The 5 Best Leggings Out There, Tested And Approved

We have an on-again, off-again relationship with leggings that we can't quit. While some may argue that these leg-hugging stretchies are decidedly not pants, with the rise of the whole athleisure wear trend, we beg to differ on this essential workout staple. That's why we're making our next purchase a good one. And, for the best recs, we're going straight to the pros who know all about these bottoms best: NYC fitness instructors. Ahead, read about the leggings that have been put through the ultimate tests — the most rigorous, sweat-inducing routines, from Spinning to CrossFit — and have come out as the most stylish and comfortable sportswear you can take from the studio to the street. Consider this a leg up for your next workout.
The Leggings: Lululemon In the Flow Crop II
Why They Work: A no-see waistband can be adjusted to be worn at any rise Instructor Taryn Toomey at the mind-body fitness studio The Class tells us she lives in her Lululemons. "I love these pants because they’re seamless — they suck you in without the seam digging into the side of your body,” she says. “These give you no muffin top because you can roll the waistband down for a low, on-the-hip look, or you can wear them high. Sometimes, I tuck my shirt into them for a cool, high-waisted look that I go out in after my class.”
The Leggings: Splits59 Nova Classic Capri Tight
Why They Work: Sweat-friendly fabric with a firm waistband that tucks in the tummy Over at Barry’s Bootcamp, instructor Alycia Stevenin can’t get enough of Splits59 leggings. “I do a lot of running, and these are light enough where I don’t get too hot. It really holds you in, and the waistband is the perfect length, especially for my short torso,” she says. “These are my go-to, and I have them in every single color!" And, as the fitness center’s retail planner, Stevenin also gushes about other Splits59 leggings, which feature fun design details like flashes of rose gold and mesh, if you’re into a glitzier workout.
The Leggings: Vie Active Rockell Elite Compression Tights
Why They Work: Hi-tech fabric that pulls moisture from the body and keeps you dry "The Vie Active tights are the BOMB for a few reasons,” says an enthusiastic Karyn Nesbit, an instructor at SoulCycle in NYC. “They're super flattering on everyone and have a second-skin feel to them. They’re made from a special, sweat-wicking compression fabric, so you stay cool and comfortable, even during high-sweat workouts like SoulCycle.” Plus, with a bunch of funky prints to choose from, these are the kind of legwear you’d want to show off in public post-workout.
The Leggings: Alala Captain Crop Tight
Why They Work: A slick, nylon, leg-shaping fit with cooling effects Aerial instructor Sarah Sadie Newett at Body & Pole, Om Factory, Studio Anya, and ChaiseFitness swears by Alala, especially for her workouts that require a ton of flexibility, stretching, and mid-air twirls. “Alala's Captain Crop leggings have amazingly smooth fabric that shapes your legs without suffocating them, and the rise is not too high or too low. They're the Goldilocks of rises — just right,” she says. Plus, the cropped lengths hit the leg perfectly if you’re also petite like Newett. "I love being able to wear them without waiting for alterations."
The Leggings: Dear Kate Yoga Pant
Why They Work: Full-coverage, built-in underwear so you can go commando Melissa Leon is the co-owner and head coach at CrossFit East River, so she’s in leggings 24/7.
She’s the biggest fan of the relatively new-ish brand Dear Kate. “They’re super comfortable, and you don’t necessarily have to wear any undergarments with them!...But, I don’t mind wearing undergarments, especially since they don’t show,” she says. “My biggest criteria, though, is being able to move really well in these pants. So, whether I’m lifting or coaching, [not having to] constantly pull up the pants is the real test to see if I can work out in them.” And, Dear Kate — even with its built-in underwear technology — passes the test.