Finding a pair of standard black leggings seems easy enough in this day and age, but as a runner—whether you crush a morning run five days a week or are just revving up to train for your first half marathon—you know technical features like sweat-wicking material, four-way stretch, reflectivity, and balanced compression are essential. You’re after the best leggings for running, but between the countless brands and styles, the major non-negotiables, and your preferred minutiae, how do you know which running leggings are truly the right pair?
Running Tights, Tested
Well, that’s where I come in. Regardless of whether you have a favorite pair of sneakers or the best fitness tracker, feeling fully supported in your cardio endeavors means sporting the best running leggings for your go-to workout. I’ve put five workout leggings to the test, wearing them during sessions ranging from incline sprinting intervals to low-intensity steady state and report on everything from sweat wicking properties and price-point to chaffage, which means you can buy your next pair of running leggings with the confidence of Desiree Linden crossing the Olympic finish line.
Core 10 Run High Waist ⅞ Crop Legging
It’s difficult to find leggings as functional, comfortable, and budget friendly as the Core 10 Run High Waist Crop. Running in these sleek crops was the perfect combination of breezy and supportive.
Although they may not pair well with everyday attire, the mesh details create an enviable athleisure look. Blending both aesthetics and technicality, the laser-cut lower half of these running tights offers a nice, airy addition to your standard pair of leggings. Pairing this with the ⅞ length noticeably enhances their overall breathability, meaning no feelings of stuffiness during my speed work. Can I get an amen?
The Core 10 Run High Waist Crop has a cool finish, making it wonderfully sweat-wicking and dog-hair repellent. The thin material fits snugly against the body, giving this running tight a feeling of ample stretch and compression down the leg (without digging into the abdomen or the hoo-ha). On that note, yes ladies—these are comfortable worn with or without underwear. If you’re a fan of one less layer, these running leggings could be the right fit for you.
The high-rise waistband is, well, high! For someone with a short torso, I found it resting quite comfortably just below my belly button. The feature that took me from like to love!? These leggings have a drawstring.! As someone who struggles to find leggings that fit well around thick quads, round glutes, and small waist, this feature sent me over the moon with excitement! Thanks to the drawstring, there was no wiggling or adjusting necessary during any of my training sessions.
If you’re a night owl, these running tights may not be for you. While the overall technicality is impressive, the lack of reflective material misses one essential safety mark when it comes to the best leggings for running at night. The material’s sleek finish also requires one important laundering step: air drying. While the Core 10 Run High Waist ⅞ Crop Legging isn’t prone to pilling along the seams, maintaining the integrity of the material means skipping the heated dryer. That said, in my opinion, the benefits of rocking a pair of comfortable and chic running leggings outweigh this small inconvenience.
Nike Pro Dri-Fit Capri Training Legging
Brought to you by the brand that every fitness enthusiast knows and loves, Nike, these Dri-Fit Capri Training Leggings are a well-tailored option that rises to the top of the best leggings for running shortlist, especially if you love to get your heart pumping with exceedingly sweaty sprints and humid outdoor runs. Plus, when it comes down to it, despite the wave of new brands coming onto the scene, Nike Pro is the OG of fitness attire, and no matter how tough (or hot) it is, sporting these running leggings will have you committing to just do it.
Nike perfects the subtle-mesh-paneling-down-the-leg look, which significantly enhances the breathability of these running tights. The detailing doesn’t draw too much attention to the lower leg, and even combined with hints of piping, these workout leggings are refreshingly minimalist and relatively distraction free.
The Nike Pro Dri-Fit Capri boasts four-way stretch material and a moisture-wicking finish, which is perfect for running leggings. Again, I have to emphasize that this is one of the best leggings for running in heat, and if you enjoy chasing your afternoon run with a flow at your local Bikram studio, this crop really works.
If you’re looking for compression that leaves you feeling fully locked-in, set these aside and opt for the lululemon Speed Up Tight. The polyester-spandex blend provides support, but the thin material these running leggings are made of doesn’t compare to the anti-jiggle security of the lululemon pant. The tights are also very athletic looking. Perfect for your run along the boardwalk, but not so much for an early Saturday brunch with your girlfriends.
Although these running tights sit fairly high around the waist, the waistband itself is noticeably thinner than the rest of the running leggings I reviewed. The outcome? Decreased comfort around the midsection and a few necessary re-adjustments during my runs.
