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FOUND: The Best Athletic Legging // 11 Pairs Tested

January 15, 2020

By:

Erin Schrader

With New Year’s resolutions still [hopefully] going strong, the local gyms are seeing a bit more foot traffic this time of year. And as you look around, you’re seeing women wear a whole lot of one thing: black leggings. Some are cropped, some have a bit of a sheen to them, some are a BIT too see-through 😉 and some have you asking that lady on the elliptical wear she got them from.

While I probably won’t be wearing these leggings to the gym anytime soon, I know many of you are working on your fitness and are on the hunt for the perfect pair of athletic leggings. So I’ve rounded up 11 pairs of black leggings at several price points, put them through a grueling test of jumping jacks, burpees, running, squats and more, to give you my honest feedback on which pairs I would buy and which pairs I would steer clear from. AND for the first time ever, we did our product comparison completely blind! Meaning, one of the girls handed me the leggings to put on without me knowing which pair I was trying so that brand name wouldn’t get into my headspace at all! We loved doing it this way! So whether you’re a hitting the pavement or getting ready to spin to the latest craze, take a look at what leggings you may want to add into your workout wardrobe!

PS if you’re new around here, you may want to take a look at our other comparison posts, where we’ve covered everything from dry shampoo to self-tanners to white tshirts.

The Pairs I Compared:

What I Ranked:

Overall Fit: Are they loose at the ankles [yes this is a real thing] or do they just make your butt look weird? Every pair of leggings fit a bit different, so this was all taken into consideration!

Quality: Will they hold up after several washes? Will they pill? Do they FEEL like good quality?

Staying Power: No one likes wearing leggings [athletic or everyday] that you’re constantly pulling up and adjusting. You’d be surprised how many pairs need adjusting just from sitting down to standing up! Imagine doing a full workout class and constantly having the waistband fall or bunch. No thank you.

Sheerness: In short, do they pass the squat test? No one wants to be working out at the gym [or reaching down to that lowest aisle at Target] and unknowingly show off everything that’s UNDERNEATH your leggings.

Breathability: When I put on athletic leggings, I think that they should feel lightweight and breathable. Not thick, heavy, or feel like they’re just going to let sweat build up.

Lint Collecting: Another annoyance — lint. We put the leggings to the true test by rubbing them against the fuzziest sweatshirt we could find and then noted how well it deflected said lint or attracted every last ounce of it.

The Camel Toe Test: You’ll notice some cute camel graphics on each image! Camel rides : fun. Camel toes: not fun. The more camel graphics, the more intense camel toe. Look for the pairs with the least amount of camels.

 

The Two Pairs I’d Recommend:

Nike One Luxe Tights


Nike One Luxe Tights [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

If budget is no concern, this Nike pair is the overall winner that I would suggest! There is almost some magical cooling power to these leggings [we Googled it and couldn’t find anything, so maybe that’s just an added bonus or we’re losing our minds]. This pair almost has a latex/balloon material type of feeling to them, which may sound odd, but is actually quite amazing. They stayed in place, they’re super breathable, not sheer at all, and just overall a great pair of athletic leggings! Also, notice only one camel! Woohoo for a great camel toe score! Add that to the list of things I never thought I’d be writing on the internet 10 years ago.  The only thing that held us back [but we didn’t let it affect our score] was the price. That’s why we’re giving you two winners 😉

Did they pass the squat test: yes // Do they collect lint: no // Would I buy these: Yes

Core 10 ‘Build Your Own’ Onstride Run Legging


Core 10 ‘Build Your Own’ Onstride Run Legging [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

If you’re not looking to spend as much, but still want a FANTASTIC pair, I cannot recommend this pair enough! So we’re giving this pair the award for Best Athletic Legging Under $50! Amazon is good for a lot of things, and apparently athletic leggings is one of them! There is mesh ventilation on the back of the knee, a fun zipper detail at the ankle, and a ton of hidden pockets for your keys/money while out and about or at the gym. They’re the BYO [build your own] style, so you can pick your rise and your inseam to fit how you prefer! I loved the material of this pair, and would highly recommend giving this pair a try!

