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A Complete Legging Comparison // 9 Leggings Reviewed

October 1, 2018


Erin Schrader

It’s Legging Season!

As soon as the weatherman drops those first few words – crisp, fall, cool, brisk, or 60s, I run straight to my closet and bust out my scarves, sweaters, vest, and you know it- leggings. Yes, it’s here. It’s officially legging season, and we’re bringing you the full rundown on nine pairs of leggings and whether you need them in your closet or not.

We’re not going to get into the question of “are leggings pants?”. Because let me tell you, if there is a magical clothing item that will allow me to eat at multiple Thanksgivings in one day, sleep comfortably, workout without showing butt sweat [it’s real, we all know it’s real], and suck me in in all the right places, we’re going to go ahead and count them as pants.

As we all know, there is at least 12 million versions of leggings out there. Cheap “will they even last until I get them home from the store” leggings, pricier “are these going to make me a marathon runner” leggings, and the in-between “wow these aren’t that expensive and they actually make my legs look amazing” leggings. Which leaves us all wondering which ones are worth spending our hard earned money on!

The Leggings We Reviewed

How We Did the Legging Comparison

We purchased nine different brands and styles of leggings and put them through the ringer.  For each pair of leggings we’re showing them to you on Erin, who typically wears an extra-small or small, and Claire, who typically wears a medium. We’re judging these leggings based on the following categories:

  • Sheerness
  • Smoothing
  • Overall Fit
  • Quality
  • Staying Power

Each category is rated from 1-5, with a 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best. We noted whether each pair of leggings would be better for working out or an everyday outfit, like a tunic or sweater. We also call out whether there is an exposed seam on the outside of the leg and the crotch/butt region. A large seam can make a pair seem more athletic, even if that’s not the intentions of the leggings.

So while we’d love to say there is ONE winner, I’m going to let you in on a little secret before we get going- there are TWO WINNERS. We loved two pairs, and felt like one was a real win for every day wear while the other was a complete win for working out! While either could technically be worn for both, these are our suggestions 😉

Okay, let’s get to it!

#9. First up, our least favorite. The Sonoma Goods for Life Jersey Mid Rise.

The Sonoma Goods for Life Jersey Mid Rise were not a win at all, in our book. They were sheer, even on the hips and thighs, had a weird, baggy fit in the knees and crotch on Claire, and sort of felt like they would fall apart after one wash. Maybe even before washing them. The waist band was also only about two inches thick, so it constantly felt like it needed to be adjusted. BUT, the bonus with these is that they’re only $9.99.

  • Sheerness: Erin- 2, Claire- 2
  • Smoothing : Erin- 2 , Claire- 2
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 3 , Claire- 1
  • Quality: Erin- 1, Claire- 1
  • Staying Power: Erin- 1 , Claire- 1
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and do NOT have an exposed seam.

#8. Next, a similar style, the Aerie Chill High Waisted.

The Aerie Chill High Waisted also got a thumbs down from us. The pair was super similar to the Sonoma pair, with the really thin waist band that did not stay, extreme sheerness, and poor quality. These did seem to fit a bit better overall, and scored quite high with both Claire and Erin in that category! Just like the first pair, these are a huge win for price. Only $7.98! For that price, you can afford to buy multiple pairs, as long as you had long enough tops to hide all of your butt, because these babies are sheer.

  • Sheerness: Erin- 1 , Claire- 1
  • Smoothing : Erin- 2.5 , Claire- 3.5
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 4 , Claire- 4.5
  • Quality: Erin- 1.5 , Claire- 2
  • Staying Power: Erin- 1 , Claire- 2
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and do NOT have an exposed seam.

#7. While I tend to love all things Victoria’s Secret, these Knockout High-Rise leggings were an exception!

While I was really hoping these Knockout High-Rise would “knock” it out of the park, it just didn’t happen. A few things we didn’t love about these… they were SUPER hard to get on, which maybe that makes it better for sucking everything in? They continued to ride up in the crotch region [yay cameltoe!], have an odd heigh for the waist band [it seemed like it should have gone higher or lower], and they almost had a slight sheen to them which gave them a faux leather look in certain lights. For the price [$66.50], we expected more.

  • Sheerness: Erin- 3 , Claire- 3
  • Smoothing : Erin- 2 , Claire- 2
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 3, Claire- 3.5
  • Quality: Erin- 3, Claire- 3
  • Staying Power: Erin- 4, Claire- 3
  • These leggings would be best for working out, and they DO have an exposed seam.

#6. Moving on, #6 on our list was the Style & Co Tummy Control Legging.

