The best gym leggings: squat-proof styles for running, yoga and gym workouts in 2023

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Which are the best women’s gym leggings? We’ve tested over a hundred pairs over the years, from the good to the bad and the alarmingly see-through. (We’ve also tested the best running shoes, the best exercise bikes and the best sports bras.)

You may have noticed that people generally talk about good gym leggings in terms of what they don’t do – ie, fall down or bunch around your ankles – rather than what they do. The best pairs operate like a second skin, keeping you warm (but not too warm) if you’re training outside and cool if you’re in the gym, dry and comfortable. They offer a zero-distractions fit that allows you to focus on the exercise at hand. 

Scroll down for our full reviews of this year’s best, followed by a guide to what to look for. But if you’re in a rush, here’s a quick look at the top five:

What are the best gym leggings in 2023? At a glance

What to look for when buying gym leggings

Look for versatility, sweat-wicking fabric and comfort, says Alex Boardman, physiotherapist for Aston Villa FC and county tennis player. Investing in a good pair which will do you for the gym, running, and various sports is worth its weight in gold. It’s also worth checking how ethically a pair of leggings were made. For example, Sweaty Betty and Tala are well known for using sustainable fabrics. An ethical brand minimises water use in production, packaging, empowers workers, ensures workers are paid living wage and does not use or test on animals.

Kate Rowe-Ham, a personal trainer who specialises in menopause and mid-life fitness, says: “I have a vast range of leggings but I really love Sweaty Betty. The reason they’ve nailed it is they have pockets, which feel solid when you run in them, and they last and wash well.” 

How we tested the best gym leggings

Over the course of three years, the Telegraph Recommended team (Abigail and Rebecca) have tested countless pairs of gym leggings from every leading brand whilst running, cycling and strength training.


Best gym leggings

1. Lululemon Wunder Train leggings 

£64 – £88, Lululemon

Best overall, 10/10

We like: the quality of the fabric means they stay good as new for a long time

We don’t like: the price tag

Lululemon Wunder Train leggings: soft, stretchy fabric
  • Sizes: UK 4-24, available in 28″, 25″ and 23″ lengths
  • Fabric: Fast-drying “Everlux”, a lightweight Lycra blend
  • Colours: 10+ solid and print options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Abigail Buchanan

My years-long quest for the very best gym leggings came to a close when I tried this pair. The fabric is soft, stretchy and effective at wicking sweat, and they are perfectly high-waisted. They’re designed for medium to high-intensity gym training. I find they work well for running and cycling, too, but would also recommend the lululemon Align leggings for yoga, or the Fast and Free leggings if running is your primary sport (review below).

They’re totally opaque and have a flattering, slightly matte finish that’s soft to the touch. The fit is slightly compressive, with minimal seams and a wide waistband that makes me feel confident but not constricted.

A concealed waistband pocket has space for keys, but not for a phone. The only downside is the price tag. They’re expensive – but if you’d rather splash out on one pair of leggings to do it all, they can’t be beaten. The quality of the fabric means they last well; mine are still as good as new, and I wear them almost daily.

£88
Price at
Lululemon

2. Gymshark Vital Seamless gym leggings

£45, Gymshark

Best high-waisted gym leggings, 9/10

We like: they’re the most supportive we tried

We don’t like: they’re not as comfortable as other leggings because the material is so thick

Gymshark Vital Seamless gym leggings: bestseller that sucks in your stomach
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Fabric: Nylon and elastane
  • Colours: 10 colour options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Abigail Buchanan

If you somehow missed the memo, Gymshark has been hailed as a revolutionary gymwear brand, founded by Ben Francis, then aged 20, from his parents’ garage. These seamless high-waisted leggings are their bestseller, and I’d be willing to bet that if you look closely at the weights section in the gym you’ll be able to spot at least three pairs per visit.

 The fabric is thicker than lots of gym leggings, and more supportive, so it gives you a very smooth silhouette and a “sucked in” feeling round the waist. They’re totally seam-free, which means they’re very comfortable to wear and don’t dig in. The leggings come in a range of gym-selfie-friendly bright and pastel colours and are well-suited to strength training, gym workouts, yoga and pilates. However, if running is your primary sport, these might be too warm for you, although the fabric is excellent at sweat-wicking. 

