Style

The best workout leggings to buy according to the pros

27 fitness experts share their tried-and-true favourites.

27 fitness experts share their tried-and-true favourites

No matter what kind of workout you're into these days, from tried and true to trendy and new, any type of activity is made more difficult when your pants don't fit properly. After suffering from the slipping, sagging, squeezing, and stretching of the wrong kind of leggings for far too long, I decided to turn to those in-the-know for help. I reached out to fitness instructors and experts from across the country to find out their go-tos for when they hit the gym. From boxing to barre, and HIIT to heavy lifting, they gave us the scoop on their best-ever workout legging.

Jill Belland, co-founder and instructor at Barre Belle Inc. 

My go-to leggings are the Wunder Under Full Length Tight by Lululemon. These tights are iconic for a reason: they're a tight weave and made from a flexible fabric which I feel is best for hiding and wicking sweat. The high waist feels secure and fidget-free during barre and stretch work. I actually own three pairs and cycle through them all week long! Teaching two or three classes a day and running in between studios, it's important to have a comfortable pair for pre and post class.

Andrea Lorenzon, F45 trainer

My all-time favourite pair of leggings are my black Wunder Under Righ-Rise Tight 28" from Lululemon. I do a lot of high intensity workouts and Olympic weightlifting. They stay in place during my entire workout, and they're a very flattering fit so I always feel my best even when I'm a hot mess! I love how they're sweat wicking so they're never sweaty for long, and the material is very soft. As a seasoned athlete I have many pairs of workout leggings and these are the best.

Kristin Jeffery, founder and CEO of SCULLHOUSE Rowing

My absolute favourite pair of workout leggings is the Wunder Under High-Rise Tight in Luxtreme by Lululemon. I own several pairs of this particular tight and I've never been disappointed with them. As the founder of SCULLHOUSE Rowing I teach a LOT of fitness classes. Our classes involve high-intensity work on the rowing machine as well as a variety of exercises on the mat using dumbbells and mini-bands. No matter how I move or what exercise I'm doing, these pants stay in place, don't dig in, and look great. They are so comfortable I even wear them to yoga.  I've been quite happy with how they wash and retain their stretch over time. Would definitely recommend these tights!

Johanna Seier, creator of The Fit Girl Gang and HomeBase Gym

Without a doubt, my favourite tights to train in are Lululemon Wunder Unders (specifically the high-rise with 7/8 length in Full-On Luxtreme)! I actually feel so strongly about them that I've donated or given away every other pair of tights I own, because they just won't be worn. They're the perfect high-rise tight made out of a super smooth and seamless fabric (if you like the Lululemon Align Tight, these are the identical style with thicker fabric that doesn't pill). I wear these leggings for both lifting weights and HIIT training (so for all of my TFGG workouts). I also wear them while I'm coaching (and hanging at home if I'm being honest). They have the right amount of compression, and I always joke that they legitimately make me feel like I can lift more weight. Bonus is that they're actually one of the most inexpensive tights that Lulu sells! 

Rob Girard, instructor at SPINCO Halifax

The Nike Pro Men's Cool Tights are my go-to pair for high intensity workouts. I use them primarily for instructing spin classes. I wear them under a pair of shorts, and they make for a great base layer. I love the fit and durability. The fabric is tight and stretchy without being restrictive and it helps to keep me cool. These leggings are quick absorbing — which is great for when I start to heat up in class during my rides.

Jas Grewal, personal trainer, dance instructor, physique competitor

My recommendation for leggings would be Nike Pro Men's 3/4 Tights! I have quite a few pairs of those guys. I prefer the leggings that hug and stop right below the calves instead of the ones that go all the way down to the feet. I prefer these tights because when performing plyometrics or squats, I feel like the tights acts as knee wraps, or full-on leg wraps! They increase my muscle stability and the fact that I think it does these things, allows me to psychologically feel stronger and more secure when performing exercises. 

Calvin Hyman, spin instructor at 6IX Cycle

For an active and busy lifestyle the Nike Pro Tights can't be beat! Between Monday to Sunday, I teach spin three times, play in a men's basketball league, an intramural soccer league, and weight train three or four times a week, and after all that Pro Tight stands strong. These tights dry quickly, don't develop an odour over time, and give me enough compression and support but don't feel restrictive. On any given week these might hit the laundry two or three times and they always come out like new.

MJ Shaw, fitness expert, studio owner of Soul Fuel Fitness, instructor of Groovin' Babies classes for new moms

When pregnant, I was fast outgrowing my go-to Lulu or Lole leggings in my drawer. I'm a thrifty shopper and the only maternity clothes I bought for my whole pregnancy were three pairs of Old Navy activewear leggings (i.e. Maternity Full Panel Elevate 7/8-Length Side Pocket Powersoft Leggings). They all fit well, held in my bump, were made with your typical breathable material mix, and they were all [on sale for] around $20?! You don't wear them long enough to worry about much more. Hint to the bigger brands: develop a maternity line!