Other than the sheerness factor, the Style & Co Tummy Control Legging. weren’t too bad! They lifted our butts more like an athletic pair, and definitely didn’t feel like they were going to continually need to be readjusted. The quality was a good material that we were impressed with. The waist band did seem quite tight, but I guess that helps with the staying power! While these didn’t necessarily add lumps and bumps, they didn’t do the world’s best job of hiding ours 😉

  • Sheerness: Erin- 1, Claire- 1
  • Smoothing : Erin- 2.5, Claire- 2.5
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 3, Claire- 4
  • Quality: Erin-4 , Claire- 4
  • Staying Power: Erin- 5 , Claire- 5
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and they do NOT have an exposed seam.

#5. Halfway there! These Nordstrom brand Go-To High Waist Legging checked all the boxes, but still wasn’t enough to be our faves.

These Nordstrom Go-To High Waist Leggings were a great middle of the road legging. The high waist was SUPER high. Like, maternity-high, so it definitely didn’t feel like they were going anywhere or would need to be adjusted often. The quality didn’t feel the greatest, and we sort of felt like they would be a major lint magnet. But they felt so much better than the $7-$10 pairs. If you don’t want to pay much, and are okay with a few inconveniences [keep a lint roller nearby, and don’t bend over too far if your shirt is short!], these would be a great pair to keep on hand!

  • Sheerness: Erin-2 , Claire- 2
  • Smoothing : Erin-3.5 , Claire- 3.5
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 4, Claire- 3.5
  • Quality: Erin- 2.5, Claire- 3.5
  • Staying Power: Erin- 4 , Claire- 5
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and they do NOT have an exposed seam

#4. Next up, Assets by Spanx Women’s Ponte Shaping Leggings.

We love most things at Target, and these Assets by Spanx Women’s Ponte Shaping Leggings, while unique, were no exception. After we got over the unique legging material [they’re ponte- more like a dress pant than a typical legging], we sort of loved these. It’s hard to group them in with the rest of the leggings, which, if we’re talking high level, have the same basic material. Throw on a pair of flats and a blazer, and we’re work-wear ready! Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s possible! One thing we didn’t love about these was the seam. The seam seemed sort of exaggerated to us, but maybe that’s intentional to make them seem dressier.

  • Sheerness: Erin- 5, Claire- 5
  • Smoothing : Erin- 2 , Claire- 2
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 3, Claire- 3
  • Quality: Erin- 3.5, Claire- 2.5
  • Staying Power: Erin- 5 , Claire- 5
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and they DO have an exposed seam

#3. You all know these too well! My long time, former legging love, the Zella Live In High Waist legging.

I was so surprised to learn that I have a new favorite legging. Going into this, Zella Live In High Waist legging have always been my tried and true pair, but now, after trying nine different pairs, there’s a NEW girl in legging town! But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love my Zellas. These leggings are super long [probably the longest ones we tried on], which are great for the taller ladies in the group, but can leave us shorter girls with a bit of extra material! There is never an issue with sheerness, needing to adjust them, and the quality is great! They do have quite a few seams, which tend to lead to the inevitable camel toe, so keep your shirts longer or your underwear in the right spots 😉 Overall, we love this pair, and love that so many people use them for both workouts and everyday.

  • Sheerness: Erin- 5, Claire- 5
  • Smoothing : Erin-3.5 , Claire- 3
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 3, Claire- 4
  • Quality: Erin- 4, Claire- 4
  • Staying Power: Erin- 5, Claire- 4
  • These leggings could be worn for for everyday wear or lighter workouts [yoga or lifting- not cardio], and they DO have an exposed seam

And now, drumroll please for our two FAVORITE leggings, because we couldn’t pick just one.

Our favorite for athletic or activewear is the Lululemon Align Pants.

We have always heard such great things about Lululemon, so we were anxious to try their Lululemon Align Pants and see what all the fuss was about. NOW WE KNOW WHAT THE FUSS WAS ABOUT. These. Babies. Are. Smooth. As. Butter. And super thing. Which we thought would lead to bump city [aka show all the cellulite], but there is a magic potion that they must have put in these pants, because the smoothing and non-sheerness is amazing for how thin they are. Our only complaint was that there was a bit of extra material for both girls at the knees, and Claire wasn’t sold on them staying up [but she may have had a size too big]. One additional note: if you choose to not wear underwear with leggings, you’ll most likely end up with a cameltoe in these.

