Best workout leggings: sweat-wicking styles that won’t become see-through

The best workout leggings for all activities—guaranteed

best workout leggings
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking to invest in the best workout leggings, you’ve come to the right place. For a wardrobe staple, a good pair can be remarkably tricky to find, and it’s unfortunately not quite as easy as wiggling into your standard pair of black cotton leggings and hoping they’ll hold up.

The best leggings for exercise have been specially crafted with one key goal in mind: to enhance your performance instead of holding you back. That means seams that won’t niggle or chafe, sweat-wicking fabric that won’t become damp and heavy by the end of your warm-up, and a firm fit that won’t budge – even during burpees. The best workout leggings will pass the squat test, too, staying fully opaque in any position. 

To save you time scrolling, we’ve put the very best workout leggings through their paces. We tested them for running, yoga, strength training and even one particularly sweaty hot HIIT session at 36°C, to see which rose to the challenge and which fell flat at the first hurdle. Expect to see big names like Sweaty Betty and Adidas in this list, alongside some lesser-known but equally impressive smaller labels. 

From the best high-waisted leggings to leggings with pockets, we can guarantee that our picks more than meets the mark when it comes to performance and will certainly work as hard as you do...

How to choose the best workout leggings 

Whatever you’re up to, the key components of the best workout leggings remain the same:

  • Fit: Your leggings should fit firmly – not so tight that they’d restrict your movement, but snug enough that they’re not going to inch down as you drop into a squat. Remember, no matter the quality, the elastic of your leggings will start to give over time, so the closer they fit, to begin with, the longer they’ll last. 
  • Fabric: To stay cool when working out, it’s worth investing in a pair of leggings made from moisture-wicking fabric. They work by drawing sweat away from your skin, so you’re not weighed down by soggy kit. Look out for mesh panels, too, helping your skin to breathe on clammy days.  Arguably, one of the most important criteria for a pair of workout leggings is an opaque fabric that won’t suddenly become see-through as soon as you bend. Frustratingly, most styles will pass the test in a dark changing room, so it’s worth trying on at home in strong lighting to double-check.
  • Design: It might sound silly, but check your best workout leggings to ensure they have a gusset (an extra piece of fabric spanning the crotch area). Lots of ‘standard’ leggings don’t have this, but a gusset will help to stop them uncomfortably riding up as you wear them. Flat seams across the inside of your leggings will help to minimise chafing – but that doesn’t give you a free pass to skip the Vaseline for long runs. If you hate the bulk of a bag, try leggings with pockets instead. Zip-closures will keep your essentials safe, while larger pockets make space for even the biggest models of phone.  
  • Compression: Noticed the term ‘compression’ cropping up when browsing for the best workout leggings? This refers to an extra-tight fit and aims to supercharge your performance by supporting your muscles. It’ll increase blood flow to your legs, too, for speedier recovery time with fewer post-gym aches and pains.

Best workout leggings to shop now

best workout leggings: Sweaty Betty power leggings

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty)

Best workout leggings for everyone

RRP: £75
Sizes: XXS-XXL
Material: 62% polyamide, 38% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Flattering high waist+Inclusive size range 
Reasons to avoid
-High-end price tag-Sell out quickly 

Scoring an average of 4.6 stars over more than 2,000 online reviews, Sweaty Betty’s Power Leggings tick all the boxes. We came for the vibrant range of colours, patterns, and prints, but in the end, it was the lightweight yet completely squat-proof fabric that won us over.

Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer, prefer a solo jog, or feel more at home, well, doing an at-home workout, Sweaty Betty’s Power Leggings have got you covered.

The high-waisted, bum-boosting design not only creates a flattering shape but will give you the confidence you need to bounce into your next set of burpees without the fear of a wardrobe malfunction. 

Crafted from a lightweight yet super stretchy elastane blend, the fabric is also sweat-wicking, pulling moisture away from your body to keep you cool and comfortable. We put Sweaty Betty’s ‘90% squat proof’ promise to the test and can confirm these leggings passed with flying colours.

See our full Sweaty Betty Power Leggings review

best workout leggings: Perff leggings

(Image credit: Perff)

2. Perff Studio Intuition Leggings

Best premium workout leggings

RRP: £80
Sizes: XS-XL
Material: 65% recycled polyamide, 35% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Simple design+Made from recycled fabric 
Reasons to avoid
-Comes up very small-Limited colour choice

The beauty of the Perff Studio Intuition Leggings is in their sleek, fuss-free design. The high waist and shaping seams sculpt a smoother silhouette before you’ve even stepped foot inside the gym.

