The expert guide to the right leggings for your workout

Find the perfect pair for your exercise of choice

Beauty Crew Editor / May 25 2017

Exercise leggings are exercise leggings, right?

Well, yes and no.

“While the style and/or silhouette of the leggings can be the same across multiple types of exercise, what’s most important is thinking about how you want to feel in your bottoms,” says Sarah Harvey, Senior Buyer for lululemon athletica Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s more about making sure your gear helps you unlock your full performance potential. We believe that when you aren’t focussing on your gear, you will perform at your best. Getting in the right pants, no matter your sweaty pursuit of choice, is key to that moment of ultimate presence and aliveness,” she continues.

So we asked some of the fitness industry’s best to help shed some light on what the right kind of leggings are depending on your exercise of choice.


Being comfortable when you practice is so important, so choose fabrics that breathe and feel like a second skin,” says Jackie Alexander, lululemon ambassador and Co-Founder of HummingPuppy. 

On top of that Alexander recommends looking for a style that is high-waisted, as you’ll feel comfortable and supported during your session, and avoid styles that have anything that can dig or poke into you when you’re doing floor work (like Savasana!).

Try: lululemon Wunder Under Pant Hi-Rise SE; Nimble Active Alannah Long Tights; Free People Movement Intuition Leggings


If Pilates is your exercise of choice, Steph Prem, Owner & Director of Studio PP, recommends looking for a nylon blend with a compression element, as this can help enhance your body awareness during your class, and feel effortless to workout in.

“Prints and patterns are so fun but if I’m really looking to put in a serious Pilates session, I like a firm-fitting full-length pant with lines that complement my body and will help aid me with alignment, shapes and postures and awareness throughout the class,” says Prem.

As with yoga pants, it’s also a good idea to pick Pilates pants that are free from zippers and pockets that can become uncomfortable.

Try: Vie Active Taryn 7/8 Compression Tight; The Upside Bamboo Guru Pant; 2XU Ice Mid Rise Compression Tights 


I love lighter fabrics for barre. When your glutes are burning through 'just eight more pulses', you tend to generate a lot of body heat and you don't want to feel constricted or suffocated by heavy, thick fabrics. Even though we're not doing high intensity dynamic movement, I build up a sweat in class so I look for breathable fabrics,” says Gemma Dawkins, Studio Manager of Barre Body in Brisbane.

Dawkins recommends avoiding leggings that “ride up, fall down at the back or dig in all the wrong places.” The key to a good pair of barre leggings is to feel comfortable and ensure you can move freely. Dawkins also suggests looking for something high-waisted, zip-free and a flexible material that can move with you during leg lifts, lunges, and pliés.

Try: lululemon All the Right Places; Bonds Active Micro Full Legging; Onzie Graphic Legging

Cardio and circuit training

“For running, it’s important to take into consideration distance and weather conditions when thinking about the best gear to buy. For longer runs in cold and/or wet weather, I would suggest looking for bottoms that offer compression and flat seams, as this will offer you additional warmth, muscle stabilisation and eliminate any potential chafing,” says Veronika Larisova, lululemon ambassador and Exercise Physiologist/Trainer at AGOGA.

She also recommends looking for moisture-wicking material, as sweat doesn’t evaporate efficiently in cotton leggings, meaning they’ll feel wet, heavy and uncomfortable, and can cause chafing. She also suggests looking for lightweight nylon or Lycra leggings that are tight but not restrictive and have practical pockets to carry small items like keys or cash.

And if you’re a boxing fiend, it’s a similar case. Ruan Kotze, Director of FightFit Collingwood says, “You are likely going to sweat a lot so a high quality material that can absorb sweat and dry quickly is ideal. Also, fitted tops and bottoms work best to prevent rubbing and chafing when punching and moving around. And they need to fit well. When you've got your gloves on you can't fuss with your threads.” 

If you prefer HIIT or circuit training, Michael Ramsey – lululemon ambassador and Owner and Director of several F45 locations – says you should still look for a similar kind of legging. “A combination of nylon and Lycra is the way to go (but not too much Lycra). Circuit training, especially F45, is tough! You need something that breathes, something that stretches and most importantly something that’s comfortable,” he says.

Try: Nike Power Legendary Engineered Tight; Adidas By Stella Mccartney Run Longtight; Skins A400 Long Compression Tight

Cycling and Spin

I typically recommend moisture-wicking, fitted bottoms paired with a looser top for my spin classes. Tights/leggings that are at the knee or below are better as I find that shorts can get in the way of your spinning flow,” says Tom Sproats, lululemon ambassador and Founder of Scenic Cycle.

So when looking for your spin leggings, Sproats is all for a design that has smooth lines and offers breathability during your sweat sesh, and is free from heavy stitching. Pockets are a great addition as you can store your locker keys without interfering with your workout.

Try: lululemon Pace Rival Crop; Running Bare Runway Ready 3/4 Tight; Lorna Jane Cyclone Active Core 7/8 Tight

Once you've worked up a sweat, these are the beauty products you need post-workout, plus Khloe Kardashian's favourite cleanser to use after exercising

Image credit: @shaym

Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.

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