  • Size notes: Erin wore a 2, and Claire wore a 8, but would probably size down to a 6
  • Sheerness: Erin-5 , Claire- 5
  • Smoothing : Erin-5 , Claire- 5
  • Overall Fit: Erin- 4, Claire- 4
  • Quality: Erin- 5, Claire- 5
  • Staying Power: Erin- 5, Claire- 4
  • These leggings could be worn for for everyday wear or activewear, and they DO have an exposed seam

Our favorite for everyday wear is the Spanx Look At Me Now Seamless Legging. We actually gave these babies a PERFECT score. Perfect, I say!

Where have the Spanx Look At Me Now Seamless Leggings been my whole life?! These leggings are seriously A-MAZING. The material is a bit different than most pairs we tried on, but they weren’t sheer at all, they made our legs [and butts] look smooth as silk, fit like they were made for each of us, didn’t feel like they would fall apart or be an uncomfortable material, and definitely didn’t feel like we’d be adjusting them all day. Like I said, we gave them a PERFECT score in every category. They have a super thick waist, but there is no seam there, which make them super flattering around the waist. It does a great job of sucking you in, and would be great for showing off your figure.

  • Size note: Erin was wearing XS, but would probably size up to S
  • Sheerness: Erin-5 , Claire- 5
  • Smoothing : Erin-5 , Claire- 5
  • Overall Fit: Erin-5 , Claire- 5
  • Quality: Erin- 5, Claire- 5
  • Staying Power: Erin- 5 , Claire- 5
  • These leggings would be best for everyday wear, and they DO have an exposed seam  [although it seems integrated]

Now it’s time to put on your favorite pair [or click add to cart for your new favorite pair], throw on a comfy sweater, and enjoy legging season.

For your pinning pleasure — 

share this with your best girlfriends:

  1. Kim says:

    These posts are SO helpful and I hope you will continue to do them forever!!! I put the #1 fav in my Nordstrom cart!

  2. Tiffany says:

    Such a great post! I agree, very helpful and, I too, hope you’ll continue doing them!

  3. Erin says:

    I love the Lululemon Align pants, but you definitely need to size down by 1-2 sizes. makes me wonder what women on the smaller end would do, but works if you aren’t already wearing a 0-2.

  4. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for including reviews for each on 2 women…it’s a good start. However, it would have been more helpful to have tried them on an XS/S and a L/XL instead of a Medium.

    • erin says:

      Hi Tiffany, Claire here! Thanks so much for reading! Several of us here on the LIY Team review comments, so it’s possible yours was missed initially. So sorry about that girlfriend! Really love this idea! We will keep it in mind for future posts! xoxo

  5. Nancy Ellis says:

    What size did Claire get for the Spanx Look at me know Legging? You listed Erin’s size but not claire’s

  6. Annie says:

    Would your recommendations be the same for 64 year
    Old women? I love leggings and the look in younger women your age but are they appropriate for someone my age?

    • erin says:

      Absolutely! I think leggings work for any age! Our reviews would be the same regardless of age. 🙂

  7. Heather says:

    Thank you for the legging round up! Very helpful. What size is Claire wearing in the spanx look at me now? I see notes for Erin, but curious about Claire’s sizing since I’m closer to her sizing. Thanks!

    • erin says:

      Hi Heather, Claire here! I wore a medium [normally 8/29] and felt comfortable! They suck EVERYTHING in, which I love. That being said, they do run on the tighter side so I might suggest sizing up if you’re in between. Hope that helps!! xoxo

  8. Kelly says:

    Any issues with the Spanx pair and not wearing underwear? I hate lines.

    • erin says:

      Hey girl, Claire here! I wore a seamless thong while testing the leggings and didn’t have an issue. However, Erin went without and didn’t have a problem either! That being said, I think you would be fine either way! Hope that helps. 🙂

  9. Vanessa says:

    I wish you would have review the new elation leggings g but athleta!! They give my lulu leggings a huge run for their money!

    • erin says:

      I’ve heard nothing but great things! We might have to give these a shot!

    • Omaha Mom says:

      Absolutely agree! Worth every penny. I tell people they have magic in their pants! Cellulite removing magic! Ha!

  10. Erin says:

    I love love love my align for everyday, but I am totally surprised you didn’t review any Athleta leggings. Their powervita fabric is just as soft but holds you in a bit better than the align. Athleta is my go to brand over lululemon. Don’t get me wrong, lululemon fantastic but Athleta has many more styles and options. You should definitely try them for your next review!

  11. Wowza, I can’t believe something beat the Zellas! I’m with you on the Victoria’s Secret leggings that I’ve tried — like a workout to get the workout leggings on! I’m definitely going to try the Spanx — I honestly wouldn’t have tried them because I would have thought they’d be a little too “sucking it all in.” Thanks for the great review!

