Women's Gym Leggings: What to Look For in a Pair & What to Buy
It can be tough finding good workout gear when you're a woman. Some high street retailers (where many of us make our first gym wear purchases) sell garish athletic wear in a range of infantile and nu-rave colours: bright pink trainers, lime green t-shirts, neon headbands. Women are initially more likely to feel self-conscious during exercise so looking like something Big Bird might throw up isn't going to help build self-esteem unless, of course, you enjoy wearing bright colours.
Then there are the designers who favour fashion over function.
Clothes have to look good in order to sell, sure, but do women really need to look sexy when they're sweating? Some women will. Some women will want to. And that's absolutely fine and more power to them BUT many women will just want a pair of leggings that won't go opaque mid-squat.
One post on The Evening Standard website is entitled: 'Best Bootylicious Leggings for Women'.
Excuse me, but bootylicious?
There's a word you haven't heard since Destiny's Child. Bootilicious is not going to help you workout harder or faster. Bootilicious isn't what makes you feel amazing after a workout, either. Bootiliciousness (!?) is something that exercise may help you achieve but leggings can only enhance the work that mother nature and your training regime have already put in.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good when you're exercising or wanting to look sexy or bootilicious and if fashion is important to you, then it makes sense that you'll pickier about what you wear when working out. Just be careful that the brand you choose isn't all style and no substance. Your gear should be form fitting AND functional.
One piece of kit that many women struggle with is gym leggings. We'd certainly recommend them as something worth having in your kit BUT they're not all made equally, and it's important to pick something that will work for your workout
More science experiment that catwalk, it was a chemist who gave the world Lycra back in 1959. Although, it's only fair that we credit Jane Fonda as being the holy mother of leggings, leotards and lycra. Whilst men are slowly coming round to the idea of gym leggings, women have long understood the value in a good pair of tight fighting tights.
What to Look For in a Pair of Gym Leggings:
Gym leggings should give you a good range of movement. They shouldn't slip, ride up or gape. They should be figure fitting, too, which can pose a problem for women at the beginning of their fitness journey. Leggings aren't always as kind to our bodies as we'd like them to be but many now offer extra support and shaping. If it's something you're worried about, then pair them with a baggier shirt on top.
Some brands or styles are more suited to one exercise than another. What will you be using them for? Running, strength training, yoga? Some leggings are deliberately designed to complement a particular sport or exercise.
Seamless leggings are always a good shout as they're more durable and flexible. You're less likely to experience chaffing and irritation, too. Sweat-wicking is a must-have, really, because not only does it help keep you cool but it'll make you feel less self-conscious if you're sweating a lot.
Although we criticised some retailers for focusing on fashion above function, it's always a good idea to choose a style and colour that you like. Science has shown that when we feel good about what we're wearing we perform better. It's called Enclothed Cognition. If you've just started a new regime, then there's no immediate rush to do this: make sure you're going to keep the sport up before you spend a fortune on kit BUT knowing you look good can have real psychological benefit.
Test your leggings in front of a mirror (or a partner or friend) before you hit the gym. Tights and leggings that look jet black can have a tendency to go see through when you bend down. A good pair won't do this. This is especially key in strength training, circuit training and yoga.
You're going to seriously mess with your focus if you realise midway through a session that you're mooning everyone.
The important thing to remember when buying a pair of gym leggings is that they're functional. If you're doing a workout DVD in your own front room, then there's nothing stopping you from spending £5 on a cheap pair. Once you're serious about your sport and ready to step out or squat down in public – pick carefully.
Sweaty Betty Power Mesh Leggings (£95.00)
Okay, we know we said that looking good for a workout wasn't everything, but these leggings are gorgeous. They're bum-sculpting, too, which could help give you a sneak peek of what's to come if you keep up with your squats and dare we say it – become bootilicious!? With breathable mesh panels down the sides, you'll feel cool throughout your workout and its sweat-wicking fabric will help, too. These would look superb with a pair of Red Mist EarHugz. If you're sorting out the bottom half of your body, then don't leave out the top: protect your headphones from moisture damage caused by sweating during exercise. EarHugz are fully reversible, too, for that all-black look.
Tight Stuff Tight II Lululemon £138
Ooooh, these are nice. These are designed for runners, and they fit the bill perfectly. What we love is that these have POCKETS! Perfect for putting your immediate essentials in. There's a phone slip pocket, too, which is ridiculously useful for those of us using GPS to track our runs. These have been made, too, to be looser around the knee giving you extra flexibility. There's a nice little reflective detail which will help you be seen at night if you're an evening runner.
Unlike Sweaty Betty's Power Mesh Legging, these come in a range of colours besides black including ruby red, true navy and ice grey.
Gymshark Flex Leggings £32
Again, these are gorgeous. Gymshark knows how to design and make a flattering legging, and the Flex range is no different. These seamless knit leggings have an elasticated performance waistband making them ideal for when you need to move smoothly with a wide range of mobility. These come in a multitude of colours, too, with marl set against sherbet pink, deep teal and sapphire blue among others.
Protip: Marl and sherbet pink would look FANTASTIC with a pair of Pink Camo EarHugz.
Nike Epic Lux £79.95
These are a sleek pair of running tights that will serve you well on long distances and short. These are compression tights with Nike's Dri-Fit technology (a fancy-ass way of saying sweat-wicking fabric) and they look amazing to boot. The zip pocket at the back will be handy for anything you need to take out with you.
It has a vapour wall, too, which will keep whatever you put in there completely dry. The waistband is thick and flat and comes with an elasticated drawcord for extra comfort.
For those of you into yoga with a little more cash to splash, then don't forget we've already covered Nadi X Smart Yoga Pants in our post on top gym tech. These yoga leggings are fitted with sensors that vibrate to tell you when you're out of alignment in a pose. Certainly, they're not cheap BUT it shows that there's a future for leggings in the gym and perhaps, in the future, we might see technology being integrated into them to help improve form over a number of exercises and sports.