High vs Low: Workout Leggings Edition

Confession: I have a leggings habit. It’s pretty severe. I KonMaried out a whole pile back in January, and then have slowly been rebuilding my collection, because that’s just how life works. Between my job and being a fitness (and comfort) enthusiast, I pretty much live in them, and so I have opinions! What makes a good legging? Is it worth dropping a bunch of cash? Can I get away with cheapos? In the name of science, I took it upon myself to test a few popular options and gave them all a good test drive. I tried to pit them against each other in ways that made sense to me, but I’ll also rank them overall at the end of this post. My criteria is pretty simple: Are they squat-proof? Do I have to worry about my underwear? How aware of them am I? Ready? Let’s go!

ROUND 1: GAPFIT($69.95) vs LULULEMON HIGH RISE WONDERUNDER ($98)

Gap on the left, Lululemon on the right

Ok ok- right off the bat, I have to admit that these are really only similar to each other in that they are black with white stripes. What happened was: I was in Lululemon poking around, and the design caught my eye. I was just waiting for my husband to buy some pants, so I wasn’t really shopping for myself and passed them on by. Then a few days later, I was thinking about them. So I went back and paid a stupid amount of money for leggings, only to then have an Instagram ad start showing up in my feed for the Gap ones, which are, visually at least, pretty much the same, but way cheaper. Gap was having a big sale so I snapped them up for like $30, because why not? Maybe they’d be my new favorites? And comparing things is fun!

Straight away, I wore the Lulus to a yoga class, since that’s the whole point of these pants. Immediately, I regretted them! The waist band, as described perfectly by my friend Ann, is FLOPPY. There is no structure to it, so if you’re just standing around, it’s fine, but once you start moving, it rolls down. Especially with bending, which is like 75% of yoga. I have since worn them to work and for my normal workouts (strength training mostly), and they’re fine overall, but I do find myself having to adjust them frequently. I don’t really get the hype or why they are worth almost $100.

The Gap ones are…. fine? I guess? They look cute enough on, but at the same time they’re not mind-blowingly great. They aren’t see-through and the fabric is nice- smooth, but sturdy. I don’t love that there is an interior drawstring, but it’s necessary because these start to get baggy in the crotch after moving around in them for a while, which is annoying. I am very aware of these pants while I wear them. Also the print (are stripes a print?) is a little less refined than the Lulus.

WINNER: LULULEMON, officially because of the non-drawstring, but probably just because I’m trying to justify the price. Also my husband complimented my butt.

ROUND 2: AERIE PLAY HIGH WAISTED POCKET LEGGING ($39.95) vs
FLEO EL TORO ($73.95)

Aerie vs Fleo

Again, these leggings are pretty much only similar in color. So not really dupes for each other, but…. I like this color??

I’m sure many of you are thinking “what the hell is a FLEO??”, and that’s fair! Fleo is a small, female-founded company that really specializes in making workout clothing (mostly shortie shorts) for women in strength sports. They design and manufacture in the US, and they tend to do short runs of items, which is kind of fun in a “gotta catch ‘em all” way, but also kind of annoying because they are often sold out of things. That being said, I now own 3 pairs of Fleo leggings. I looooove them. The fabric is unique- it’s almost soft, like a jersey, but sturdy and stretchy like a more robust legging, with a gentle compression. They move and breathe and I don’t even think about them, and I reach for them almost immediately after doing my laundry. Whenever I wear these leggings, they make me feel like an athlete! I super feel myself in these. The high waist does tend to scrunch down a bit while working out, but it doesn’t roll- does that make sense? My only complaint is that I have to choose my underwear purposefully, because while the fabric is beautiful and opaque, you can clearly see lines.

Aerie has some good stuff- I am a huge devotee of these bras! They can keep these leggings though. Ok- they’re not horrible. They’re actually pretty cute, and they have pockets! The fabric is pretty lazy though- no compression going on here. I’ll wear them when I don’t want to really exert myself, like if I just need to run to the grocery store on a lazy Sunday, or maybe an easy walk on a cool day, but don’t even think about getting sweaty in them- I did a few goblet squats and it was like I was wearing plastic bags on my legs!! So not breathable!!! Very gross.

WINNER: FLEO by miles and miles. They are heaven and I like giving them my money.

BATTLE OF THE CHEAPIES: OLD NAVY HIGH RISE COMPRESSION ($26.99) vs CRZ YOGA HIGH RISE YOGA PANTS ($24)

Black from Old Navy, Navy from Amazon

Once upon a time, Nike released a new line of perfect black leggings called Legends, and they were the best! But sadly, as so many fashion stories go, they changed the formula and, over the seasons, the quality declined and the cut changed. Boooo!! These Old Navy leggings though?? Pretty ace dupes! These are actually great workout leggings- they are on the thicker side, and they do have a bit more compression than the others on the list, but it makes you feel secure and non-jiggly, not sausage-y. The rise is high, they are opaque, and they stay put!! They are super reliable during a workout, and I have even worn these comfortably on airplanes and around theme parks. $26 is already plenty cheap, but they are on sale ALL THE TIME. Get some! I have several flavors, but the black ones rotate in pretty regularly.

I got tipped off to these Amazon leggings (CRZ Yoga) as “the Amazon dupe for Lululemons”. Now, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but they are pretty good! The fabric is nice (not as smooth as lulus but not bad either), they have a similar rise and ample inside pocket, I feel like they are pretty opaque, and they fit nice and secure. I find myself reaching for these pretty often- maybe because they’re navy and that seems interesting? They do shimmy/roll down a bit during workouts (especially if there is jumping around/twisting), but I like them ok. I’m not gearing up to buy another pair right away, but they seem like a good option if you want something basic and easy.

WINNER: OLD NAVY. Obviously.

AND NOW I WILL RANK THEM ALL!!! (favorite to least favorite):

  1. Fleo
  2. Old Navy
  3. Lululemon
  4. CRZ Yoga
  5. Gap
  6. Literally any other kind of pants
  7. Aeire

Now, word on the street is that Athleta should also be a contender on this list, so if they have a baller sale soon, I’ll check them out and report back. Because I bought all of these with my own money, preferably on sale.

What are your favorite workout leggings? Are there any I’m totally missing out on? (I also have a few pairs of Teekis and Onzies that I like, but I really only like those in the summer since they’re meant for hot yoga/being in the water) Let me know in the comments!

xo, Jess.

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