If you have ever come dangerously close to exposing your bum in Downward-Facing Dog position or gone for a long run only to be put off by how wet and clammy your legs feel after a few miles, then you know that all leggings are not created equal. It doesn't necessarily help that there are countless options on the market—everything from fabric type to the length and cut can make all the difference (and that's not even considering the design).
But while a lot of it ultimately comes down to personal preference, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind when matching your leggings to your workout for optimal comfort, whether you're a devoted yogi or never miss a barre class. Keep scrolling for our suggestions.
What to skip: low-rise styles, stiff fabric, and excess decorations. Ties and zippers are cool in theory, but when you're trying to manipulate yourself into a Bird of Paradise with a bind, they can get in the way. And unless your waistband is extremely secure, low-rise styles generally lead to constant tugging and adjusting, lest you flash your classmates.
Your best bet: high-waisted leggings in a soft, ultra-flexible fabric. The high cut means you won't even have to think about any potential wardrobe malfunctions, and a fabric that moves with you should be a given. We're big fans of Beyond Yoga's leggings, which boast bendy fabrics you'll want to wear long after Savasana.
Available in sizes XXS to XXL.
What to skip: cotton and other thin, absorbent fabrics. They're more likely to chafe and will leave you feeling damp by mile two.
Your best bet: a sweat-wicking fabric blend (almost anything with polyester) that's built to last. Choosing something that can withstand considerable wear and tear (heavy mileage) is never a bad idea, but you'll also want to coordinate with your current weather conditions. Try a pair from Nike that is crafted with Dri-Fit technology to keep you warm and dry. They're perfect for winter workouts.
Available in sizes XS to XL.
For Barre and Pilates
What to skip: pieces that are too heavy or uncomfortable. (Duh.)
Your best bet: pretty much anything with stretch and comfort. Because these workouts tend to be more low-impact and focus on smaller movements, here's your chance to play up your personal style. The pretty scalloped edge on these JoyLab leggings make for a subtle yet eye-catching detail.
Available in sizes XS to 4X
For HIIT, boxing, and hot yoga
What to skip: pieces that are flimsy or absorbent. As with running, sweat-wicking fabrics are your big priority here.
Your best bet: performance-driven, moisture-wicking styles. With dynamic workouts, you want something that fits well, stays put as you cycle through a tough round of burpees, and simultaneously keeps you dry. Outdoor Voices' Tech Sweat collection is designed exactly for this, and the aesthetic is on point too.
Available in sizes XS to L.
What to skip: fabrics that are flimsy or don't breathe. Depending on how rugged or extensive your route is, you should probably aim for something sturdy that will still feel comfortable in a couple of hours.
Your best bet: breathable styles that are tough but comfortable. Better yet, find something with a pocket so that you're not lugging your keys and phone the entire time. Sweaty Betty's leggings all feature an iPhone-sized back pocket, allowing you to go hands-free and able to soak in your surroundings. (They're great for long-distance runs, too.)