Joanna 'Magik' Majcherkiewicz, co-founder and instructor at UNDRCARD Boxing Studio

Right now the The Reebok Lux High Rise Tights 2.0 are EVERYTHING. High waist and great support without being too "compressy". I'm 5'10" tall so I appreciate the coverage from ankle to belly button with very solid fabric coverage. I punch, jump, twist and leap while teaching my full-body group boxing workouts at UNDRCARD Boxing Studio so stay-put-ness and coverage is important. Six months in, and many washes later, these are my daily ritual tight! 

Wing Sze Tang, beauty, health and travel writer

Because I run so much, you'll find me wearing tights about six days a week. One of my current go-tos is a pair of Nike Power Speed 7/8 Leggings. I don't like to be distracted by my clothes when I'm trying to focus on my workout, and these are so comfy, I don't even think about them. They're sleek-looking but don't feel compressive, and the fabric has a sheen, setting it apart from your basic black tights. They also have side pockets for stashing keys and gels. 

Amber Joliat, creator of misfitstudio

I've been teaching movement to bodies for 30 years and honestly, I DON'T wear leggings. I love the freedom to move my body without feeling restricted, so I wear TIGHTS and my Misfitstudio x Fortnight Fold Over High-Waist Bottoms. Mondor dance tights are my fave. It's a throwback to my dancing days and it's inspired a whole line of empowering movement wear. 

Caterina Moda, boxing coach and model

In the past, as a plus size woman, finding workout leggings was almost impossible. Now there are so many options and trust me, I've tried many of them. My favourite pair, however, has to be my Superfit Pocket Leggings in Cobalt from Superfit Hero. They're high-waisted, soft and comfortable, but hold everything in. They don't fall when I'm jumping rope and when I'm working on my boxing technique. The best part: THEY HAVE POCKETS! I especially love that they offer leggings from size XS-5X and Superfit Hero is female owned. 

Jenna Doak, founder of Body Positive Fitness

Super fit hero is size inclusive up to 5XL (approx size 30). They have high waists, thick waist bands, light materials that are great to sweat in, they stay put, they are not see-through, they wash well, and for a bonus, they have pockets and great patterns! Not only do I personally love their leggings, but I also love the brand and everything they stand for and I think that's more important than all. I wear their Superfit Pocket Leggings, Shorts and Capris for everything from a normal day out, to walk, hike, lift and yoga.

Caleigh Rykiss, founder and CEO at BOLO Inc.

In my opinion, the Align Pant 28" from LuluLemon is by far the most superior legging on the market. The material is incredibly soft and butter-like and the height of the rise is perfection. At BOLO, we do a lot of creative workouts in the hot room, including Animal Flow. My big test is whether the waist rolls down during these classes and the The Aligns are one of the only fits that consistently stay up. I never want to be fussing with my clothes during a workout — these pants ensure my focus is unbroken. 

Natalie Kakon, co-founder and instructor at ELMNT STUDIO

When I was asked what my all-time favorite pair of workout leggings were, without hesitation my whole mind and body screamed in excitement LULULEMON HIGH RISE ALIGN PANT II 25", IN ANY COLOUR!!

The high rise allows me to feel confident that no matter how low I go or how far I bend, nothing will be revealed. These pants are made from Nulu Fabric and they contour to the body perfectly, allowing your body to breathe in any movement. If that's not reason enough to fall in love with these pants, to top it off, they feel like whipped butter on your skin. I wear them in all my classes: Yoga, HIIT, Spin, Core or any of ELMNT's signature classes.

Farida Wahidi, certified personal trainer

My favourite leggings of all-time are the Lululemon Align Pant II 25". As a personal trainer, these are the most comfortable leggings to work and work out in. I love that the leggings feel like a second skin, they are not see-through, they don't pinch the waist and they are super flattering. I do a split style workout that targets specific muscles and these leggings hold up really well during the exercise movements.

Chloe Bent, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and founder of The Sweat Movement

At nine months pregnant, I can confidently say that my favourite maternity workout leggings are the Lululemon Align Collection. They are great for any expecting mama because these pants literally grow with your belly! You can use your regular size during most of your pregnancy and they also come with waistbands that don't dig. With all the expenses that come with expecting a new baby, you don't really want to go out and buy a new workout wardrobe, so these pants were really a life saver for me. Even though they're designed for yoga, I've worn them for dance cardio classes, spin classes and weight training. I love that they come in joggers, shorts, crops or full length pants so they're really an option for anyone. 