ZELLA Live In High Waist Leggings
The ZELLA Live In High Waist Leggings are an attempt at a versatile pair of workout tights suitable for any sweat sesh. Unfortunately, the key word here is “attempt.” While the concept is certainly there, this pair missed the mark for me when it comes to being a best running legging contender. They lack the sleek, cool material I want in a running legging and are far too thick to be conducive to my cardio workouts. Still, they might be a good fit for you—so read on for the pros and cons!
The brushed material makes these leggings extremely comfortable, contributing to a sensation that’s balanced somewhere between being cozily hugged and reliably supported. If you’re looking for a pant that’s perfect for your easy-like-Sunday-morning outdoor walks and occasional jogs with your furry friend, this legging will get the job done.
The high waist is truly high: In fact it sat just above my belly button, which meant my tummy felt perfectly held-in during my sprints. Another win for these running leggings: There wasn’t any need for adjusting or hurried fixing between my speedy intervals.
As I mentioned, the material used for these workout leggings is thicker than your average pair. While this is convenient for a yoga flow in a cooled studio space, I don’t recommend them for high-intensity runs, either indoor or out. If you know you’re about to break a sweat, these aren’t the pair for you. The absence of sweat-wicking properties means these leggings have a residual wetness and clamminess following intense training sessions.
Going hand-in-hand with the brushed finish, these leggings love to hold onto a little bit of everything. If you don’t mind finding sock fuzzies or a few embedded dog hairs in your black leggings, great! If not, try the Nike Pro Dri-Fit Capri or the Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight.
lululemon Speed Up Tight
Compared to the other workout leggings I tested, these lululemon tights offer a level of compression that’s second to none. Supporting you in all the right places (and concealing cellulite), these workout leggings are ideal for runners at any experience level. With a long list of technical features that includes side pockets, reflective properties, four-way stretch, and more, I felt on point while wearing these running leggings.
As tight as tight can be, the lululemon Speed Up Tight is perfect for your most intense sweat sessions as they stay in place unlike any other workout legging I’ve worn. The silky material is anti-pill, anti-cling, and needed nothing more than a quick dusting to remove the dirt from Mother Earth’s beautiful trails!
I’m also happy to report that this pair is commando-friendly, never riding up—even during sprints. If you don’t prefer to go commando, I suggest wearing seamless underwear to avoid any bunching near the bum and hip area.
The side pocket in this running tight fit my iPhone 6s and held it in place throughout every run (and even a hike). The zippered pocket is the perfect place for a loose key, small wad of cash, or debit card.
Although they have a higher price tag than the other running tights I tested, these leggings are undoubtedly worth the splurge!
Did I mention these leggings were tight? I thought so. Though their form fit does keep these leggings in place, be wary of the material digging into your obliques. While it certainly wasn’t unbearable, these probably aren’t the ideal athleisure pant to pair with your favorite light sweater for a night out. If you’re after a running legging that you can transform from gym wear to a casual date night outfit, opt for the ZELLA Live In High Waist Leggings instead.
Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight
If you’re searching for a running legging that’s exceedingly functional yet slightly less form fitting than the lululemon Speed Up Tight, I strongly suggest the Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight. From comfortable compression to reflective properties, these leggings have it all.
Touting similar pockets as the lululemon Speed Up Tight, these Athleta running leggings keep valuables like smartphones snug against the body throughout heavy training sessions thanks to the well-placed zipper, which adds an additional layer of security.
The material feels silky to the touch and doesn’t pill after wearing or washing. One of my favorite features of this running legging is the level of compression. These leggings provide enough support and compression without restricting your ability to, you know, breathe. The ⅞ length is ideal for women with a shorter stature and the Up For Anything Tight is tailored to the calves, so there’s no need to worry about the fabric bunching up around your ankles.
As if that wasn’t enough, these leggings have one more exciting feature that night runners are sure to enjoy. For an added layer of safety, you can roll up the bottoms of these running leggings to reveal reflective detailing. This subtle addition makes these ideal for your nighttime trek.
It’s hard to find anything negative to say about these running tights. My one critique is that the paneling for the side pockets could have slightly less material as they have a bit of a bulky appearance. Aside from that, these running leggings are as close to perfect as you can get!