It didn’t take long after I became a fitness editor for me to accidentally also become a leggings collector. Part of my job is to know about and test out new athletic apparel so that I can decide what’s worth telling our readers about. Since brands are constantly putting new products on the market, there’s a lot to consider. One delightful benefit of this duty is that my own dresser drawers have become jam-packed with everything from sports bras to running socks to leggings.
The problem is that I’ve never had much of an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. I just keep bringing in the new, and so thanks to the steady influx, my leggings collection in particular has gotten a little out of control. It’s grown so large—I counted 96 pairs the other day, and that wasn’t including what’s currently in my laundry basket—that I literally cannot fit them all into my drawers and instead have resorted to folding and neatly stacking them in piles on the floor next to my dresser. (And yes, typing that out now just made the absurdity of it so much more clear.) After a few days of rummaging through the stack of pants to find the pair I’m looking for, the neat piles turn into an area rug of spandex and Lycra.
In an effort to get me to pare down, my very patient fiancé suggested (more like pleaded) that I go through my excessive inventory of leggings, ID the ones I actually wear regularly or will wear again soon, and then get rid of the rest, for the love of god. And that got me thinking: While some pairs still have the tags on them and some only make appearances on a special occasion (because they match with a specific pair of sneakers, which is a problem for another day), there is really only a handful of leggings that I wear over and over again. Before this, I really thought I didn’t choose favorites. But it turns out I have my trusty go-tos that deserve to take up space in my apartment…and many of the others adorn my floor more often than my body.
After doing some soul searching and also literal pile searching, I came up with a list of the ones I wear the most and that have therefore earned their spots in my actual drawers. That is, until another great pair shows up to steal their spot.
Here are the nine pairs that I find myself wearing over and over again—for various workouts, for lounging on the weekends, and, yes, even to work—and why they’re so great, IMO.
I got these leggings from Nike a while ago, and loved them so much that when I saw the cropped ones on sale I bought those, too. They are the perfect pair of black leggings, and I wear them for every type of workout. They’re high-waisted, and the waistband is wide, so it lays really nicely on my stomach and doesn’t roll down as I move.
Get them: nike.com, $65 (originally $95)
These leggings are one of my favorite pairs to wear during a fitness class like circuit training or boxing. They’re seamless, which means there’s no weird rubbing anywhere, and the stretchy knit fabric hugs my body in all the right places—they’re comfortable and don’t fall down. The cutouts along the front and sides of the legs make these look way cooler than some of my other plain black leggings, and I really appreciate the ventilation during a sweaty workout.
Get them: asos.com, $100
These tights are one of my all-time favorite pairs for running. The fabric feels really thin and lightweight, so you can move easily, and it helps wick away sweat to keep you cool. Also, the side pockets are huge and really deep, so you can actually stash your phone and credit card without worrying they’ll fall out as you run.
Get them: lululemon.com, $128
These are my weekend pants. I pretty much live in them on Saturday and Sunday, unless I change into something else to work out in or go somewhere where I am required to put on jeans. They’re so incredibly soft, stretchy, and high-waisted, and they fit me really well. Yes, I also do actually wear them to yoga—they stretch nicely with my body and stay in place as I move. But I primarily slip them on whenever I’m lounging at home or spending the day running errands because they’re that comfy.
Get them: neimanmarcus.com, $48, originally $97
Target’s athletic wear line, Joylab, is everything you would hope it to be. The clothes are really cute, comfortable, and absurdly affordable. Take these leggings for example. They’re $40, yet I wear them way more often than some of the more “high end” workout clothes I own. They’ve become one of my all-time favorite pairs of black leggings. The high waistband sits comfortably and isn’t too tight, and the cut outs along the legs make these nice and airy—perfect during my circuit training workouts that get me sweating a ton.
Get them: target.com, $40
The buttery soft fabric Athleta uses to make these pants is just so lovely. I wear these for everything, from barre to yoga to even a weekend day hike. The thick, high-rise waistband lays really smoothly against my stomach, and isn’t so tight that I feel squeezed in. I also like that the fabric has a decent amount of give, so I feel like I have a full range of motion to move, stretch, and squat in them without feeling constricted.
Get them: athlete.gap.com, $52 to $69
These leggings are slightly compressive and pretty much hug your body—a feeling I love. They’re also high-waisted and made of smooth, comfortable material. The fabric on the legs is stitched in this criss-cross pattern that stretches apart as you move, to look like it’s almost separating—it really truly stretches and moves with your body, which I fully appreciate mid-squat. I have these in black/gray, and I wear them mostly to circuit-training classes where I know I’ll be lunging and squatting my heart out.
Get them: nike.com, $90 (originally $150)
I wear these leggings mostly outside of the gym. The neutral color-block design and slivers of mesh make these feel very athleisure-y, and I’ll usually put them on with a black top and sneakers when I’m traveling, going to spend the day walking around NYC with friends, or when I know we have a long photo shoot day at work and I want to be comfortable but also look put together. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on these, too.
Get them: six02.com, $88
These are my ultimate athleisure pants. The sheer, delicate webbing and faux-leather panels feel far too fancy and delicate to mess with in a sweaty workout, so I only put these on when I’m going out to do things and see people. I’m a pretty casual person and it’s rare I go places that require me to get super dressed up, so I often find that I can wear athleisure in place of jeans and I don’t look too dressed down. And honestly, I feel more put together wearing these leggings than when I wear denim.
Get them: alalastyle.com, $115