BY Lexie Sachs, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING INSTITUTE
It’s safe to say leggings are must-haves in your closet, but with so many styles to choose from (not to mention, a wide range of price points), it’s hard to know which ones are actually worth the splurge.
The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab tests leggings for things like durability, moisture management, comfort, and performance features, and our fashion editors weigh in with the most stylish leggings for everyday wear to find the best, longest-lasting, and most comfortable leggings out there. When you’re shopping for leggings, consider when you’ll be wearing them. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Workout leggings: Synthetic performance fabrics (like polyester or nylon) are ideal for workout leggings because they are stretchy, durable, opaque, and often moisture-wicking to help manage sweat. Look for flat interior seams to prevent irritation and friction.
- Leggings to wear as pants: You can wear leggings as pants or even to work if they’re made of thicker fabric like ponte and faux leather. To make sure fabric isn’t see-through, try the leggings in natural daylight or under a bright light. Bend over in front of a mirror or check for show-through by deeply bending your knee.
- Loungewear leggings: Don’t need leggings to be fully opaque? Opt for a plant-based fiber like cotton, lyocell, or modal if you want a super-soft pair to wear 24/7 or to layer under longer tops or dresses.
The leggings ahead are top-tested styles, staffer favorites, or popular picks with unique features. Here are the best leggings for women to buy in 2020:
1 BEST OVERALL LEGGINGS Align Pant LULULEMON
These leggings earn our top spot because they’re insanely comfortable (the lightweight, buttery smooth fabric has a barely-there feel) and they’re versatile enough to wear for pretty much any occasion. They’re equally useful as workout leggings, everyday wear, and loungewear. This high-rise waist is also flattering without digging into you or rolling down. On top of that, they’re available lots of different options with various colors and patterns, rises on the waist, and lengths on the leg.
Leggings can get expensive, but this pair is a total steal. It’s one of the most popular leggings on Amazon with over 19,000 reviews from users swear they’re incredibly comfortable and opaque. They’re not your best bet for exercise, but they’re ideal for everyday use or lounging at home. This style comes in tons of color options and is available in three size groupings, including plus sizes for up to 32W.
These Nordstrom leggings have a cult-like following from users who swear they’re even better than styles pricier brands. They’re thicker than lightweight leggings, which helps them look flattering and feel a bit more compressive. Still, they’re moisture-wicking, stretchy, and extra soft so they feel equally comfortable to wear during workouts and for everyday use. They also come in a wide range of sizes for regular and plus size.
Perfect for any exercise that involves lots of sweat and movement, these leggings are smooth and moisture wicking to help reduce friction. They’re also more compressive than other workout leggings, which can help with muscle fatigue from high-intensity exercise. We’re also big fans of the brand’s ColdGear leggings, which are fleece-lined for cooler weather, yet still breathable for running.
Lululemon makes our list again, this time for its tried and true Wunder Under Tights using the Full-On Luon fabric. These fan favorites are designed specifically for yoga and testers in our evaluation said they felt like second skin and stayed put throughout their workouts. They’re also flattering, breathable, and durable so you know they’ll last. On top of that, they come in lots of variations for different colors, rises, and lengths.
Many leggings with pockets only have a small insert for a credit card or key, but these have deep pockets on the side that can fit your phone or wallet. Plus, the pockets lie flat against your legs so they aren’t bulky like pockets on jeans. They’re made with Athleta’s signature Powervita fabric, which is buttery soft and slightly compressive, making this pair ideal for yoga and studio workouts.
Spanx isn’t just for shapewear – the brand also makes super flattering leggings of all kinds in a wide range of sizes, including tall, petite, and plus. This pair in particular is made of ponte, which is a thicker, knit fabric that looks more professional than athletic materials. If you’re looking for something even more structured, check out the Perfect Black Pant, which looks like regular work pants but has a stretchy, legging fit at the waist.
This pair proves you don’t have to sacrifice performance to go green: The fabric is made of recycled water bottles and users commonly call them the “best leggings ever.” They’re also compressive, making them ideal for high-impact exercise. Plus, they come in a wide range of sizes, including plus size.
Unlike our value pick above that’s an affordable everyday style from Amazon, these leggings are perfect for exercise because they’re made with performance fabric that’s stretchy, opaque, and comfortable to move around in. They’re also a fraction of the cost of other workout pants, yet verified reviewers swear they’re high quality. In fact, they have over 6,000 five-star reviews, and that number continues to grow.
These leggings are unique because the fabric feels like a pair of smooth running tights, but they’re more polished withdesign features like flattering seams down the front of the leg and flared openings around the ankles. And if the legs are too long for you, you can use a scissor to trim the unhemmed fabric – no tailoring required (just make sure you cut in a straight line!). On top of that, the fabric is made using regenerated nylon from old fishing nets and carpets.
This pair is certified organic, meaning the entire manufacturing process (not just the growing of the cotton) follows strict environmental standards. The brand is well-known for its sustainable fashion practices and these leggings in particular are best sellers, yet not too pricey. Just note that cotton leggings aren’t as moisture-wicking, durable, or opaque as synthetic performance fabrics, but they feel super soft.
If you prefer something more fun than basic black leggings, Terez has options in tons of prints for every style preference. Several even feature colorful metallic prints like this one. The smooth fabric proved to be durable in our tests and though it isn’t as high performance as other workout leggings, it’s certainly the trendiest pair you can bring to the gym.
These leggings are versatile enough to wear from working out to hanging out. They’re incredibly comfortable thanks to the soft and smooth fabric, yet they stay in place, wick sweat, and have minimal seams for good performance during exercise. They have thousands of five-star reviews on the Athleta website and come in lots of variations, including more fashion-forward prints.
With a built-in control top (like what you’d find in a pair of tights), these leggings have a smoothing and slimming effect. Most users agree that while they offer a tight fit, they aren’t restricting or uncomfortable at all. They’re also personal favorites of Good Housekeeping Fashion Director, Kristen Saladino. You’re better off wearing these for everyday use as opposed to workouts, but note that some users say they’re not as opaque as other leggings.
Not only are these leggings on trend with their shiny, leather look, they’re also super comfortable and incredibly flattering thanks to their stretchy and smoothing waistband. And unlike true leather leggings, they’re machine washable for easy care. Not surprisingly, they’re also one of the most popular leggings on the market, and they’re available in plus and petite sizes.
Cotton leggings are perfect for wearing under longer tops or dresses when you want them to be comfy but don’t need to worry about them being fully opaque. These leggings are a cotton blend and look more matte than shiny for everyday use. And unlike some other layering leggings, they have a wide waistband so you don’t have to worry about them rolling down.