Sharan Scali, advanced sports and exercise nutritional advisor at Semiahmoo Athletic Club

I am obsessed with the Lululemon Align Pant II 25" for training because they feel like a second skin. I do CrossFit for training which involves a lot of heavy lifting and high-intensity movement. These leggings don't move regardless of whether I'm squatting, snatching or dropping into a burpee. They are high waisted so they hold everything in the right place without feeling suffocating when I'm breathing heavy during a WOD.

Beverley Cheng, fitness coach

I love all my Reebok tights, but my favourite ones are the Lux High Rise Tight 2.0. I wear them mostly for strength training, walking around the city, or going for a run outside. They are high rise so they keep everything tucked up nice and tight, and make the booty look REAL good!

Ella Jotie, founder, CEO and instructor at Barre Fitness

As the founder and CEO of Barre Fitness I live in my leggings! On any given day they take me from teaching my barre class, to a business meeting downtown and to brunch with my girls. I'm a big fan of Canadian brand Daub + Design, especially my Daub Riley Leggings. The high waistband is a must when stretching at the barre, and sits well on my waistline. The fabric is buttery soft, almost luxurious, and I love that my leggings haven't pilled. I can wear them with a tank to class and then throw on a blazer and booties and walk right out of the studio. Not to mention, every time I wear them I get compliments! 

Tish Duffy, strength training specialist, and founder of Train with Tish Inc. and SBBT Online Program

I have found that K-Deer Leggings in Alexis Stripe are the best for all the things I do, from fitness classes like spin to my strength training sessions. Not only do they look great on all body types, they are the most comfortable tights I have ever tried! Who would have thought horizontal stripes would complement all body types. I have had some of my K-Deer tights for over two years now and [they] still look and feel brand new; you can just feel the quality. Highly recommend these to any woman who does basically any type of physical fitness.  

   

Dustin Parchment, personal trainer and boxing instructor at Drop Boxing and North Boxing

The Nike Swift Men's Running Trousers are the best of both worlds! Half tights and half joggers with 100 per cent freedom to move the way I want, when I want. Whether I'm taking my favourite boxing class, practicing my spinning back-kick or just holding the splits, these leggings never hold me back. 

Caitlin Kenny, beauty, style and health writer and editor

Putting on your leggings shouldn't be a workout in and of itself, and that's why I love Lululemon's Fast and Free High-Rise Crop leggings. They have just enough stretch so that I don't feel too squeezed in, I'm able to move freely, and they stay up comfortably whether I'm doing a HIIT class or out for a jog. I have them in every length from ankle-grazing to bike shorts, but love my black capri pair the most. Bonus: A handy pocket for shoving my phone in when I'm on the go.  

Saschie MacLean-Magbanua, founder of Formation Studio

I am a huge fan of the Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging for so many reasons. I wear them for all my workouts, which are dance-based and often high intensity. I love that these pants don't ever sag and keep me feeling well covered. I have a curvy bod and hate when my leggings slip down during my workouts and these have passed that test. I love the classic black legging but have these in five colours. Besides the quality of the product, the other reasons they've made it to the top of my list are because they're made from recycled water bottles and they have a really inclusive approach to their brand with both their sizing and diversity in marketing which aligns with my own values. I'm such a fan that after getting my first pair I decided that this would be the brand we used for our activewear retail in the studio. 

Jenny Lam, personal trainer and instructor at Fit Factory

The Carbon38 High Rise 7/8 Takara Legging. These stylish and versatile liquid glossy finished leggings are perfect on weekends when you meet with girlfriends for a Lagree or boxing class and then head right over brunch after. The 7/8 length is perfect for short girls like me (I'm 5"4 so the bottom doesn't bunch up nor do I need to hem them.) They are also super comfortable so I might not wear my leather leggings anymore and just wear these when I go out with girlfriends. The high rise and wide waistband keeps everything in place.

Christopher Turner, Toronto-based writer, editor and runner

I go to the gym regularly (hello F45) and outside of the gym I'm always pushing myself to be a better runner, so I have a drawer jam-packed with athletic tights. Going for runs this season has been interesting with the weather jumping from unfathomably cold to (dare I say it…) pretty pleasant, so I've been relying on the Nike Shield Running Tights for those outdoor runs. I throw them on under a pair of athletic shorts and hit the streets. The tights are incredibly comfortable, help keep me warm and dry, and move with my body no matter what I'm doing. Plus, there is a sweatproof zip pocket at the back of the waist where I can slip my phone, and a zip pocket that pins my keys and ID snugly against my thigh.

Lara Marquez, owner of Toronto's DROP Boxing Group Fitness

My favourite pair of workout leggings are the Shimmer Core Pocket Full Length Leggings by Lorna Jane. The fabric is soft but thick enough that it provides the right amount of coverage and support. I have several different pairs of leggings by Lorna Jane and they always look like new regardless of my activity (boxing, yoga, metcon) and regardless of how many times I wash them.

These recommendations have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.