How to Pick the Perfect Pair of Workout Leggings

Buying Guide

When it comes to buying workout leggings, finding the right style, fit and features will provide lasting comfort and a pair you'll wear forever.

Last updated: 4 January 2023
6 min read
What Leggings to Wear During Your Workouts

There are a lot of workout leggings out there. Seriously: So. Many. Options. But this guide is meant to help you easily figure out what leggings to wear in any situation. Nike leggings can help you crush your workout or elevate your casual style. Some will even do both.

So, what are you wearing? These tips will help you decide.

Nailing the Terminology

To pick the right workout leggings, it's best to get some basic terminology down first of all. This way, you can narrow your search more easily and make sure you're wearing what's best for you.


This is where the trousers sit on your body. Think about where the leggings feel most comfortable on your waist. Your choices are usually between:

  • Mid-rise leggings, which sit at or just below the navel
  • High-rise leggings, which sit at or above the navel


When you think of fit, think about compression. This is the term used to establish how snug your leggings feel. This choice is often based on where you're wearing the leggings. For workout leggings, you might want a more snug fit, but for a casual outfit, you may want a little less compression. Your two primary choices are:

  • Tight fit, which is highly compressive. You'll feel the support, and we're not kidding about the tight part. If you prefer less compression, but a more snug feel, try going one size up.
  • Standard fit, which offers less compression, but still hugs the body with a snug, true-to-fit size.


This term relates to how long the trousers are and where they come to on most people. If you're on the petite side or have long legs, the standard length may not be exactly right on you, but it will be close.

It's sometimes best to add leggings in a variety of lengths to your wardrobe. This not only gives you options for different weather, but to experiment with which length you prefer. You can pick from:

  • Capris, which fall just below your knee
  • 3/4 length or cropped leggings, which hit mid-calf
  • 7/8 length leggings, which end just above your ankle
  • Full-length leggings, which go all the way down to your ankle


This category of leggings is more broad and harder to break down into an easy definition. It includes leggings with upgraded details that are made from premium materials. Luxe tights often do it all, making them some of the best workout leggings. They'll work for running, gym training, yoga or lounging.

Look for soft fabrics that wick sweat and are high-end and opaque. You should also choose a pair with pockets—preferably more than one.

Picking the Best Workout Leggings for Your Activity

After thinking about the features you want, the next step is to consider where you're going to wear them. Certain leggings are specifically designed for what you love to do, and Nike leggings are prepared for any type of activity.

Running Tights

Even a beginner runner should aim to log at least 2 to 4 miles a week. That's no small feat, but however many miles you total up, your workout leggings need to perform.

Nike's running tights are designed to give you everything you need to sprint, walk, jog or set a personal running record without chafing. They have the features you want, including:

  • Stay-in-place design that holds on through repeated movement for miles and miles
  • Strategic ventilation zones for optimal breathability
  • Reflective design elements for increased safety
  • Several pockets to keep your run hands-free

Most Nike running tights are mid-rise with a drawcord waist for an adjustable fit. For long-distance runners, choose leggings that are breathable and have plenty of pockets. If you're a sprinter going for speed, look for a smooth fabric and wide waistband to keep you comfortable as you fly.

Gym Leggings

If you're wearing your workout leggings to the gym, you'll need a pair that stays in place as you push, pull, lunge, squat, bend and rotate. Nike training leggings give you the most flexibility of movement as they're high-waisted leggings with drop-in pockets and a variety of fit and length options.

Whether you're in the weight room, on the cardio machines or taking a yoga class, Nike leggings can accommodate the way your body moves.

Nike yoga trousers are made from buttery-soft fabric with a comfortable, high-rise waist. Thanks to Nike Infinalon fabric, they have the perfect amount of stretch, strength and gentle compression. Infinalon is half as thick but twice as strong as elastane, so it can handle any pose you're in.

For serious sweat sessions—the never-miss-a-day, push-yourself-to-your-breaking-point workouts—Nike Pro leggings move with you. The waistband won't budge and the sweat-wicking fabric and breathable mesh across the calves help keep you cool and dry. Soft and stretchy, these workout leggings go where you do to help you crush your goals.

Athleisure Leggings

Activewear has become a major fashion trend, pushing workout clothes beyond the gym and into our living rooms and supermarkets. It's ideal for running to the shops or meeting friends. Sure, we call them sportswear tights, but they're equally good for flexing or lounging—and many of us prefer the lounging.

Sportswear tights provide comfort and stretch but also give you an opportunity to accessorise. This is usually where you'll find bold colours and serious prints. You can have more fun with your leggings as they aren't always about function. This category is also where you'll find more standard-fit leggings with less compression.

Finding the Right Fit

You know your style and all the features you want in your ideal leggings; now it's time to make sure they fit you correctly. Even with a lot of compression, you want to feel comfortable in your workout leggings. So when you try on a pair of leggings, check that the fit is right with a couple of simple tests:

  • The size test: Even with a snug fit, you should be able to comfortably put one finger between the leggings and your body at both the waist and ankle. If more than one finger fits, you may want to go down a size. However, if you can't get one finger in the gap, go up a size.
  • The squat test: Before taking off the leggings, do a deep squat. You want opaque leggings that stay at your waist. If the waist slips down, try one size smaller. If the leggings become transparent (if you can see your skin or underwear through the tights), try one size larger. Make sure you conduct the squat test in a brightly lit area with a mirror to easily see if the leggings lose opacity.

Even if you've ordered your leggings online, make sure you can return or exchange them if the fit isn't right or you don't love them. Even when your muscles are aching and lungs are burning, you should feel comfortable and confident in your workout leggings.

Workout Trousers vs. Leggings

Thinking about what leggings to wear for your activity may bring you to the realisation that leggings just aren't for you. If you're looking for trousers that are a little looser but still have all the features of workout leggings, opt for styles that give you a little more leg room. The fabric should be lightweight and sweat-wicking but without the compression.

Try Multiple Styles, Fits and Lengths

There's no such thing as too many choices when it comes to workout wear. Having many different leggings to accommodate many different activities means you'll always have a pair that fits right and performs well whatever you're doing.

Originally published: 29 October 2021

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