Best women’s gym leggings UK 2023: exercise in comfort with control-waist, compression, and black leggings

From comfy, stretchy yoga leggings, to tights designed to withstand ten thousand squats, to athleisure for Sunday brunch - whatever gym leggings you’re after, we have the pair to meet your needs

Best women’s gym leggings: options for cardio, yoga, HIIT, and weightsBest women’s gym leggings: options for cardio, yoga, HIIT, and weights
Best women’s gym leggings: options for cardio, yoga, HIIT, and weights

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We’re the generation that made the weights section accessible to women. We also (insert pat on back here) made gym leggings a wardrobe staple whatever the occasion.

For fear of sounding sentimental, it’s fair to say that we have some pretty big feelings where gym leggings are concerned. If only our enthusiasm could make the leggings-shopping experience (which, with so very many options, is entirely overwhelming) a tad easier.

Best ladies’ gym leggings at a glance

What should you look for in gym leggings?

We have high expectations where leggings are concerned. We want them to stay put whilst we shift our bodies through every plane of movement possible all the while absorbing – but not showing – sweat, whilst simultaneously shielding our intimate parts and looking chic for post-workout brunches, too. It’s a lot to ask from some tubes of stretchy fabric.

If you’re struggling to know where to start, consider first how you intend to use the leggings. Do you, for example, anticipate wearing them to complete lots of high intensity training sessions, or do you see yourself doing more low impact movement in them?

What kind of exercise do you do regularly?

Leggings with compressive qualities, for instance, may be a better choice for HIIT, as they’re less likely to move and cause distraction whilst jumping and sprinting, whilst leggings with a gentler fit may be better for things like yoga where you move through – and hold – lots of positions.

Features to look out for in ladies’ leggings

What else to look for? Sounds obvious, but don’t forget to check the opacity before investing in a pair of gym leggings. You’ll also want to make sure they do a decent job of sweat-wicking so you don’t spend workout sessions sodden.

Pockets will be an important feature if you like to keep your valuables close by whilst working out at the gym, and fabric content should be considered if you have sensitive skin or if you like to make sustainable shopping choices.

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There are tons of great pairs of gym leggings on offer right now, but here are our favourites...

Sizes available: US 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20

Ask any fitness fanatic for a rundown of their favourite leggings and we’d bet our post-workout snacks that Lululemon’s Aligns make the list almost every time.

They’re the OGs of athleisure wear, and whilst they were actually designed with yoga in mind, for many Aligns fans they’ve ended up as a go-tos for most types of movement – and for good reason.

They’re buttery smooth (seriously, some of the softest gym pants you’ll have the pleasure of wearing) and completely opaque, despite being fairly lightweight.

They’re super stretchy, sweat-wicking, and they also have what many consider a confidence-enhancing shape too, which nips in at the waist without creating any discomfort.

It’s worth noting that whilst many do happily wear Aligns for high-intensity movement they are, naturally, better suited to low-impact workouts where you require less support.

They’ll also have more longevity if they’re used as intended.

Available in an array of colours and two length options there’s a pair for pretty much every exerciser. They are a bit of an investment buy, but they’re worth it if they help to improve your gym or workout experiences.

Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL

Whilst Contur’s Smooth Moves leggings don’t look altogether unique, they actually have some really interesting and quite rare features. For starters, they boast UV sun protection (we know what you’re thinking – we’re in the UK – what sun?

However, UV rays can be harmful whatever the weather), so they’re ideal for outdoor workouts, and they’re sun cream, oil, and chlorine resistant, too – perfect for packing for your summer getaway. They’re also piling and abrasion resistant, so have great longevity, too.

Made from 78% recycled fabric, the Smooth Moves are a great option for those looking to make more eco-conscious choices where activewear is concerned.

The two-way stretch means there’s a little less give than some other options on this list but they do, as a result, keep their shape quite well.

They have bit of a sheen to them which we think looks pretty cool, but you may feel errs a little too on the glossy side to wear outside of an exercise environment.

They also fit quite snuggly, so you may want to size up for a comfortable fit.

Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL

Tala is celebrated for its eco credentials, and rightly so. Clothing is made mostly from recycled materials and produced in small batches so as not to create excess stock.

