I have publicly expressed my aversion to workout attire that tries a little too hard, as well as the fact that my dream exercise ensemble would probably be baggy shorts plus a cumulus cloud. Nevertheless, even the resolve of a staunch mid-thigh mesh devotee like myself is no match for winter’s sub-zero sting, which is why I have recently found myself in search of the perfect workout leggings.
Even though I appreciate the functional superiority of leggings in a workout context compared to, say, bulky sweatpants, I’m not always a huge fan of how they make me feel (i.e. constricted and self-conscious). As a result, I’m pretty picky. To me, the qualities of a perfect workout legging would be:
Supremely comfortable (soft, no excessive waist constriction, etc.)
Sweat-friendly (quick-drying to the extent that I don’t look like I peed my pants during SoulCycle)
Thick…ish (or rather just thick enough that my underwear or lack of underwear isn’t apparent and I’m properly insulated from the elements, but not so thick that they are suffocating during a workout)
“Flattering” (I put this word in quotes because calling something flattering in its most literal sense is subjective to the point of B.S., but when I ascribe it to a garment I mean that it’s something that properly fits my body and in doing so makes me feel emotionally confident and happy to be inside my skin, you know?)
Armed with these appraisable attributes, I embarked on a soul-searching, sweat-inducing journey to test out four of the most popular performance leggings on the market and see how well they lived up to my high standards. These are their stories [DUN DUN DUN].
I immediately took a liking to this pair because it turns out a “3/4 legging” is actually a “4/4 legging” on someone who stands 5’4″ tall. In other words, they were the perfect length, and comfortable at that (the material is superrrrrr smooth). I wore them to work on a Friday and slouched all day in my swivel chair without a constrictive hitch. Then I wore them to a Cardio Sculpt class at Modelfit where I proceeded to perspire a medium-large amount. At the end of the workout I did detect some visible moisture in the crotchal region, but not a lot.
To be perfectly honest this pair felt like WEARABLE BUTTER. Soft and very thick (no sheerness whatsoever) with a high waist that felt like a hug. I wore them to a hot yoga class and definitely had some visible sweat at the end, but only because it was coming out of my pores in buckets and it would have been impossible for it not to show in some capacity. I will say that the leggings dried very quickly after the class and I was able to consume my subsequent dirty dinner without feeling like I was sitting inside a swamp.
I was very excited to try these after reading more about Tasc on the brand’s website (“We were never fully satisfied with the standard processes, which yielded garments that either: A) felt good, but did not perform (Cotton) or B) performed, but irritated the skin and retained odor (Polyester).”) Tasc’s mission sounded like a dream extracted from my own brain. I was also intrigued to learn the fabric is made with bamboo, which is supposedly the secret to striking the comfortable/functional balance. After pulling on the leggings, I was delighted to find they were supremely comfortable. I was even more delighted when I emerged from my SoulCycle class with zero sweat swamps on my bottom half, and the moisture I did feel dried quickly on my 5-minute walk home. The only downside was how thin they were. I wouldn’t wear them to a brightly-lit yoga class (you could definitely see skin through them in a downward dog position), but I will absolutely wear them again to another dimly-lit workout. They’re also $58, which is pretty budget-friendly in the world of high-performance workout gear.
Another day, another Cardio Sculpt class at Modelfit. When I started to pull on these leggings I could immediately tell they weren’t destined to be “The One.” It wasn’t really their fault but more so mine in the sense that I hated how the sheer panels felt on my skin. I know they were just trying to help me out with extra breathability and such but, alas, I was not a fan. There were also way too many seams, which added to the overall irritation and lack of smoothness. That being said, the sweat-wicking fabric kept me very dry and comfortable during my workout.
Regardless of their individual cons, all four pairs were clearly well-made. I can see why they’re bestsellers. The Lululemon pair won in my book though, followed by Outdoor Voices. Both pairs were thick, soft, smooth and very functional. For a more budget-friendly option, I would recommend the Tasc pair, as long as you don’t mind the potential see-through element. While I didn’t love the Nikes, I love the brand in general and would definitely be open to trying other pairs.
It’s time for my favorite part now, though: What are YOUR favorite workout leggings? I’m looking for holy grails here, ppl!
Photos by Edith Young.