pair of legs, one pair of leggings do not fit all. Depending on the route of your curves, which assets you prefer to showcase or suppress or what activity you’re engaging in, your definition of the perfect pair might be very different from your BFF’s, co-worker’s or gym partner’s. That said, there are some common criteria that most of us want out of our body-hugging bottoms. Before you go on your next quest for leggings, take a spin through this handy cheat sheet. You just might stumble upon your next favorite pair.
The Best Leggings for Every Body Type
If you’re, shall we say, vertically challenged, you’ve probably spent more time than you’d care to admit tugging at all that extra fabric that tends to bunch up around the waist and ankles when wearing full-length leggings. Short of wearing capris under duress or dealing with the cost and hassle of having your pants hemmed, what’s a petite girl to do? Your best bet is to look for petite-size leggings made especially for more diminutive frames.
Yogipace Petite High-Waisted Leggings ($21.99): Designed for women 5’4” or under, these leggings are billed to “pass the squat test” and also feature a high-rise elastic waistband. “These are the best yoga pants ever!” said one reviewer. “I have never found the perfect length being 5’1” until now! Perfect for petites. Hits right at the ankle and I love the higher waist!”
If you’re one of the many women who are rocking a pear-shaped figure—smaller on top with a larger butt and thighs—you might have struggled to find leggings to complement those lovely lower-level curves. But don’t give up just yet—there are plenty of options out there to accentuate pear shapes. You might have better luck with leggings that have a higher waist and thicker, figure-shaping fabric.
Zella Live-In High Waist Leggings ($54): Although these are a little on the pricey side, the body-positive blogger and pear-shaped fashionista at Lipgloss and Crayons includes these in her list of go-to leggings. “While I usually think of Zella leggings as workout wear, they're my favorite everyday black leggings,” she says in her blog. “Stretchy without being too much, high-waisted and just the right thickness.”
There are plenty of great things about being tall, but shopping for leggings isn’t necessarily one of them. There’s nothing more vexing than finding a pair that fits perfectly in every way—until you look down. If you’re tired of sporting the perpetually cropped look, it’s time to raise your tall leggings game. Luckily, there are many options designed for those with an elevated stature that will keep you safely out of floodwater territory.
Yogipace Women's 34" Inseam High-Waisted Goddess Extra Long Leggings ($28.99): These versatile leggings can be worn over your heel or scrunched up to the ankles. Either way, the 34” inseam won’t leave your ankles high and dry. “I usually have a hard time finding the perfect leggings due to my height, but these are amazing and super long,” says one reviewer. “The material is very soft and light. Perfect for yoga or anything, really.”
If you have ample hips, you might find yourself in a constant struggle to keep your leggings securely in place while avoiding the dreaded “muffin top” effect. To keep your pants put while also flattering your curvy hips, try leggings with a fold-over waistband.
Unique Styles Ombre Fold-Over Waistband Leggings (from $12.99): Made from a stretchable compression material, these go-anywhere leggings feature a high, fold-over waistband that sits comfortably on the hips while smoothing out the midsection.
For our gorgeous plus-size gals, a pair of on-point leggings can be the boost you need to kick some serious booty—both in and out of the gym. But an ill-fitting pair is enough to make you swear off sweating forever and take refuge under your favorite blanket on the couch. If you’re fuller-figured and are spending half of your workout time trying to squeeze into (or out of) your leggings or struggling to keep them from going the way of gravity during downward dog, it’s time to find a better fit.
Torrid Black Full-Length Premium Leggings ($22.90): Specializing in fashion for women’s sizes 10-30, Torrid gets rave reviews for their true-to-size leggings that feature a thicker fabric and wide, belly-smoothing waistband. “I literally live in these things—they are non-see through, made with thick, yet stretchy material that is very breathable, and never, ever ride down,” raves one buyer.
The Best Leggings for Every Workout
Sweating is a sign of a successful workout—but overheating, not so much. When you want to hit a hot yoga class or head out for a walk or run on a warm day, dressing cool is key—but that doesn’t mean you have to bare it all in a pair of shorts if you’re not quite ready to take that leap. With the right leggings, you can stay in your coverage comfort level even in high temps. Look for styles that have high-tech fabric to wick away moisture. Many leggings are even made with on-trend mesh panels for extra ventilation.
Mission Women's VaporActive System Mid-Rise Capri Leggings (from $39.83): Not only are they super cute, these stay-cool capris are made from VaporActive fabric that rapidly removes sweat.
When the weather’s frosty, that doesn’t mean you have to dress like the Abominable Snowman—nor does it mean that you have to abandon your outdoor adventure altogether. With the right pair of warm leggings, you can tackle your winter workout while staying comfortable (and cute).
90-Degree By Reflex Fleece-Lined Leggings ($24.99): They may look like regular leggings, but these are lined with soft, cozy fleece to keep your skin warm even on the chilliest days. “Super comfy and warm. I've worn these several times this winter and they've kept me warm even on below-freezing-temperature days,” says one reviewer.
When it comes to running leggings (often called running tights), it seems there are as many styles out there as there are running routes. Your perfect pair will depend on factors that are unique to you, like your body type, height, need for pockets and personal fit preference. That said, some commonly desired features in a great pair of running tights include the optimal balance of snugness and comfort, opaque fabric that won’t cause any embarrassing sneak peeks, a stay-put waistband, non-sagging fabric that retains its shape and the right amount of coverage.
Compression Z Women’s Leggings (from $24.98): Although there’s no such thing as one perfect running tight for everyone, these got rave reviews for their snug yet flexible fit, sweat-wicking properties and complete opaqueness. “They are soft, extremely comfortable, they hold you in and don't stretch out,” one reviewer notes. “As far as I am stretching them, they are still opaque, which is just magic to me.”
When getting your spin on, you want a comfortable yet form-fitting pant that won’t interfere with the bike’s equipment. A stay-put waistband is also a must, as there’s nothing more annoying than having to stop and hitch up your leggings in the middle of a sprint or a steep hill. Spin studios are usually on the warm side, so opt for a cooling, wicking fabric that won’t absorb sweat. Some spin tights even have extra padding to reduce seat soreness.
Baleaf Women's 3D Padded 3/4 Cycling Compression Tights ($29.99): Moisture-wicking fabric stays dry and won’t weigh you down, and the wide waistband stays comfortably in place. Silicone grips keep the tights from riding up during even the toughest workouts. “These are excellent pants for spin class,” says one shopper. “Nice amount of padding. Material doesn't slide on the seat and they stay put.”
When you’re practicing yoga or mat Pilates, it’s best to avoid any zippers, ties or other embellishments that could dig into your skin as you lie down on your back or side. If you’re doing Pilates on a reformer machine, choose a simple, form-fitting legging, with no extra fabric to interfere with the equipment. For both yoga and Pilates, stretchable and opaque fabric is key to a successful session.
ODODOS High Waist 4-Stretch Yoga Pants (from $18.98): Not only are these leggings supremely comfortable and flexible, they have built-in tummy control, a convenient side pocket and are made from non-see-through, moisture-wicking fabric. Namaste!
What are your favorite brands of leggings for your body type and/or activity?
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