Whether you’re riding at your indoor cycling class, sprinting on the running path, downward dogging during yoga, or kicking butt at boot camp, one thing’s for certain: You probably have a go-to pair of workout leggings. They’re perfect, from fit (uber-comfy) to fashion (“nice tights!”).
But one woman’s neon dream might be another’s capri-cut nightmare. “Leggings are similar to denim,” says Jennifer Bandier, CEO and founder of Bandier, a luxury fashion, fitness, and music boutique. “You need to try them on and see what is best for you and your body.”
Below, women open up their closets and share their ideal fit-bottomed performance leggings—and debate what constitutes the “perfect fit.”
The Bottom Battle: Capri vs. Full-Length
Team Capri: Shorties tend to gravitate to an abbreviated length. “I find capris to be more flattering for my body because I am so short,” says Newport Beach, California resident Calee Brean Killion. “Flashing some ankle is always a good call,” adds Sweaty Betty creative director and founder, Tamara Hill-Norton. And some ladies feel like they can perform better in shorter styles. “In Pilates and yoga class, there is nothing worse than when you are trying to do a move and your foot is sliding off the fabric of your full-length leggings,” says Miami resident Megan Kat Williams, who says she feels like a “legit fitness goddess” .
Team Full-Length: “I think longer styles are definitely more flattering,” says SLT founder Amanda Freeman, and taller women were in agreement: “I would never wear capris,” says Julie Russell, who regularly hikes and does yoga in her trusted exercise pants. “For a tall girls, this is like being chopped in half. Full-length makes everything looks longer.” In addition, others have chimed in that the longer style actually helps prevent slips during yoga class—the fabric absorbs sweat so you’re not trying to balance on slippery skin.
The Bottom Battle: Solid vs. Patterns
Team Solid: Classic black goes with everything and doesn’t show sweat or dirt. “I will always prefer a dark color to a light one,” says avid cyclist Cristina Goyanes. “Darker shades are more flattering on my curves. Also, I dislike how in lighter colors you can see sweat marks.” Darker tones also transition easily from workout to errands, brunch, and happy hour, says Bukola Ekundayo, a Seattle yoga and Jillian Michaels DVD enthusiast. It’s all about balance, you know…barre-to-bar.
Team Patterns: “Prints make working out a bit more fun,” says Brooklyn indoor cycling devotee Lark-Marie Anton Menchini. “The capri pants in Jamaica mesh print just makes me happy, and when I look down while on my bike it reminds me I need to push myself harder.” Tracy Anderson‘s director of training, Maria Kelling, also gravitates to prints, specifically those with a mix of dark and light colors. “Usually I tend to have leggings that have the pattern or color going down the sides of the legs.” Kelling’s not alone: Freeman estimates that 4 out of 10 of her clients currently wear printed leggings to class. “Patterns can be surprisingly flattering and are crazy trendy right now,” she says. “Some of the best include camouflage, animal prints, snake skin, and loud, wild prints.” Brooklyn resident Isabel Vigil says that for her, the key to wearing patterns is finding the right style and fit. “If the leggings are too small, the pattern can look stretched and distorted…like on your booty.”
The Bottom Battle: Second Skin vs. Slightly Loose
Team Second Skin: “I wear my high-rise tights when I know I’m going to get a butt kicking at the gym and will be doing a lot of jumping and sweating,” says Vigil. “They keep everything in place through the torture. Not only do I have more confidence in the way I look, but also feel stronger and go harder.” But there is such thing as too much compression—anything that restricts movement or breathing was a no-no among the women polled. “Overly snug can be an issue,” adds Killion. Another performance benefit of a snug fit is that during barre classes—where some exercises involving only moving a few inches—tighter clothes allow your instructor to keep tabs on your form. And better form = better results.
Team Slightly Loose: “The idea of wearing snug clothing scares me!” says Menchini. And Russell swears by her yoga pants, which have a roomier fit than most leggings on the market. “I love that they have flare legs—seems kind of out of style, but I think it’s flattering!” Of course you have to take performance into consideration, too. If you’re doing a lot of lateral exercises or jumping, any extra fabric may get in your way.
The Bottom Battle: Low Rise vs. High Waist
Team Low Rise: Out of all the details—seams, ruching, pockets—the feature that was brought up again and again was waistband placement. “I can rock any pair of leggings with the right waistband,” says Kelling. “I prefer my waistband rolled over and my pants low. This accentuates my lower abdominals and gives a great perky look to the butt.” And sometimes this style helps prevent the waistband from rolling over during inversions in yoga class.
Team High Waist: A higher, thicker waistband can feel more secure during boot camp classes so you don’t have to constantly stop and tug tights up. Molly Leibowitz wears her Zella Live In leggings to group fitness classes—and even got her former roommate hooked on them. “They have a wider waistband that helps everything look smoother,” she says.
There are NO RULES! If that means logging a training session in your living room while sporting your pajama pants, you do you! You’ll still be able to burpee (although fleece and flannel may not be the best sweat-wicking materials). Ultimately you want to rock a pair of leggings that make you feel happy and confident. Because sometimes feeling good may be just the kick (or lift) in the butt you need to help you push harder during your next workout.