  12. Linda Serro says:

    Now that you’ve sold me on these. Please do a post on the best booty covering tops to wear with them. Please remember us hot weather girls so not just sweaters!

  13. This post is amazing! Thank you so much!

  14. Denise Tomlinson says:

    Great post – next time, knowing which leggings (jeans, anything!) that come in a cropped, ankle or petite inseam would be helpful for us VERY petite girls (5’1”), but I do love knowing about too much material at the knee and sheerness of the material. Can’t wait to try the Spanx. My daughter already convinced me to get Lululemon and they are a dream.Thanks again!

    • erin says:

      Thanks so much for reading! This is a great suggestion- we’ll definitely keep it in mind for future posts. You’re in luck: the Spanx had the shortest inseam of all, so they should work perfectly for you! Hope you LOVE them! xo

  15. Kelsie says:

    Love this guide! My personal favorite leggings are from Girlfriend Collective. They have great staying power, lots of colors, they’re not sheer and they’re made from recycled materials. They’re the best!

  16. Sun says:

    Thank you for this post! I’ve always struggled to find the right pair of leggings. And I agree with Linda. I struggle even more for booty covering tops that aren’t heavy sweaters. I can’t wear my leggings often enough because I don’t have the tops:( Thank you!

  17. Tiffany says:

    This is a great post! Love when you compare like items and give us all the details. Would love to see a post on long tops/tunics to wear with leggings (not just sweaters because it’s still too warm in So Cal for sweaters). Thanks for another great post!

  18. Christy says:

    Loved this post. I’ve been wanting to try Lululemon tights so I followed the link and checked out their reviews. Holy smokes the reviews on their site are brutal regarding pilling. Have you had your long? If so, have you experienced this?

    • erin says:

      Hey Christy, Claire here! Erin and I are so excited to try our first lulu’s! That being said, we haven’t had them for long. My BFF is a HUGE Lulu fan [has been for years] and she suggests trying the aligns vs the luon style when it comes to pilling. They are a different material, which may make a difference long term!

    • Tiffany says:

      I had a pair that I LOVED, bought them even though I read a ton of reviews about pilling. A few months later, mine finally started pilling. If I had only paid $30 for them, I wouldn’t have worried…but they were $$$. When I brought them back to a Lulu store, they employee asked me how I used them. I said, “running errands and lounging.” She said they are meant for yoga, not everyday wear. She said the fabric will eventually pill from friction off our couch, car etc. she said they would replace them once, but not again. I opted for a different pair. Although I appreciate the, replacing them w a different pair, I feel like Lulu should be up front about how delicate they are. Bottom line, even though they feel like butter- they aren’t going to hold up if you wear them for daily use.

  19. Kate S Prasse says:

    Great review! May need to try a few! I also like Lands End
    Leggings- Starfish. High waist, holds in, not sheer,but not for working out.

  20. Brandi says:

    Vs knockouts are my face for working out. I love that you can buy “short” length and the waist is fine for me. I also love all the seams which flatter an athletic build and that they’re so thick to be squat proof. Also never have a camel to problem sans skivvies. Fyi – I primarily lift weights. I wouldn’t want to do tons of cardio in these because of the thickness (I’d get too hot). Just wanted to throw this info out there in case some other lifting ladies happen to see my comment.

    • erin says:

      I totally agree with this! I have a pair of Knockouts [several years old] but love them for light lifting- definitely don’t think I could do cardio in them. They’re also a little too athletic looking for everyday wear in my opinion! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!! xoxo -Claire

  21. kathy says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Since leggings are a closet staple, I love the comparisons!! I do have a question about the Zella leggings. I purchased a pair during the Nordstrom sale, but haven’t worn them yet because it has just been to dang hot. Anyway, I recently received an email from Nordstrom regarding the Zella leggings. They said there was a “product quality issue” and that they “may/may not be made of the usual soft brushed quality material”. Since I’ve never had them before, I don’t have a comparison as to whether I have the correct leggings or the ones with quality issues. Can you help me with this?

  22. Shellie Wright Bechtold says:

    This is so very helpful. Wish you would have included Athleta in this. Keep up the great posts and reviews. Love it!!!

  23. Amy says:

    Such an incredible post! I’m a diehard Zella fan and I am excited to try these others you’ve discovered! Thank you for your research!

  24. Heather says:

    Would the Spanx or Zellas work under a sweater dress or are they too thick?

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