Did they pass the squat test:  They had a LIIIIITLE bit of sheerness when I got to my lowest, but the girls had to really look close 😉  // Do they collect lint: some, but it wiped right off. // Would I buy these:  Yes

The Pairs that Checked Most of the Boxes [from best to worst]:

Sweaty Betty Power 7/8 Technical Leggings


Sweaty Betty Power 7/8 Technical Leggings [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Ohhh Sweaty Betty, you were a close 2nd. I have a few other Sweaty Betty workout pieces, and every time I put them on I think “wow, this feels really nice.” The same held true when I put on these leggings. Plus, I mean, how cute is the brand name [remember: I didn’t know which pairs I was trying on and testing, I promise!]. This pair really sucks you in at the waist- they’re not going anywhere during your workout. Again, the price is a bit higher than I’d like to spend, but aside from that, I really did love this pair of leggings!

The one thing to note, is that these are 7/8 length. I had to scrunch them up a bit in order for them to hit higher up on my calves than I initially planned, which then gave them some bunching. I’m 5’4″, so if you’re taller you wouldn’t have this problem! At first we were scoring these pretty bad for fit, but went back and adjusted once we realized they were 7/8 length.

Did they pass the squat test: yes  // Do they collect lint: some, but it wiped right off // Would I buy these:  No, too expensive

Athleta Stealth 7/8 Tight


Athleta Stealth 7/8 Tight [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Next up, Athleta! While we LOVE Athleta and so many of the products they offer, this pair of leggings wasn’t our favorite [not the worst, just sort of right in the middle]. The material was a mix between a cottony feel and a latex feel [I really need to stop using that word] – not really one or the other. But whatever you’d call the material, I’d call it a lint collector. If you live a lint-free lifestyle and can get past that, this pair scored great for staying power, overall fit, and quality. Plus there’s a hidden front pocket with a top to it to keep your key secure! The only other thing I struggled with with this pair was the FEELING [just a feeling] that they were going to need adjusted. It kept feeling like they were going to bunch up or fold over, but they never actually did. Still trying to figure that one out…

Did they pass the squat test: yes // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these:  Yes

Old Navy High-Waisted Elevate Built-In Sculpt 7/8-Length Compression Leggings


Old Navy High-Waisted Elevate Built-In Sculpt 7/8-Length Compression Leggings [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

First things first, EEK, three camels. Now that we got that out of the way… This pair actually scored quite high on overall fit, sheerness, and staying power. These babies suck you in, that’s for sure! Where it did not perform well was breathability [heeeavy!] and quality. Even before I knew the brand name, I was questioning whether they’d hold up over time.

Did they pass the squat test: yes  // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these: no

Zella Live In High Waist Pocket Ankle Performance Leggings


Zella Live In High Waist Pocket Ankle Performance Leggings [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Okay, first things first, you may not be able to see it in the photos but these leggings have the cutest tone-on-tone leopard print to them. That alone makes me love them. This pair is more on the cottony side, so they’re going to collect lint, and I only gave them a 3 for breathability. However, they have the true Zella “suck you in” power, so they’re not going anywhere during your workout! The fit of these was fine, but we didn’t give them any bonus points because it didn’t really do anything special.

Did they pass the squat test: yes  // Do they collect lint: yes  // Would I buy these? yes

Fabletics High Waisted PowerHold Legging


Fabletics High Waisted PowerHold Legging [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

All those Kate Hudson commercials had me thinking Fabletics was the greatest thing, but according to this pair of leggings, I now know differently. They felt really thick, and not super breathable [which seems key for a pair of athletic leggings]. Also, hi three camels. The fit is good, and they really do a good job of sucking you in, but there was some folding over of the waist band as I moved around. If I had to guess, I would have guessed these were a $30ish pair. One thing to note- they are super long, so if you’re struggling to find leggings long enough for you, this could be a good option!

Did they pass the squat test: yes  // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these? No

Lululemon Wunder Under High-Rise Tight *Full-On Luxtreme


Lululemon Wunder Under High-Rise Tight *Full-On Luxtreme [TTS, wearing size 4] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Lulu, I love you, but I honestly expected a higher ranking for you! Is this telling us that maybe brand name isn’t always what it seems? I digress… As soon as I put this pair on, I could tell they were a higher end material [sometimes higher end feel means higher price, and that was true here!]. They felt really good! But the waist was almost TOO high [I didn’t know this was a thing]. It was so high that they kept folding over a bit with every jumping jack, toe touch, burpee, etc! Not a full fold, but constantly needing to adjust the little bubble. This pair of leggings definitely did not pass the squat test [sorry team who had to check]. Quality wise, they do feel like they would last a long time, but some girls on the team have found their their Lululemon Align leggings have pilled like crazy over a year or two. Hopefully this pair isn’t the same!

