Leggings are a daily staple that many of us are wearing nearly 24/7 during the pandemic. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone that they’ll be sure to wear, it’s a great pair of leggings. If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have a love-hate relationship with leggings. It can be so difficult to find the perfect pair, but when you do discover great leggings, it’s like you’ve won the lottery. On the flip side, when you try on pair after pair to no avail, it can feel like you’re an oddly shaped piece of Play-Doh that will never fit into them.
But as hard as it is to believe, that’s simply not the case — there’s a pair out there that will work for your body and fitness (or lounging) needs. To that end, we’ve rounded up the best leggings available today. Fromto stylish leggings to everyday leggings, you’re sure to find a that’s just perfect for everyone you’re shopping for this year.
How we chose these leggings
We (Mercey and Amanda) have been trying out leggings for various activities for years. We’ve both been avid exercisers for a while now, and between the two of us, we’ve tried just about every type of mainstream exercise there is:, long-distance , dance cardio workouts, , , , hiking — you name it, we’ve probably done it (and probably while wearing leggings).
We used our personal experience with various activewear brands to bring you the best of the best. Our hope is that we can point you in the right direction for your favorite activity and save you some dressing-room distress. So with that in mind, here are our picks for the best leggings for 2021.
The Wunder Under leggings were one of the first items I ever purchased from Lululemon over five years ago. And — I kid you not — they still look and feel great, and I’ve worn these Lululemon leggings probably more than any other in my collection. I love these leggings because they are so versatile — I’ve worn them for everything from yoga to boxing to dance cardio.
The super breathable fabric feels supportive and soft, and it’s not hot. I love the high waist, too, and it does not squeeze you in too much — just enough to stay comfortable on your waist. The Wunder Under leggings are a favorite legging option among the CNET Health and Wellness team because they are durable and versatile. Even better, these Lululemon leggings come in a huge array of colors, sizes and lengths,
Everyone has a pair of go-to leggings, and these have been mine for years. I’m obsessed with the Powervita fabric from Athleta, which feels super soft and buttery, yet supportive. What I’ve found with trying many leggings over the years is that you usually get soft or supportive — not both.
This is how I saw things until I found a similar pair of leggings to these from Athleta. While I have not tried this specific style (the ones I purchased are from years ago) these are super close in style and the fabric is the same. I love that these have a convenient pocket on the side, and the high waistband is wide and supportive.
My Athleta leggings have held up through all kinds of workouts — from studio and spin classes, to running, dance cardio and more. Even with the countless washes, they still look new years later. I know the price tag is not cheap, but to me Athleta’s leggings are well worth the workout wardrobe investment.
Sweaty Betty is one of my favorite leggings brands because they make so many different styles, and the colors and printed leggings are always super-cute. I’ve owned a pair of the Power Workout leggings for a few years now, and they are one of my favorite pairs when I need more support, like for a run or high-impact class.
I love that they are compression leggings, but don’t feel stiff or uncomfortable. The fabric is super-smooth and soft, and it looks flattering.
When I first discovered high-waisted leggings, I knew I’d never go back. Can we all just collectively agree to never bring back the hip-hugger trend of the ’90s? High-rise leggings are, in my earnest opinion, unfathomably superior to low-rise or even mid-rise leggings.
It’s not just because I think high-rise leggings make me look better (although that definitely plays a part in why I feel so much more confident in them), but also because high-rise leggings are far more functional workout clothes. They stay put during high-intensity workouts and allow you to focus on exercising, not about whether your butt crack is starting to show.
My favorite high-rise leggings from Target — the new All In Motion Contour Power Waist Capris — are made of a tightly woven luxe fabric that wicks sweat away from your skin. They’re soft and the perfect amount of stretchy. And they’re only $25!
These full-length, no-slip leggings will stay put from sun salutations to savasana. I ordered this yoga legging option after seeing them become popular on social media, and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. The front-rise-to-back-rise ratio is perfect, so there’s no discrepancy in the waistband height when they’re on.
And, the Zella Leggings are 88% polyester and 12% spandex — in other words, extremely moisture-wicking — so you can comfortably wear these as yoga pants for a hot yoga or outdoor yoga session.
What I love most about these leggings is that Girlfriend Collective doesn’t actually label them “plus-size” — they’re just sizes (this something I think needs to happen all around, but that’s another story). These Girlfriend Collective leggings go up from size XXS to 6XL, plus there are options for inseam length: You can choose from 19.25 inches (capri), 23.75 inches (7/8) or 28.5 inches (full length).
Made of 75% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET, aka recycled water bottles) and 25% spandex, these Girlfriend leggings offer the perfect amount of compression and stretch. I have these leggings in a medium, so although I can’t vouch for other sizes, I can imagine that the fit would feel just as perfect on everyone, largely because of Girlfriend’s emphasis on body inclusivity.
Although you can totally work out or do yoga in these comfy leggings, I usually wear them all day. Beyond Yoga’s spacedye fabric is some of the softest and most comfortable material I’ve found across many, many activewear brands I’ve tried.
These leggings move with you, but aren’t too tight or baggy. I have these high-waist leggings in two different colors and love them so much I purchased a similar style (high waist, space-dye fabric), except in biker shorts. If I could only keep one pair of leggings, it would be these.
What to look for in a pair of leggings
What you should look for in a pair of leggings depends on what exactly you’ll be doing in them. Theoretically, you can wear the same leggings for every activity, but you might not have the best experience. For example, wearing lounge leggings to an Orangetheory class could end in awkward sweat stains and stretched-out fabric.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while shopping for your next pair of leggings:
- Fit: Do you want them to be compressive or loose? Low-rise or high-rise? Do you want tummy control?
- Fabric: You’ll want to look for breathable fabric, moisture-wicking fabrics for any sweaty activities, but fabrics like cotton and wool are OK for lounging.
- Stretch: For high-intensity activities or activities that require full range of motion, definitely look for stretchy fabrics.
- Temperature: Most leggings are OK year-round, but you might want to consider a special pair for cold winter weather.
More workout essentials
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.