Hi, I’m Amy, and I wear fitness leggings as normal pants all the time. No, my office isn’t really that casual, but yes, I use my job as a fitness editor as an excuse to don activewear more often than I should. Any day I don’t have to wear jeans or a dress schlepping around Manhattan is a good day. On the weekends, I change out of my “lounging around the house” leggings right into my “out on the street” leggings as I move from cleaning my apartment to running errands or meeting friends for lunch. Basically, I fancy myself somewhat of a leggings expert, if that were an actual title that a person could hold.
Since part of my job as a fitness editor is to know about all the new activewear and athleisure options on the market and what’s worth recommending to our readers, I have tested out my fair share of leggings. I’ve probably sweated in at least 100 different pairs of leggings, and at one point I had about that many sitting in my apartment. (Please don’t ask my husband about this, it’s a sore subject.) Beyond having the unique and very specific opportunity to discover exactly what I like most in a pair of leggings depending on the activity I’m doing, I’ve also learned to deeply appreciate the power of a great pair of black leggings.
I’m not usually an “all black everything” type of person, but black leggings are truly the most versatile. They’re like the little black dress of the activewear world. Black is so easy to match with most of my sports bras, tanks, sneakers, and sweatshirts. I also feel more confident in black as opposed to a light pattern that will betray me the second I get sweaty or (god forbid) end up being more see-through than I had planned. Brightly colored and patterned options are fun, and I do wear them, but not nearly as often as I wear a trusty pair of solid black leggings.
Over the years, I’ve clung to a handful of black leggings I love the most and while the list is always evolving, there are a few staples that I turn to regularly. Not all my favorite leggings are black—I wear many more pairs than just the options below (for example, when I’m running I usually turn to pants specifically meant for the sport) but these are the all-black pairs I find myself throwing on whenever I need to grab something quick without overthinking it.
Black leggings are reliable. The pairs below, in particular, have never once let me down, which is why I wear them again and again and recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone still on the prowl for that one great pair of black leggings.
One thing I want to note: As a straight-sized woman, I realize that it’s way easier for me to find leggings that fit my body than it is for many other people. While some of the leggings below do go up to 3X, it’s harder than it should be to find size-inclusive clothing options, particularly in activewear. Some mass brands are slowly but surely extending their size offerings, and many new and wonderful size-inclusive activewear brands have launched in recent years (check out these 40 plus-size brands our Big Fit Girl columnist, trainer Louise Green, recommends), but we still have a long way to go when it comes to this issue.
1. Zella Live in High Waist Leggings, $59
I’ve had the same pair of these leggings for five or six years, and they are still in great condition (despite being thrown in the washing machine and dryer often). They’re really stretchy so again, great weekend pants, but also great for any workout where you need to be able to move freely and squat deeply. I most recently wore these to the climbing gym.
Available in sizes XXS to 3X.
2. Adidas Believe This Solid Tights, $55
Stretchy, soft, smooth…these leggings are just really comfortable. The waistband isn’t very tight, which makes these great for lounging on the weekends or any occasion where I want to feel cozy without actually wearing baggy sweatpants.
Available in sizes 2XS to 2XL.
Buy them: $55, adidas.com
3. Reebok Lux High Rise Legging, $60
I wear these leggings to circuit training-style fitness classes, but I can’t really think of a workout for which I wouldn’t slip them on. They have a high waist, and are ever-so-slightly compressive but still super stretchy. If I’m ever in doubt about the best leggings for a specific workout, I just wear these.
Available in sizes XS to 3X.
Buy them: $60, reebok.com
4. Under Armour Vanish Crop, $60
These crops are another pair of leggings that I wear often to fitness classes. They’re a little more compressive than some of the others on this list, and they’re also absurdly good at wicking away sweat.
Available in sizes XS to XXL.
Buy them: $60, underarmour.com
5. Beyond Yoga Essential Long Legging, $84
So, if I’m being honest here, I have these leggings in four different colors. They’re my weekend pants. If you ever rang my door on a Saturday afternoon, I’d come to answer it in these. They’re not high-waisted, so I don’t wear them for workouts that involve a lot of jumping around, but I do sometimes put them on for yoga classes.
Available in sizes XXS to XXL.
Buy them: $84, beyondyoga.com
6. Lululemon Align Pant, $98
Lululemon uses some sort of magical fabric to make these pants. They are buttery soft, and I like that the fabric is pretty thin without being flimsy or see-through. These are also a solid pair of weekend pants for me, and I also wear them often to yoga.
Available in sizes 0 to 14.
Buy them: $98, lululemon.com
7. Alala Captain Ankle Tight, $110
The mesh panels on these leggings give them more of an athleisure vibe, but they hold their own in a sweaty workout, too. The zipper pocket in the waistband is perfect for stashing a credit card or cash and keys when I’m running an errand and don’t feel like bringing my purse.
Available in sizes XS to XL.
Buy them: $110, alalastyle.com