FitNess: The Best Workout Leggings (with Pockets!)

I have been running in half marathons for approximately 10 years now. I picked up yoga and spinning about 6-7 years ago. When I started running, I was fresh out of college and turned to Marshall’s for any and all workout leggings. Lululemon, Athleta, Sweaty Betty…. weren’t really “a thing”. At least not to me. And certainly not to my price point. If I could, I splurged on Nike because that’s what I learned to associate with working out. But that didn’t mean it was right for me, or my workout.

I’ve learned a few hard lessons about skimping on clothing along the way. (See Rule No. 1.) And, while there are places you can cut corners and save, this is one of those areas I think it’s worth the splurge for one or two quality products that will withstand the test of time.

Along the way, I have tried a range of products. And because I do running, yoga and spinning – they were tested for multiple types of uses. From downward dog to hitting the saddle, these leggings have had to be all things durable, reliable, but most of all, comfortable. (You know, for when I wear them to work these days.)

Best Overall

Fabletics, Trinity High Waisted Utility Leggings ($69)

The new favorites. I have tried a couple of leggings from Fabletics, and overall the fabric is not as cozy as Athleta or Lululemon. But, and this is an important but, the fabric is consistently thick and durable. Perfect for a hard, long run. (These are the leggings I wore the most while I started training for the since-canceled marathon.) Perfect for weights. Perfect for hiking. And overall perfect for getting the job done which is why these are the most durable legging for most types of workouts. (Pick your adventure.) They’re just not going to be the type of leggings you want to pull on for work, at night… or basically anything besides working out. Cons: Not as buttery soft as some of the other leggings. I won’t pull these on, say, for lounging or bed.

Sweaty Betty, Power Workout Leggings($100)

The splurge that works outside the gym, too. I heard about Sweaty Betty years ago but the steep price tag didn’t seem worth the plunge. But, with a marathon on the horizon, I figured it was worth trying them out. These offer the perfect amount of compression while being equally comfortable too. What’s more: they are a great pair to throw on with a sweater and wear outside the gym too! Cons: The price tag is ultra-steep.

My Go-To for Long Runs

Lululemon, Invigorate ($128)

The most forgiving. As Lululemon states, these leggings are “designed for training.” And they are. I can (and do) wear these for pretty much every type of workout. Some reviews suggest sweat stains, but I’ve never encountered this personally. They also question the level of compression but I find it is one of the best on this list. These are VERY forgiving. But more importantly, they are extremely versatile. I can wear them for just about any activity confidently. Cons: Other than the high price tag, these can be very tight along the waitsband. Read the reviews carefully before selecting your size.

Nike, Dri-FIT Epic Fast ($70)

The reliable pair that’s always been there for me. I’ve run 6 half marathons and several other smaller races. Come race day, I have worn my Nike Dri-FIT leggings more than any other product. I feel like there’s really no other stamp of approval than that. Nike is what I associated working out with since, well, forever. It’s taken me some time to realize anything slapped with a Nike logo doesn’t necessarily make it right for me or my workout. But, when it comes to running, their leggings are usually reliable. Though my first pair is old, I’ve replenished them with several others and found the newer versions (minus the zipper on the ankles) to be just as supportive. Cons: Poor pockets. Definitely doesn’t fit your phone. Lighter colors can be unflattering if you’re, ahem… curvy.

Best Leggings for Yoga, Lounging and More…

Lululemon, Align Pant 28″, ($98+)

The hardly-there lightweight legging. These were also recommended to me by a yoga teacher, who described them as “butter.” And she was not wrong. These are insanely lightweight which is perfect for yoga. And, these are a strong contender for No. 1, as well. (Read: worth the hype.) They are soft but tuck you in just enough. I did have to size up, which is an issue I often have with Lululemon. Cons: They are not as thick as others on the list. So while they are not see-through, they are not going to be the best for covering cellulite during, say, half pigeon.

Athleta, Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight ($98)

The favorite everyday legging. I’m not going to lie, for anyone who started following us at the beginning of CookieCutterCouture, this price tag would seem like the anthesis of who we are. $98?! But, there’s truly a reason these 4.5 stars with just under 2,000 reviews. They are everything you want in a legging — and more. What’s more: I can spin in them. I can row in them. That’s because the fabric is equally durable as it is soft. I can wear them and feel “tucked in” and well-covered. If you’re going to splurge, splurge because it’s a great product worth having. Cons: The waistline is not the best for running (I have to pull them up), and there is just the slightest pilling between the inner thighs. They are thick, so skip them for high-intensity workouts if you sweat.

Best Leggings for Budget

Colorfulkoala, High Waisted Yoga Pants with pockets ($21-25)

The one that’s too easy to buy. This ultra-soft legging has compared to the likes of the Lululemon Align. And while I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, these are soft. Super soft. They’re available in virtually every color under the sun, and are so affordable I have them in multiple colors (and lengths). The downside? They’re not the most forgiving on this list. Stick to darker colors for the best coverage. Cons: Compression is moderate.

Old Navy, High Waisted Elevate Powersoft 7/8 Length ($40)

The quiet contender. Okay. So I got served an ad for these $40 leggings. (Tip: Snag them on sale for less, too!) Their reviews were raving. So of course, I had to find out for myself. And you know what? They. Are. Soft. So soft, I actually opted NOT to buy the ones with a pocket. A version with a pocket IS available, albeit a little on the smaller side. These are the type of leggings I would happily wear around the house, as well as working out. Here is the ‘but’. I would stick to darker colors since the lighter colors are not as forgiving. Additionally, I wouldn’t go to these first for running. I find the top doesn’t always stay secure for me. Cons: Lighter colors are not as forgiving, and the top doesn’t have the most secure hold.

Kyodan, Space Dye High-waist Double Brushed Leggings with Pockets ($33)

A rare gem. As I mentioned, I am guilty of mass-purchasing workout leggings from Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. (But they’re only $16!) Well, in full transparency, those are usually the leggings I give away first (aside from Target brands). They’re usually soft and priced right, but, more likely than not, have been see-through for me. One pair that has had lasting power also happens to be readily available via Amazon. These are going to be a little thicker, so I’ll usually pull these on for running for temps in the 50s. The pockets are deep and perfect for holding your phone. And they translate well to other workouts. They’re secure enough to do spinning or weights, but soft and pliable for yoga. Cons: They are thicker so avoid them if you need breathable, moisture-wicking fabric.