£45
Price at
Gymshark

3. Nike Go Women’s Firm Support Leggings

£89.95, Nike

Best gym leggings with pockets, 9/10

We like: there are outside and secret inner pockets

We don’t like: they’re not very versatile

Nike Go Women’s Firm Support Leggings: has full-sized pockets for phones
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Fabric: Nylon and elastane
  • Colours: Three colour options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Rebecca Astill

All hail Nike, who have developed a pair of leggings with full-sized pockets – and one on each leg at that. The left side pocket even has an additional secure zip pocket, which fits keys or a small purse. The bigger pockets easily store my iPhone 11, a bigger wallet, lip balm and hand cream – all the essentials. They’re also super compressive, so the pockets don’t bulge. 

Thankfully, these leggings are impressive performance-wise as well. They’re a tight fit, so I’d recommend ordering a size up if you’re on the cusp of two sizes. That’s no bad thing. If I intend to use leggings for gym workouts, I’d rather they were tighter than the more lax designs of yoga and leisure designs.

The material is buttery-soft, but the waistband is thick and double layered for compression with an inner draw-string. Most importantly, they’re squat-proof, so you can go to town in the gym without feeling self-conscious. I did find these Nike Go leggings slightly too rigid for yoga workouts (I prefer the Nike One Luxe leggings for that), so avoid if you’re looking for a versatile pair. But if you’re exclusively a gym rat, they’re the perfect option.

£90
Price at
Nike

4. Aybl Pulse Seamless Leggings

Currently £27.20, Aybl

Best value gym leggings, 8/10

We like: how affordable they are without compromising on quality

We don’t like: the use of polyester means they’re less sustainable

Aybl Pulse Seamless Leggings: designed for the gym
  • Sizes: XXS-XXL
  • Fabric: Nylon, polyester and elastane
  • Colours: 12 colour options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Rebecca Astill

I don’t know what’s in the water in Bromsgrove, but first Gymshark was founded there in 2012, then Aybl in 2018 by entrepreneurs Reiss and Kristian Edgerton. The women’s sportwear brand has gone on to achieve record growth and has even expanded into the US.

Aybl has a huge stock of leggings aimed at different types of workouts, but I tried the Pulse Seamless which are designed for the gym as they’re squat-proof, high-waisted and thicker. The best bit? They’re wallet-friendly.

The Pulse leggings come in an attractive ombre design which lightens lower down the leg and have a flattering contour fit. I tested them in the gym to see if they lived up to the squat-proof claims and I’m pleased to confirm they do. The seamless design means they’re still supremely comfortable as well as compressive for support. For the price tag, I think they’re a great buy.

£27
Price at
Aybl

5. Marks and Spencer Go Move High Waisted gym leggings 

£27.50, Marks and Spencer

Best budget gym leggings, 8/10

We like: quality of dedicated activewear brands on the high-street

We don’t like: lack of colour range

Marks and Spencer Go Move High Waisted gym leggings: a high waistband and cropped leg
  • Sizes: UK 6-24
  • Fabric: A recycled polyester and elastane blend
  • Colours: Black and olive (pictured)
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Abigail Buchanan

These are the best gym leggings on the high street, hands down. They have sleek, smoothing fabric that feels expensive, black or printed options and a phone-sized pocket. The best part is that they’re affordable without compromising on quality – in fact, Marks and Spencer’s Goodmove range is one of the best choices on the high street for budget workout wear

They’re also totally opaque and pass the squat test with flying colours. A high waistband and every so slightly cropped leg (68cm on a size 12) ensures a distraction-free fit. 

£28
Price at
Marks and Spencer

6. Sweaty Betty Power leggings

£80, Sweaty Betty

Best for gym workouts, 8/10

We like: they suit both gym workouts and running

We don’t like: the lighter colours occasionally show sweat marks

Sweaty Betty Power leggings: a pair sells every 60 seconds
  • Sizes: UK 6-20, either a 7/8th or full-length leg
  • Fabric: A “bum-sculpting” polyamide and elastane blend
  • Colours: 20 colours and prints
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Abigail Buchanan

These leggings are supremely comfortable, with a wide, high waistband and lightweight, superbly sweat-wicking fabric that feels like a second skin. They’re lightly compressive and flattering without being too thick; the soft, stretchy material is suitable for any sport, which you could argue justifies the price tag – and they sell a pair every 60 seconds. They impress on the pocket front, too, with roomy phone-sized pockets on either side and a third zipped key-size pocket on the waistband. 