While the detailing might be minimal, these leggings are far from basic. Made from 65% recycled polyamide, they’re the perfect choice for anyone looking to make more eco-friendly fashion choices. If that wasn’t enough, they’re moisture-wicking, fast-drying, and won’t bobble or pill as you wear them.  

The high waist is completely budge-proof, so you can enjoy your workout safe in the knowledge these leggings won’t escape you. 

best workout leggings: Tala leggings

(Image credit: Tala)

3. Tala Zinnia Leggings

Best eco-friendly workout leggings

RRP: £40
Sizes: XS-XL
Material: 92% upcycled polyamide, 8% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Eco-friendly credentials+Wide colour choice 
Reasons to avoid
-Sell out quickly -Need to be washed separately 

Don’t be put off by the teeny-tiny size of these leggings – they’ve got plenty of stretch, rewarding you with a firm compression fit once you’ve wiggled your way into them.

Great for staying snug on chillier days or when exercising outside, the fabric is a little thicker than your average pair, making them some of the warmest leggings we've tried.

It’s where the fabric comes from that’s the real draw here. Tala currently makes their leggings from 92% upcycled materials, aiming to eventually achieve 100%. By reusing fabrics as opposed to starting from scratch, each pair of leggings helps to save an eye-watering 40 litres of water and 2kg of CO2 emissions.

best workout leggings: Gap leggings

(Image credit: Gap)

4. GapFit High Rise Blackout Leggings

Best high-street workout leggings

RRP : £49.95
Sizes: XS-XL
Material: 79% polyester, 21% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Handy side pockets+Gap runs regular discounts online  List
Reasons to avoid
-Come up a little large -Hard to find a good fit if you have a small waist and large thighs 

While Gap might not be the first place that springs to mind when shopping for workout leggings, their GapFit range is brimming with sports-ready buys. From the various types of leggings, they make these are our top pick, made from a four-stretch fabric that moves with you rather than restricts your movement.

Available in an array of different vibrant prints depending on the season, these patterns work in tandem with Gap’s Blackout Technology to eradicate the risk of VPL. They passed our squat test with flying colours – even when wearing legging-unfriendly seamed black briefs.

The double-layered compression waistband is a thoughtful touch, working to smooth and tone your stomach, which will easily make them your best workout leggings for all forms of exercise.

best workout leggings: Adidas leggings

(Image credit: Adidas)

5. Adidas Alphaskin Heat.RDY 7/8 Leggings

Best workout leggings for keeping you cool

RRP: £54.95
Sizes: 2XS-2XL
Material: 71% nylon, 29% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Keeps your legs cool and comfortable+Sweat patches fade fast 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited shade range -Compression fit makes for slightly visible VPLEmpty List

What Adidas doesn’t know about activewear isn’t worth knowing, so it’s no surprise these leggings are jam-packed with tech-driven features. First up, the compression fit. Not only does this offer full, spill-proof security when you’re working out, experts believe compression leggings enhance performance and speed up recovery times by boosting blood flow to your legs. 

Secondly, the HEAT.RDY technology works as hard as you do to keep your body cool and dry during your workout. Perforated dots along the backs of thighs work hand-in-hand with mesh panelling down the sides to let cool air in and warm air out. 

The moisture-wicking fabric is a big plus, too, helping you avoid sweat patches even after high-intensity classes.  

best workout leggings: Proskins SLIM High Waisted Compression Leggings

(Image credit: Proskins)

6. Proskins SLIM High Waisted Compression Leggings

Best workout leggings for comfort

RRP: £59.95
Sizes: 4-24
Material: 82% nylon, 18% elastane Lycra
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Stretch fabric for full flexibility +Inclusive sizing 
Reasons to avoid
-Long leg length not suitable for petites -Sell out quickly 

Touchably soft with just the right amount of compression, these are leggings you could put on and forget you’re wearing – exactly the kind of comfort-focused style we’re after. 

Setting them apart from other leggings we’re tried, these Proskins leggings are made from a ‘patented micro-encapsulated yarn’ packed full of active skincare ingredients.

The aim of the game is to transfer all of these skin-loving goodies from the fabric to your skin as you wear them. The result? Smoother, softer legs without the need for additional products. 

An impressive line-up, there’s retinol to kick-start collagen production, vitamin E to nourish, aloe vera to calm, ceramides to soothe, and even circulation-boosting caffeine. Follow the washing instructions carefully, and these ingredients will stay in the fabric for up to 100 washes. 

