We put 6 top leggings brands to the test—here’s the verdict

See how brands like Lululemon, LuLaRoe, Old Navy and Target stacked up.

I’m going to start this honest review with a true confession. My name is Kate. I like to workout, but I don’t always find the time. As a busy mom of two, I consider myself active, but not necessarily a dedicated gym rat.

Regardless of my failed efforts, I love me some workout gear, and leggings in particular. So, when my editor asked me to put several different brands to the test, my first thought was “have I died and gone to heaven?” How could I pass up an excuse to wear leggings as pants for a whole month?

Let’s face it, I’m the perfect candidate. I’m a work-from-home mom whose fashion runway goes no farther than the school pick-up line. And, while I’m being honest, there are days I just can’t (or don’t want to) wear real pants. And why should I when leggings are so darn comfortable?

On these days I have a formula for how to pull off my athleisure wear. If I wear my leggings with a sports bra, tank and sneakers it looks like I am either on my way to or from the gym. If I substitute flip-flops, I’m on my way to or from yoga—obviously. All of this (of course) is a lie. Most days I am, in fact, on my way to or from Target. Which, I suppose, could be classified as a workout in its own right when forced to push the monstrous double cart in and out of each aisle.

So given this true confession, what leggings really are best for an occasional runner, living-room Tabata-doing, yogi-wannabe, errand-runner? I put six popular brands to the test—wearing, working and washing each pair over and over for 30-days.

I asked the hard-hitting questions. Are Lululemon pants really worth the money? Can I get the same experience from a $20 pair of Old Navy leggings?  Are LuLaRoe leggings really butter soft? Can you see my underwear when I bend over?

So, without further adieu, here is the breakdown of that trial and the best and worst features of each brand. I apologize in advance for all the booty shots.

1. Lululemon

The leggings: Wunder Under Pant III Full-On Luxtreme

Price: $98

Let’s face it, Lululemon is the queen bee of tight pants—the brand worn by stars, yogis and Stepford wives. And, after experiencing the joy firsthand, it’s not hard to see why.

These Wunder pants are tight. TIGHT. Once I manage to get them on—which is an act of yoga in and of itself—I feel hugged, really, really hugged. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—the result of all this hugging is that the leggings have a Spanx-like effect offering support and really pulling it all in. Seriously, these tight pants make for a tight-looking booty.

In addition, I found the Lulu pants thin enough to keep from overheating during a workout, but still super durable. In my experience, it seems they’ve solved the whole “I see London, I see France” problem, too. As an added bonus, like many I tested, they do feature a nice little pocket big enough for a couple of bucks and a credit card. If really determined, it’s possible to get a phone in there, but I tried going for a run with my phone shoved in this pocket and found it really uncomfortable.

The folks at Lululemon know yoga, and so these pants are practically perfect for all kinds of yogi activity and great for Tabata or interval training too. They don’t budge or sag and everything stays perfectly in place no matter how many downward dogs or burpees I did.

For everyday “running” to Target I found these to be a bit excessive and uncomfortable. I don’t necessarily want all this tightness all the time. Each time I slip (or rather aggressively pull) them on, I feel an overwhelming urge to do something physical. So, maybe that’s the thing—these pants are motivators. If you are looking for a kick in the pants and a Spanx like effect, the $98 price tag is justifiable.

Bottom line: If you are wanting a pair of leggings that will hug in all your stuff, motivate you to workout and keep you from feeling like a sweaty Betty no matter the conditions, the Lululemon leggings are worth every penny.

Pros: Lulu’s super-duper fabric makes you feel and look like you work out—and performs great when you do.

Cons: That super-duper fabric comes at a hefty price and can feel a bit suffocating for everyday wear.

 

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2. Target

The leggings: C9 Champion Women’s Embrace High Waist Leggings

Price: $29.99

The best part of these pants is the deep side pockets. This extra feature makes it easy to slip a phone and wallet into the pant to run errands or play at the park. I also really liked the long length and the high waist does a nice job of holding in my stomach. Although that high-waist, when sitting, does feel a bit like it’s trying to cut me in two.

Some reviewers commented that they found these pants to be see-through. This was not my experience. In fact, I thought the material had a nice weight. But, I didn’t think these pants breathed quite as well as others. As a result, my legs were quite sweaty after any kind of physical activity or just a few moments in the hot Texas sun.

For everyday wear, they are a bit too shiny, and after several washes these leggings started to thread at some seams. But, back to those pockets—they are as good as a fanny pack in terms of hands-free freedom. I’d choose these any day if I wanted to be out and about without my purse.

Pros: This particular pair has amazing pockets, and the price is hard to beat.

Cons: The fabric is really shiny and my legs felt super sweaty after even the quickest 7-minute workout.

 

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3. Old Navy

The leggings: Go-Dry Cool Mid-Rise Leggings

Price: $32.94

These Old Navy leggings are super soft and really, really comfortable, but they definitely feel a bit thinner and slightly less sturdy than their expensive counterparts. As a result, they don’t hug in all my parts quite as tightly. The support feels somewhere in between the LuLaRoe (non-existent) and Lululemon (full-on suction)—which in my opinion makes for the ideal daily legging. Not too tight, not too soft or shiny, just right.

Keeping up with the Joneses, the Old Navy leggings feature the same inside tiny pocket as the Lululemon and Under Armour pants.

On the downside, during a workout they gap a bit in places and my legs felt particularly sweaty after just a few intervals. After several washes these pants started to feel a bit fuzzy too.

Pros: These leggings are super comfortable and have a great matte finish. Plus, they are really inexpensive.

Cons: That comfort also means less support and the fabric doesn’t seem to breathe as well as some of the higher-priced options.

 

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