The comfiest leggings in the world

Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories — not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, black turtlenecks, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Here, our guide to leggings.

Remember when leggings were decried for daring to not be pants? That early 2000s backlash against the casualization of (particularly) women’s clothing clearly failed to leave a lasting impact. Aided by a few years of home-dwelling, leggings have emerged stronger than ever, for being active, sure, but also for lounging, park-ing, errand-ing, brunching and pretty much every activity that takes place in daylight hours. But there’s a big difference between a saggy pair you save for sick days and a fresh pair of ultra-opaque, buttery soft, perfectly fitting tights that require just a sleek sneaker, a sweater and a tailored coat to look perfectly pulled together — if ready to whip off for a hike at a moment’s notice. That was the benchmark I used to judge this category, as opposed to high-intensity interval training. Meaning the qualities I looked for were aesthetics, comfort, a plush feel and great fabric. Many were discarded for an unseemly shine, rolling waists, sagging crotches and a plasticky handfeel. Read on to find out which ones prevailed.

Reformation Eco Stretch High-Rise Legging, $118, SHOP HERE

Winner: Reformation

The cost: $118

The fabric: 87% Repreve Polyester sourced from recycled plastic bottles, and 13% spandex

The sizes: XS to 3X

The colours: Just black

Reformation Eco Stretch High-Rise Legging, $118,

The review: This is the pair I can wear for 24 hours in a row and barely notice I have them on. (I’m only admitting to doing that once, when I fell asleep while putting my son to bed.) I love the fabric because it feels more like a brushed cotton than a polyester — so luxe — and because it’s made from 87 per cent recycled plastic bottles. There’s just one seam along the inside of each leg, which makes for a super sleek look that works perfectly with tailored separates. This gives them a less athletic feel, but they hold up exceptionally well through a vigorous vinyasa session, staying flush to the body no matter which way I stretch and contort; the double-layer waistband feels supportive. They’re snug at the ankle and run a little long, two things that seem to be consistent across Reformation designs. I appreciate that the website advises washing them in a Guppyfriend bag (I’ll be investing in one) to reduce microplastic shedding — like all activewear, made with recycled content or not, that’s a thing that happens. And that’s important, because I’ll be wearing these a whole lot.

Lululemon Align High-Rise Pant With Pockets 25”, $138, SHOP HERE

Best for comfort: Lululemon

The cost: $138

The sizes: 0 to 20

The colours: 11, mostly deep hues and subtle camo prints

The fabric: Nulu fabric: 81% nylon, 19% Lycra

Lululemon Align High-Rise Pant With Pockets 25", $138,

The review: Let’s be real, Lululemon is the benchmark for luxury leggings, and as soon as I slipped these on I realized there’s a reason why. I was a devotee of the Lulu flared yoga pant back in the day (the originator of the “leggings aren’t pants” debate!) but hadn’t had a pair for some years, and the quality of the fabric is apparent immediately. With four-way stretch and the addition of Lycra fibres, these adapt to your contours with ease and offer true, 14-hour flight-level comfort. Throughout this test-drive I kept a pile of leggings at the ready, and these are the ones I found myself reaching for day after day, whether I was planning to work out or not, and can wear the whole day and evening without feeling compressed. That softness meant the high waistband did fold down a bit occasionally during yoga, but there was no crotch sagging. I never kept anything in the thigh pockets, but I enjoyed being able to slip my hands into them anyhow, plus a small drop pocket at the back of the waistband would be great for a credit card or bill when you pop to the shops. There are multiple complicated seams, which make them feel more sporty but also have an elongating effect. Plus, applause for the wonderfully wide size range, from 0 to 20.

Lolë Sweat Tech leggings, $89, SHOP HERE

Best super-high waist: Lolë

The cost: $89

The sizes: XXS to XXL

The fabric: 93% nylon, 7% elastane

The colours: Three: pale pink, caramel and black

Lolë Sweat Tech leggings, $89,

The review: These leggings from Canadian brand Lolë are the top contender for a streetwear or lounge look that doesn’t read sporty, because of the matte ribbed fabric and the really pretty colour (though my husband did say that for a second it looked like I wasn’t wearing pants). Plus, the only seams are along the inside of the leg, which lends a soft look. The ribbing is soft and stretchy, and the 25-inch inseam means they sit just above my ankle (I’m 5 foot 3). The real differential here in terms of fit is in the rise — it’s a soaring high waist that means you could wear just a sports bra and show only the tiniest sliver of skin. I found that also meant there was some creasing after an especially bendy workout; also I hiked them up at the crotch a couple of times during yoga. But for a cute ensemble for a dressier lounge day (doesn’t everyone have dressy tiers for their loungewear?), these can’t be beat.

Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II Tight, $109, SHOP HERE

Best for feeling held in: Athleta

The cost: $109

The sizes: XXS to 3XS, plus petite, regular and tall sizes. Regular inseam 27-in., petite 25-in., tall 30-in.

The colours: Eight, including navy (pictured), some are on sale

The fabric: Powervita fabric (nylon/Lycra)

Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II Tight, $109,

The review: It’s there in the name — tights are supposed to be tight! If you love a snug fit that holds you in, these are the ones for you. They almost have a compression-tight feel, especially if you’ve just eaten a Korean feast. I would honestly wear these on a flight to get that compressive effect and protect against swelling. They do not fall down, do not budge, no matter what you do, which is great for vigorous movement and deep stretching, and means they don’t lose shape after a lot of wear or washing. Plus, they come in petite, regular and tall sizing, to accommodate those who find leggings always hit too long or too short. Athleta has a highly active reviews section and people compare the fabric and design of these to Lululemon leggings a lot; one reviewer said they work in the industry and the Lulu fabric production house is excellent but that this is higher quality. The fabric feels great, soft and smooth, with a completely matte finish, and it’s designed to be sweat-wicking and to allow air to flow through the fibres. (It’s true, my legs never felt sticky, unlike some of the more plasticky contenders that didn’t make it.)

Adidas Yoga Luxe Studio 7/8 Tights, $85, SHOP HERE

Best for curvy thighs: Adidas

The cost: $85

The sizes: 2XS to 4X

The colours: Two: charcoal and nut brown

The fabric: 64% recycled polyester, 36% elastane interlock

Adidas Yoga Luxe Studio 7/8 Tights, $85,

The review: My legging test-drive coincided with a 30-day Yoga By Adriene challenge, with YouTube’s favourite mild-mannered yogini, who happens to be sponsored by Adidas and wears a procession of great, sporty but stylish looks. My own Adidas leggings (the Yoga Luxe model) also felt sporty but stylish, and really, really comfortable, due to the velvety active fabric that feels substantial and cushiony. The size range is great, encompassing very tiny sizes as well as up to 4XL, and the seams work hard to accommodate curves, with two seams at the inside thigh joining at the knee to allow for thighs (similar to Azur, below). In fact, inclusive sizing advocate and model Brittnee Blair said Adidas leggings “absolutely kill it” in a recent The Kit interview — she loves the plus-size sports bras too. The waistband is nice and wide but never feels restricting, and there’s a neat little pocket too; a credit card sized slot in the back of the waistband. Plus, I love that the fabric is 64 per cent recycled polyester, and Adidas is making a big deal about trying to improve even more on that front.

Azur Fit High Waisted Leggings, $73, SHOP HERE

Best for softness: Azur Fit

The cost: $73

The sizes: XS to 3XL

The colours: 12, from earth tones to deep jewel colours

The fabric: 77% polyester, 23% spandex

Azur Fit High Waisted Leggings, $73,

The review: This is an excellent mid-price option from a Canadian brand. The fabric is extra matte and bunny soft and feels like a warm hug for your legs, and the fit is trim but not restrictive, with a nice wide waistband that doesn’t dig or compress (unless you sit down right after a large meal, the only time I felt an urge to take these off). There are two seams on the inner thighs that join at the knee to become one at the calf, which is unobtrusive and seems to allow some extra room for the curves of the thighs, so great for anyone who doesn’t have toothpick legs. The inseam is 27 inches for a medium, and the length varies by size, unlike many brands that sell leggings by a fixed inseam length, no matter the size. They’re sweat wicking and the brand claims they’re “squat proof,” which I did test by doing a bunch of squats and all was fine! They also claim to be made with an anti-pill technology for longevity, which is an excellent promise, and so far I’ve noticed no ill effects after about five washes — I’ll update you in a year or two?

Zella Live In High Waist Leggings, $69, SHOP HERE

Best for longer legs: Zella

The cost: $69

The sizes: XXS to XXL

The colours: Four: teal, mustard, charcoal and black

The fabric: 88% polyester, 12% spandex

Zella Live In High Waist Leggings, $69,

The review: This more accessibly priced option from Nordstrom brand Zella is a great legging for talks, especially, with a 29.5-inch inseam. They hug tightly all the way up, and can feel a touch compressive after a day of wear — I find I’m ready to swap them for wide-leg lounge pants by late evening. The fabric is moisture-wicking and the waistband doesn’t slip no matter how much you fling yourself around, so this is a great gym or running tight, plus there’s a handy hidden pocket at the waist. I think this is great value for the price, but Nordstrom’s customer reviews from loyalists to this style say these have changed in recent years — they cite fabric and design details changes — and they aren’t all happy about it, so maybe the original was even better!

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Rani Sheen is executive editor of The Kit. She writes about beauty and culture. Reach her on email: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @ranisheen


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