Did they pass the squat test: no // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these? No

 

The Pairs I Realllllly Didn’t Love:

C9 Champion Training High-Waisted Leggings


C9 Champion Training High-Waisted Leggings [TTS, wearing size small] [similar: Capri Length Legging] //  Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Did they pass the squat test: no // Do they collect lint: some, but it wiped right off // Would I buy these? No

Calia by Carrie Underwood Energize 7/8 Legging


Calia by Carrie Underwood Energize 7/8 Legging [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

Love Carrie Underwood, hate these leggings. Sorry, Carrie. I kept saying “I want to take these off” while the team was trying to take notes and photos. The waist kept falling down with every single move, and the fit was way off- the crotch was super long, the waist was short, it just wasn’t a good fit. No thank you. Next.

Did they pass the squat test: yes  // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these? No

Alo Airbrush High Waist Leggings


Alo Airbrush High Waist Leggings [TTS, wearing size small] // Backcountry Wasatch Crest Hybrid Jacket [size up if in between, wearing in small] // Keyhole Tank [TTS, wearing XS] // New Balance 247 v2 Sneaker

No. Just no. I don’t know how many times I said “I don’t like these”  while going through the testing process. Don’t waste your money. Very cottony, very long, don’t suck you in, I don’t know what else to say.

Did they pass the squat test:  no // Do they collect lint: yes // Would I buy these? No

Now that I’ve tried all 11 pairs, I’m feeling good about my Nikes and Core 10s- my budget pair and more spend pair. Now if only the leggings could get me into the gym…


share this with your best girlfriends:

  1. Sonja says:

    I would like to have seen several team members of different body types try these as well. Leg length, thigh size , waist length, rise, booty etc. could make a difference!

  2. Kyly says:

    Oh wow, I can’t believe Zyia’s Light ‘n Tight didn’t make the list!

  3. I’m guessing everyone was laughing hysterically at the squat test! As well, how would one put that particular skill on their resume?! 🙂

  4. Karen says:

    I love the Alo high waist leggings! They suck me in perfectly without feeling like I am being squished and I love the high waist with a long line sports bra. They actually fit me better than a lot of other pairs.

  5. I love this comparison, but I wish you tried Zyia Active light n tight leggings. I’m willing to bet that they would be at the top of your list for squat proof, staying power, lint free, comfort and look. They are a true game changer in working out, running and leisure. Not only are they high performance, but they make every shape looks it’s best. I’d love to send you a pair for you to review and then revisit this post.

  6. Gloria says:

    Love when you all do these comparisons. It’s got to be a lot of work but sure does help us!
    I do kickboxing three times a week so I am always looking for the best workout leggings and I’ve had some good buys from Amazon.
    I’ve tried RBX, Yogalicous and 90 degrees from Amazon and want to now try The Core 10. I also wear Lulu but only if I find them on sale or at the outlet mall.

  7. Mary Rooney says:

    I love xersion brand from JCPenny, but the top can fold over.I am very short waisted though.. They do not pill and hold up over time.

  8. Holly says:

    I love lulu lemon but I don’t like the Wunder Under for all the same reasons. I also do t mine the aligns. All the others I do like. I agree anime’s are good.

  9. Karen says:

    Alo are actually my favorite and I’ve tried several in this bunch!

  10. Betsy says:

    Love the old navy elevate and just put on to check for camel toe. Eeeek! Shew! For me they didn’t show three camels! ???? They do hold up after time.

  11. Toshia McKinney says:

    I’d love to hear your feedback on Zyia’s Light n Tight! I’m surprised they didn’t make the list being they are a new “hot” brand.

  12. Kelly says:

    Zyia is a brand you should try… they fit like an athleta or lulu in my opinion but don’t have the price tag… love the brilliance for just daily wear, but the light and tights for my Burn Bootcamp daily butt kicking…

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