Hike, Run, Travel: Best Women’s Leggings

After 365 days of intensive legging testing, we found the best women’s leggings. Get from yoga to the mountaintop to the coffee shop without a hitch.

leggings yoga slacker
Photo by Chip Fieberg.

From working out to lounging about, and everything in between, leggings are a comfortable and practical choice. But there’s nothing worse than a pair of ill-fitting leggings. They ride up, squeeze tight, slide down, and need constant adjustment. It’s annoying and gets in the way of being active.

That’s why we spent the last year testing oh-so many leggings. And after traveling, surfing, running, hiking, yoga bending, crossfit sweating, and generally living in leggings, we found the standouts.

We’ve divided the list into five categories: running, water, everyday wear, yoga, and winter. Of course, some leggings fit in multiple categories, and this list doesn’t include every legging on the planet. But it is extensive, and we created it after thorough testing and research.

Best Running Leggings

Sagging is one of the biggest concerns with running leggings. It’s hard to go the distance when you have to pull up your pants between strides. On the other hand, it’s equally awful to feel overly constricted by too-tight leggings. Luckily, we found several pairs that ride the line, managing to stay up while remaining comfortable.

Rabbit Long Leggings – $90

Rabbit Running Leggings for Women

Anyone looking for a pair of buttery soft, hardworking leggings needs to check these out. Made in Los Angeles, Calif., this woman-owned company was born out of a passion for running. And it shows.

I’ve worn these leggings slow jogging, uphill sprinting, flowing through yoga, and lounging all day long. Through it all, they stayed put and remained impressively comfortable. The polyester-spandex blend gives plenty of stretch, and the lightweight construction keeps them cool while providing ample coverage. Best of all, the wide waistband keeps everything in place, and the rear zip pocket provides a place to stash a little cash or any small necessities.

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Oiselle Pocket Jogger Capri – $78

Oiselle Pocket Jogger Capri

These midweight capris will easily have you running from summer straight into fall (and the milder days of winter). The Plya Compression fabric provides a snug fit, and the subtle reflective details on the waist and hips boost visibility. And with four pockets, you can bring all your road or trail essentials. This style does tend to run small, so consider sizing up for the best fit.

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Cotopaxi Wazimu Athletic Tights – $70

Cotopaxi Leggings

These leggings have impressive multi-tasking skills.  We wore them on daily runs in all types of weather, as a base layer cross-country skiing, and as a stand-alone when teaching yoga and acrobatics. They have seams in all the right places to make chafing a non-issue, and they offer a handy stash pocket for an ID and cash for an emergency post-run coffee or beer.

We recommend washing them soon after exercising as they tend to hold odor easier than other wool tights. If you are looking for a pair of leggings that can be worn in multiple climates and scenarios, look no further. These simple, comfortable, and flattering leggings are perfect for the minimalist, adventure-seeking gal.

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Water Leggings

If you’ve ever spent a long day surfing, SUPing, or otherwise frolicking in the sea, you know the value of a good pair of water leggings. They not only provide superior sun protection, but protect against chafing and discomfort as well.

Dakine Persuasive Surf Legging – $58

Dakine Surf Legging

These lightweight (7-ounce) leggings are a warm-water dream. We wore a pair for three days straight while rafting and SUPing down the Snake River, and were impressed with its comfort and durability. The flat-lock seams give a chafe-free fit, and the wide waistband keeps everything in place whether swimming, paddling, or hiking. Grab a pair of surf leggings and have fun in the sun all day long without worry.

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Seea Calafia Surf Leggings – $80

Seea Surf Leggings - USA Made

Proudly made in the USA, the Calafia easily transitions from the big wave barrel to lunch in town. We like how the wide, folded waist stays in place no matter what and how the flattering cut accentuates in all the right places. And you can wear these with a clean conscience knowing they’re made from recycled materials. Surf’s up.

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Best Everyday Wear & Travel Leggings

We’ll admit it, there are days – weeks even – when we wear nothing but leggings. And if you’re looking for a hard-working option while traveling, you can’t go wrong with a packable pair that will provide stylish comfort on the plane, ample coverage during yoga, and leg warmth out on the town.

Toad & Co Lean Leggings – $37 (on sale)

Toad & Co Women's Soft Leggings

We’ve been testing a single pair of these leggings for more than two years, and they’re still going strong! Sure, you can find a cheaper pair of cotton leggings, but we guarantee they won’t provide the comfort or long-lasting durability of the Lean Leggings. It’s worth paying for leggings that manage to blend soft organic comfort with a stay-put, all-day fit.

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Kavu Kiona Legging – $65

Kavu Leggings

Can’t decide between a skirt and leggings? The Kiona is for you. Providing a bit more booty coverage than your average legging, these are a great choice for traveling in comfort and style. They pack up small and, while not our first choice for a workout, they’ll work in a pinch. The polyester-spandex material provides plenty of stretch, and the elastic waistband gives a little extra hold without squeezing.

