The Best Leggings of 2018

Twenty-three pairs of tights, three months of testing, six obvious winners

(Photo: Ben Fox)

A good pair of leggings can get you through a big workout or a long weekend in the mountains. But with so many options out there, it’s hard to know which pair to choose. 

So I did the hard work for you—testing 23 pairs of leggings from brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Lululemon, Outdoor Voices, Oiselle, and Fjallraven. I climbed, ran, lifted weights, hiked, dog walked, and slept in these leggings over the course of three months. These are my six favorites.

Best Do-It-All Leggings

Lululemon Speed Up Tight ($108)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

A clear front-runner from the start, I found myself reaching for these leggings for nearly every activity. The Lycra-blend fabric is thicker than others I tested and I found them to be really supportive during heavy exercise like running and lifting weights. The material doesn’t slide or bunch when you’re climbing or running, and the side pockets are deep enough to hold my wallet or iPhone 7—a plus when I stop at the grocery store on the way home from the gym. The reflective accents below the pockets give me extra peace of mind for late-night dog walks but aren’t too obvious during the day. Personally, I don’t use the zippered back pockets much except for occasional key storage during a run, but it’s a nice feature to have. All in all, these leggings were always a great choice no matter the activity, and if you’re looking to invest in one pair of high-quality leggings, these should be high on your list.

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Best Durable Leggings

Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights ($175)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

Bushwhacking, rock climbing, multi-day backpacking trips: when the situation calls for heavy-duty protection, I break out these durable tights. The rear and knees are reinforced with a high-density material that resists rocks and water wonderfully. I appreciate that the side pocket zips closed to keep valuables where I put them, and it’s also perfect for containing micro-trash I find on the trail. The only negative thing I have to say about these tights is that the reinforced sections can be scratchy against the skin, but it’s a decent trade for the additional burliness. 

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Best Budget Leggings 

REI Co-Op Tilt Tights ($60)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

I’m continually delighted by these budget-friendly leggings. Sure, they don’t have many bells and whistles, but they get the job done without compromising important features. The cut allows for a full range of motion and the stretchy polyester material provides all the support you would want on a run or any other high-intensity activity. There are a couple of waistband pockets for Gu or keys and a drawcord for a perfect fit around the waist. They even have some reflective details on the back of the waistband. My only gripe is that the mesh material on the backs of the knees can chafe.


Best-Looking Leggings

Outdoor Voices Two-Tone Legging ($85)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

By far the prettiest of the bunch, the Two-Tone leggings are sure to catch a few eyes. When I know I’m meeting friends for drinks or dinner right after the gym, these leggings are my first pick. The material is exceptionally compressing and the seams on the front thighs make these leggings feel unique and a little fancier. The color blocking is classic Outdoor Voices and looks great with most workout tops I own. Unfortunately, I learned early on that these leggings aren’t meant for outdoor climbing—or really anything else requiring you to get a little dirty. They have big brown stains on the front that haven’t budged despite a couple of washings. 

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Most Comfortable Leggings

Lululemon Fast and Free 7/8 Tight II ($128)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

Lululemon specifically designed these leggings to feel like you’re wearing nothing. And trust me, they nailed it. I’ve worn these at least several times a week for three months and washed them upwards of five times without any change in the fit. With their comfort and second-skin feel, they’re so superior to other pants that they’ve become my go-to sleeping and lounging bottoms—replacing my classic slouchy cotton sweatpants. The pockets are essential for holding my phone while traveling to and from the gym, and well-designed reflective accents dot the bottom of each leg. If I could own only one pair of leggings for the rest of my life, this pair would be in my top two choices, alongside the Lululemon Speed Ups.

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Best Leggings for Work

Oiselle Flyout Tights ($98)

(Photo: Ben Fox)

Admittedly these are cold-weather tights, but my office is cold so I wear these thick bottoms year-round. They’re great underneath dresses and with longer shirts, as the material is soft and doesn’t catch. The legs end with an attractive tulip cut that makes the Oiselles a little fancier for office wear. I love the 7/8 length, which feels very modern and looks great with a pair of slip-on shoes. The seams are a little weak so I would advise taking extra care when pulling them on to avoid ripping. 

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Filed To: Women’sRunning
Lead Photo: Ben Fox

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