See our full Proskins SLIM High Waisted Compression Leggings review

best workout leggings: Gymshark Vital Seamless Leggings

(Image credit: Gymshark)

7. Gymshark Vital Seamless Leggings

Best workout leggings to avoid chafing

RRP: £40
Sizes: XS-XL
Material: 58% nylon, 32% polyester, 10% elastane
Machine washable: Not specified by brand
Reasons to buy
+Range of colours+Seam free for comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Can sell out quickly

As far as the best workout leggings go, Gymshark’s vital seamless leggings are pretty purse-friendly – no wonder they’re one of the brand’s bestsellers. And if you’re looking for a workout kit that will boost your confidence before you’ve even stepped foot in the gym, then these are the leggings for you. They feature cleverly placed shading, which both contours and adds definition to your shape. Available in thirteen different colourways at the time of writing, there’s a colour for every day of the week and beyond.

Of course, the biggest draw is the fact that these leggings are completely seam-free, meaning no digging in or chaffing. This makes them suitable for longer, floor-based classes like pilates and yoga, as well as comfortable enough for all-day wear.

best workout leggings: Nike Dri-FIT One Women’s Mid-Rise Leggings

(Image credit: Nike)

8. Nike Dri-FIT One Women’s Mid-Rise Leggings

Best workout leggings for all activities

RRP: £34.95
Size: XS-XL
Material: 78–79% polyester, 21–22% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Suitable for a range of sports
Reasons to avoid
-Waistband can roll down

Thick enough to feel supported and avoid a squat-based wardrobe malfunction but stretchy enough to wear all day long, Nike’s Dri-FIT One Mid-Rise Leggings are ticking all our boxes. They’re lovely and soft and wick sweat away from the body with ease. Wear for everything from yoga to running. The only downside is that Nike’s black leggings can be a little lighter than black pieces from other brands, making it a little trickier to get a perfect colour match with your top. 

A worthwhile investment, trust us when we say that Nike leggings stand the test of time. Our Deputy Fashion Editor has unashamedly been wearing the same pair for the past 8 years and waxes lyrical about how well they keep their shape wash after wash. 

best workout leggings: Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity High-Waisted 7/8 Running Leggings

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty)

9. Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity High-Waisted 7/8 Running Leggings

Best workout leggings for running

RRP: £95
Sizes: XXS-XXL
Material: 50% polyamide, 41% elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Supportive+Compression fit 
Reasons to avoid
-Come up a little small

The Power Leggings might be the jewel in Sweaty Betty’s crown, but to dismiss the rest of their leggings offering is to miss out. The Zero Gravity is very different in many ways – the fabric is thinner, with less stretch, and the fit is firmer – which just so happens to make them perfect for running. There’s no movement by the end of mile one, and you feel both ‘held in’ and fully supported, especially around the stomach and thighs. Not to mention, they do something magical to your bottom, making it look both smaller and perkier. 

The Zero Gravity leggings more than deliver on practicality, too, with a nice deep side pocket roomy enough to slot your phone in and an adjustable waistband for a spot-on fit. Plump for a pair with mesh panelling across the thighs to keep you cool.  

best workout leggings: Lululemon Align HR Pant

(Image credit: Lululemon)

10. Lululemon Align HR Pant

Best workout leggings for yoga

RRP: £98
Sizes: 4-24
Material: 81% Nylon, 19% Lycra® elastane
Machine washable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Soft fabric+Wash well
Reasons to avoid
-High price

Whether you’re an experienced yogi or are just getting to grips with your sun salutations in yoga for beginners, you’ll know that the best workout leggings for yoga put comfort first. Lululemon knows that too, which is why these leggings are made from the softest fabric we’ve ever got our mitts on. They wash well, with no bobbling, and retain their shape. For lightweight leggings, they’re impressively opaque, and we found that even seamed knickers went undetected beneath them. The option to choose a cropped length is handy for petites, without any time-consuming rolling or costly alterations.

If Lululemon leggings are a bit out of your price range, keep an eye on their “We Made Too Much” section. Here they sell excess stock at seriously discounted prices, giving you the chance to bag a bargain. 

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is currently Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. 

She caught the magazine bug during a stint as Fashion Editor of her university newspaper alongside her English degree, and hasn’t looked back since. As for the fashion bug, that came as part and parcel of growing up in the 90s, but the less said about that the better!

Jess’ average day in the office is spent researching the latest fashion trends, chatting to industry tastemakers and scouring the internet to bring you this season’s must-buy pieces - as well as advice on how to wear them. Weekends are equally fashion-focused, and Jess has been known to visit no less than five Zara stores in a single day in search of the perfect occasion dress. 

The only thing that comes close to a buzz of finally tracking down that much-coveted dress is the joy of discovering a new beauty wonder product or hero ingredient. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.