They wick sweat away effectively, although they’re not entirely immune to showing sweat marks if you put them through their paces with especially intense exercise – this does depend on which colour or pattern you choose, and I’ve personally never found it a problem.

The seams around the back have been designed to sculpt the bum, a technique favoured by physiotherapist Alex Boardman who says, “I prefer a pair with more of a contour structure to them, they fit better round the waist.”

£80
Price at
Sweaty Betty

7. Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise leggings

£49 – £108, lululemon

Best running leggings, 8/10

We like: how lightweight and quick-drying they are

We don’t like: we’re not sure you can justify selling leggings for more than £100

Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise leggings: smooth, weightless fabric
  • Sizes: UK 4-24, available in 19″, 23″, 25″ and 28″ lengths
  • Fabric: lululemon’s Nulux™ nylon and lycra blend
  • Colours: 15 solid colour or print options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Abigail Buchanan

Yes, another lululemon pair, but the Fast and Free leggings are more than worthy of a mention. If you want to feel like you’re (nearly) running in nothing at all, these light, quick-drying leggings are the pair you need. The fabric is smooth, stretchy and so light it’s nearly weightless. They’re the Swiss army knife of gym leggings, with no less than five waistband pockets (for house keys, card, energy gels, etc) and two drop pockets that are phone-sized. The price is eye-watering, but if you’re a regular runner it’s an investment worth making.

£74
Price at
Amazon

8. Tala Dayflex Legging

£59, Tala

Best ethical leggings, 8/10

We like: the transparency of the production process

We don’t like: they ride down during cardio

Tala Dayflex Legging: made from sustainable fabrics
  • Sizes: XS – XL
  • Fabric: Nylon and Lycra Sport
  • Colours: Five colour options
  • Style: High-waisted

Reviewed by Rebecca Astill

Tala joined the scene in 2019 when fitness influencer Grave Beverley (screen name Grace Fit) found a gap in the market for sustainably made activewear that wasn’t extortionately priced. Four years later, Tala is a leading fitness brand with complete transparency about materials used, the origins of clothes and worker’s rights.

This pair of Dayflex leggings is made from 75 per cent recycled nylon and 25 per cent lycra sport. It’s a winning combo because these are the softest pair of leggings I own. They’re also squat-proof – although I do find they fall down if I’m doing cardio or playing sport.

I was glad to find a secret inner pocket which can fit keys. They’re also seamless for extra comfort. These Dayflex leggings are perfect for the gym and yoga workouts – though, if you want an all-rounder, I’d opt for their Skinluxe range.

£59
Price at
Tala

9. Adidas Three Stripes Leggings

£25, Adidas

Best basic gym leggings, 7/10

We like: they easily transition from gym to sofa

We don’t like: the quality isn’t as good as others (semi-excusable, given the low price)

Adidas 3 Stripes Leggings: a timeless, budget pair
  • Sizes: XXS – XXL
  • Fabric: Cotton and elastane
  • Colours: Seven colour options
  • Style: Mid-waisted

Reviewed by Rebecca Astill

An icon for a reason, the Three Stripes from Adidas are a soft, simple pair of leggings you can wear for both sports and lounging around the house. They lack the fancy tech found in the likes of Gymshark, Nike and Lululemon, but you wouldn’t expect that at the £25 price point. 

The quality also isn’t as high as the other leggings on this list, and previous Adidas leggings I’ve owned have ripped after a few months. I also wouldn’t reach for them for high intensity gym workouts as they’re not wholly squat-proof, so save them for arm days.

The Three Stripes leggings won’t win any prizes, but they’re a versatile, reliable pair of leggings when on a lower budget.

£25
Price at
Adidas

FAQ

How much should I spend on leggings?

Although you may (understandably) balk at the idea of spending £80 or more on a pair of leggings for the gym, it is worth going as premium as you can afford as you get tangibly better fabric at a higher price point. Fabric quality is imperative for all athletic wear, but especially so for leggings. Cheaper fabrics have less stretch and staying power so they’re more likely to slip down, chafe and go baggy. 

“I would spend up to £50 for a good pair, and always keep an eye on sales,” says physiotherapist Alex Boardman. “I like a versatile pair that fit well and have a breathable element, so I can wear them both for tennis and the gym.” That means they need to be squat-proof, Alex says: the universally accepted test for whether the fabric is fully opaque is to do a squat in a pair of gym leggings and check that they don’t go see-through.

Source: telegraph.co.uk