The Zinnia Seamless leggings are among fans of the brand’s favourite pieces – they’re thick and have a compression quality to them (they’re the type of leggings you could pop on with a tee without worrying about exposing yourself or feeling a little *too* naked for non-gym based activities).

A few niggles our tester had: they’re quite long in the length, so you may have a little excess fabric if your legs are on the, well, little, side.

Then there’s the waistband, which does a great job of ensuring you feel supported, but our tester did begin to find it a little too tight after a while (particularly when bloated).

What we love, though, is that they’re a quality piece of kit that’s consciously-made (these particular leggings are made from 92% recycled polyamide) and available at an impressively low price in comparison to other sustainably-made clothing.

Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

There’s a reason why Gymshark has become a cult favourite within the fitness community – the clothing, very simply, ticks a lot of boxes, and the Vital Seamless leggings are no exception.

The fabric has that trademark Gymshark feel – strong and supportive, yet supple, allowing for easy and comfortable movement, and with compression in all the right places.

The seamless design means less chance of irritation and a potentially longer lifespan for the leggings, too.

They’re great at sweat-wicking, and they pass the opaque test with flying colours. Speaking of colours, they’re available in 11 shades, both bold and pastel.

Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL

Tentree’s W Inmotion leggings will take you from lunch with the girls to pilates without compromising on comfort or quality.

They’re subtle (as in, they wouldn’t look out of place worn with a tee for a non-active outing) and practical too with two secret waistband pockets and a mesh one on each leg for stashing valuables or, as the case may be, snacks.

They’re super-stretchy with a high, yet gentle, waist, and the 7/8 length means they’re suitable for a wider range of heights.

Made from 79% recycled polyester, the W Inmotions make an excellent sustainable alternative to mass-produced activewear, often found in high street stores, and we love that for every pair sold 10 trees are planted (hence the name). That’s a win for your kit collection and the planet, if you ask us.

Sizes available: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL

Truth is, we tried to find fault with Adanola’s Ultimate leggings, but we simply couldn’t. To begin with, they’re buttery soft – we’re talking so supremely comfy you’ll not want to take them off – and then there’s the four-way stretch that allows non-restrictive movement through your full range of motion.

There’s no front crotch seam, meaning no unwanted visits from a certain hump-backed animal’s toes, and the high rise waist provides an ideal level of support without feeling too tight.

They’re available in two lengths, eight sizes, and 26 colours, including every shade of neutral you could possibly imagine. And, the best bit? They’re comfy and cute enough to wear to barre, brunch, and beyond. Don’t be alarmed if they look tiny at first – they stretch, promise.

Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

After Lululemon, Sweaty Betty are the athleisure brand - though we resent the sexist association they have been foisted with of being for ‘yummy mummies heading to brunch’ - Sweaty Betty leggings perform beautifully in the gym, and stand the test of a million squats and burpies.

The Power Leggings are our go-to pair for just about every high intensity gym workout, as their stretch and robust seaming mean they can withstand serious punishment.

That said - they do, admittedly, look fabulous on, are are ideal for a Sunday brunch. They’re available in 19 different colours and patterns, plus two different leg lengths (7/8 or full), so you can find to find the perfect fit and colour scheme for your tastes.

Also, they sculpt your bum beautifully - giving you a pert derriere even if the squat thrusters haven’t started to pay off yet.

Sizes available: XXS, XS, S, M, L

WIT’s high rise leggings feel like a second skin. They’re thin, but not flimsy, silky soft, and super lightweight – perfect for fast-paced and high-intensity sports.

The high rise waistband provides support around the middle, and the stitching details – particularly around the quads and glutes – have a contouring effect to make muscles look appear slightly more pronounced (if snapping butt selfies in the gym is your jam, these are the leggings to wear whilst modelling).

They’re sweat-wicking and stay put whilst squat-jumping and such – they also have a back pocket, which we found roomy enough for a card or a key, but probably not substantial enough to support a phone whilst getting busy doing plyo moves.

They’re slightly shorter in length than your average pair, which our littleish-legged tester loved, and they come in a range of both fun and subtle colours, too.

It would be great to see these leggings in larger sizes – our tester, a UK size 10-12, wore a medium comfortably, therefore, depending on your shape, a large would likely only accommodate a size 12-14 body.

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