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Velocio Women’s Luxe Leggings – $119

Velocio Leggings

When luggage space is tight, these Italian-made leggings are the only pair you’ll need to pack. With just enough compression to provide support while still being thin enough to wear under a skirt, you can easily put these through a hard workout and then transition to a night out. Velocio’s proprietary LUXE fabric, a blend of Polyamide and Elastane, maintains its shape and offers a silky-soft feel for all-day comfort. We’ve sent these through the wash more than 30 times without any signs of wear and tear. They’re a true wardrobe workhorse that is worth the investment.

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Vuori Asymmetric Block Leggings – $82

Vuori Leggings

For being the new kids on the block, this company has some very important components figured out when it comes to women’s leggings. These Vuoris have a slightly higher and wider waistband, making them both flattering and very comfortable. The fabric is soft, stretchy, and quick-drying, making it a perfect legging for yoga, hiking, or travel. We found them to be a bit on the warmer side when it is hot out, but for early morning walks, outdoor yoga, and cool weather outings, they’re the first thing we reach for in the morning.

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Yoga, Hiking, and Fitness Leggings

Whether flowing through asana, hiking the local trail, or crushing a sweat session, you need a pair of leggings that work as hard as you do.

Lucy Perfect Core Legging – $108

Lucy Perfect Core Leggings

If we could only choose a single pair of leggings, these would be it. After more than 500 days’ use (including motorcycling, yoga, camping, hiking, and all-day wear), these have maintained their shape, stayed comfortable, and are still in the daily rotation. We like how the higher waistband provides support and has the added benefit of reminding the wearer to engage her core during use. Grab a pair while you can, because the future of this style is unknown as the Lucy brand folds into The North Face family.

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Crane & Lion Original Tight – $95

Crane & Lion Perfect Core Leggings

Providing just the right amount of stretch, breathability, and thickness, these leggings are a great go-to choice. The back seams create a flattering booty effect, and you never have to worry about any “see-through” embarrassment. And if that’s not enough for you, consider Oprah herself gave them a seal of approval, wearing them on the cover of her namesake magazine. Do note they tend to run a bit big, so consider sizing down for the best fit.

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Outdoor Voices Hi-Rise 7/8 Warm UP Leggings – $85

Outdoor Voices High Waist Workout Leggings

A rapidly growing company whose mission is to “redefine recreation as a part of your everyday life,” Outdoor Voices is becoming well known for its durable, flattering, and timeless pieces. We’ve been testing a pair of Hi-Rise 7/8 Warm Up leggings for several months and they have been a go-to legging for teaching acrobatics and yoga, with a very high waistband that is flattering and comfortable. The seams are also nicely placed, meaning that they don’t rub or dig into the skin – and they make short legs look a little longer!

The material, a textured compression tonal fabric, is sweat-wicking and plenty thick. Even after 15 consecutive days of wearing and washing, these leggings held up perfectly.

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Insulated Winter Leggings

Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you need to give up on leggings. Thanks to these insulated options, you can wear them alone during winter hikes or as a base layer when hitting the mountain.

The North Face Winter Warm Tights – $85

The North Face Insulated Winter Leggings
Designed specifically for cold-weather use, these lined, high-stretch tights manage to protect against the cold without causing you to overheat. The FlashDry material accelerates the removal of moisture, which is especially important when it’s cold out. Stash what you need in the small, zippered pocket and get outside, no matter the season.

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Icebreaker Comet Tight – $130

Icebreaker Wool Comet Tights for Women

This is for anyone on the hunt for a do-all legging that easily transitions from cold-weather base layer to an all-day lounge pant to a standalone legging. At 230 grams, these provide plenty of warmth, while remaining breathable and light enough to wear during the shoulder season. And the best part of wool is that it naturally remains odor-free, even after hard use. For hiking, snowshoeing, running, or staying cozy at home, the Comet is one of our favorites.

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Make It Last: 3 Leggings Care Tips

Now that you’ve found the perfect pair of leggings, you want to make them last as long as possible.

  1. Hang up or rinse immediately after working out. It’s tempting to wad up your sweaty leggings and toss them in the bottom of your bag, but take a few extra seconds to treat them with care. At the very least, hang them out to dry while you get changed and then lay them flat in your bag. Even better if you can give them a rinse to remove sweat and bacteria that can break down the materials.
  2. Wash in cold water with mild detergent. Avoid fabric softeners and bleach, as these speed up the fabric breakdown and can inhibit the wicking properties. Consider using a specialty soap like our favorite Granger’s Active Wash ($8.99 on Amazon).
  3. Skip the dryer whenever possible to avoid overheating, stretching, and misshaping your favorite leggings. They’re made of quick-drying materials, so simply hang up or lay flat to dry.

Your legs are covered. Now it’s time to grab the perfect bra and get ready for adventure.

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–Have a favorite pair of leggings we didn’t include? Let us know and we’ll check it out for future updates to the article.

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